Why you should argue with someone BEFORE falling in love
You don’t really know someone until you have an argument with them
Years ago I was the creator of Recoupling Therapy where I helped divorced ex-spouses successfully get back together. It caught national attention and landed me on Today, Oprah and in the N.Y. Times and Los Angeles Times.
I didn’t stay with it, because at the time a larger part of my practice was doing interventions with highly suicidal, violent and dying people and their problems seemed more life threatening (I currently do see couples who are separated, but have each decided to give their marriage one last try before they divorce. I have called that: “Last Chance Marriage Fix”).
I learned many things from divorced couples, but one thing several of them said still stays with me and I think offers the best advice to couples who are thinking of becoming engaged. They said that when you go through a divorce you see the other person at their absolute worst, whereas in a new relationship, you have yet to discover that. If the other person’s absolute worst added to your owning up to how you caused problems in your ex-marriage, don’t turn out to be too horrific that can give you a more realistic view of that relationship than of a new one that is still in a honeymoon period.
So here’s the tip before falling love with someone else. Have at least three knock down (figuratively speaking), drag out arguments that you resolve completely. Completely means that you express your upset and anger at the other, but each of you keep talking until you’re talking from your disappointment, hurt and even fear (that this is the beginning of pattern of unending ugliness between you) and then you both come up with a solution you both accept, agree and commit to so that another such argument doesn’t occur.
In truth there is a progression from: difference of opinion –> upset –> disagreement –> argument –> ultimatums.
The more mature a person is, the more they can allow and accept and respect another person having a different opinion without becoming upset and escalating it to a disagreement, or if they do have one, can stop things before it escalates into an argument.
The more immature a person, the more quickly does a difference of an opinion move into an argument and then ultimatums. That may explain why when an immature child doesn’t like what their parent or a friend is doing, they’re likely to say, “I hate you! You’re not my friend.” It may also explain why when immature adult aged couples have a difference of opinion they can quickly go to argument and then, “Fine, let’s just get divorced.”
The psychological reason for this involves a concept known as “object constancy.” When you have object constancy it means that you are still able to maintain an emotional attachment to someone even after they have disappointed or hurt you. You may not like the way it feels, but you still feel the attachment. This is often something that is learned and a sign of emotional and psychological maturity.
Immature people and the majority of people with what are described as Personality Disorders, have poor object constancy, meaning that as soon as they feel disappointed, hurt or afraid they cut off their emotional and psychological attachment to the other person and often view them as the enemy.
How’s your Object Constancy?
How deeply can you feel disappointed, frustrated and/or hurt by another person and still feel a connection to them? The more deeply you can, the greater your object constancy, maturity and relationship worthiness. The less you can tolerate feeling disappointed, frustrated and/or hurt by another person and not feel an attachment to them, the lesser your object constancy, maturity and relationship worthiness.
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Mark Goulston, M.D. is a business advisor, consultant, speaker, trainer and coach trained as a clinical psychiatrist who honed his skills as an FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer who increases people’s ability to get through to anyone. He is Co- Founder of Heartfelt Leadership whose Mission is: Daring to Care and Go Positive Now and is the Resident Big Brother at Business Women Rising and serves on the Board of Advisers of American Women Veterans and Dr. Oz’ foundation, Health Corps. He is the author of international best selling book, “Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95) which has reached #1 at amazon kindle in six business categories, #1 in China and Germany , #1 in audible audiobooks and has been translated into fourteen languages. Dr. Goulston and his book was also a PBS special entitled “Just Listen with Dr. Mark Goulston.” His next book, REAL INFLUENCE: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In, co-authored with Dr. John Ullment will be the lead book for the American Management Association in January, 2013 and will focus on influencing people in a post-selling world. Dr. Goulston’s development of those skills started with his education: a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.D. from Boston University, post graduate residency in psychiatry at UCLA. He went on to be a professor at UCLA’s internationally renowned Neuropsychiatric Institute for more than twenty years, become a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and was named one of America’s Top Psychiatrists for 2004-2005 and again in 2009 and 2011 by Washington, D.C. based Consumers’ Research Council of America. A partial list of companies, organizations and universities he has trained, spoken to, provided executive coaching to or consulted with include: GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Deutsche Bank, Hyatt, Accenture, Astra Zenica, British Airways, Sodexo, ESPN, Kodak, Federal Express, YPO, YPOWPO India, Association for Corporate Growth, FBI, Los Angeles District Attorney, White & Case, Seyfarth Shaw, UCLA Anderson School of Management, USC, Pepperdine University. He is or has been a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and is the best selling author of four prior books including the international best seller, Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior (Perigee, $13.95) Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…and Help Others Do the Same (Perigee, $14.95), is a contributor to Harvard Business, blogs for the Huffington Post, Business Insider writes the Tribune media syndicated column, Solve Anything with Dr. Mark, column on leadership for FAST COMPANY, Directors Monthly. He is frequently called upon to share his expertise with regard to contemporary business, national and world news by television, radio and print media including: Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Newsweek, Time, Los Angeles Times, ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/CNN/BBC News, Oprah, Today. Dr. Goulston lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.