LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
Norming: How Do We Agree to Agree and Disagree?
Couples often discover in establishing a life together that there are certain areas in which there will always be a difference of opinion with regard to values. Denise and Joseph are a happily married couple who have come to terms about several differences regarding personal values. As we noted in an earlier chapter, both Denise and Joseph were born in the Philippines, Denise formerly worked for a food store and a bank, now she works in a day care center. Joseph was employed for many years as a salesman for a manufacturing firm. He is currently unemployed.
With very little money coming in, they are very concerned about supporting their children, though fortunately their children are now adults and are able to be financially independent. Despite their financial worries, Joseph enjoys entertaining friends in the traditional Filipino manner, which can be quite expensive. In the Philippines, Joseph notes, “there are no pot-lucks.” The host and hostess supply everything. When he invites friends to go out, he serves them dinner, pays for the transportation, the tickets to the show and “hotel hopping” afterwards. Joseph loves to go out and entertain. Denise adds that Joseph has to get the most expensive seats and the most expensive food. Joseph adds, “you might as well spend a little extra to get the best seats.”
Even though she doesn’t personally care about going out, Denise supports Joseph in his interests: “Yes, Joseph loves the night life and to be the host and the life of the party. I never cared for going out. But he loves to spend, spend, spend.” In discussing this apparent area of divergent values and potential conflict, Denise looked intensely and lovingly at Joseph and he returned her affectionate glances. Throughout the interview, there were many examples of similar contradictions: differences in tastes, opinions and values expressed in the most humorous and caring manner.
What keeps this couple together, with passion and understanding, given all of these differences and financial pressures? At one level, we must look to their shared cultural background. Men in the traditional Filipino family are expected to entertain and spend money, while the wives stay home and tend the family. A second factor concerns their long history together and their close family ties that enable and encourage them to remain together when struggling through the hard times.