LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
At this early point in their relationship, Alice and Fred were clearly influenced profoundly by her mother and the values advocated by her mother. While it is hard to admit to these early influences in a relationship, particularly at a later point in one’s life, when these parental influences usually have declined, it is important to recognize their important role early in many relationships. The relationship is likely to undergo major change and stress as the couple begins to define distinctive values as a couple, independent of either set of parents.
We can look to the lives of several gay and lesbian couples to get a clearly and even more dramatic sense of a couple breaking away from traditional, parent-based values. Marianne and Heather spoke of not only having to establish their connection as a couple, but also coming to accept their own individual identity as lesbians. Most “straight” people confront their values individually and then communicate these values to their partner and hopefully find a way to integrate these values with those of their partner. The values associated with being a gay or lesbian, by contrast, deeply embedded in the context of being a couple, much as values associated with child-rearing can rarely be separated from the couple’s existence.
Heather spoke of the experience of moving in together as being difficult because of these inherent value issues. Marianne agreed: “Yeah, gay life was all new to me. And for you too, basically.” At various times during their relationship, Marianne and Heather were caught by surprise in terms of the adjustments they needed to make in their personal and shared values systems. For instance, at the point when they both wanted to purchase a home together, they became very sensitive about their relationship, recognizing in a concrete manner that they had truly left behind their traditional notions about home, parents and family. Each of them suddenly realized that they were about to buy a home together with another woman rather than with a husband. They were going to buy the home together and pay for it with the salaries that they both earned. By contrast, both women had grown up with mothers who didn’t work and with fathers who controlled the finances. The act of buying and paying for a home together triggered a wide range of issues regarding alternative life and family values.