If we can set the fairy tales aside for a few minutes, what happens in the real world when the disillusionment sets in? Bessy and Bill found that they went through very hard times when the “newness” of their relationship wore off. Having been friends for quite a while before becoming lovers, Bessy and Bill found that the transition to a more formal, intimate commitment was not easy. Bessy acknowledged feeling very jealous and possessive of Bill. She had been very cranky and guarded during this stage. Bill remembered the hard times that Bessy was having during this transitional stage, but his primary memory was of the struggle to survive the financial problems they were facing. Bessy said that her jealousy was caused by the life they led. Bill was playing in a musical group and came home from work at 3 in the morning. They would eat “dinner” and Bill would get some sleep, waking up late in the morning. Their waking and sleeping hours never seemed to match.

The interviewer noted with considerable interest that Bill and Bessy seemed to soften up and speak more slowly when discussing this period in their life together, even though both saw it as a very hard time. It seems to be a period when their true intimacy was forged. Like many other couples, a full commitment is only manifest when Bill and Bessy survived and worked through a period of crisis. It is often ironic that couples speak with greatest tenderness and mutual understanding about the most difficult periods in their relationship — and, in particular, the period when they are falling out of infatuation and into truly committed love.

During the power struggle in the life of a couple’s development there is often growing
recognition that ‘you’re not who I thought you were!” The illusion of unity is replaced by disillusionment. While Bill and Bessy went through their disillusionment after a transition from friendship to intimacy, Steve and Jane [#10] found out about disillusionment after going through a highly romantic courtship — they were never “just friends.” Following their first summer together in the mountains, a school year of long distance romance, and another summer together in the mountains, Jane moved upstate to live in the same town as Steve. Steve found that Jane was no longer the queen of the mountain. While he was initially attracted to her as one of the first female mountain guides in the business, the goddess of the mountain was becoming a “Plain Jane” when he began relating to her in-person and in his own mundane backyard. In response to this disillusionment, Steve became involved with other women who more closely fit his imagined ideal. Both Steve and Jane recall this time as “a year of hell.”


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William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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