LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
Erik offers an example of Nancy’s complaint regarding working forty hours a week, while he only works twenty hours:
I’ll say, well, I’m really not into working that much. I really enjoy my time apart from work, and I’m not into money so much. I’ll do the chores . . . Then we’ll switch positions .. . I can get some empathy for her point of view [when I imagine working 40 hours a week]. What we’ve done is establish a real process to deal with stuff and I think’ it comes from that mutual respect for one another .. . We have safeguards, the “flowers,” the “time-outs” . . . But we did have to set some kind of limits, because otherwise it would just stay at a power struggle. We’d never get anywhere.
Nancy and Erik also recognize the occasional need for outside assistance. They met at a support group meeting following the stress of incarceration and still see a counselor when working through the stressful transitions in their relationship as a couple. Nancy reveals that their early struggles concerned not the state of world politics, but rather something much more mundane and immediate: “The early [conflicts] were around chores.” However, even in these instances, Nancy saw the issue as much more complex and basic to their future relationship as a male and female:
. . . it had to do with power struggle, and who was going to define the relationship, and how was it going to get defined . . . We had real different standards of cleanliness . . . I didn’t want to be a woman in a relationship . . . who wound up doing all the chores. That was what my mother had, and I was going to be damned if I was going to have that. That isn’t feminist!
While many men and women during the late 1960s (and earlier during the Civil Rights era) tended to recreate -traditional and often repressive gender roles while trying to liberate everyone else in the world, Nancy was not going to let this happen in her relationship with Erik. They were not only going to work toward the liberation of other people, they were going to create a relationship for themselves based on principles of equity and mutual respect. According to Nancy, during the first four and a half years of their relationship:
. . a big value for us was the idea that we were recreating what a relationship could be between a man and a woman . . . fifty-fifty . . .. we were very purist . . . and everything was fifty percent, adding to the relationship.