' Enlightened self-interest ' could save your relationship. As a family therapist for more than 25 years, Terrence Real sees how often couples fail to compromise or repair damage when things go awry.

In his new book ''Us : Getting Past You and Me to Build a More Loving Relationship, he argues it is because we've created a ''toxic culture of individualism.''

.- How do you see our patriarchal, individualist culture hurting our relationships?

If I had a nickel for every guy who called me and said, ''I've got to get my wife into therapy,'' I would not be able to retire. It's the women who bring their partners in. They carry the longing and the dissatisfaction. And they're raised the bar on relationships.

I don't want women to stand down. I want men to stand up and meet these new demands. Intimacy is good for your body. You live longer. It's good for your marriage. It's good for your kids.

Once you think relationally, you realize that you're not individual adversaries but that you're a team. You don't make sacrifices to your partner. It's not that they win and you lose. You make sacrifices because it will nurture in the long run. That's wisdom.

.- In your book you use two terms - ''adaptive child'' and ''wise adult'' - that you are key to your view of relationships. How do you define those terms?

Wise adults are present-based. They're not flooded with the past and can see things clearly. They have the capacity to see the whole of the relationship. They have the capacity to stop and reflect and choose.

When we move out of our prefrontal cortex, out of our wise adult self, we are in our adaptive child self. We get trauma-triggered, and the adaptive child the things that you learned to do as a kid because of the emotional neglect or violence - part of us comes in and takes over.

One of the bitter pills here is that the adaptive child part of us doesn't want to be intimate. It wants to preserve itself. It's about me, me and me. You-and-me consciousness is an adversarial world in which one loses and the other wins. it's a big power struggle.

By repeating the same adaptive child move over and over again., you get in a dysfunctional relational stance.

I'll give you an example. Angry pursuit is an oxymoron. You will never get someone closer to you by complaining how distant they are. Controlling your partner, retaliating or withdrawing will never solve your problem.

These are the hallmarks of the adaptive child part of you.

And the first skill is shifting out of that part of you into the wise adult.

.- You argue that the need for less individualistic thinking extends beyond romantic relationships. How so?

My book is a critique of what I call the ''toxic culture of individualism.'' That fuses with the patriarchy, which teaches us we're not only apart from nature, we're also above it and dominate it.

This model is killing us in our relationships, in our society and on the planet. There's no such thing as an individual. We coregulate each other's nervous systems all day long.

We need to shift from the control model to a collaborative one, an ecologically humble model. You're not above the system, you're in it. You breathe it.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Maggie Jones.


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