Although we all agree in theory that our partners have their own point of view and their own valid perception of interactions, at the emotional level, we are reluctant to accept this simple truth. We like to believe that the way we see the world is the way the world is. When our partner disagrees with us, it is tempting to think that they have a distorted point of view or are ill-informed. 

One of my objectives during couples therapy with my clients is to help them see that both of their views and opinions of all interactions and events are valid. When they dig their heals in and believe that their point of view is the only valid one, I do not try to get into a debate with them instead I apply a technique I took from Harville Hendrix, PhD.

I ask my couple to listen to a 5 minute classical music recording of Beethoven symphony and invite both of them to pay attention to any images that come to mind. Usually, at this point, couples are questioning how will listening to classical music help resolve their difficulties? 

After I stop the music, I ask each of them what they thought of the piece.

Partner #1 describes the music as really lovely with such a beautiful melody. Partner #1 especially loved the violin part and the image that came to his mind was the ocean. There were qualities of the music that reminded him of another song he loved.

I then turn to partner #2 and ask what they thought. Partner #2 described the same song very differently. The music was stormy and depressing. The piano part seemed aggressive and harsh. She got the image of the darkening sky and storm clouds.

Then I have them listen to the same song again and ask them to see if they can find evidence that supports their partner's opinion. For partner #1, I would like you to look for the dramatic tension and for partner #2, I would like you to look for the poetic lightness. 

By listening to the music form each other's point of view, they had learned that Beethoven Symphony was a richer piece of music than either of them had first perceived. There were serene, melodic, and dramatic parts; it was complex and multi-faceted. 

If couples would look at everything in the same open-minded way, they would realized two things: first, that each of them have a valid point of view; second, that reality is larger and more complex than with one of them will ever know. All we can do is form impressions of the world, take more and more snap shots, and each time aiming for a closer view of the truth. 

One things is certain, If you are able to respect each other's point of view and see it as a way to enrich your own, you will able to take clearer more accurate picture of the truth and help expand each other's view of the complexity of reality. Suddenly each of you will have binocular vision and not monocular vision. 

When you accept the limited nature of your own perceptions and become more receptive to the truth of you partner's perceptions. a whole world opens up to you. Instead of seeing your partner's differing view as a source of conflict, you find them a source of knowledge. You become curious: "What are you seeing that I am not seeing?", "What have you learned that I have yet to learn?"

Relationships give you the opportunity to learn daily about your own reality and the reality of your partner. Every one of your interactions contains a grain of truth, a bit of insight, a peek into your childhood wounds and an understanding of your wholeness. As you add more and more information to your knowledge of the truth, you are creating "reality love" not the romantic "illusion of love". 

 

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