Reviewed by Maya del Mar
Couples Journey by Tony and Cristi Cubito, Blue Pearl Publishing Co., Eugene, OR, 2002. Pbk, $17.95. Available at www.couplesjourney.com.
The Cubitos are counselors who have worked with hundreds of couples for over a decade. They believe that the primary relationship is a natural phenomenon, as well as a priority in most peoples lives, and that learning to be skilled workers dealing with relational issues is richly rewarding for both partners. They subtitle their book, A Journal to Help Couples Grow in Love and Respect.
However, this book is not only for couples. It is an outstanding workbook for improving our communication with anyone who is important in our lives, as well as improving communication with ourselves. The writing is simple, easy-to-read, and works with sound psychological principles. The exercises ask basic questions, which stimulate inner self and inner other discovery.
Two main guiding principles in the Cubitos work to which they attribute their success are
1) The importance of the dualistic system of being afraid of, and desiring, the same thing at the same time, namely intimacy, and
2) Shifting attention from focusing on content (specific issues) to looking at process (the manner in which we deal with issues).
Using these guidelines, the Cubitos focused on one relatively simple task: being able to identify when we are "in our adults" and when we arent. They have experienced and seen how when partners learn how to process their conflicts using adult-to-adult communication, the process itself creates openness, closeness, trust, respect, and accomplishment.
One of the topics which the authors discuss is distancing, common after time. A couple creates distance together when they are afraid of being hurt. Fear of being hurt when you are open and close with your partner is learned through experiences. This behavior is unconscious, and both partners collude in it. Thus it grows. Blame is destructive and only creates further distance. Instead, we learn to understand what were doing, and to take responsibility for it. To help readers understand how they create distance, the authors ask a series of questions, e.g.
1) Who or what is the enemy?
2) If I were close to my partner, how could she (he) hurt me?
3) How do I distance?
4) How does my partner distance?
5) When you visualize you and your partner have a discussion about how you both distance, what shows up for you?
Other chapters in Couples Journey include
- Creating Intimacy: Adult-to-Adult Communication
- Working Together: Troubleshooting the Process
- Helping Each Other Achieve a Positive Sense of Self: the Bottom Line for Couples
- Practising Adult-to-Adult Communication
The last half of the book includes a series of vital topics for discussion, along with relevant questions. This is meant as practise for couples to work in their adult-to-adult mode. Valuable as such exercises are for couples, they are just as valuable for solo work with oneself.
Couples Journey is a valuable, easy-to-use book/workbook for improving relationship skills, useful for anyone. All it takes is a willingness to look within, to take nonjudgmental responsibility for what one finds there, and to communicate it in a nonjudgmental way. And to allow a partner to do the same.
Adult-to-adult is indeed a key idea to facilitate open and loving relating.