Love Lingers Here: Intimate Enduring Relationships. X. Forming a Relationship
In later essays, we will discuss in more detail the “forming” stage in relationship to various development tasks that a couple must confront. For now, we’ll describe the forming stage as it is played out in brand new relationships.
Falling in Love
Obviously, the experience of falling madly in love is unforgettable and one of the great joys that anyone can experience in his or her life. Many books, plays, poems and songs have been written about this elusive phenomenon, ranging for the extraordinary analysis offered by Stendahl to the homespun lyrics of Hammerstein and popular insights offered by Fromm. For our purposes, in studying long-term enduring relationships, this first step in the formation of a relationship is important particularly in the creation of initial expectations about what another person can provide for us in our life. Typically, when we first fall in love — or at least when we are deeply infatuated – – our new-found partner meets virtually all our needs. As an old popular song suggest, “you’re every woman [man] in the world to me.” All of our dreams and hopes are met in this one person with regard to someone in our life who can feel the hole in our heart or the gap in our life are met in this one person.
One couple we interviewed, Dan and Mary, talked about meeting at a large weeklong national conference in the Mid-West. Dan was an organizer of this conference and was heavily engaged in making it a great success. In part, he was using this conference to get over his recent divorce from a woman with whom he had lived for ten years and had been married for eight years. She was also the mother of his two small children and partner in a small consulting firm. Mary was still married, though her marriage had fallen into disrepair during the past two years and she was vulnerable to a more exciting and passionate relationship. Dan and Mary met during the first evening of the conference. He was immediately smitten by Mary and lost all sense of his role at the conference. Mary was scared to death of her own feelings as well as Dan’s obvious attraction to her. Within two days they were making love and considering the future of Mary’s marriage and their own relationship (living two thousand miles from each other).