Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships–VIII. Compatibility and Covenant
Bea and Donald spoke of meeting during a blind date that was fraught with mistakes and a series of errors, but was also filled with many incidents that foreshadowed major commitments in their life as a couple. Donald indicated that he was “struck” with love at first sight when Bea walked down the stairs, whereas for Bea the moment of love was not so clear. After they first met, Bea broke several dates with Donald and dated other men. Now, years late, when asked about the most valuable aspects of their marriage, Donald speaks of love, whereas Bea talks about dependability. Bea needs space and freedom, while Donald is faithful and dependable. That is their covenant which was played out during the very first days of their relationship, and is still being played out.
If the founding story is a first “draft” of the covenant, then what does the mature covenant look like? Our interviews suggest that four key components are usually found in the covenants established in enduring relationships: (1) a stable pattern of interaction, (2) trust in one another (with regard to relying on each other and being open with one another) , (3) clarity about who gets to start and who gets to finish conversations about particular issues, and about how the start and end of a specific sequence of events involving the two partners is defined, and (4) agreements about the ways in which differences between partners will be honored and used to strengthen the relationship. We will briefly describe each of these components, letting the stories of our informants lead the way.
Stable Pattern of Interaction
Alice and Fred seem to be an effectively functioning couple, despite a. number of difficult decisions (having an abortion when engaged, abandoning alcoholism) and life intrusions (ill child, loss of jobs). Their interviewer observed that they seemed to be quite comfortable with the positions that each hold in the relationship and were noticeably appreciative of one another. They seemed to have spent their energy during the interview on the subject matter at hand a description of their relationship — rather than on issues of who speaks, who’s correct, or who gets in the last word.