When I was in high school, most cars had bench-style front seats. My boyfriend and I joked that we could tell which couples were married and which weren't. The married couples always sat on opposite ends of the seat.
We assumed, as we snuggled together on the driver's side, that those old married people had lost the closeness we enjoyed. Now, I realize, we didn't have a clue.
Romantic intensity is not the same as intimacy. It's rather the kindling that gets the fire started. And the fire will go out unless something more substantial catches the flame. A long-lasting blaze needs hardwood logs. But if the logs are packed too tightly, the flame can be smothered. And if placed too far apart, the logs won't be able to hold a flame for long. Likewise, as couples build emotional intimacy, they face the challenge of incorporating both separateness and togetherness in an enduring relationship.
The Early Years
Beyond the "Velcro Stage"
"He's not the same guy I married," complained Jen. "We used to talk for hours. Now I can't pry him away from the TV."
Across the room, Mike confided to his buddy, "Before we were married, she thought I was great. Now she complains all the time. Marriage really is magic—I used to be Prince Charming, now I'm a toad."
Mike and Jen, married little more than a year, realize the honeymoon is over. Before their marriage, they enjoyed what psychologist Harriet Lerner calls the "Velcro stage" of a relationship—that sense of being two perfectly interlocking parts of a whole. And they had expected the feeling to last forever.1