Summer 2000 He
Said, She Said
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So how would a couple achieve acceptance?
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.
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.
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.
There is a section in your book called, "When Acceptance is
Not Enough." In what cases would this be true?
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.
also not urging acceptance in cases of infidelity. All of us would
recognize that there's been a true violation there.
Who will this book help?
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.