many requests as you want, BUT your partner now has the
choice of doing them all or not doing any, i.e. if you ask for too
much, they can stop the whole process for that day. Your
partner can't chose to do some of your requests and forget the
others; it is an all or none decision. Also, the decision can not
be discussed or negotiated or argued; the partner says "okay to
all the requests" or "no requests granted today." If he/she says
"no," you lose your turn and the partner makes his/her
requests the next day. Of course, the two of you can be nice
and intimate with each other during the rest of the day, you
just can't make requests.
The idea is to enable both of you to be in charge--to have
some control--at the same time. It is important for the person
who can't say "no" to learn to assert him/herself as a person
with rights. Under these conditions, much like what would occur
in a good marriage, saying "okay" means you really want to be
intimate in these ways with your partner.
Most importantly, these exercises, as Scarf says, "provide
an ebb and flow of emotional exchange--experience in
recognizing intimate needs and in getting them met." We can
become self-aware, self-directing individuals who still have a
feeling of closeness and intimacy.
Self-help books for improving a marriage
There are hundreds of marriage-improvement books. In fact, 20
years ago one book reviewed 80 others, all involving improving
marriage (Suid, Bradley, Suid & Eastman, 1976). Two of the better
older marriage books are Zerof (1978) and Rogers (1972). Many
helpful books which deal with special, specific problems that can
destroy a marriage, such as jealousy, unfaithfulness, and power
struggles, have already been cited in this chapter. A textbook for a
Marriage and Family course might be of value; they usually have a
sociological orientation, however.
Earlier (in the Marriage & Love section) four well regarded books
were cited for providing insight into love relationships. Hendrix (1990)
essentially provides an excellent self-help marriage course at home.
But understanding your family history and dynamics is only one way to
improve a marriage. In addition to insight, there are many other
approaches to mending a marriage. Examples: a leader of Cognitive
therapy, Aaron Beck (1988), recommends cognitive self-help
techniques to overcome misunderstandings, negative attitudes,
improbable expectations, and anger that destroy love. Another leading
researcher in the area of love, Robert Sternberg (1991), advocates
bettering relationships by increasing your understanding of the basic
qualities of love (passion, intimacy and commitment) and sharpening
specific communication or problem-solving skills used in a relationship.