Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships–VIII. Compatibility and Covenant
Gwen seems to have entered adulthood with the same myth that many of us hold, namely that we can only be successful in relationships if we share common interests and, as a result, if the less dominant of the two of us (often the .woman) abandons those life interests that are not shared by the other member of the couple. Bernard bought into this same myth. In all of the intimate relationships Bernard has had in his life:
. . . finding out if we would ultimately be compatible was high on my agenda. My desire and pressure to work toward this end was, perhaps, not the best of strategies. This seems especially so when combined with my equally high expectations for mutuality of our interests, i.e. my interests in mountaineering and kayaking.
Bernard made a commitment only to those women who shared his interest in these two sports; consequently, those women who were attracted to him had to either share his interests or somehow convince Bernard (and themselves) that they would like to acquire interest in these sports. Gwen fell into this trap.
In recent years, both Gwen and Bernard have abandoned the myth of compatibility, in part because of what they have taught each other. This is a sign of an intimate, enduring relationship, when members of a couple learn from each other (even if this creates new tensions in the relationship). Gwen observes that:
I am learning things about myself from [Bernard] and he from me. We each see ourselves reflected in the other person. It is a potential for growth not as available to single people — whose actions don’t always have immediate repercussions in the same household. Everything we each do or say comes back to us one way or another, immediately.. I have undoubtedly changed more in the five years I have known [Bernard] than ever before. The good changes (becoming less rigid for instance) I am keeping. The less functional changes (like giving up my own sports or friends), I am trying to change back. I am reasserting more of my old identity, acquiescing less to [Bernard’s] desires, sticking up for myself. I think it is healthy for me — and in the long run will [increase] the longevity of our relationship.