"RELATIONSHIP RESCUE" by Phil McGraw, Ph. D. 

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Additional thought of Graham White in highlights.

This is the best book I have found to date on the subject of rebuilding your marriage relationship.  It requires only one partner to do the things listed in order for the relationship to improve.

The purpose of this synopsis is not to cover all the information in the book, it is to give you a sense of the material in order to help you find something that resonates.  Much of the detailed work and all of the tools have been left out of this synopsis.  If the information contained in this synopsis resonates with you -

Buy This Book

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Therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, counsellors, healers, and authors -- their approach to relationships is usually so embarrassing that I want to turn my head in shame.  Research shows that over two-thirds of couples, married or otherwise, who attend relationship counselling are worse or at least no better after one year.  Hasn't anyone noticed over the last fifty years that this crap doesn't work?  Has it occurred to anyone that the vast majority of these couples aren't getting any better?  The vast majority of relationship advice offered in our society not only doesn't work, it doesn't even come close to working.  So if traditional counseling therapy isn't the answer, what is?

 

People who do well in life and relationships are so in touch with their individual core of consciousness, so aware of their self-worth and their sense of personal value, that they not only treat themselves with enormous self-respect, but they inspire others to treat them with that respect.

You can change your partner from day to night, you can dump your partner and trade up to a better one, but it won't make a bit of difference unless and until you decide to clean up your own mess first.  This journey does not begin with your partner; it begins with you.

If you are in a relationship that has gone awry, a relationship that is full of pain, confusion, or emptiness, then by definition, I know you have lost touch with your own personal power, your own dignity, your own standards and your own self-esteem.  You've allowed yourself to accommodate pain and disappointment and self-destructive attitudes.  You have rationalized away many of your hopes and dreams, you've settled for so many things you did not want, you've allowed apathy to set in, and along the way you've probably let your partner mistreat you over the years.  But most important, you've mistreated yourself - you've blamed your partner or circumstances for your life rather than making the effort to find the true answers within you.  You've lost touch with that part of you that place within you where your greatest strengths, instincts, values, talents, and wisdom are centered.

All you wanted to do was love somebody and be loved right back.  You believed a relationship was the one thing that would complete you.  You weren't an idiot, you weren't some masochist who looked for a relationship so that you could suffer, and you sure weren't lazy.  Nonetheless, here you are and no matter how much willpower you have to keep hanging in there, there is a line out there, that, if pushed across, you will say, "That's enough, I won't take this another minute."

You went to school and learned how to read and write, add and subtract, but you never went to a class that taught you how to understand your emotions.  At no time did you ever receive any systematic education about what to expect in a relationship or how to behave in one.  No one ever taught you how to relate.  No one ever taught you how to select a good mate.  No one ever taught you how to be a husband or wife.  And no one ever taught you what to do when things went wrong. If you think about it, no one even taught you how to define what "wrong" is.

"Helping Professionals" with their textbook therapies and psychological theories, seem to have absolutely no understanding of how to help you.  It is amazing to me how this country is overflowing with marital therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, counsellors, healer, advice columnists, and self-help authors - and their approach to relationships is usually so embarrassing that I want to turn my head in shame.

 

This book is designed to meet you where you are at in your relationship and give you the power to make changes.  That power comes from being open enough to be completely honest.  You will never be able to change what you do not acknowledge.  Only when you face the truth can you learn what you can do to change your situation.

Your relationship is in trouble because you set it up that way.

First you must define and diagnose where your relationship is now.  People design their worlds to sustain what they have become.  You have chosen to live in a way in which no other result could occur.  It is one thing to say, "It hurts; I don't like the way I feel; something is missing."  It's another thing to get to what is structurally, behaviorally, philosophically, and emotionally not working.  Only when you figure out what the problem is can you match a solution to it.

Second, you must change the thinking that got you into this mess.  If you have misdiagnosed the problem then you unknowingly have embraced faulty thinking and popularized myths.  You are resorting to the wrong treatment for the wrong problems.

Third, it is important to admit your own negative attitudes and behaviors and the specific ways you harm your own relationship.  You can't get defensive and start complaining about your partner.  You're going to find plenty to fix in yourself before you ever get to them.  The fact that you are the focus should be great news because you can control you!

 

Fixing your relationship means a whole lot more than fixing your partner.  You've got a lot of work to do yourself.  This is not about winning out over your partner; this is about winning for the relationship.  You can't control your partner.  You can't make changes for your partner.  You can't tell your partner what to do.  But you can inspire your partner.  You can give your partner a whole new set of behaviors and new set of stimuli to respond to.  If you drop out of the destructive mind-set and vicious circle of mutually frustrating interactions that are causing your relationship to implode, if you drop out of the fight and start lifting in a new way, it's going to be real difficult for your partner to continue spewing and seeking venom.  You can stop sabotaging yourself and your relationship, and you can start inspiring the kind of reactions you want from your partner.  In the face of such constructive input, they can't fight alone, argue alone, or continue to be offended.  Your partner can pout for a while, perhaps withdraw and be suspicious for a while, but eventually they are going to feel pretty stupid sitting over in the corner while you seem so much happier and so much more optimistic and at peace with yourself.

What's the alternative - to allow your current lifestyle to persist, a lifestyle that with each passing day broadens the gap between you and your hopes and dreams?  

What you are doing, how you are living, is not working.

You try to believe that it's okay to forget some of your dreams, telling yourself that at least you are "secure" and "comfortable", but that doesn't help.

WHAT DO I DO?   

Can you stop playing the blame game?

Can you decide to measure the quality of your relationship based on results instead of intentions or promises?

Are you willing to try a different approach?

Can you stop the denial and be totally honest about the state of your relationship?

Don't become someone you're not - become the best of who you are.  Believe once again that you are a qualified person who deserves a quality relationship.  By changing how you treat yourself, you alter the most important element of the entire equation.  You cannot give away what you do not have.  If you don't have a pure and healthy love and regard for yourself, how can you possibly give that to anyone else?  And if you can't give it to anyone else, then how can you possible expect to have it reciprocated? 

 

It is not wrong to demand dignity, love, honor, and romance in your life.  You must decide you are worthy of what you want.  You must decide that peace, joy, and abundance in a relationship is not just for other people, it is for you.  It is not selfish or naive to want it and it is not immature to expect it.  What is immature is to sell out and settle for less that what you really want.

You must consciously decide to actively, purposefully work on improving your situation each and every day.  Don't want or try to do it - discipline yourself to do the work.  If the task is too difficult for you, then work on yourself, but if you have the ability, do what it takes and you will have what you want.  Don't decide to work on your relationship for some preset period of time.  You have to commit to work on this "until."  You have to work on it until you have what you want, not until some arbitrary time expires.  It took you a good while to get things this screwed up, so give yourself equal time to get the relationship right.

There will be setbacks and pain, there will be disappointment, but there also will be change.  Stay committed to facilitating that change.  If you are willing to settle for less, than that is exactly what you will get.

 

Half the Solution To Any Problem Lies In Defining The Problem

You must be excruciatingly honest about this relationship and the part you play in it.  You need to find out what you personally have done, both positively and negatively, to put your relationship in the position you now find it.  How have you contributed to it and how have you contaminated it?

Don't tell yourself, "Well, we need to do a little bit better," when the truth is that you need to do a whole lot better.  Either get real or get ready for a whole lot more of the same in your relationship.

The worst thing to do is to draw faulty conclusions about the cause-and-effect aspects of the problems in your relationship.  A sick relationship is like any other ailment: If you make a wrong diagnosis, you not only treat the wrong thing; you ignore the real problem because you already think you are on track.  

You must approach your relationship with a willingness to own your part of the problem.  Whatever your partner repeatedly does in your relationship, he or she does at least in part because of how you respond.  You teach your partner how to treat you - or continue treating you - by the way you respond.  They have learned that behavior is acceptable because of the way you have responded to it.

 

 BLOWING UP THE MYTHS 

Myth #1  You need to think the same way

Men are going to be men and women are going to be women.  No therapist can change it.  It's okay, different is okay.  A lot of people don't et this, and that includes many therapists offering therapy.  Men are not as sensitive and emotional as women because they are not supposed to be.  The more we attempt to blur roles into a unisex world, the more we are spinning out of control and trying to fix what isn't broke.  You might be able to play a forced role for a while, but in the end, you can't be what you are not.  

Myth #2  You need a great romance to have a great relationship

Being in love is not like falling in love.  Being "in love" is a feeling.  That feeling isn't reality, it is simply a feeling.  That feeling can become a deep secure love if you let it develop, but it will never be the same as it was when you first fell in love.  Being in love is equivalent to being "in heat".  If this is your definition of love, you don't know what real love is.

The infatuation stage of being in love is an addictive experience.  There is nothing like the thrill of the chase, the initial courtship, the feeling that you have found someone who is the salvation for all else that is lacking in your life.  Falling in love not only brings out a surging sense of desire, it makes you believe you can surmount all your limitations. 

In real life, you have to mow the lawn, clean the house, walk the dog and take out the garbage.  Learn how to move to the next stage of love.  When you do that, you will discover a deeper, richer experience with your partner than you ever could have imagined.  Emotions change, but that doesn't mean that they are less intense or less meaningful than the tingling excitement of your initial dating.

Myth #3  You need great problem solving skills

There are certain basic issues that you disagree about that will never be resolved because they cannot be resolved without one of you sacrificing your true beliefs or breaking from your core of consciousness.

Healthy couples simply agree to disagree.  They don't let the arguments get too personal, nor do they resort to insults or counterattacks because they feel frustrated.  Realistic partners achieve what psychologists call "emotional closure."  They don't achieve closure on the issue, but they do achieve closure on the emotions.  They give themselves permission to disagree without having to declare that one party is right and the other party is wrong.  They eventually relax and go on with their lives.  They decide to reconnect at a feeling level rather than disconnecting at an issue level.

Myth #4  You must have common interests

You may have some common interests, but if you don't have one, you don't have to find one to make the relationship more fulfilling, that's just not true.  There are thousands of happily married couples who have been married for years who respect each other's idiosyncrasies and don't feel they have to engage in lots of activities together.

It's not what you do, it's how you do it.  If forcing yourselves into common activities creates stress, tension, and conflict, then don't do it.  There are a number of things you do together:  You live together, you sleep together, you eat together, and you parent together if you have children.  If it doesn't work for you to take a ceramics class together, just don't do it.  The important thins is that you not label yourself as deficient or having a less committed love because you don't share common activities.

Myth #5  You shouldn't ever argue.

People are terrified of volatility because they think arguing is a sign of weakness or relationship breakdown.  The reality is that arguing in a relationship is neither good nor bad.   If arguing is done in accordance with some very simple rules, it can actually help the quality of longevity of the relationship in a number of ways.  For some couples, such fighting provides a much needed release of tension.  For others, it brings about a certain peace and trust because they know they can release their thoughts and feelings without being abandoned or rejected or humiliated.

I'm not saying that arguments are something that you should strive for, but research simply does not support the notion that couples who fight fail in their relationships.  In fact, there are as many relationship failures associated with the suppression of conflict and the denial associated with it as there are failures associated with volatile and vocal confrontations.

Don't worry about how many times you argue: that's not the determining factor in your relationship stability and quality.  Instead it is determined by the nature of the way you argue, and by how you deal with the argument once it has run its course.

Don't abandon the issue simply to avoid conflict, eventually it will need to find a way out that isn't as healthy.  Don't attack your partner, stick to the issue.  Don't overreact to one issue because you haven't dealt with a number of others.  

You must argue without being destructive or making it personal.  You need to put your relationship back together after a confrontation and let your partner off the hook rather than browbeating them into submission.  You need to learn how to make your escape with your ego and feelings intact if you are the one that was wrong, or are the object of dogmatic browbeating by your partner.

Myth #6  You should be able to vent all your feelings

Although it would feel great to unload, totally uncensored venting does not work.  It's not that we should hide truths or be dishonest, but we need to know that what we're about to say is going to be said in the most appropriate manner.  We need to take a moment to think about what we're saying to our partner, especially when we're upset.  It's called "tact".  Saying, "No, that dress doesn't make you look fat - you make you look fat." is not using any tact.

Myth #7  Sex doesn't need to be a big deal in marriage for everyone

Sex provides an important time-out from the stresses and strains of a fast-paced world and adds a quality of closeness that is extremely important.  Sex is a needed exercise in vulnerability where you allow your partner to get close.  I'm not saying sex is everything.  If you have a good sexual relationship, it registers about 10% of what's important in the relationship.  Bt if you do not have a good sexual relationship, that registers about 90% on the "important scale."  A good sexual relationship can make you feel more relaxed, accepted ad more involved with your partner.  But if your life together is devoid of sex, then the issue becomes a gigantic focus of the relationship.

Sex can be of enormous symbolic importance: it can be the greatest single factor of disappointment in a relationship.  It can lead to feelings of deep anxiety (a woman, for instance believing she is not pleasing or desirable to her husband), inadequacy (a man not feeling he can perform at the expected or an inspiring level at the right time), and ultimately rejection and resentment.  Once the sexual problems get to that level, any number of destructive behaviors can begin to emerge between you and your partner.  One of you might think the other is trying to punish you by withholding sex, and so you decide to fight back - which causes, of course, even more destructive behaviors.

Sexual urges and needs are natural, appropriate, and important to act upon.  When I say that, I'm not just restricting myself to the act of intercourse.  I'm talking about sex as a physically intimate experience, combined with a mental and emotional connection.  In this context, I define sex as all forms of private (and to some extent public) touching, caressing, holding, and any other means of providing physical comfort. I hardly believe you must return to the heated sexual stage that you might have had when the two of you first met, but there must be a sexual bond between the two of you, a kind of chemistry that makes you two recognize that you are more than friends who share a life - you are mates.

Myth #8  A great relationship cannot survive a flawed partner

What is "normal?"  Everyone has some characteristic that is different.  Even though that characteristic may not be what you, or even they, might choose in a perfect world, it should not be allowed to could your thinking about who they are.  As long as the quirks or nuances are not abusive to you or blatantly destructive to your partner, you can certainly learn to live with them.

Myth #9  There is a "right way" and a "wrong way"

There is not some etched-in-stone right way to be in a relationship.  There is not a right way to show support or affection.  There is not a right way to raise children, relate to your in-laws, handle disputes, or any other challenges involved in a complex relationship.

What is important is that you find ways of being together that work for you.  Whether or not it meets some standard that you find in a book or conforms to what your mother and father think you ought to be doing should not be the standard you use in defining your relationship.  The litmus test for you should be whether or not what you and your partner are doing is generating the results that you want.  It's not important that you follow particular principles.  It's important that the two of you are comfortable with the principles that work, and then you write your own rules.

Don't get hung up on trying to conform to some made-up set of behaviors concocted by people who have never even met you or your partner, or who at best see you for an hour per week.  Focus on what works.

RED ALERT:  In addition to avoiding rigidity about your own thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, do not be rigid and judgmental about your partner's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  there is, for example, not a right way or a wrong way for your partner to love you.  If he or she shows love in a way that is different from the way you think it should be displayed, that does not mean that you are right and your partner is wrong.  More important, it does not mean that the quality of what your partner is giving you is less than it would be if he or she were thinking, feeling, or behaving in the way that you have arbitrarily decided is right.

Does the fact that they do not choose a mode of expression that is precisely that which you or some therapist has decided is correct make the partner's feeling for you any lesser quality or value?

Myth #10  Your relationship will only be great after your partner is fixed

Many people have the notion that they don't have to take responsibility for finding their own happiness.  They still believe the fairy tale that falling in love means finding someone who is going to make them live happily ever after.

When asking an individual in counselling who they would most like to influence, the answer is invariably their mate.  That's not where you should be focusing - the most important person for you to influence is yourself.

You are the most important person in this relationship and you must be the focus of your efforts to change the relationship.  You must rediscover your own dignity and self-esteem - your own personal power.  You cannot reconnect with your partner if you are not reconnectable.

I'm not saying you are to blame for the problems that exist in your relationship, but you are, at the very least, jointly accountable for the current state it's in.  If your relationship is not everything that you want it to be, then it's your thinking, your attitudes, and your emotions that need challenging.  You have flaws and characteristics that either destructively stimulate your partner, or through which you destructively respond to your partner.

You have chosen these behaviors, thoughts, and feelings because at some level they work for you.  At some level these characteristics or interactive patterns have provided you with a payoff that has reinforced the recurrence of these behaviors.  If you find the payoffs, you have found the lifeline that keeps the destructive behaviors alive and recurring. Once you identify the payoffs, you can shut them off and remove them from your life.  Once the behavior no longer works for you, once it fails to generate you some payoff, it will cease to occur.

 

You inspire your partner to behave and thing in different ways.  But never think you can control your partner.  And never think that it's up to your partner to make your life better.  You are in charge of yourself.

So you can either stay self-centered and keep blaming your partner, or you can make the choice to be self-directed and start working for real change.  you either can fill yourself up with impotent anger at your partner, or you can choose to get busy and stimulate your relationship to get headed in the right direction.  You can either let your partner dictate your behavior, or you can own your own thoughts and attitudes, both of which will be chosen with a clear objective in mind.

 

Eliminating Your Bad Spirit

There is a part of each of us that is immature, selfish, controlling, and power seeking.  Unfortunately, it's during relationships interactions when it tends to come out.  You move away from feelings of worth and dignity and cast yourself as the victim.

While we find this side of ourselves distasteful, we have an ability to deny and justify the behavior.  We like to think of ourselves being the person we are when we're at our best, but that negative spirit is always there, lurking underneath.  Allowing this side to take control WILL cause the relationship to fail.  It poisons the dynamic and seals our fate.  This is true regardless of its subtlety.

Because this aspect can be so devastating, you can't afford to be defensive or pretend that it doesn't exist.  You can go through traditional therapy to try to understand where it came from and what your mother and father did to make you react this way - it can be entertaining mental masturbation, but it is little else.  YOU ARE AN ADULT NOW AND YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO CHOOSE WHAT YOU THINK, FEEL AND DO.

A tough history is regrettable, it really is and I absolutely hate that you had to go through that, but the only thing worse than having those things happen is to carry those events through the rest of your life.  If you keep hiding your pain, you'll just keep the suffering alive by transferring it to your current life.  DON'T DO IT!

 

 Ways Your Bad Spirit Shows Up 

#1  You Keep Score

You do things not to make each other truly happy, but to build up "points".  You regard what you do for the other not as a gift for them, but as points you can use towards getting what you want.  You are not trying to be supportive, rather you are trying to earn the upper hand.  If you did things out of genuine care and love, your partner would probably volunteer more than you demand.

In a competitive relationship, there can never be any honest acknowledgment of shortcomings or mistakes made because that would be giving up valuable leverage.  Never mind that such an acknowledgment would be honest.  Defensiveness, deflection, and resistance to even the most constructive criticisms rules the day, at the expense of the relationship.

  • You seldom if ever do something in support of your partner without making sure that they know it, including a detailed explanation of the imposition it created for you.

  • You insist on having the last word or final act of defiance.

Solution: Create a common vision that you're both working towards and you can only determine your score as a TEAM.  You win or lose together.

#2  You Look For Faults

Once you start it's hard to stop.  No matter what your partner does or how hard they try, it's not enough or it's never as correct as you want it to be.  If your partner had ten things to do and did eight to perfection, you would spend ninety percent of your time talking about the two things that did not get done.

  • You tend to say "always" and "never" when criticizing your partner.  "You always do this."  "You never help me out in the kitchen."  "You always ignore me."  The terms "always" and "never" are judgmental and argumentative.  They also should be embarrassing to the one using them because such absolute statements are typically insupportable.

  • You tend to complain about how you're not getting what you deserve or that life is unfair to you - an attitude that you quickly transfer to your partner as if they are to blame.

  • You counterattack with criticism whenever you're being criticized yourself.  Your partner, for instance, tells you that you forgot to take out the garbage.  Instead of hearing the message, your competitive attitude and critical spirit kicks in and you counterattack; "I can't belief you have the nerve to say that.  You never do what you're supposed to.  I'm fifty times more reliable than you are.  You don't even lock the door at night."

  • You are obsessively interested in getting your partner to admit to wrongdoing rather than listening to what your partner has to say.

Solution: Set aside time to talk and begin with 5 genuine compliments before you bring up one specific detailed concern.  You don't get to talk about anything but that one specific concern and only after you have honestly praised at least 5 things about them.

#3  It's Your Way or the Highway

The message to your partner is clear:  "I am better than you."  Your objective is not just to dominate, to manage your partner with condescension and intimidation, but to stake out the moral high ground.  You are putting your own ego above the welfare of the relationship.  You will let the relationship go down in flames rather than be honest about your own shortcomings.

  • You cannot end a confrontation until your partner acknowledges that you are right.

  • If your partner won't admit the rightness of your position, you tend to sulk or act like a martyr, making sure your partner understands that you don't feel appreciated.

  • You regularly assume a saintly, pious position with friends and family, telling them about all you have to put up with, about how your partner is impossible to live with.

By putting on the cloak of self-righteousness, what you're really doing is keeping yourself from looking at your own faults.

#4  You're an Attack Dog

This characteristic is so easy to trigger and so hard to undo.  You start out discussing an issue and ended up ripping into your partner with a personal attack.  You genuinely believe you are going to stay in control during the discussion, but then you suddenly bail out on the topic or issue and lay waste to the dignity of your partner.

Much good work can return to ground zero with a single episode of vicious behaviour.

  • Your interactions are marked by, at the least, a very harsh tone of voice and often by "in-your-face" shouting.

  • Your interactions are marked by such body language as a curled upper lip, a pointed finger in the face, or a deliberate Clint Eastwood type "killer glare" or exaggerated eye rolling.

  • Your comments are laden with condescension, such as "Well, you really turned out to be a great catch!"

  • Your comments are filled with "you" statements such as: "You make me sick."  "You disgust me."  You are stupid/worthless."

  • You purposely and pointedly attack your partner's vulnerable areas and values.

  • As opposed to an act of overt commission, you withhold from your partner that which you know they want and need to have peace in their life.

  • You seek to manage your partner with intimidation, both physical and mental/emotional.

These kinds of behaviors are often rewarded in the short term by your partner conceding in order to escape the pain of character assassination, but in the long run, your partner - the target of your abuse - becomes filled with bitterness and resentment and will pull away from the relationship, if not physically, then at least in some emotional fashion.

#5  You are Passive Aggressive

Passive aggressive might seem less harmful, but it's not.  You are a master tactician at undercutting your partner and all that they are trying to achieve. 

You conveniently forget to do what you promise you're going to do, or you purposefully screw up what you want your partner to think you are earnestly attempting to do.  You don't want resolution with certain issues and you thrive on playing the role of a victim.  You value that role far more than the peace and harmony that your partner might be trying to generate.

If you don't want to go where your partner wants to go, you might at first agree, but then bring up things like how much it's going to cost.

  • You feign ineptness over activities that you don't like to do - painting a room of the house, or putting a child to bed.

  • You time vague and subjectively defined illnesses or come up with competing events to interfere with plans made by your partner that you don't like.

#6  You Refuse To Be Direct

  • You tend to talk passionately about the problems of other people that mirror what is really bothering you, but when confronted, you deny its relevance.  (For example, Jason might have talked about the sexual relationship problems in a friend's relationship and then denied he was making a suggestion about his own relationship.)

  • You find yourself becoming very defensive if your partner directly asks you if there is anything bothering you.

  • You are a master of defensiveness. You always know how to direct attention away from yourself if the questions get too personal.  You're so good at self-protection that if someone asks you, "Why were you late yesterday?"  you have five answers ready.  ("I wasn't late, and besides, it was raining."

Jim: "How did the day go honey?"  (Translation:  "I wonder if she's been doing nothing all day?")

Lisa: "It was nice dear."  (Translation:  "When are you going to quit checking on me?)

Jim "Any mail today?"  (Translation:  I wonder where she's hidden the bills.")

 

#7 You Won't Forgive

At this moment you are able to recall an incident from your past with your partner that was so hurtful to you, so devastating, that you can almost feel the tears.  You want to rage against the person who hurt you deeply.  You want to make them suffer the way they hurt you.

When you choose to bear anger at your partner, you build a wall around yourself and become trapped inside.  What's more, your emotions do not remain specific to your partner, they redefine who you are.

  • You explode over the smallest disagreements of difficulty.

  • You feel physically unbalanced, you experience sleep disturbances, nightmares, headaches, even heart attacks - all because your body  is dramatically disrupted because of your stress.

  • You interpret many statements and actions of your partner in a negative fashion, based on the slimmest thread of evidence or often no evidence at all.

  • You think you shouldn't yet forgive your partner because he or she is not acting sorry or apologetic enough.

  • You try to control your partner through shame rather than seeking to inspire your partner.

You have the power to forgive.  You have the power to say, "You cannot hurt and then control me.  I will move beyond hatred and fear by forgiving you and releasing me."  The only escape route is through forgiveness - to take the moral high ground and forgive the person who hurt you.  You're not forgiving for their benefit as much as yours.  If you become the emotional leader in your relationship, you will get more of what you want and less of what you don't want.

#8  You're a Bottomless Pit

For you there is never enough of anything.  You cannot be satisfied.  You can never be loved enough.  You can never be attended to enough.  You can never be supported or appreciated enough.  You can never look good enough, and you can never perform well enough.  You never relax, you never enjoy, and you never accept anything at face value.

More than sabotaging yourself, you are sabotaging your partner.  Because you act like a bottomless pit, your partner is frustrated by never seeming to be able to "fill you up."  You need to know, over and over, that your partner is really committed to you.  Sometimes, you'll unconsciously try to drive your partner away just so you can get another dose of reassurance.

We all want reassurance from our partners.  But there is a point at which it becomes toxic, where you constantly hunger for a fix of reassurance.  "Oh, that's too done, isn't it?" she'll ask her husband about her pot roast.  She knows, of course, it's perfectly done.  But she needs to be told.  When she says, "I look fat in this dress, don't I?" what she is saying is, "Tell me I don't look fat."

  • You fear rejection for voicing an opinion.  You'd rather not say something than risk the disapproval of others, and when you do talk, you wonder if you're making the right impression.

  • You find yourself saying "Thank you" or "I'm sorry" frequently and unnecessarily.

  • When you are complimented, you immediately downplay whatever you did that led to the compliment.

  • When you buy presents for others, you worry if they are "right" or "good enough."

  • You state your beliefs as questions, asking your partner what he or she feels about certain subjects that are important to you instead of declaring your position and taking a stand.

  • Instead of expressing anger, you become tearful and play the victim.

  • You are so sensitive and thin-skinned about any criticism that your partner cannot tease you or joke with you, and he or she sure as heck can't tell you the truth when you need to hear it.

  • No matter what the question with regard to making plans, your answer is always the same: "I don't know, I don't care. Whatever you want."

When your partner grows weary of trying to fill your bottomless pit and raises the issue, you go into a self-pitying posture and try to make them feel guilty.

#9  You're too comfortable

"I'm doing what I'm doing today because it's what I was doing yesterday."

Your game is to play it safe, not to reach, and maintain the status quo.  The sameness of your relationship becomes like an old but not particularly good friend - one that's as comfortable as a baggy pair of sweat pants.  You have a life of half-communication or non-sexuality with your partner.  Your days are dull and your minds are bored and restless.  You might try to look in command, with an array of material comforts and successes, perhaps even with fame and power, but on the inside you are cheating your partner and yourself.

Admitting that your relationship is not all that you want it to be is threatening.  Saying that what you have is not enough is a genuine risk. It's definitely safer if you never admit that there is something else out there that you want.

Your comfort zone might feel safe, but it is filled with compromise.   You aren't contributing, you aren't stimulating, you're not energizing.  You get in a daily rut of going to work, coming home, eating a fast dinner, and then heading to your remote control, or your book.  Whatever it is for you, you have a more intimate relationship with that than with your partner.

  • You never talk about such subjects as where your relationship is going, what your deepest desires are, what you dream about, what gives you passion.

  • You feel emotional talk is bothersome and sort of silly.  You always roll your eyes when you hear someone say, "Why don't you express your feelings?"

  • You say "I don't know" to a lot of questions.  What you're really saying is that you have closed your mind and decided it's not worth the work anymore of trying to understand what's happening to you.

Living in the comfort zone ensure that you will never be a real winner.  The difference between winners and losers is that winners do things losers don't want to do.  Winners are willing to take reasonable risk, and winners are willing to let themselves dream.

#10  You've Given Up

"Learned helplessness" is the state of mind in which you believe the circumstances you find yourself in are so unchangeable that you can do nothing about it.  You become so lonely, so disconnected, so negative and cynical, that you shut down any hope whatsoever.  Learned helplessness is a mental as well as emotional state.  You believe so strongly that you are trapped that you lose both the willingness and the ability to learn.

  • You have surrendered to the reality of just "going through the motions" in a motionless relationship.

  • You no longer even bother to protest when attacked or abused by your partner.

  • You express disappointment in the relationship covertly, constantly becoming "ill," for instance, and having to spend days in bed, or even turning to prescription pills or alcohol or twice-a-week sessions with therapists.

 

 RECLAIMING YOUR CORE RELATIONSHIP VALUES 

To start the reconnection process with your partner, you must adopt the proper spirit.  If you adopt a new way of thinking and feeling about yourself, you, your relationship, and your partner will reap amazing benefits.

Value #1  Own Your Relationship

Be honest:  you have gotten in the habit of whining and acting like the victim.  If you stop the mentality of a hapless victim and replace it with the positive, constructive thoughts of a mover and a shaker, you will immediately begin to see a change.

Stop whining and take ownership.  You are fully accountable for your relationship.  How, you must be asking, can you be accountable for a relationship when your partner is being such a jerk?  You must accept responsibility for creating your own experience.  You choose the attitudes that you bring into the relationship.  And you choose how you act and how you react to your partner in your relationship.  

Create a different lifestyle that will enhance your relationship.  Don't blame yourself for where you've been, direct yourself toward where you are going.  Stop seeing yourself as a victim and start to see yourself as a competent force in your relationship.  Problems are opportunities to distinguish yourself.  It is time to do just that.

When there is something unfulfilling in your relationship, your very first step should not be to judge or criticize.  Your first step should be to evaluate what you specifically are doing to cause that lack of fulfillment.

If you are living this Personal Relationship Value, you don't just get mad if your mate is chronically late for appointments or dinner.  You must instead candidly evaluate what you are doing to contribute to the occurrence of this action of your partner's.  What payoff are you giving them?  Are you being unassertive in a way that makes your partner feel you can be taken advantage of?  What are you doing that keeps you and your partner from dealing with this issue?  What are you doing to enable this behavior in your partner, and what can you do to make him or her genuinely change?  By looking at yourself, instead of your partner, you're focusing on something you control instead of on something that you cannot.

Whatever it is your partner is doing, you are either eliciting, maintaining, or allowing you - to what you do or don't do.  Your partner reacts to your tone and to your spirit.  Becoming accountable can at first be painful, but it will ultimately be very cleansing.  When you do, you will have matured to a new level of functioning that will stand you head and shoulders above those who whine and continue through life being a victim.  

When you own your relationship, you don't hide behind anger and frustration with your partner.  You decide how to start changing the stimuli that gets your partner to behave positively and constructively.  You start changing the rewards and the consequences.  You change the message and make it clear that you are not a victim but are instead a capable, competent, and self-directed individual who is willing to work and work hard on this intimate relationship.

Value #2:  Accept the Risk Of Responsibility

Any time you are faced with adopting new thoughts and behaviors some longstanding fears and anxieties will emerge.  By facing your fears, you will discover you are a whole lot tougher than you thought you were, and if things don't go just exactly right, you can still survive.

If your partner does something hurtful when you open up, you won't like it...but you will survive.  You will pick yourself up and move on to try again until you find what works.  Letting yourself hope and dream again will make you vulnerable, but where you are now is hardly pain-free.  At least by putting yourself on the line you have the chance of getting what you want as opposed to hurting with no chance of getting what you want.

You must be willing to let yourself feel again, to believe that your relationship can be better.  Residing behind a protective wall and living with loneliness and emptiness is certainly not without pain.  You can remain behind the wall, with absolutely no hope of resolution or improvement in your relationship, or you can come out from behind the wall, possibly get hurt, but at least have a chance of creating what you want in your relationship.

Your fear has been a huge catalyst in your past - perhaps the single most motivating force in your life.  It has kept you from doing so many things.  If you can be driven so far in one direction because of fear, imagine how far you can go in the other direction if fear is no longer there!

Value #3: Accept Your Partner

The number one need in all people is the need for acceptance.  The number one fear among all people is rejection.  Most issues that cause conflict in relationships ultimately come down to one or both partners feeling rejected.  There is no higher calling for you than to meet your partner's need for acceptance, but when relationships get sideways, the spirit of acceptance is the first thing that goes out the window.

You're saying that even though you may not like everything that your partner is doing, things are still okay; we're going to get along right now, and most important, we are going to feel safe with each other.  You're saying that despite our differences in personality and temperament, despite all the things I sometimes wish you were or weren't, the bottom line is that I accept you for who you are, and will always be there for you.

Genuine change with your partner is never going to happen unless you first let your partner know that you are able to knock that chip off your shoulder, put aside your frustrations and anger and disappointment, put aside your critical perfectionism, and display a benevolent spirit.  You need to make it know that you will be a safe, loving place for your partner to fall onto.

Get off your partner's back.  He or she is never going to be perfect, just as you will never be.  Spend time and emotional energy finding and focusing on things to admire in each other as opposed to spending energy focusing on and picking away at those things you don't like.

Value #4: Focus on the Friendship

 

The more you love and the more you have invested, the more it hurts when things go wrong.  Friendship is discarded if your relationship runs into problems and tensions emerge.  Things between you and your partner become loaded.

You treat total strangers with whom you have nothing invested with more care and energy than you do your life partner.  The most simple dignities and kindnesses that are inherent in any friendship no longer are found in yours.  Once you have had enough fights and conflicts with your partner, you tend to forget all the attributes you once admired and valued in that person and instead become all too aware of their negative qualities.

People focus on the negative in an effort to make the relationship better.  If all you deal with in your relationship is problems, then you will have a problem relationship.  If you can recapture the friendship you will not be plagued with the overwhelming stress that triggers so many of your own destructive attitudes.

Take a step back from your problems and focus on your friendship.  You know your partner is not devoid of redeeming values, no matter how frustrating they are to you at this point in time.  You have to focus on those positive qualities, even if that means turning back the clock and remembering the early stages of your relationship - remembering again the characteristics about your intimate partner that attracted you and inspired admiration in you.  If you have to, look through old picture albums and videos and reread some old love letters.

Friends treat each other in positive and rewarding ways that cause each other to say, "Hey, that felt pretty good.  I think I'd like to do that again."  Bottom line: if people feel better about themselves after having been around you, you will find that they value your company.  Friends are also loyal and make sacrifices for each other.  Friends are there for each other even when it would be easier not to.  A really good friend is someone who's coming in the door when everyone else is running out.  A good friend sticks with his friends in front of others never criticizing him or her in public.  A good friend approaches a relationship with a spirit of giving rather than the spirit of taking.

Value #5  Promote Your Partner's Self-esteem

When you treat your partner in a way that protects or enhances their self-esteem, instead of trying to avoid you or trying to retaliate with greater intensity, your partner is likely to seek you out..  Let your partner know that the two of you can work it out without either one of you having to be pounded down.

Even if your partner is behaving in an outrageous way (drinking, irresponsible with money, breaking commitments etc.) you can use words like, "I know you're better than this and I won't let you be less than who you are.  I'm going to require you to be that better person."

Hold yourself to a high standard.  Interact with your partner in a way that you can be proud of and in a way that no matter how negative the topic, you engage them in a way that does not communicate that they are a second-class citizen.  

Value #6 Aim Your Frustration in the Right Direction

There's an old saying in psychology that goes, "There's something about that person that I just can't stand about me."  When you are upset with yourself and lack the courage to get real about what it is that is so disappointing, it can be terrible tempting to criticize in your partner that which you find so distasteful in yourself.

Once you start seeing that the negative things you are perceiving in your partner are often things that are in yourself, you will alter the nature of your interactions with your partner.  Make sure that the particular subject that makes you upset at the moment does not need to be fixed first in you.

Value #7  Be Up Front And Straight Forward

Anger is the safest and most accessible emotion we have.  Instead of being forthright and telling our partner we fear rejection, we act angry.  What we are doing is essentially getting to our partner before they can get to us.  We are rejecting them before they have the chance to be critical and reject us.

Have the courage to ask yourself the hard questions.  Eliminate pouting, withdrawal, judgmentalism, and nitpicking.  Only when we have the courage to look behind the anger and identify and express our true emotions are we dealing with honesty and integrity.  

Value #8  Focus on Being Happy, Not Being "Right"

Is your position getting you what you want or not?  If it's not working, change it.  Do what works, not what's right.  You don't have to get mad every time you have the right to get mad.  You don't have to lecture or scold every time your partner gives you the right to lecture or scold.  You don't have to prove over and over that you know what you're talking about more than your partner does.  You can choose a different emotions such as tolerance, understanding compassion, or any other emotion that does not escalate the hostilities in your relationship.  Don't think that you are ever helping your relationship when you are grinding your partner into submission.  

Value #9  Allow Your Relationship to Transcend Turmoil

There has never been a merging of two lives where significant problems of daily living did not occur.  Fights and arguments are going to occur between you and your partner, and one way or the other, they are going to impact the relationship.  The only question is how.

When you say things like, "If you don't change I'm going to leave," you do so because you are afraid, insecure and upset that you are not being heard.  Your sense of judgment and dignity disappears, and what comes out of your mouth are threats.  You head to the door and shout, "That's it!  I'm leaving!"

You probably get back together the next day, apologize and think, "That's over and done with."  But it's not.  You have left a lingering residue.  Vow that you will no longer use threats as a lever to manipulate and control your partner.  Give yourself permission to disagree  and give yourself permission to do so passionately - but do not make your relationship the stakes for what you are playing.

I'm not telling you how to quarrel, but there is a certain place where you must stop, even if you have to literally bite your tongue.  Set a clear limit on the places a spirited discussion with your partner will not go.  Just by putting this control on your life - that threats to the relationship are no longer an option - you will have made a gigantic step toward the process of reconnection.

Value #10  Put Your Thoughts Into Actions

Commit to always giving your partner the most positive stimulus possible.  Ask yourself, "Is what I'm doing and what I'm saying bringing us closer together, or pushing us further apart?"  

People who separate make dramatic changes now that they have a fresh start.  If they would have put that same effort in while they were still in their relationship they would probably still be there.  The problem is that we become to familiar and take our partner forgranted.  When we were first dating we did everything we could to be impressive.  We tend to let this go.

You probably hold yourself to a higher standard in your more meaningless, superficial relationships that don't much matter than you do in your intimate relationship that very much matters.  Even when behind closed doors, you must behave as though the world is watching, as though whatever you say or do will be played back on the evening news.

 

 The Formula For Success 

There are no quick fixes for relationships, but they are easy to understand.  If you really want different results from your relationship, then you're going to have to devote meaningful and substantial time and effort to it.  

Job One is to make your needs known.  I'm not talking about some of your needs; I'm not distinguishing your "superficial" needs from the ones you think are more important.  When I say that you've got to make your needs known, I mean all of your needs, including those at the deepest level.

Most people can't really articulate their needs.  They know they have them.  They know how good it feels when those needs are met and how bad it feels when they're not, but putting our needs into words can be difficult.

"What's the use?" you'll say.  "My partner will feel like I'm criticizing them for not meeting my needs."  Or you'll say, "I've asked before - it didn't do any good then.  Why would it do some good now?"   And there is the most well-worn excuse of all: "Why should I have to ask?  My partner should know what I need without me having to say it."

If your partner is not meeting one of your needs, that is your responsibility.  It is also very unfair to criticize your partner for not recognizing and meeting your needs when you don't know them yourself.  Your partner can't read your mind; they can't guess what your needs are.  The only chance your partner will ever have of connecting with you and responding to your needs depends upon your teaching your partner what really makes you tick.

Intimate self-disclosure is one of the scariest and most difficult things you'll ever do.  It is a risk of intimacy.  Once you disclose that information to your partner, you are admittedly putting yourself in a vulnerable position.  

Sharing this information is a risk; receiving it is a burden.  

Job Two is to work to discover the needs of your partner.  This second job may not be an easy one, but it is just as important as the first.  There's no point in judging whether your partner's needs are right, wrong, valid, or inappropriate.  That is not your job right now.  Your job is to recognize their needs.

When you receive information from your partner, you take on a tremendous responsibility - it means you are being entrusted with the most fragile part of your partner's soul.  Treat it with dignity and respect.  That doesn't mean you turn the television down - it means you turn it off, you refuse to answer the phone and don't let your children distract you.  It means you find a time and place that allows you to have this exchange where there are no time limits.

Then you must never, ever permit yourself to use any of this intimate self-disclosure in a confrontation.  Receiving this information is a tremendous responsibility, and you risk doing huge damage if you mismanage it.  Don't judge it or comment in any way that minimizes what they're saying.

 

Relationships are Managed Not Cured

There's a big difference between knowing and doing.

The simple fact that you now recognize that you have a lifestyle that works to the detriment of your relationship does not fix the problem.  I will say this over and over: no degree of good intentions will get you what you want.  The reason that 85% of those who quit drinking start back within a year, and that almost 90% of those who lose weight gain it back within a year is because they never gave up the lifestyle that supported their self-destructive behavior.

The fact that you are involved with a member of the opposite sex - and I emphasize the word "opposite" - means that you are trying to mesh your life with someone who is physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially different than you.  You and your partner are as naturally compatible as cats and dogs, and take my word for it: there is no book, no speaker, and no therapist who can erase that natural difference.  If you don't manage those difference, then you are going to spiral right back into your problems.

Priority Management

Your attitude is where you begin.  I'm not talking about willpower - that's short term.  Willpower gets you to lose weight in two weeks so you'll look good for a wedding.  Willpower helps you get projects with deadlines done.  Attitude is what pulls you through the long-haul.  Never say "should" or "ought", say "must" and identify and execute the actions to get it, never looking for short cuts.

You must be driven, you must take pride in and be challenged by the fact that you have a higher calling now.  Bored people are boring and depressed people are depressing.  If bored people would do more interesting things they would have a very different experience of life.  If depressed people would do things to act more enthusiastic about life, then they'd be happier.  

You need to go beyond just accepting your partner, and actively work to create value in the way in which your partner is different.  Choose to focus on those things about them that are unique and inspiring.

 

 Notable Quotes 

Men are interested in the solution, while women are interested in the journey to the solution.

Sex is not the foundation of a healthy relationship; it is a natural extension of a relationship in which giving and receiving mutual support and comfort are common.

You must have a plan

Phil McGraw, Ph. D. 

www.drphil.com 

Much of this book and none the exercises are not contained in this synopsis.  If you would like to learn more:

Buy This Book

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