Clearing the Land Mines of Marriage: The Intergenerational Causes of Marital Conflict

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9781553692492: Clearing the Land Mines of Marriage: The Intergenerational Causes of Marital Conflict
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Clearing the Land Mines of Marriage: The Intergenerational Causes of Marital Conflict helps couples and counselors in understanding and resolving severe marital conflicts.

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About the Author:

Dr. Schwartz hsa taught at Professional Psychology schools in Chicago. He is Board Certified in Family Psychology, and has conducted post-graduate-training programs.

He was trained at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland with Irving and Miriam Polster, Bill Warner and Cynthia Harris, and later at the Center for the Study of Intimate Systems with Sonia Nevis, Joseph Zinker, Carl Whitaker and Virginia Satir. He is a Supervisor for AAMFT, AAPC and an examiner in Family of the American Board of Professional Psychology.

He has worked for over 50 years as a Family Psychologist treating married couples and families. He has conducted research with 250 married couples. Dr. Schwartz has retired from clinical practice but continues to conduct Gestalt Training and clinical supervision.

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    During fifty years of counseling couples, one question plagued me which remained unanswered for years. "Why do otherwise mature, intelligent married people become irrational and defensive, attacking and abusing in the midst of a marital fight?" It was as if they "flipped" into entirely different personalities. What happens to people in a marital fight, to their logical thinking, to their loving emotions? Have these otherwise sensible people lost their senses, spinning out of control in an emotional hurricane? The couple says things, attacking each other in ways they would not ordinarily consider and later regretted.

    These "kitchen sink fights" often erupted in my office, because couples knew I would "referee". I tried many different therapies to stop them: cognitive-behavioral, rational-emotive, problem solving, behavior-modification, even psychoanalytic methods. Nothing provided positive, lasting results. As a clinical psychologist and professor of family psychology, I had treated professionals and their spouses, many in severe conflict. I should have known what to do, but nothing worked.

    I had already conducted research involving more than two hundred couples which indicated that satisfaction in marriage has nothing to do with stability or longevity in marriage. A marriage need not be healthy or satisfying to be stable but it need not be hectic either.

    In my experience as a young pastor, I had observed that some church people lived parallel lives within marriage even though they did not appear to have much feeling or intimate contact with each other. They received their emotional and social nourishment from other sources including hobbies, businesses, lodges, service clubs, and church activities. It was as if they earned a reputation as "pillars of the church and community." Their parents often had filled the same roles decades before. It was as though there was a "royal succession," an expectation of family power and influence extending over generations and they were stable.

    This book is the result of this study. It is in three parts: Part I discusses the intergenerational causes of marital conflict, the unseen conflict of two marriage patterns inherited from parents. Other sources of conflict, I found include unfinished businesss from the past, ancient and modern myths concerning marriage, real and unreal expectations of marriage which these couples unknowingly bring into their new relationship, and their incomplete developmental tasks, learned from their parents' marriage.

    How parental marital patterns are imprinted and programmed, affecting adult marriages is described. The structure of marital relationships is defined in terms of polarities and opposites. The necessity and pitfalls of accommodation are also discussed. Marriage relationships need to be cyclical, alternately giving and receiving, a process essential for a dynamic marriage. The necessity and pitfalls of accommodation are spelled out.

    In Part II, systems therapy is contrasted with individual therapies which deal with communication, behavior, emotions and cognitive difficulties. In systems therapy, the focus of treatment is the interaction between partners; not individual behavior, thoughts or feelings.

    Part III is a guide for married couples. Each chapter concludes with a set of questions which address the important issues married couples face in disarming their potential landmines. In order to clear future paths, partners need to dig up and disarm ancient wounds and inherited "emotional infections," those accumulated resentments which seriously disrupt a marriage when stress occurs.

    This book does not deal with healthy marriages, but rather with those marriages which are in obvious turmoil or those couples concerned with avoiding or resolving conflict. Understanding the intergenerational causes of marital conflict is essential fo treating conflicted couples. The Cape Cod Model of Family Therapy developed by the Center for the Study of Intimate Systems at The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland is recommended as the treatment of choice (Zinker and Nevis, 1997).

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