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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Conflict returned to Bernard’s relationship with Gwen. They seemed to be out of sync with each other and the different ways in which they approached the world now seemed to be exacerbated and disruptive to their relationship. They both learned much about and from each other during this difficult phase of their relationship. Bernard indicates that:

We had to find a way to work together to accomplish the extra work that still remained, and we had to be respectful of our individual process. Extra sensitivity and respect have been discovered for each other. Since the fire, two important aspects of our relationship have been altered. The first is the recognition of a shared vision of our basic human condition . . . The second is a deeper respect for each other’s way of being in the world. This became possible following our acceptance of the powerful events of these past few months.

Gwen expressed similar sentiments, in slightly different terms:

Two months later, I can say the fire was undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to either of us. I had already realized that “things” couldn’t bring me happiness, and was on my way to understanding that happiness was within me somewhere, buried under layers of defenses and anxieties. Now I know from experience, what other people can only conjecture that nothing you can “own” matters. Only that which cannot be taken away has meaning.

While many relationships are destroyed when intrusive life events impact on the lives of those in the relationship, strong, enduring relationships will be strengthened by adversity. As Gwen observes about her own life with Bernard: “like the fire that forges iron into steel, our marriage has been forged by this experience, and we have barely begun to feel the truths that will come of it.”

KEY CHAPTER POINTS – PLATE FIVE

Enduring couples:
• Prepare for major changes in the ways in which they relate to one another as a result of a major life transition (retirement, illness, etc.).
• Respond to a major intrusive life event by finding new ways to work and live together to accomplish joint goals.
• Continue to adjust to on-going problems regarding children, spouses /partners of children and grandchildren.
• Grapple with core issues like “what are we truly about?” and “what would I ever do without you?”
• Find new things to talk about, new ways to occupy their shared time together, new ways to budget their static or diminished income.
• Cherish recollection of joint previous life experiences.
• Savor their mature relationship with each other.
• Embrace life.
• Reintegrate, both consciously and unconsciously, the male and female sides of themselves learned from their life partner.
• Enjoy their respective differences and appreciate each other’s unique qualities.
• Help their partner face the death of a parent or other cherished friend or relative.
• Demonstrate in daily behaviors their commitment to their partner and to their relationship as a couple.

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