Love Lingers Here: Enduring Intimate Relationships VII. The Marker Event—Establishing A Commitment as A Couple
In the case of Mark and Kitty, the pain associated with the failure of this young man and woman to make a commitment is very clear, for one of them (Kitty) does want to make a commitment, while the other (Mark) doesn’t. Even after five years of living together, Kitty and Mark (who are both in their mid-30s) are dancing around their commitment mark is a rather shy person and had to muster up considerable courage before asking Kitty out on their first date. This was truly a marker event for Mark and in many ways is defined by Mark as the most important risk (and commitment) that he has made in his relationship with Kitty. From the first, Mark has held back (as the person being chased), while Kitty has assumed a dominant role (as the person doing the chasing). She also is dominant in most other areas of their lives together. “It is the care-taker in me,” states Kitty, “I’m a detail person.”
Yet, the dynamics of their relationship goes much deeper than caretaking. Mark acknowledges that it ultimately boils down to the issue of commitment:
Commitment has been a constant issue in disagreements we’ve had and I’ve always felt I’m just . . . . heavily committed to . . . to . . . the whole relationship and um, I. . . . I will say that I have questions about getting married. There are fears and questions that I have and whenever it does come ‘up, my response has always been I’m not ready to get married, so J um anyway V/ we discuss what commitment means, and what it means if we’re not married or . . . that sorta thing. And I . . . I just don’t think it can be a measure . . .
I don’t think that it’s a measure. I would like to be married. I’m getting tired of just living together and I want something more . . . Not that it is going to change the relationship. Only, I don’t think that it’s a ring. It’s not that at all. It’s . . . I guess, maybe I would probably feel better if he would even propose to me and we never got married. If he even said, “hey, I wanna marry you!” And that, you know, but I don’t even get that. So, I feel kinda, like I’m being used . . . although I know he’s very committed to me and to this relationship. But I think. God, you know. How long does a person have to stay with somebody before they say: “I would like to be married to you?” And I haven’t seen that in five years. So . . .
Sadly, Kitty and Mark share many common interests and have built a life together that is filled with wonderful moments. They have both been involved in the same business, own property jointly, and have jointly spent time, money and energy refurbishing the houses that they own together. Yet, they cannot come together regarding the level and type of commitment that each needs of the other person. Mark seems to be frightened by a formal commitment, perhaps because it would mean that Kitty exerts even more control over his life. On the other hand, Kitty seems to need the offer of marriage from Mark in part because he is not very expressive in any manner (his “shyness”) about his feelings toward Kitty. She lives with ambiguity about Mark’s feelings, and Mark lives in fear of Kitty’s intentions to control things. They have not yet found a way to meet each other’s needs without feeding each other’s fears. The dance of commitment continues, with Kitty still in pursuit and Mark in retreat.
- Find each other desirable at specific moments in their lives together and these moments evolve around issues of power and acceptance.
- At the heart of their relationship maintain affection, shared interests, and the capacity to honor and build on their differences.
- Experience marker events that were either one special event or many small ones that required a mutual commitment of both partners to the relationship.
- Use marker events to obtain a new level of commitment and/or to create an identity for the couple which becomes a part of the couple’s psychological covenant.