LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
In later life, values–oriented marker events often center on major increases or decreases in salary, which lead, in turn, to expansion, contraction or shifts in life style options. A mature couple, for instance, may purchase a cabin in the mountains and decide to spend weekends and summers at this location, or they may decide to go out to dinner once a week. Other couples may decide, more dramatically, to abandon their current life structure in order to devote several years of their life to public service (Peace Corp, mission work) or world travel.
Forming: When and How Do We Break Away From Parental Values and Models?
The issue of parental values is critical to most young couples as they forge their relationship. In some instances, such as the relationship established between Bessy and Bill, partners remain together precisely because they still fully support the values of their parents and continue to admire the commitment that both sets of parents made to their own marriages. While Bill had rebelled against his parents by taking up a career in music and Bessy had rebelled by agreeing to join Bill in this lifestyle, both of these people built their relationship firmly on the value base and models provided by their parents.
In other cases, the couple finds unity in their movement away from parents. They are not so much rebelling against their parents as they are finding their own distinctive identity, this identity in part being forged in their partnering experience. Bill and Rebecca offer an excellent illustration of this movement from parental values to values that are distinctive and shared by the couple. Though they are still relatively young people (both being in their early 30s) and are still struggling with their own identity independent of their parents, Bill and Rebecca have been together as a couple for ten years and have two of their own children. They have thus had ample opportunity to struggle over and find their own, identity and values as a couple. Rebecca observes that: “we are more like each other now that we were [when we first met.] Before, I used to share the values of my parents, but now the discussions that Bill and I have are much more relevant to me than my parent’s views on the same subjects.”