"We'd Have a Great Relationship if it Weren't for You: Regaining Love and Intimacy," by Bruce Derman, Ph.D.
Reviewed by Barbara Bowen, LCSW
I was taken by the title of this book because it reminded me of a common stuck place in relationships. Many people I see arrive at couples' counseling having come to a conclusion about why the other person acts the way they do, and what they need to do to fix it (or hope the therapist can help the other person see and change it). Or, they are stuck in disagreements regarding who is right and who is wrong. They spend a lot of energy trying to convince the other person of their errors. They do not understand, or have lost sight of, the fact that relationships are about support and understanding and can be an invaluable vehicle for personal growth. Their focus is on fixing the other person, not on understanding, learning, and acceptance of differences.
Dr. Derman believes that when partners get stuck in painful relationships, they focus on their differences in order to hold on to the belief that one person is better than the other. In doing so, they protect themselves from fear and vulnerability, but sacrifice love and closeness. He believes both partners in any committed relationship are alike in their capacity for love and closeness, and if they focus on their mutuality in this regard they will reach satisfaction and fulfillment. He believes that many more relationships suffer from being uncommitted than from being incompatible. In cases where incompatibility exists, using the tools of understanding and accepting the other can lead to informed choices and cooperative separation and divorce.
Dr. Derman challenges couples to see themselves and their relationship in new ways. The book provides well developed explanations of how and why partners get stuck in focusing on their differences, and outlines steps to developing mutuality, intimacy and satisfaction in relationships.
In addition to "We'd Have a Great Relationship if it Weren't for You: Regaining Love and Intimacy," Dr. Derman has also written "We Could Have Had a Great Date if it Weren't for You: A Guide to Authentic Dating." Both books are available in paperback on amazon.com.