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

Within a short period of time, this became virtually an every-night occurrence. Yet, the two of them were very careful about never doing anything highly visible or abrupt that would signal that this had truly become a. committed relationship. Much like a fisherman who is trying to reel in a, fish, Dave did not want to “pull the hook” on Sheila too soon, fearing that she would immediately escape from the impending commitment. Sheila was also reticent to even think of making a commitment, because it would force her to confront her fear of intimacy and loss of independence. The story that Dave and Sheila tell about their growing relationship doesn’t differ much from that told by many other “contemporary” couples who seem to move into commitment gradually and with very little formal acknowledgement of a commitment. They differed from most other couples, however, in that neither of them recollected that at any one point the relationship intensified or that there was a moment or event that led to an increased commitment to the relationship on the part of either Dave or Sheila.

The two were forced, however, to make at least a tentative commitment to one another within several months, when a wonderful job offer was presented to them: they were given a chance to become caretakers of an estate in a nearby community. The job was meant for a couple; however, during the interview they discovered that the owner preferred a married couple, which led them to represent themselves as a married couple. Fearing that they might be found out and lose their job as caretakers, Dave and Sheila decided to go to Reno and get married immediately. Thus, Dave and Sheila deepened their involvement and commitment to one another — yet, they still were able to avoid acknowledging any real change in their relationship, since their marriage was consummated for expedient reasons. Even becoming married, Dave and Sheila were able to keep one eye closed to what they were doing and feeling. They saw themselves as acting in response to external convenience. Before they were living together. But not really.

Now that they were married, according to Dave, “our attitude at the time was “well, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get a divorce,” so we didn’t really take it too seriously.” Sheila went on to note during the interview that “we didn’t date normally. We didn’t get married normally. We didn’t have a normal attitude about it — didn’t take it too seriously. In a sense, that’s what makes it work. We didn’t have big expectations from marriage — at least I didn’t.”

Dave agreed with Sheila that this lack of formal commitment to the relationship was probably the best strategy for him:

I’m just not that sort of person. [Formal recognition of our marriage] would have given it a lot more symbolism. I would have felt a lot more pressure if it was a big official thing. As it was, we just sloughed it off: what the hey. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get a divorce. So, there wasn’t much of a change in our lives. We’d already been living together.

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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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