Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships — Essay II: The Couple as a Third Entity
We then were confronted with the task of defining “enduring” and “intimate.” The first of these tasks was relatively simple. We arbitrarily picked five years as the cutoff point; however, most of the couples we interviewed have, in fact, been together for more than ten years. So we are focusing on long-term relationships
The definition of intimacy was more difficult. In essence, we used a simple-minded definition: two people who are living together and have been physically and sexually active with one another (at least at some point during their time together). As I listened to stories taken from the interviews of our couples and as I have read more about couples, a richer definition of intimacy emerged. Our couples speak not so much about sexual intimacy as about the intimacy of shared hopes, fears and vulnerabilities. I hope to document many of the remarkable passages that were navigated by our couples through the complex and challenging journey of intimacy.
Sources of Information
There are three sources of wisdom and information of which I availed myself in preparing this set of essays. The primary source of information is a set of interviews which were conducted by ourselves and our associates over a twenty year period with 120 couples. These interviews were conducted by more than one hundred graduate students at The Professional School of Psychology. In many instances, I made direct use of the rich, insightful case studies prepared by these students for courses they were taking on adult development and the psychology of couples.
Second, I must admit to making use of my own personal experiences, Those who know me might recognize my life in this book as a partner in two enduring relationships. I have been in an intimate and enduring relationship that some would describe as “successful” and another that was clearly “unsuccessful” in several regards. These are important lessons to be learned and shared from both the peaks and valleys.
Last but not least, I borrow from the stories told by couples I know personally, as well as from my informal observations of their interactions together. I apologize for my unauthorized snooping into the lives of my friends and extended family, and hope they will appreciate the ways in which I have disguised their identities.