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Making Relationships Work

An Interview with
Paul Beckow, M.Sc., R.P.C., Marriage and Family Therapist

Excerpted from Island Parent Magazine

Interviewer:Paul, I understand as a marriage therapist you have worked with a lot of couples over the years. So what can you report to us about relationships today?

Paul: Someone once said the two most troubling inventions of human civilization are "gun powder" and "romance". Well it seems we have come a lot farther with gunpowder, the practice of warfare, over the years than we have in the practice of relationship. In relationship we still have a lot to learn.

Interviewer:What makes you say that?

PaulSimply, look at the statistics.

Currently it is reported that close to 50% of first marriages end in divorce. That's alarming. If you or I went to the Victoria airport to catch the plane to Toronto and we were told we had a 50% chance of making it, landing safely, there, we would definitely reconsider taking the plane. Yet in the face of these results young people are still getting married.

Further, it's reported 40% of second marriages fail.

Now remember these statistics don't reflect "bad people." Each person who steps up to the altar is there in the best of intentions, wanting their marriage to succeed, to flourish. Couples begin fully on board - enthusiastic and committed to making their marriage great.

So each person is doing the very best they can.

Clearly something is missing in the practice of relationship in our culture.

Int: What do you say that is?

Paul:There exists today many continuing misunderstandings about the nature of relationship and what it takes to really have a satisfying, lasting, nurturing relationship.

Int: And are you saying identifying these misunderstandings can make a difference?

Paul: Most definitely. That's why I enjoy working with couples so much. Because once the ideas which cause mischief are identified and revealed, they can be questioned and challenged. New insights occur. Immediate and powerful changes follow.

I see this all the time with couples. Without a lot of effort, with some simple new understanding into the troubling assumptions, couples become less confused about whats happening between them. They quickly and naturally recover their good will, re-establish theirsense of commitment and find new effectiveness with each other.

Int: Okay. So what's an example of a basic misunderstanding we have in our culture?

Paul: Well, take the idea many of us have that our partners somehow are responsible for our well being. We operate in relationship as though our experience of fullfillment and satisfaction, our feeling of being loved and cared for (which is what we all seem to desire and dream of in relationship) depends upon how our partner is (behaving) with us. They are responsible for our well being. Their actions, attitudes, behaviors - they "make us feel"...

So we see a relationship like it's "a thing" out there. And it is affecting us somehow. And IT MAKES US FEEL as we do. This is a common and valid way to look at relationship.

Yet the problem is there's not much power in this view. Our eyes are always on the other - how they should be and shouldn't be. How they are being and not being. And when our eyes are out there on the other. We fail to see anyhting or learn about ourselves. And we dont learn much about being able to cause our own happiness and satisfaction.

And one's partner? Well, they are doing the same thing! They too are hoping that we will assist them to feel loved and wanted and worthy through the actions we will bring to them. Both people are expecting the other to turn them on somehow, make them happy or satisfied, feel loved, in life.

This way of viewing causes alot of mischief.

If we are experiencing disatisfaction, reactions, unhappiness, this view leads to blaming the other. When we are blaming we are not looking at ourselves. We are completley missing the lesson that life is handing us.

Now when we were small and dependant as children, this view of relationship was accurate. Grown-ups were the dispensers of many of our rewards, pleasures, joys. And our pains and discomfort. When we were small we looked out at the grown-ups and depended upon them for some sign of our worthiness, importance, loveableness. And we may have felt personally hurt and somewhat lost when they took that away.

Yet that was how it was when we were small. Now as an adult it is different.
We can discover that the source of being satisfied is our own "inside job". Something actually under our control.

In fact this can be seen to be the pirmary challenge of relationship - how do I ( does one ) make myself ( make themselves ) happy and satisfied?

Something happens when we begin to look after, our own state of satisfaction and well-being.

When we begin to look after ourselves, we begin new and powerful work.
We've discovered a new kind of power. A response ability, you could call it. Taking on our own well-being and expressing ourselves from being well, becomes a priority. We stop blaming the other for our experiences in life. We take our attention off the other, how they are and how they aren't, and become our own "state manager".

Learning this skill we can express "being satisfied" and we can bring the well being we have created for ourselves into a relationship rather than trying to get our well-being out of it.

This is a shift in ways of being in the world and calls upon us for many new and powerful lessons and personal skills.

Effective marriages therapists know this and can call it forth from the couples they work with. They can show a troubled couple that impasses can become exciting opportunities for new learning and growth.

Living this way, relationship becomes a growing learning creative affair.

Paul Beckow is a trained individual, marriage, and family therapist with over 20 years experience. If you have a relationship and/or family concern, write to him c/o Paul Beckow Counselling, 113 Atkins Rd., Victoria B.C., V9B 6V4, e-mail him at pbeckow@shaw.ca or call 250 721 2477.

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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