Psychological Self-Help

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vulnerabilities, not the offensive behaviors, (d) merely describes
behaviors, not evaluate or degrade them, and (e) reveals one's
emotional reactions, without moralizing or psychologizing. (4) They
share their stories with each other, then make agreed upon changes
until one story becomes acceptable to both. Don't rush this step; it
may be difficult. (5) The final big step is to strive for acceptance of
each other through compassion and empathy: (a) coming to see the
other person's losses, hopes and needs, (b) becoming able to disclose
feelings in depth when disagreeing, e.g. the hurt, insecurity, and fears
underlying their anger, (c) making genuine efforts to empathize with
each other most of the time, (d) stopping an argument early and
asking "how did this start?," (e) asking if you had hurt them after a
disclosure...try to understand their reactions, and (f) continuing to
make ongoing efforts to do positive, caring things for each other. (See
a series of helpful skills in chapter 13.) 
If both can learn to accept the other, warts and all, the two people
are well on their way to rebuilding a satisfying relationship. I'd
recommend this kind of therapy or just buying the book and trying it
on your own. Of course, if the partner's negative behavior or attribute
is unchangeable, as shown by unsuccessful marital counseling, and too
serious to be accepted, then the relationship may be over. 
Resolving marital conflicts
As we have just seen, we have a choice: we can "understand" our
partner or we can blame him/her; how we view and explain the other
person's behavior is crux of the emotional problem. And, how we
explain or understand our situation, influences how we try to change
those problems. Happy couples tend to accentuate the partner's good
traits and motives as causes of his/her positive behavior; his/her
negative behavior is seen as rare and unintentional or situational. The
happy spouse, thereby, reinforces his/her partner's good traits. 
In contrast, unhappy couples overlook the positive and emphasize
the partner's bad personality traits and negative attitudes as the
causes of marital problems (Brehm, 1985, pp. 289-297; Fincham &
O'Leary, 1983). The partner's bad behavior is seen as frequent ("it
happens all the time"), deliberate ("they know I hate it"), and wide
ranging ("it effects everything we do"). Obviously, such mental
explanations (attributions) are going to cause trouble and, especially,
when conflicts arise, because we become much more concerned about
understanding someone's actions when tensions mount. When
breaking up, many of you have probably experienced a very intense
need to understand why, to explain what happened. Perhaps we are
looking for some way to handle the problem. Maybe we are just hoping
that if we understand the situation, the agony will go away. But, if
within our marriage our "understanding" has become intensely
negative and hostile, our view of things must change. 
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