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Changing patterns in a relationship takes time and effort, but those who persist are happily surprised by the rewards: self-knowledge, flexibility, an ability to make better choices and a greatly expanded capacity for intimacy. Eventually, partners can nip the bud of conflict before it grows and start fresh each day.

The benefits can ripple outward, encompassing interactions with family, friends, coworkers and the wider community. As different as these contexts may be, the approach is essentially the same: Retrieve the first instance of conflict, drop to the story beneath the story in order to understand its roots, and disengage from the surface tangle.

"What's wonderful is that with this approach, the poison provides the remedy," Sharon says. "As long as we're willing to discover its source, our recurrent argument will lead us to the very antidote we need. To know this, and to practice it, brings great hope."

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