LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVI. PLATE THREE: DECIDING WHAT’S IMPORTANT (IDENTIFYING SHARED VALUES)
Mary and Ruth, for instance, live in a so-called “nontraditional” relationship, as a lesbian couple; yet, they share many common, traditional values:
We share midwestern roots. There is this whole thing we share. We also like midwestern people. There’s something real basic about them, real solid. We were both brought up in the Christian tradition and we’ve both gotten away from that, but I guess we both consider ourselves sort of spiritual people. The general concept of money and what it’s for and what you do with it are very, very similar. Friendships, I think, are important. Both friendships with other couples and also friendships that we have, individuals, separate friendships. Politically, I think we’re very much matched.
With these deeply-rooted, commonly-shared values as a base, Mary and Ruth have been able to weather storms associated with the darker side of these same set of traditional values, namely, discrimination against homosexual sexual orientations. Mary and Ruth find refuge in their shared interests and dreams: “We laugh a lot. We take great vacations. We’ve never had a bad vacation. When the going gets rough, we take a vacation: We know how to play real well.” Another couple revealed somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “If we ever divorce, the divorce decree will have to state that we will continue to always take vacations together as a couple! We are perfectly matched on vacation – love the same places and things to do; share the same novels.”
Storming: How Do We Negotiate Priorities and Interests?
Conflicts regarding values inevitably center on issues of priority. Something of great value is given higher priority than something of lesser value. This, in turn, means that we devote more money to it or more time to it. Values-oriented storms, therefore, often build around such issues as: “can we afford this?” “do we really have to do this?” and “if you think it’s so important, then why don’t you take care of it!”
Many of the conflict regarding values center on the vernacular domain that we highlighted in the second section of this book. These are conflicts regarding such day-to-day issue as: Who is going to take out the trash? Who does the house-cleaning? The dishes? The shopping for food? These discussions often center around values issues because at the heart of the argument typically is the question: how important is this task? While arguments may focus on who does what when, and who has the right to tell the other partner what to do, there is often a much deeper issue concerning the importance placed on a particular area of responsibility. We argue about the cleaning of our house in part because we have different standards regarding how clean the should be and, in turn, regarding the priority that should be to this area of our shared life (in comparison with other such as recreation, relaxation, work and so forth).