With wit, wisdom and uncommon sense, Dr. Harriet Lerner gives readers the tools to solve problems and create joy, meaning and integrity in their relationships. Women will find Life Preservers (more than 40,000 copies sold in hardcover) to be an invaluable motivational guide that covers the landscape of work and creativity, anger and intimacy, friendship and marriage, children and parents, loss and betrayal, sexuality and health and much more.
With new insights and a results -- oriented approach, Dr. Lerner answers women's most frequently asked questions and offers the best advice for problems women face today:
I always pick the wrong guys.
Should I move in with him
I can't stand my boss.
Should I leave my marriage
How can I recover from his affair
Is my fantasy abnormal
Is my therapy working
I miss my mother.
I can't believe I was fired.
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May 07, 1997
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Excerpt from Life Preservers by Harriet Lerner
My Boyfriend Won't Talk
When I'm afraid or upset, I need to talk about it and analyze the problem. My boyfriend of six months, Ty, is just the opposite, though. When he's upset he doesn't dwell on it. He goes to the movies, reads a book, or goes bowling. I think Ty avoids his feelings. Ty thinks I make things worse by analyzing everything to death. I know this is a common difference between men and women. But aren't I right?
There is no "right way" to manage our feelings. When stress hits, some people seek togetherness while others seek distance; some people disclose while others are more private; some value therapy while others are do-it-yourselfers; some seek meaning while others seek relief.
People have different styles of dealing with their emotions, and differences don't mean that one person is right and the other is wrong. Think carefully about how you handle stress. Do you know when analyzing your problems is helpful and when it's not? When dwelling on your problems gets you nowhere, can you distract yourself and go bowling?
Ty may also want to think about his style of managing stress. Does distracting himself always work? What are the costs? Can he be emotionally present and simply listen when you need to talk with him, even if talking isn't "his way"?
Of course, every style of managing stress, no matter how useful, has a potential down side. Reflection can turn into rumination--a focus on the negative that draws us deeper into it. Distracting ourselves from pain can turn into an entrenched pattern of avoidance, denial, and emotional detachment. Each of us is the best judge of when our response to pain diminishes or adds to it.
We fare best when we are honest observers of ourselves, and when we use our creativity and flexibility to generate new solutions to old problems. If what we are doing isn't working, it won't help to do more of the same--be it bowling or introspecting. Nor is it good to have only one way to respond to pain. If all we can do is focus on our problems--or all we can do is distract ourselves from them--then we're likely to get stuck.
When stress hits, some people seek togetherness while others seek distance.
In time, you may come to appreciate the differences between you and Ty; each of you might even benefit from becoming a bit more like the other. Or, alternately, you may decide that it's important for you to be with someone who, like yourself, values self-revelation, personal sharing, and conversation about difficult emotional issues. Try to get clear about this so you don't end up staying in a compromising relationship, or one where you dissipate your energies trying to change your partner.