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The Single Best Tip Before You Give Your Heart to Someone

You don’t really know someone until you have an argument with them

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.

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So here’s the tip before you give your heart to 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.

* "How to Grow a Thicker Skin Without Developing a Cold Heart" - In an upcoming blog learn how to become more mature in how you react and respond to a different opinion so that it not only doesn't escalate, but serves to make you and the other person closer.

Mark Goulston, MD, is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

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