Home Couples & Family Psychology Developmental LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)

LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)

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Performing: How Do We Best Learn From Each Other?

Couples who remain together for many years together often spend their last years together learning from one another. Carl Jung suggests that this may be one of the most important functions that a long-term marriage can serve. While some observers of contemporary intimate relationships focus on the capacity of the relationship to provide each partner with happiness, Jung and his associates (Gugenbuhl¬-Craig, 1977) Sanford (1980) suggested that intimate, enduring relationships are meant primarily to serve the process of individuation, whereby mature men and women begin to reclaim and reintegrate into their personal psyches those aspects of the that they had projected out to other people and institutions.

A woman in her 60s, for instance, may reclaim her right to ideas of her own, or a man in his 70s may for the first time since his childhood give himself permission to cry. When we are young, the tendency is to accept what other people say about the things we are and are not supposed to think, feel and act on, as a function of our age, gender, race, social position, job, size, abilities and so forth. We are told by others and we tell ourselves that we are supposed to be “realistic” and “get along” if we are to be successful in life. By the time we reach our 50s, the “voices from other rooms” (Bergquist, Greenberg and Klaum, 1993) (that are neither realistic nor socially acceptable) demand to be heard, after twenty to thirty years of neglect. In our 50s we often return to ideas and dreams that we abandoned in our twenties, and so begins the process of reintegrating parts of ourselves that were set aside at a much earlier time.

This process of reintegration and individuation call be aided greatly by one’s partner, for we usually picked a partner who is different from us. This person often exhibits those characteristics that we disowned much earlier in our life. The strong dominant male executive looks for an expressive and creative life partner. A woman who is very industrious and practical in her work as a small business owner falls madly in love with a dreamer who wants to transform society. A man who decided early in life to be a somewhat reclusive college professor marries a woman who is a great athlete and lover of automobiles. Later in life, the executive can learn about expressiveness and creativity from his life partner, while the practical small business owner can become more of a social activist, courtesy of her dreamer-lover. The college professor can learn more about his own body and about mechanical self-sufficiency from his outgoing wife.

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