Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships–VIII. Compatibility and Covenant
Once this initial magical covenant is put into practice, couples typically look to other couples for models and inspiration. Typically, the expectations that couples form regarding the nature and purpose of covenants in their daily lives are formed by looking at and talking about other couples. Obviously, two of the most immediate and influential sources of influence and inspiration are the parents of the two partners. For good or ill, we tend to look to our own parents for examples of how a couple should (or should not) feel and behave.
Gwen indicates that:
. . . my parents have been married fifty years, and I entered into this relationship [with Bernard] with the belief that it is a lifetime commitment. I don’t believe that a couple can always be in love, or always agree on everything, or always share the same goals. People change constantly and so must the relationship. One day we’re in love and one day we’re not. One day we agree on things. Another time, perhaps not. But marriage means the commitment to work things out, no matter how difficult.
The covenant that Gwen and Bernard have established contains the key ingredients which Gwen learned from her parents: tolerance for the difficult times and sticking with the relationship despite many difficulties (including loss of their home due to a devastating fire). The role model and belief system provided by her parents have also led Gwen to “assume that things will work out in time and a disagreement today doesn’t have to be settled immediately.” Gwen indicates that when she and Bernard fight, it greatly offends Bernard that she can go on about her business as if they weren’t in the midst of an argument. Her experience of her parents as a couple has led Gwen to believe that things will work out eventually and that avoidance of problems and establishment of harmony is critical to a relationship.
Bernard’s parents, by contrast, were divorced when Bernard was twelve years old. His parents and step-parent were vocal in their arguments and Bernard’s life was often quite turbulent. However, Bernard shares with Gwen the assumption that relationships can be nurturing, and that he will be supported in life by other people who genuinely love him. This forms an important building block in their shared covenant. Like Gwen, Bernard assumes that things will eventually work out alright, hence they have built a covenant that emphasizes patience and continuity, though he would like to fight more openly than does Gwen and is more likely than Gwen to bail out of an unsuccessful relationship (thereby replicating the decision made by his parents to divorce).