Psychological Self-Help

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comments can over-ride hours of ordinary conversation. Your feelings
need to be communicated, but not in a vile, brutal, uncaring, unending
manner, which happens when we get really mad. 
Lastly, during a calm moment, it is very important that both
partners realize (and maybe tell each other so) the secret,
unexpressed feelings that often underlie the anger and criticism. What
feelings are these? Frequently, feeling unloved, rejected, hurt or
neglected gives rise to the cutting criticism and nagging comments.
In other words, what we really want is more love, tenderness and
attention but when those needs are frustrated, we respond with
critical, hurtful comments and outrage about all kinds of petty
annoyances. How sad that love turns so quickly to resentment. If the
criticized partner can see the underlying reasons for the hurts and
anger, the entire interaction can change. The hurtful comments are
disarmed. The criticism is seen as merely a way for your lover, who
wants to be more loving with you, to vent his/her temporary
frustration. Look for the hurt little child behind the attacking, bitchy
mask. If a couple can become understanding, get closer, and show
they care, the marriage can be turned around. 
A somewhat similar approach to changing marital communication
is taken by Christensen & Jacobson (2000), two seasoned therapists
who have researched their methods. They believe marital differences
are often reconcilable. When the ongoing talk between two people is
laden with criticism or subtle demands or expressions of annoyance or
signs of rejection, these psychologists teach them to be more
"accepting." Too often when we are unhappy with someone, we want
them to change...and when he/she doesn't change, our frustration
starts to dominate our view of the relationship. Example: if the wife
feels that hubby never discloses his thoughts or feelings, she finds
evidence of his withholding and withdrawing in most of their
conversations. If he feels "she criticizes me all the time," he sees more
and more of her negativity in every interaction (and probably
withdraws). Instead of letting the situation escalate building more
anger, Christensen & Jacobson ask the couple to consider a different
alternative, namely, to learn to tolerate or accept the faults of the
partner and their disappointment in the relationship, realizing (if it is
true) that the partner's trait that bugs the hell out of you is, in fact, a
minor factor relative to the good aspects of the marriage. In short,
keep in mind that perfect relationships do not exist, so some
weaknesses, faults, self-centeredness, disturbing attitudes or beliefs,
or whatever will just have to be accepted in any relationship. 
How do these therapists increase the couple's acceptance of each
other? There are several steps: (1) Help the clients understand how
conflict and discontent develop. (2) Persuade each one to give up
demanding that the partner change and, instead, work on accepting
the partner as is. (3) Each is asked to write his/her own story
describing their "problem." Write the story so that it (a) clarifies the
differences between them, but doesn't accentuate the defects or
pathology, (b) is phrased positively, not negatively, (c) focuses on the
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