The third developmental plate finds couples choosing value life structures that reflect their own distinctive life experiences rather than those imposed by society, friends or family. Enduring couples hold deeply rooted, commonly shared values as a core of their relationship. They are able to negotiate with their partners over the priority or importance of their individually held values and their joint values. The relationship itself is clearly a top priority for most enduring couples. The long-term couple is able accept their individual differences in values and is fond of such varying characteristics each other holds. They find the best in each other and find ways to use these strengths in their survival as a couple.

We included child rearing and shared projects in plate four and found that enduring couples engage in extensive discussions about how their relationship may accommodate children or mutual projects. Substantial negotiation of child-rearing responsibilities occurs. Some couples choose to devote time, energy and dollars to mutual projects instead of child rearing. Our couples shared moments of mutual admiration for the important job they are doing when bringing up a child or successfully conducting a project in this complex world. Naturally, child rearing or sharing a joint project can severely test the relationship, thus remarriage tends to occur several times as they out new ways to structure the relationship. Long term couples have a history of seeking help to resolve conflicts from some outside party (counselor, friend, relative, religion, psychic, horoscope, etc.)

Some of the most heartwarming stories we were told come from couples in the fifth developmental plate which deals with growing old together or facing a major life crisis (such as the death of a partner). We found that enduring couples prepared for major changes in the ways they relate to each other as a result of major life transitions like retirement or illness. They respond to major intrusive events by finding new ways to work together to accomplish joint goals. Enduring couples grapple with core issues about potential loss of loved ones, where they are headed, and why they are focused in a certain direction. They find new things to talk about, new ways to occupy their shared time together, and new ways to budget their static or diminished income. These people cherish recollections of life experiences. They openly savor their relationship with one another.

There is a point when long term couples reintegrate, both consciously and unconsciously, the male and female side themselves learned from their partner (whether a heterosexual couple or a gay or lesbian couple). Individual differences are respected and even enjoyed, and a deep appreciation of each other’s unique qualities is demonstrated. Often, they help their partner face the death of a parent or other cherished friend or relative. In countless ways, enduring couples demonstrate in their daily behaviors their commitment to their partner and to their relationship as a couple. In short, they embrace the love that lingers in their life together.


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About the Author

William Bergquist

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant, professor in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 45 books, and president of a graduate school of psychology. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations. His graduate school (The Professional School of Psychology: offers Master and Doctoral degrees in both clinical and organizational psychology to mature, accomplished adults.

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