Love Lingers Here: Enduring Intimate Relationships  VII. The Marker Event—Establishing A Commitment as A Couple

Love Lingers Here: Enduring Intimate Relationships VII. The Marker Event—Establishing A Commitment as A Couple

The Absence of Marker Events: “Dancing Around a Commitment”

Even when couples disagree about the marker event, they typically identify several possible moments when they became a couple. In some instances, however, this was not the case, especially among some of the younger couples we interviewed. The two people drifted into the relationship without ever really confronting their identity as a couple or making a firm commitment to the relationship in which they find themselves It is instructive to examine these distinctive relationships in some detail, for they teach us something about the value of a defining moment in most relationships as well as something about the shifts that may be occurring in the nature of relationships being formed in the 1990s and beyond. We will look specifically at two couples, Dave and Sheila, and Mark and Kitty, who were quite candid and articulate about their enduring, though very disengaged relationships.

In Dave and Sheila, we find two people who drifted into their relationship with one another. Initially, Dave was the pursuer and Sheila the pursued. They met at a local community college and Dave’s attraction to Sheila was instantaneous. In fact, he borrowed a car from a classmate to offer Sheila a ride home. Sheila indicated that she had her own car and Dave, very resourcefully, asked if she could give him a ride home, which she did. They dated occasionally for a short period of time. Dave describes himself as a “one-woman” man, who was interested in an exclusive relationship, while Sheila at the time was not interested in settling down. Dave tried to wait Sheila out, biding his time. Eventually, he relented in the face of Sheila’s lack of real interest in commitment, and the two of them drifted apart.

One year later, Dave and Sheila ran into each other again. By this time, Sheila was less concerned about dating quite a few men at the same time. Instead of “drifting apart” they “drifted into exclusivity.” This love at second sight took hold quickly and strongly. Neither Dave nor Sheila, however, can describe when he or she began to see the two of them as a couple. After three months of keeping constant company, they entered the phase of living together at separate places. Again, the process was one of drift. Dave began spending more time at Sheila’s, fixing things up and preparing meals. He was also taking karate classes in the area Sheila lived, and would come over after class in the evening to shower and change. Frequently, after showering and eating, Dave and Sheila would simply “find” themselves spending the night together. As Dave reports, “it just happened gradually. I got this really weird night job. . . so I would stay there sleeping over, but I wasn’t really sleeping over because I’d get up in the middle of the night and go to work. Three hours out of the middle of the night I wasn’t there.”

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. 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.

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