Thursday, September 3, 2015

How To Live With Another Person

A healthy relationship is tough.

Like a worn out paperback cover, those involved can be used, bent, creased and flattened back out, maybe even a chunk taken out.

And while wounds come with relationships, "biting and devouring one another," as Paul puts it in Galatians 5:15, and "consuming one another" is relational cannibalism.

I doubt there's any cure for those who desire to be that way.

However, if you are like me, and honestly desire to understand for yourself and do what is good and true, then David Viscott's book may be an enjoyable and relief-filled read for you, too.

I gave 25 cents for my copy about 10 years ago before Laura and I got married, but I recently reread it in hope of finding another "profound and life changing" book. Whether this book is profound for you, you must decide, but I was pleasantly satisfied. At least I am through the first 50 pages.

The excerpt that I would like to share is from chapter two on "Everyone's Basic Rights."

Our present day, highly charged, political culture is certainly not at a loss for opinions on what is a legitimate right and what is not, but I think that what Dr. Viscott explains is agreeable to all. If not, I would like to hear your opinion. Perhaps we can all benefit from an increased understanding. The principles outlined by Dr. Viscott are written primarily for couples, but I think that they are universally applicable to any relationship: friends, family, coworkers, social groups, and especially between God and man.

David Viscott writes:

"ANY relationship which does not respect the rights of its individual members equally cannot be based on an understanding that goes very deep. A relationship should be a place where each member regards the others' rights and feelings as he would his own. Usually two people come to accept each others rights by trial and error and by argument and misunderstanding. Each couple must decide for itself what is acceptable in its relationship. This may take years and involve periods of disenchantment, self-accusation and feelings of isolation and betrayal. The course of all relationships is occasionally stormy, even if the partners never seem to argue."

"We are all human and that simple fact makes us heir to the noblest aspirations, the basest instincts, an attraction to what is beautiful, a potential for angry retaliation and the capacity for love and self sacrifice. We are each a story and no one's story is completed until his death, no matter how hopeless the opening chapters seem to be or how limited their future development appears. Neither is a happy outcome a certainty no matter how great and promising one's beginnings are. We are all becoming and none of us can be sure what it is s/he will finally become. The process from beginning to end is hard work. The times are always uncertain. Our greatest strength comes from protecting our rights."

"We are all born with the same rights. These rights are ours whether we assert them, or not, whether we live alone or with another person. Our rights are always the same. Our rights are natural rights, our claim to them is our life itself and our belief in equality, and the right to express and satisfy our rights always depends upon our respecting the rights of others. When we deny another's rights we only deny ourselves. No one can force another person to give up his rights, even though one partner may overpower another and get his way for a time. The only person who can give up rights is the person who owns them. Such yielding should be only temporary and occur as part of the give and take in a relationship which naturally balances itself."

"If we completely abandon our individual rights in favor of another person when we form a relationship, we only violate ourselves, become less of a person and in the end undermine the relationship itself. There is always a price for yielding rights. When we cede rights insincerely or are forced to yield them against our will, we often secretly hold the other person liable for our loss and for the pain that always comes from giving away a part of ourselves than we need in order to feel like a complete human being. Our pain comes partly from the discovery that we no longer feel true to ourselves and partly because we feel we have become less of a person through our relationship than we were before."

"A long held secret resentment over trampled rights becomes a silent negative force seeking expression. It can flow through a relationship, attach itself to trivial arguments, make small anger great, taint what is good and angrily leak out everywhere. A person's individual rights in any relationship are the same rights s/he enjoyed before even knowing the other partner existed. Rights are not to be bargained for. They simply exist. A relationship's task is to recognize and protect the rights of both parties. It should allow two people with equal rights to live together so that both of them can grow and share a view of the world which is greater than either one sees alone. If two people living together do not generate a world that is greater than the sum of each of them alone, their union is superficial and static."


"Both partners must allow each other the freedom to grow even if that freedom is a threat to the relationship. The freedom to grow up is also the freedom to grow apart. When one partner prevents the other from realizing his fullest potential, he releases the most undermining force in the relationship. That partner is in effect saying to the other: 'You must always be the person I want you to be. You must always stay the same. Your purpose in life is what I see it to be. And your growth is a threat to me."

"Trying to place restrictions on the growth of a partner is always a mistake and destined to fail. A relationship should be a place where two people share the experience of helping each other become more than they were when the relationship started. It should never become a jail, holding their souls hostage for a ransom of love which is conditional on their always staying the same. Such a relationship only dissolves when a partner discovers an unconditional love or learns how important it is to be himself."

"To demand that a person stop growing is not to love the other person fully. You should love not only what the other is, but also what s/he can become. Loving a person is to love the best in him and to make it easier for that person to become herself/himself. Any force that stands in the way of our becoming is alien to us. To have someone who shares your closest thoughts and feelings stand in your way is to be tripped on your own doorstep before you have had a chance to try your fortunes in the world. The worst thing one partner can say to the other is, "You kept me from being me."

"You have a right to become the person you were destined to become. To feel that someone is blocking your destiny is one of the worst of all feelings. There are enough obstacles in the world that prevent people from fulfilling themselves without adding to them by demanding that a partner give up his plans for the sake of the relationship. Such demands only backfire and weaken the strong emotional ties between the two partners."

"Even if it seems threatening at first, helping a partner grow and find himself always makes a relationship stronger. In time, the partners will seem less dependent and less possessive. They remain together because they want to be together. Although they have the freedom on each day of the relationship's life to stay or to leave, they choose to stay and grow together. The strongest relationship is one between two people who see each other as "midwives" to the persons they wish to become."


"Every person has the right to be himself, the person he is, the sum total of his feelings, thoughts, affections, tastes, dislikes and perceptions. What is it to be a person if it is not to see and feel a world that no one else sees or feels but you, to be a world unto yourself that exists only as long as you do? Who sees your world or knows how the color of your sadness changes the sunsets? Who sees the part of you that smiles at yourself, that fills you back with love and makes the people in your world smile back?"

"We spend our lives existing between two worlds we can never really grasp and so we live in a world of our own creation. To avoid being hurt and to be comfortable, each of us perceives the world he must perceive. We invent our illusions to separate the world outside from the world within. Even though the outside world is the same and feelings are universal, no two people share the same illusion. Nothing hurts more than a wound that cuts through our illusions and makes us see the parts of ourselves we were unwilling to see before."

"To live with another person is to try to share the world he perceives and in so doing to permit your world to grow and to give up your illusions through love. How do we know the world each of us perceives is real? No person can be completely objective. Each of us can make out only a part of the truth, the part that is similar to what each of us can accept in ourselves. No matter what your view of the world is, it is yours. More than that, it is you. You have the right to be you, to say "I am" and to have that mean something very different from what anyone else in the world says it means and still have it mean many of the same things."

"No one has the right to make you change, but if you want to change, it is your right to do so. A relationship cannot continue to exist when one person demands that the other change in order to keep the relationship alive. A person doesn't really change unless he wants to. The best kind of change can happen through the love of one person for another. When two people allow each other to get close enough to share the private corners of their worlds of feeling and thought, they develop a trust that allows each to see his own world anew through the eyes of the other person and so each partner learns to see himself in a new way. Because their perception of themselves changes, so do their worlds and so too do they. They change because they see a better them."

"It is difficult to change when all you hear is someone telling you what is wrong with you and you suspect that there may be nothing better to be gained by changing. Why risk changing for the worse for someone if he can't see the parts of you that exist now that you already know are good? How sure can you be that the other person will like what you become if you change to please him? How sure are you that you will like yourself?


"Without love nothing is right. A life without love is not right. A life without love is a world without love. Every person has the right to be loved and to love. To be accepted, cared for and adored. And every person has the right to fulfill that right. The right to love is the right to be intimate, to share, to be close, to know a mutuality of spirit based on acceptance of each other as you are. To love a part of another that is not real is to hope the other will become someone or something that s/he is not. We ought to love each other for what we are and for our potential for becoming. Love is not our hope for another person, because that hope may only be a creature of our own creation, a wish for ourselves that we have been powerless to fulfill. Love can never be the burden of our hope for ourselves placed onto another person. If we go on hoping we merely postpone the day when we can love another person completely for himself as he is. Love is always now."


"The right to privacy, like most rights, reflects a simple human need. A life without privacy is unthinkable. Some people need more privacy than others, but everyone needs some time alone to be accountable only to oneself, time to think, to reconsider the things one believes and the reasons for those beliefs. Privacy is the guardian of our incomplete thoughts, of our unconsidered opinions. Privacy is the force that takes the pressure of the moment and puts it aside, allowing the judgment of time to cast its relieving shadow over the present and help us fit our lives in the scheme of things."

"No two people develop feelings or think or grow the same way. Protecting the right to privacy in any relationship is one way of insuring that each person can get his bearings and be him/herself. People need a private life, a private world of their own, places where they can see friends, have conversations, maintain cherished interests, hobbies, amusements and sports, places where they can continue to be and find the other parts of the person they want to be and need to be, besides the parts that the person they are living with brings out."

"The right to privacy is the right to spend time alone with yourself, but it is not the right to make other people worry unnecessarily about you by being thoughtless. Spending time alone should not be capricious or impulsive when other people are involved in your life. The right to privacy is the right to take a vacation alone, to spend some time alone with yourself each day, each week, each year."

"Sometimes asserting one's right to privacy feels threatening to the other person. When relationships become frayed and at loose ends, partners have a way of regarding such requests for privacy as a wish to desert. Sometimes they are, but even then each person still has the right to be by him/herself to think the situation through alone. When the trust needed to keep a relationship working wears so thin that privacy is compromised, the relationship suffers doubly, for then it is not only difficult to be each others but also a problem to be one's own."

"You have a right to keep part of your life secret, any part. Your thoughts, actions and wishes are yours to keep private if you want. Not all thoughts need to be or should be shared. Openness in a relationship is a desirable goal, but not in all things or at all times. Sometimes a partner needs more time to think before he shares. Being open indiscriminately can be an excuse to be cruel and to hurt the other person with information that is shared only as an act of anger. Merely wishing to keep a thought secret should not suggest sinister intentions. Keeping a secret is merely a way of saying you are unsure of what you are feeling at the moment and do not wish to share it yet."

"When there is not privacy in a relationship there can be no real intimacy. Only two people who are whole, independent beings in their own right can give to each other. Only if a person has the right to refuse to give is his gift of giving worth taking. If one person is always obligated to be giving there is no delight for the person being given to. If one has no right to privacy, what joy is there in sharing?"


"You have the right to be trusted until you give people a reason to believe you are not worthy of their trust. Trust is a living feeling. It grows with a relationship. It is fragile, very easily broken and often irreparable. Sometimes it takes years for two people to learn to trust each other. And some people never trust the person they live with. If you only trust people who do things that please you, there is no one you can trust. If you trust everyone, you are a fool. If you trust too soon, you are probably afraid of being rejected. If you trust too superficially, you may easily be betrayed. If you trust too late you may never know what love is."

"Just because you trust one another does not mean that you will always do what is best for each other. But it does mean you will try if you can. To trust another person not only means that you believe he will not hurt you intentionally, but that you feel he will take your interests as his own and so will avoid situations where he could hurt you unintentionally. To trust each other is to be vulnerable in the same way."


"You have the right to be respected so long as you respect others. Respect cannot exist unless it is mutual. If you don't respect yourself it is not possible for you to respect another person's love for you. You have the right to be taken seriously. In fact, you must insist on being taken seriously. Which does not mean that you must always be serious or without mirth."

"You have the right to speak your mind and to be listened to. All of your opinions about your relationship should be as important to the other person as his/her own. Your ideas have equal importance in that forum even if nowhere else. In order for a relationship between two people to work it must be a place where both of you are equals. You must be listened to by the other or else only half the truth is known. If only one person in a relationship needs to be taken seriously and listened to, it is not a relationship but a performer and an audience."


"You have the right to be accepted as you accept others. You have the right to be tolerated even when you act foolish, childish, when you are afraid or are in pain. You have the right to be taken in when you need taken in. You have the right to be wrong and to make good a mistake. You have the right to have your apologies accepted, your thanks appreciated and your love cherished in the spirit it was given. To accept another requires that you accept the part of yourself that the other brings out and that you not be ashamed of your own weaknesses."

"To accept is to take the injured spirit of a friend like a mother receiving the arm of a child after a fall. When we accept someone we accept the sum of his parts. When we accept all of a person it does not mean that we accept everything he does, but it does mean that we will not reject all of him for the parts we do not accept."


"No one really has the right to be happy just like that. No one has the right to a carefree and full life without losses or worries. Only death is without care. You have a right to seek happiness as you define it. You have the right to find yourself, to discover where your strengths are, to apply yourself, to seek the best opportunities for developing those strengths and to be judged by the work of your head and hands without prejudice."

"To be happy means to become the person you want to be, to share your world with someone who loves you and to find your best work pleasing. Only people who do not have these things want more than this. They are unhappy with themselves and try to solve the problem of their emptiness by demanding more from others outside themselves. It is neither because of vanity nor greed that people mistakenly seek happiness in this way, but out of an attempt to escape from the parts of themselves they fear to face."


"Both parties to a relationship must be free. Neither party should play the role of guardian or caretaker to the other or presume to know what is best for her/him and insist that s/he be a certain way. What each of you is to the other in a relationship you must be so freely. Two people should be together when they want to be together, not by schedule or decree. To be free means that you are allowed to follow your feelings and the dictates of your heart and your good sense. There is no greater way of expressing love for another person than by allowing him to be whatever he is. When a relationship is really free and accepting both parties have little to fear, for nothing can compete with a free relationship."


"You have the right to look out for yourself, to keep other people from taking what is yours, to stand up for your rights, to protect yourself in an argument, in an agreement or in any relationship you enter. You have the obligation to see that your welfare is not sacrificed in the name of causes you do not believe in or for a relationship you mistrust. You have the right to save yourself, to get up and walk out of any situation in which your best interests are being threatened. You have the right to protect yourself in any relationship so that you maintain your equality and keep from being used. You have as much right to defend yourself as anybody has a right to attack you. And you have a right to exercise that right."

"You have a right to believe in what you feel and what you know from your own experience. You must believe in yourself, devote your life to making yourself the best possible person you can be. No matter how the arguments for the opposition are disguised, be they in terms of money, patriotism or loyalty, no matter in whose name you are asked to betray your best self, never give in."

"You can never replace yourself."

"If you will not defend your right to be you, who will?"

"Who should?"

 --David Viscott, M.D.

All bold emphasis mine, sp.

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