By Dr. Lawana R. Lofton, PsyD –
As a new relationship develops, intimacy deepens, individual preferences are expressed, and joint consensus begins to take shape. Out of this initial delicate process, couples are most likely to make decisions about the course of their relationship.
One could say it is the period couples decide whether to keep the relationship but keep it open and flexible, or they can decide to commit themselves to another formally in marriage, or live together.
Based on those choices, other natural sex roles form, and other decisions follow. Most are pleasant while others become a source of relationship conflict. For example, whether to have children or not, who assumes most of the domestic duties, who assumes the duties neither wishes to do, who rightly or unjustly assumes “unspoken” veto power, or political clout in the relationship. They all seem pretty harmless decisions and roles, however after familiarity and pretences have faded, they can surface later and become the source for major symbolic declarations of battle.
Let us say for example the relationship is mature and all sex roles and decisions are discussed and mutually agreed upon. Then much later, one partner decides to break ranks; move away from what was previously agreed upon. Break the rules! What happens then?
What happens in your intimate relationship after someone decides to change the rules?
What happens in your relationship after another decides what was agreed upon, must now change, but you like things just fine the way they are?
After the honeymoon phase in relationships, there is much to get bent out of shape about. One example in the book Psychological Précipice (p.178-183) mentions global conflicts we all have in common regarding parenting conflicts. Specifically, the decision a couple may make early on to not have children. The following excerpt shows how compromise plays a role and how damaging it can be:
“ After two years of marriage, one partner expresses a desire to have a child and the other does not, but then later compromises to the pressure from their partner out of fear of losing the relationship and avoiding conflicts. Meeting a partner half way through compromises does not work long term. The resulting decision to compromise is not an investment in the relationship, but a forced choice for one partner and may contribute to later regrets for the one who compromises. The negative consequences may be that the other does not give fully to the relationship, may withdrawal, and ultimately jeopardize the livelihood of the relationship lasting overtime because they regret their decision to compromise. It is far more powerful for a couple to process more the reasons as to why a change of plans is so important. “
Concisely you could say it is the difference between “being forced to change,” and wanting to change for yourself after gaining more insight that the individual initiates. Then, coming to their own conclusion to make changes which are better for you long term. The latter does not breed regret.
Another example of how individuals decide to make questionable compromises in their relationships can be found depicted in the film Castaway (1986). The film is based on Lucy Irvine’s memoir [non-fiction] about two adventure seeking idealist living in London yearning for an escape.
Lucy Irvine Played by Amanda Donohoe
Gerald Kingsland Played by Oliver Reed
In 1981, Lucy Irvine responds to a advertisement placed in a London magazine called “Time Out” from Gerald Kingsland seeking wife to live with him to a tropical island for one year.
The ad states “wife” yet Lucy Irvine states she agreed to marry him in order to satisfy Australian archaic immigration restrictions before they could be granted permission to travel from London to the Australian Island of Tuin. Supposedly, according to law at the time, if a couple is to live on a Island together and have sex they must be married. A publishing house had advanced the funds for the expedition, so rather than forfeit and become in debt financially, they marry and obtain the license. At the time of travel to Tuin Island located between New Guinea and Australia, Lucy Irvine is age 25 and Gerald Kingsland age 49.
Prior to arriving on the island Lucy Irvine and Gerald Kingsland were having sex for 3-months, and had some time although limited to get acquainted as a couple over dinners and such.
On the first day of arriving to the beautiful isolated paradise, arguments commence. Lucy wants Gerald to make a priority of making proper shelter, and she is not pleased that Gerald forgot to pack the agreed upon iodine and flour provisions. Gerald makes a sexual advance and Lucy rejects it.
By day two, Gerald is referring to Lucy as a …“B#### “ under his breath. It would appear something definable in the relationship had changed for Lucy. She told Gerald his ….“character is a lie.”
In the beginning, they both wanted an escape. Gerald wanted a companion and specifically spelled it out “wife.” We only learn bit by bit as the film progresses what this actually means to Gerald as a functional concept and role. The best “wife” for Gerald is perhaps one who can cook, fish on the island, not deny him sex, and follow along in his care free and happy perspective towards life.
Lucy seems to want control. Control in the sense of controlling Gerald’s actions while on the island. Her consistent withholding of sex is also viewed as a means of establishing control. Lucy has boundless energy and finds fault that Gerald is not moving fast enough.
Gerald Kingsland was not one-dimensional. Lucy had perhaps hoped he would be.
Who can fault a man on a deserted island whose passing whim is to teach his travel mate how to Tango?
Lucy rejects his offer to dance, and elects to dance alone, away from him, on another place on the island with her knife planted into the watery sand as if some symbolic stake of feminine independence.
A break from daily life on the island, and their tug of war game with sexual politics, ends when two sailors arrive by boat under Australian flag to deliver mandatory government census forms. While there, they observe obvious signs of malnutrition the couple is enduring.
One sailor commented, “there is so much intimacy about what you’re doing and by the end there will not be nothing you don’t know about each other.”
The sailor asks, “What do you talk about?”
Lucy responds…….”practical things, ….our lives, memories, ideas, I don’t know we are a bit beyond talking really.”
The sailor adds “ yes that’s what happens when you know too much about one another. No pretenses left. Nothing to hide behind.”
The other sailor says….“Unless you’re married. If you weren’t I can’t image the ransom you hold over the other when your finished. I could not let someone walk around with that information. I would have to do them in.”
Gerald says……“well we are only married because the government said no hanky panky on a deserted island unless you have a license.”
Sailor…..“Come on now that would be hard to believe.”
Gerald……“Yes it is….What would be worst? Being on a deserted island and no hanky panky at all.”
Sailor…..“ That would be unbelievable.”
Unbelievable indeed! Up until the sailor’s visit, there had been no sex at all.
The sailor’s visit shed a bright spotlight not only onto their relationship, but their need for medical attention and food.
The one-year adventure on the island concludes. Lucy flies by plane alone back to England leaving Gerald behind. He gives her a parting gift and says “live happy.“ Lucy opens the gift on the plane and it reads one simple message written on the box “I love you.”
Lucy Irvine returned to England and wrote her memoirs. The film is based on her 1984 book, screenplay written by Allan Scott, and directed by Nicolas Roeg in 1986. In 1987, the film was released in the USA.
I hoped the film had ended differently. More idyllic and romantic, yet with unequal life experiences how could it have. I am careful to specify “experiences” and not age as emotional maturity has little to do with chronological age. I wished Lucy’s youth had allowed her to appreciate their strengths and weakness on the island and gained insight sooner that working together they could have accomplished more.
Reflecting on the film I myself am reminded if [we ] only focus on the type of shelter they were able to build, the bounty from the garden or lack thereof, the fishing, we lose what lessons there were to gain from the biggest struggle they faced which was how they related to one another interpersonally in isolation. This was their biggest struggle. It’s not idyllic nor romantic – its hard work.
Lonely hearts can find one another. If you have not established what you want out of your intimate relationships, find out first I would advise. Then, be welling to re-examine them because they are likely to change. Change never comes in the form we would like, or had hoped for, but it happens all the same beyond your control.
Until Next Time: a’ Donf
Tags: Relationships, Relationship Conflict, Intimacy, Sex Roles, Sex & Relationships, Marriage.