Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships. X. Forming a Relationship
Two partners who have been living together for five years may go back to step one when they first decide to pool their income to establish themselves as a single economic entity. Similarly, a couple that has been firmly established for years may confront old, seemingly-resolved problems when learning how to live with their first child.
A public, marker event often signals the emergence of a specific developmental plate as particularly important at any one time in the life of a couple. A wedding may signal the start of several developmental plates (“establishing a home”, “establishing socio-economic viability”), as will the purchase of a first home, declaration of community proper or birth of a first grandchild.
In the movie “Starting Over”, Burt Reynolds exhibited symptoms of stress (hyperventilation) not at the point of moving in with Jill Clayburgh, but rather at the point when they are purchasing furniture for their new apartment. Burt is not alone. For many of us, purchases of major items are the first tangible signs of a long term commitment to a relationship.
On other occasions, a new developmental plate will emerge gradually, over a three to six month period, or will emerge through a highly private event or series of events that are known only to the couple—such as movement toward a new level of sexual intimacy or disclosure of a past indiscretion. In the latter case, the couple may experience a major transition long before other people with whom the couple relates perceive this change. This discrepancy in perceptions can-be an additional source of stress for a couple. One couple told us they had been considered the “Ozzie and Harriet” of their community by their mutual friends. They stunned their friends when they announced their separation and ultimate divorce. That simply does not occur with Ozzie and Harriet. If the “perfect couple” gets a divorce then what hope do their friends have in relationships that from the inside more closely resembles the Simpsons? This couple’s divorce threatened the hopes of their friends, hence was greeted with very little sympathy and a large amount of anger by people who this particular “Ozzie” and “Harriet” had considered to be their close, supportive friends.