Becoming an expert on each other
The Introduction and Chapter 1 are available free on his site.
From the Introduction:
n short, it's my conviction that having a better understanding about how our brains function - in other words, how we're wired - puts us in a better position to make well-informed choices in our relationships. Scientific evidence suggests that, from a biological standpoint, we humans have been wired largely for purposes that are more warlike than loving in nature. That's the bad news. But the good news is that recent research suggests a variety of strategies and techniques are available to reverse this predisposition. We can, in effect, take steps to assure we are primarily wired for love. These strategies can help us create stable, loving relationships in which we are poised to effectively defuse conflict when it arises. So why not make use of them?In the first three chapters of this book, I provide you with general principles, drawn from cutting-edge research, to help you understand what makes a relationship successful and work toward that with your partner. The chapters that follow expand on these principles in practical ways. For example, if you have a clear sense of your partner's relationship style based on the latest research, it will be easier for the two of you to work together and fix any problems that may arise. In essence, this book can serve as an owner's manual for understanding yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Now, you may raise your eyebrows at the notion of an owner's manual. Your partner isn't property, after all. I couldn't agree more.However, I like this metaphor because it conveys the level of mutual responsibility and detailed knowledge of the relationship a couple needs to be successful. In fact, I would propose to you that all couples do in fact follow one or another set of rules and principles in their relationship. They may not be conscious of it, but they already have an owner's manual of sorts.Unfortunately, many couples have the wrong manual. And in the case of distressed couples, they always have it wrong. In my work with couples, I've noticed that partners tend to form their own theories about the cause of their problems. They do this out of distress and despair, and out of their need to know why: "Why am I in pain?" "Why am I feeling threatened or unsafe?" "Why is this relationship not working out as expected?" Partners work hard to come up with answers to such questions, and sometimes their answers provide an immediate sense of relief ("Now I know why this is happening"). However, in the long run, these theories generally don't work. They aren't sufficiently accurate to help the relationship. They don't stop the pain. They don't alter our fundamental wiring.Ultimately, relying on such theories is one way of flying blind. In fact, at times, inaccurate theories further undermine a couple's sense of security and happiness. More often than not, instead of ending the war between partners, grasping onto reasons and theories only creates more of a fortress. It only supplies more ammunition for the couple to throw at one another. I've noticed partners' theories almost always are pro-self, not pro-relationship. For instance, one partner says, "We argue because he doesn't like the same things I like." Another says, "She's so inconsiderate; no wonder I feel hurt." Or "This relationship isn't working because he's not the person I married." In each case, the focus is on the individual coming up with the theory.One of the most important discoveries a couple can make is that it is possible to shift into a pro-relationship stance. Theories from this stance sound more like the following: "We have problems sticking to our agreements," or "We do things that hurt one another." To make this shift, partners must be willing to throw out their old theories and consider new ones. They must be willing to rewire.Personally, I learned some of this the hard way. For many years, my specialty as a psychotherapist was working with individuals suffering from personality disorders. I became interested in the early prevention of such disorders. As my practice began to focus more on adult couples, I found myself wanting to identify, earlier in the therapy, ways to prevent their problems, too. Around this time, one of the great shocks of my life came to pass. My first wife and I divorced. During the period that followed, my need to understand why my marriage had failed led to a creative obsession, spurring me to more closely investigate the science behind relationships. I sensed that my fellow therapists and I must be missing something, something more we could do to help couples in distress. And could do earlier in their relationship. I might not have been able to salvage my marriage, but I could try harder to prevent failure for others…and for myself in the future.
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