Book review: Try to see it my way.
A few weeks ago, Penguin books sent us ‘Try to See it My Way: Being fair in Love and Marriage’ by Janet Hibbs, Ph.D. and Karen Getzen, Ph.D.. We weren’t asked for our opinion but we are always ready to share it. After reading the book, we felt it fell within the realm of our CoupleDumb to discuss the theories that Dr. Hibbs proposes in this book. We will try to do her work justice.
As some of you know, Lee is a psychotherapist who specialized in addiction. Her degree in Marriage and Family therapy gave her a specific way of looking at marriage and families as systems. Hibbs is a contextual therapist who studied under Nagy himself. Sure, it may not seem a big deal to you but to a MFT geek, it is.
In ‘Try to See it My Way’, Hibbs and Getzen proposes that fairness is the foundation of a healthy, happy marriage. She discusses how a couple can begin to recognize an imbalance in a relationship and provides them with easy techniques for rebuilding a marriage. The book is organized into chapters with interesting tests and assignments for couples. And, throughout the book, she peppers the theoretical with examples from her own practice which bring the abstract to life.
Now, for those of you who aren’t up on the psych jargon, we tend to have different perspectives on the same topics. A wonderful therapist we know here in Miami, Robert Hafner, uses the example of a movie. Each scene can be seen through a different camera and that perspective is true to that cameraman. In this case, our camera is pointed at an individual and hers is pointed at the imaginary see-saw between the couple. The words may be different but our theoretical models are similar.
For example, we agree with Hibbs and Getzen that it is imperative that a person understand their family of origin and the effects it had on their current behavior. Where we diverge is our opinions on feelings. Whereas Hibbs and Getzen do give feelings their merit, they also make them suspect due to the fact that they can be distorted. In our opinions, feelings are all we have. Feelings are completely subjective but they are elicited from the depths of our memories and experiences. Those occurrences molded us. In Hibbs and Getzen world of fairness, this is where we figured out what our fairness model is. In our world, despite another person’s behavior, our feelings are our responsibility. No one can make you feel anything. You choose to feel. So it follows in a healthy relationship that you explain to your partner what hurts you and how you like things. Give them a blueprint of you!
We have to admit that the beginning of the book was slightly off-putting. She describes a newlywed couple who are arguing because the husband is demanding that the wife stop emailing her former boyfriend. She explains their family of origin issues (the new wife has a domineering mother and the husband is stuck in the belief that love should rule all decisions). She tries to define this issue in the vocabulary of fairness but what we see is a violation of boundaries, issues of unresolved jealousy and defiant behavior at the cost of a relationship. The couple has not defined their entity of marriage. They have not established their relationship as their priority. They are stuck in their own individual patterns of dysfunction which include some serious victim behavior. They haven’t been reading CoupleDumb!
We see this book as a good first step into the world of self discovery and towards creating a healthier, stronger relationship (which we would include parenting, as well). We would suggest to any couple committed to developing a lasting relationship to begin delving into their own emotions and family of origins. Wouldn’t you like to know why you freak out when the bed isn’t made or he forgets your birthday? These patterns were set long ago. Consider your therapy as a jack hammer to dislodge these dysfunctional beliefs, judgments and patterns. Later, with a fresh attitude of introspection and knowing that mental health is a journey not a destination, you can sand paper those rough edges and … yeah, no. Just lost the simile. Buy the book and get to work!