The Magic in Your Differences


This article originally appeared on the Support4Change website, and is reposted here.

The following is the first chapter of The New Intimacy by Judith Sherven, Ph.D. and James Sniechowski, Ph.D., and reprinted with permission. You will find other articles by this husband-and-wife therapist team here, on the Support4Change Blog.

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The Promise of Differences

Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.      — Polly Berrien Berends

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As we learn to truly respect one another’s differences, the much sought after ideal — loving partnership that fosters emotional and spiritual growth — is becoming a reality.      — Art Klein

Did your relationship start out with great promise, filled with excitement, throbbing with life? Were you certain the two of you would create a vital and passionate future together? Did you see in your lover all the qualities you wanted, so that just the thought of being together was enough to fire your desire and make your skin tingle? Did you imagine your family with beautiful, loving children and two caring and protective parents all together in a warm and comfortable home? And as you imagined growing old together, did you see yourself sitting back, content and confident, knowing, “We lived and loved and we did well!” Read More

Pick Your Battles Carefully

This article originally appeared on the Support4Change website, and is reposted here.

The idea for this article grew out of a compromise I made which is, as my assistant reminds me, the “nuts and bolts” of marriage.

Ivy vineLines are drawn in every marriage. Sometimes our positions are relatively unimportant and scratched in sand, where they can be easily erased and moved. However, basic values and principles on which we won’t compromise are chipped into cement. Getting us to budge on those requires major reconstruction. But sometimes we—especially perfectionists—can draw non-negotiable lines over insignificant issues because we need to be in control. Unfortunately, we often don’t know until we’re in the middle of a disagreement the kind of position our loved ones have taken—or how strongly we, ourselves, want to defend our opinion. Read More

Beyond Ordinary Listening

This article by Joyce Vissell originally appeared as an article on the former Support4Change website.

Learn how to communicate so fully that your partner can’t help but pay attention and listen to every word.

Jubilee and Munin, Ravens, Tower of London 2016-04-30The art of listening is very important in life and essential in any relationship. Being able to listen carefully assures that valuable communication is passed between two people. Some communication is so riveting that we can’t help but pay attention and listen to every word.

But what about the communications that do not capture our attention fully. These are slower communications that do not pull you right in and perhaps are harder to keep your focus. It is during these times when you can “listen-plus.”

What is “listening-plus”? Though I just made up the name for this article, I have been practicing this technique for many years and it has brought me much joy. “Listening-plus” employs the heart as well as the ears and mind. Read More

The Marriage Contract Game

If you are having a conflict with your spouse, it may be time to look at the expectations of your invisible marriage contract.

Chess king and pawns.jpgAs noted in last week’s post, Marriage’s Invisible Contract, when we agree to marry or to live together, we all have expectations concerning what we’re willing to give our partner, as well as what we want to get from him or her. Whether verbalized or not, these assumptions fall into three general categories that frequently are sources of marital and personal trouble if they aren’t understood by both people.

You can play the Marriage Contract Game by printing two copies of this page and having each of you look carefully through the sample statements and questions, exploring which ones are part of what you each believe is in your contract. Especially notice the ones about which you feel strongly, as they are ones most likely to cause trouble if they conflict with the expectations of your partner. Read More

Marriage’s Invisible Contract

Behind every marriage lay unspoken expectations that may only be vaguely understood by the spouses, but which can cause much distress.


When satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one’s own satisfaction or security, then love exists.  — Harry Stack-Sullivan

Did you know there’s a contract hidden behind the marriage license? That’s right. When you sign your marriage license you THINK you’re agreeing to the same thing to which the other person agrees. But like millions of couples before you, it won’t be long before you’ll discover you were mistaken.

You see, we all enter into marriage (or agree to live together forever outside a legally sanctioned union) with the assumption that the other person knows the ground rules as we understand them. These assumptions are not written down, of course, although some of them are discussed in the process of dating and in deciding that you want to be a couple. The rest (especially those that can later cause a peck of troubles) are kept firmly stored in your mind. In fact, you aren’t even clearly aware of some of them. Nevertheless, they are powerful blueprints you expect to follow as you go through life together. Read More