LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
While a football team may be a powerful source of reunification, we found more often that enduring relationships build on somewhat more transcendent values. Nancy and Erik -have lived a life that seems to exist primarily in the values domain. Like many men and women who met during the turbulent, politically-active period of the late 1960s, Nancy and Erik initially defined their relationship in terms of their shared beliefs and values. While the debates and causes have changed somewhat over the years, the importance of shared values and the debates regarding differing values continue to provide Nancy and Erik with the core of their relationship.
This couple of the 60s lives in a West Coast community that is well-known for high levels of political activity. Erik is now 45 years old and works 20 hours a week as a museum aide and sometimes an additional four hours as a carpenter. Nancy is 41 years old and works fulltime as a licensed social worker in a community agency. She is also working on a novel and has published several short stories. They have been together for 7 1/2 years and were married on Halloween six years ago. Neither had been married before. They have lived in the same house for seven years, and have no children or pets.
The values-orientation of their relationship was in their shared political activism. Erik recalls that they met after getting out of a local jail following an anti-nuclear demonstration at a nearby weapons research laboratory. Following a support group meeting after their release from jail, Nancy gave Erik a ride home. There was a very immediate physical attraction between Erik and Nancy. She came over to Erik’s house for the weekend and, according to Nancy, there was “instant combustion!”
Nancy: The day I brought him home from the meeting, we talked for about 3 1/2 hours in his kitchen. . . At the door, he said “Can I give you a hug?” So, we hugged and I thought, shit, I want to spend the night with this man and I don’t even know him [Erik laughs with embarrassment] [Nancy turns toward Erik] Then you said, “I want to give you a hug every day for the rest of your life’,
Erik: It just came out!
Nancy: And I said, “I’ll bet you say that to everybody” and he said, “No, never before.”
They fell in love quickly and spent most of their time together for the next five months. “It was real surprising to both of us,” observed Nancy, “cause we were both pretty independent and loners.”