LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
As Denise notes, “we were childhood sweethearts. He lived next door he was the oldest of five brothers and the troublemaker on our block. His brothers and relatives didn’t like me because they saw me as cutting his wings, chopping off his horns. They thought I was the dominant one and bossed him around and made the decisions.” Clearly, Denise knew what she was getting into when she began spending time with the “troublemaker.” She also knew that she could have some influence over this strong personality, and perhaps even become dominant in the relationship.
Throughout the interview, Denise and Joseph balanced their two dominant personalities, Joseph was presented as the decision-maker and Denise as the power behind the throne. Denise always took the practical, doubting and corrective position, while Joseph spoke romantically, with a strong dose of adventure and curiosity. Yet, they did not argue in a contradicting or devaluing manner. The way in which they talked about the individual characteristics of each other suggests that they not, only accept, but are fond of, these varying characteristics. Each partner’s individuality is given more meaning because of its role within the relationship. At the same time, it is obvious that they share the role of nurturing, doing household chores and earning a living. Joseph and Denise talk about their relationship as an entertaining story. Denise presents the narration and Joseph provides detailed examples of particular situations. They enhance each other’s part of the story and keep their story lively, never fixating on one topic. Each of them talks about the other in the context of an experience, not as the subject, per se.
According to the interviewer, it almost seemed as if Joseph and Denise were one person. They were debating with and balancing off different parts of a unified but varied personality. This personality was, in fact, the third entity—the couple itself speaking with a single voice that had been established in a single, unified culture. A voice that was further refined over a long history of child-rearing, financial hardships and adaptation to a new culture and set of social values. In their relationship, Denise and Joseph have found the best in one another and have found a way to use these strengths in their own individual and collective survival.