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No-Fault Marriage: The new technique of self-counseling and what it can help you do

a book by Marcia E. Lasswell

(our site's book review)

What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped
What remained when most social tasks were exteriorized in the 1950s was the isolated ‘nuclear family,’ held together less by the functions its members performed as a unit than by fragile psychological bonds that are all too easily snapped

The authors justifiably indict the isolated nuclear family as being inadequate and too concentrated. Relatives are scattered, friends are few, families move every five years, and extended family structures have become relatively rare. Couples often know nothing about communication and feelings, so all they do is blame, fight, and holler, so every time someone in the family feels a feeling, s/he looks around for someone to blame. It never occurs to many such people to take responsibility for their own feelings, nor to question the context in which such feelings so often emerge.

Couples often know nothing about communication and feelings, so all they do is blame
Couples often know nothing about communication and feelings, so all they do is blame

Millions of couples get counseling help when marriage problems get too uncomfortable. But the authors feel that there are millions more who never seek any help, and the problems lead to marital stagnation, abuse of people or substances, or divorce. They suggest that an alternative is self-counseling, where the spouses use their No-Fault Marriage book and counsel themselves. Learning win-win problem solving and abandoning win-lose relationship perspectives is one of the first prerequisites. Learning to schedule the right time and place for sessions is also vital. Learning about each other’s pasts, goals, hopes and childhoods, and about each other’s feelings about present and past life situations is important, as is learning how to listen.

One especially important area is learning to recognize when people are slipping back into early patterns that manifest leftovers from childhood. Helping each other avoid these pitfalls is vital, since you cannot have present-time adult relationships if you are in past time and you are in your child mode. Along with this is the need to learn and practice empathy. One should communicate and listen to feelings very attentively and avoid opinions, ideas, criticisms and complaints when one’s partner communicates feelings. When partners fully trust that they each understand how the other feels about things (P.E.T.’s active listening is the best way to insure this), it goes a long way in creating enough trust so that partners think about each other’s needs and points of view as well as their own.

She says “In much of the world, couples are expected to have separate identities; each partner is free to see personal friends or indulge individual interests without either of them feeling that this reflects poorly on their relationship.” But in this country, privacy and the need for aloneness and other friends is actually seen as a symptom. Humanism and feminism are both helping to dispel these ridiculous attitudes, which have evolved from such things as the media’s warped obsession with all-or-nothing romantic relationships, and from the fact that technology has freed us needing others for our very survival (with the exception of children, of course).

Spouses in the U.S. begrudge each other's other relationships due to the media’s warped obsession with all-or-nothing romantic relationships
Spouses in the U.S. begrudge each other's other relationships due to the media’s warped obsession with all-or-nothing romantic relationships

When couples have kids, what counts is the quality of the childcare, not who does it, and if the mother works, what counts is whether she has good attitudes about her job and wants to be doing it. Unhappy mothers—whether they work or not—don’t do good childcare.

Unhappy mothers—whether they work or not—don’t do good childcare, but happy ones tend to do good childcare
Unhappy mothers—whether they work or not—don’t do good childcare, but happy ones tend to do good childcare

Jealousy comes from self-doubt or inner emptiness, and should lead couples to examine self-actualization and relationship quality.

Most important of all, couples need to see themselves as individuals with different needs and wants, and they should not put all their emotional eggs in one basket by attempting to force one another to be the only relationship and the only source of need filling in their lives. Without a social network of friends and/or relatives, most marriages will break under the strain and pressure—it’s an incontrovertible sociological fact.

Couples should NOT put all their emotional eggs in one basket by attempting to force one another to be the only relationship and the only source of need filling in their lives
Couples should NOT put all their emotional eggs in one basket by attempting to force one another to be the only relationship and the only source of need filling in their lives