Love Lingers Here: Enduring Intimate Relationships VII. The Marker Event—Establishing A Commitment as A Couple
Clearly the issue of acceptance is a very important issue for any couple (for example, an interracial couple or a young couple that is viewed in some sense as “deviant” by other members of our society Given that the issue of acceptance may be a struggle for many couples, it is particularly poignant at the present time among couples who are faced with. the awesome problems associated with HIV status and AIDS. Kevin and Alan are fortunate in that both weere HIV negative. Many other gay couples over the past three decades were not so fortunate. They may have previously ignored their families because they were never accepted by them, but at the point when they were facing their own possible, premature death from AIDS-related illness, these men wanted to reconnect with their family, but not at the expense of losing their loved one. They were asking that finally their families accept their status as gay men and accept the presence of another man that they loved in their life. Their families at this point could have chosen to withhold their acceptance, and risk losing an irretrievable period of mutual caring and support with their sons. Instead they could forgo their old prejudices and biases and come to a more realistic and hopefully joyful recognition that this person in their son’s life is loved by their son and therefore should be loved, or at least accepted, by themselves.
For many straight couples and some gay and lesbian couples the issue of acceptance revolves around each other rather than other people in their lives. They are not worried about their family’s acceptance. They have more immediately concerns, namely: does this man or woman that I love really love and accept me? The marker event often is centered on some display or symbol of this acceptance. Rebecca indicated that she felt like her relationship with Bill was solidified when he gave her a key to his house (about three months after they met). Bill thought they became a couple when he put down a deposit on the reception hall for their upcoming marriage. Any of these seemingly minor events can qualify as a “marker event” at any point in the history of a couple. These are defining moments, when one or both partners recognize (and often rejoice in the fact) that they are now a real couple.
Sam and Caroline met at a church function and Sam describes it as “love at first sight.” Caroline just smiles and adds that her experience was quite the opposite. It seems that she thought herself to be a “homely” young girl and was told by her older brother that the only reason men dated her was that they “felt sorry for her.” Caroline was just coming out of the breakup of a two-year relationship with another boy who had suddenly lost interest in her and without any clear communication suddenly began dating another girl. Still hurt by the breakup, Caroline was determined to go slowly at first with Sam “to see if this was genuine or not.” Thus, with Sam’s instant attraction and Caroline’s caution, the moment when they did come together to make a mutual commitment was particularly important. It occurred on Valentine’s Day, one year after they began dating. Sam took Caroline to an amusement park and gave her a single red rose. They both remember that as a wonderful evening together and both agree this was the point in their lives when they knew they were a couple.