LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
In many instances, partners like Denise and Frederick defy some of their parent’s customs early in their relationship and end up adopting values that their parents held. One gets a clear sense, however, that they are adopting these values not for expedience sake (to somehow appease their parent), but rather because these values have now become their own values. They have personally incorporated a treasured set of values and assumptions about quality of life from their local community or culture. Robert Bellah and his colleagues wrote several decades ago about this sense of shared values and community. They saw this as central to the formation of the American character (“habits of the heart’) and as a vanishing element of the contemporary American culture (except in unique “enclaves”).
Frequently, these retained parental values and the supportive community that provides or builds off of these values are religious in nature. Two partners may share a common religious heritage or church membership, or one member of the couple may have been converted to the faith or creed of the other partner. The church of which they are members often provides the foundation for their own relationship, defining projects that are of mutual interests, producing shared friends, providing values-oriented education for their children, and, ultimately, even providing solace and support for the surviving partner after the death of his or her loved one.
Kathy and Tim exemplify this commitment to shared religious values that were forged in their families of origin. Both Kathy and Tim were brought up in devout Catholic families. They have remained active in their local church and attend mass every Sunday with their sons. Embedded in their commitment to the church is a strong sense of responsibility for social justice as well as the importance of family life. As a result, both Kathy and Tim are very involved in community activities with their boys. Kathy has also become a political activist in the town where they live. Tim is very proud of Kathy’s activism and helps take care of the kids so that she can attend meetings in the evening. Because of their overarching commitment to the principles of their church, Kathy and Tim have been able to effectively blend family, community and political activism — priorities that are at odds among many other couples.