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25 Ways
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The Hot Zone
He Said, She Said

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Summer 2000
He Said, She Said
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Q: So how would a couple achieve acceptance?

A: One of the first steps is to talk about a story: his story and her story. His story is obviously from his perspective and is usually fairly blame-filled about her. Her story is obviously from her perspective and is fairly blame-filled about him. To achieve acceptance, they've got to develop a third story that integrates both of their stories.

That third story often emphasizes things like the differences between the partners and the vulnerabilities that make those differences particularly painful. When you have a different view, it's sometimes possible to look at your conflict in a more objective way. And that sometimes allows people to recover more quickly from the conflict. So if partners have just gotten into their usual cat-and-mouse game, they can learn to recognize and even interrupt the pattern. Often they can't get out of it, so just shortening the recovery time and making it less painful is a reasonable goal.

Another approach is helping people voice what we call their "softer feelings" - disappointment, hurt or neglect - tha can, in the right context, bring partners closer together. Or the strategy of "tolerant distance," in which we ask couples to stop, step back and look at the situation. This often helps them to understand and tolerate what's going on between them.

Q: There is a section in your book called, "When Acceptance is Not Enough." In what cases would this be true?

A: Well, obviously we don't want anybody to take an accepting approach to violence or verbal abuse. One of the lines I like is that crimes of the heart are usually misdemeanors. Although felonies, such as physical violence, do happen all too often in relationships and should not be accepted, most of the things that happen in marriage are not crimes. They're things like neglect, being critical, hurting your partner's feelings. They're not moral issues; they result from differences between people. And so those are grist for acceptance.

But we're also not urging acceptance in cases of infidelity. All of us would recognize that there's been a true violation there.

Q: Who will this book help?

A: It's not about how to spice up your romantic relationship! It's meant for distressed couples who are having repeated difficult conflicts. And not just married couples; we think the principles apply to all close romantic couples, whether they be unmarried, gay or lesbian. The principles are applicable to all couples in trouble.

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