Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 61 of 167 
Next page End Contents 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66  

reasons, the meaning behind the demand for change, will facilitate
change. Example: nagging your spouse to clean out the sink and put
the cap back on the toothpaste tube isn't likely to work, but he/she
may change if you honestly explain that the messy toothpaste tube by
the dirty sink reminds you of your drunken, abusive, sloppy father who
made you clean the bathroom after he vomited. People who
understand each other accommodate each other better. Changes are
needed in both spouses, not just one. 
Remember from chapter 6 on depression that our optimism about
changing the future depends on whether we think the causes of the
unpleasant interactions are changeable or permanent. Uncontrollable
causes are often permanent personality traits or characteristics (of you
or the partner), such as selfishness, hostility, need for attention,
stupidity and so on. These are an angry person's favorite explanations.
Or, uncontrollable causes could be unavoidable situations, such as an
illness. Controllable causes are temporary behaviors or circumstances,
such as "having a bad day," "I approached it wrong," "it was an
oversight" and so on. You can do something about the controllable
causes; that's hopeful. Even being self-blaming can be hopeful if you
feel the power to change yourself is in your hands. So, thinking in
terms of controllable causes may lead to hope and more effort to
improve the marriage. Whereas believing the causes are uncontrollable
leads to despair and giving up on the relationship, "I could never stay
with such an awful person." You can control how you think. 
Awareness of these interpersonal dynamics can be helpful
(Hendrix,1990; Doherty, 1982; see chapters 4, 6, 7 & 9). If we
understood others as well as ourselves, if we were as generous with
our positive interpretations of the causes of their behavior as we are
with our behavior, there would be less marital discord to suffer
through. Not only must we change our "attributional style" from
negative (blaming) to positive (see the good and understand the bad)
but we must at the same time change our behavior (decrease the hate
and increase the tolerance). This is no easy assignment to carry out in
the midst of a heated emotional conflict, but try to remember the
above points. When we disagree with another person there are only
three options: fight it out, withdraw, or negotiate a compromise (see
method #10 in chapter 13 for resolving conflicts). Look for
compromises that offer hope. Be understanding. Plan together and
carry out cognitive and behavioral changes. Accentuate the positive in
your loved one. It is important to "debrief" after a fight and learn from
it (Wile, 1995); unfortunately, most couples avoid talking about the
fight. We can learn to find solutions and get along. 
Power struggles in marriage
There is an old adage about love: the person least in love (least
needy) has the most power. Other truisms are: "you can't make
anyone love you" and "when his/her love for you dies, your power over
Previous page Top Next page

« Back