How to Deal with Differences and Save a Marriage – Learning the Skills of Highly Effective Couples.

Alpina Publisher has a new book out Happy union. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Couples. Its authors are Dr. Stephen Covey and his wife Sandra, along with their brother John and his wife Jane, share secrets and techniques to improve or strengthen a union through empathy. Interestingly, experts also offer psychological exercises that will help you understand yourself and your partner.

With the permission of the publisher, we publish a short excerpt “When it gets difficult. How to Deal with Irreconcilable Differences and Save a Marriage?” written by Stephen Covey.

Many divorce because of real betrayal – physical abuse or treason. But often this is due to the debilitating, gaining momentum of two-alternative thinking. With such an attitude of mind (rather even heart), love turns into deep disrespect. Some marriages turn into constant angry debates. Family members are divided into unconditionally good and bad, and relationships begin to be built on the principle of “ours against yours.” Some families suffer from less obvious, more subtle forms of emotional abuse—petty bickering, nagging and slandering, perverse competition over who will make whom miserable: “If you loved me, you would clean the garage,” “I work all day, and where is the gratitude?”, “These, by the way, are your children too.” The walls grow gradually, almost imperceptibly, until a cold silence reigns.

The most common reason for divorce is “incompatibility”. This word can cover a range of issues—financial, emotional, social, sexual—but the meaning is that participants do not value their differences, but resent them: “We never agree,” “I don’t understand what she has.” in my head”, “He is completely unreasonable”. Over time, both are overcome by despair, and divorce begins to seem the only way out.

The best marriages, on the other hand, happen when partners value their differences. Cultural characteristics, quirks, abilities, strengths, reflexes and feelings of each of the partners become a source of pleasure and creativity. Is he impatient and therefore terribly conducts financial affairs? But he is direct, and it is a lot of fun with him. Her restraint is sometimes frustrating, but the aristocracy of her manner fascinates and inspires awe. And since both value each other, cheerfulness and nobility merge into one in their union.

When two people get married, they have the opportunity to create a third alternative – a unique family culture that has not been before and will not be then.

In addition to innate individual traits, each partner is a fully formed member of society with a set of beliefs, norms, values, traditions, even with their own language. One of them is used to the fact that at home the relationship is sincere, but restrained, conflicts are suppressed or quietly resolved in private. Another comes from a family where relationships are full of noise and love, quarrels boil up like volcanoes to immediately subside and forget. In the union of both, a new culture is born: the two former ones seem to penetrate each other. This is synergy.

Depending on the mood of the partners, it can be positive or negative. If they believe that differences threaten the relationship, this can become a serious problem. If the features delight both of them, both study each other with pleasure and revel in the knowledge of the new and unknown in a partner, they will find prosperity. Someone once said: “My marriage was like moving to another country – getting used to foreign customs was interesting at first. It was the same with my wife, and now we know for sure that the discoveries will never end. This is the greatest adventure possible.”

I warn you: appreciating differences does not mean putting up with something criminal or disgusting. No one is obliged to simply endure addictions or endure violence without contacting the police. I believe that abusive behavior must be confronted – courageously, directly and without delay.

However, non-crime marital conflict usually begins with a clash of values, beliefs, and expectations between two different cultures. People do not get married to fight or hurt each other, but half of the families fall apart because of the inability to create a fruitful third alternative that would surpass both of the previous ones.

In addition to what I have already mentioned, I recommend finding a higher value that would unite you. It should be more important than irreconcilable differences, especially harmless ones. Then your common task will bring you closer, and not alienate you from each other, will allow you to push differences into the background. For example, you can unite around your children, their happiness and development.

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