Sonya Thomas lcsw

Relational Heroism – Part 3

 On to the next points in our series on Rational Heroism

  4) Don’t take personally what my partner says when they are in their “Wounded Self”: The author David Celani, in his books The Illusion of Loveand Leaving Home, develops the concept of the “wounded self.” In all of us, our wounded self is the repository of all the negative and painful and hurtful experiences of our lives. Thus, what lives in the wounded self are the feelings of anger, hurt, shame, humiliation, and resentment. When a couple begins fighting, the wounded self of one or both partners in very quickly triggered. At this point, one is in an altered state, not in the rational cerebral cortex part of one’s brain. In this altered state, a partner says such things as “I hate you, screw you, I want a divorce!” Too often partners take personally what their partner is saying in this altered state. This is the time when it’s absolutely critical to utilize one’s “internal boundary” so as not to take to heart what one’s partner is saying and then ruminate about it for hours or days.

     5) Resist the urge to “offend from the victim position”: It is extremely common is an argument for either partner to feel that what the other partner has just said is unfair, unkind, and untrue. Often the experience is one of feeling victimized by one’s partner. Terrence Real suggests that often the result is an outburst of “offending from the victim position.” By this he means that when I feel victimized by what my partner has said or done, I then feel entitled to “go on the offensive”, destructively attacking my partner back with more hurtful and angry words.

     6) Let go of “needing to be right”: In his book The New Rules of Marriage, Terry Real describes “needing to be right” as the foremost “losing strategy” in marriage. Describing the conflict between one couple, Real writes, “They each feel the need to be right, marshalling their evidence and arguing their case, two lawyers before the court…Like many couples, they try to resolve their differences by eradicating them. Faced with contrasting views…the way to end the argument, they think, is to determine which version is the more accurate. They are in an objectivity battle…Instead of being a battle for the relationship, it is a constant war about who is right and who is wrong.” (pp. 38-39)

In what may sound like a radical proposition, Real goes on to write, “Objective reality has no place in close personal relationships…From a relationship-savvy point of view, the only sensible answer to the question ‘Who’s right and who’s wrong is ‘Who cares?’…You can be right or you can be married. What’s more important to you?” (p. 40).

John Gottman, in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, takes the same stand. Gottman writes, “Another important lesson I have learned is that in all arguments, both solvable and perpetual, no one is ever right. There is no absolute reality in marital conflict, only two subjective realities.” (p. 150).

Until next time, peace.