Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships–VIII. Compatibility and Covenant
Watzlawick and his colleagues (1967, pg. 52) offered an insightful observation many years ago: “it seems that the more spontaneous and ‘healthy’ a relationship, the more the relationship aspects of communication recedes into the background. Conversely, ‘sick’ relationships are characterized by a constant struggle about the nature of the relationship, with the content aspect of communication becoming less and less important.” Stated in terms of a covenant, the couple that endures will spend very little time reviewing or debating its commitments and underlying assumptions about that which is of value in the relationship. The covenant, in other words, is invisible.
Trust, Reliance and Openness
The issue of trust is often critical for couples. In many instances, relationships that are established in a spontaneous and highly passionate and romanticized manner do not stand the test of time, in part because there was never the gradual accumulation of shared life experiences on which trust can be built. In many instances, the couples we interviewed offered founding stories that are descriptive of gradually forming friendships rather than an explosive, immediate moment of attraction. Like many couples, Bill and Betsy met in college. They were initially friends and only later began to date. Their founding story is filled with humor and reads like a TV sit-com — for example:
He [Bill.] was around the house all the time — because there was no water at his house. So sometimes I would hear a knock on the door and I would go and look out the little window in the door, and there would be this guy standing there with his toothbrush in his mouth.
They both shared and elaborated on this story with considerable delight and laughter. When asked what they thought their stories about coming together as a couple revealed about them as a couple, Betsy indicated that sometimes she “thinks it’s all luck, but other times I think we were very good a picking friends.” She suggested that the most important things about their story is that they started out as friends and actually liked each other first, before becoming lovers. Betsy proposed that friendships last and that the romantic elements aren’t always there after some time passes.