Partnering: A New Kind of Relationship


Famed therapists Hal and Sidra Stone show readers how to turn their relationships into true "joint ventures" - ones in which partners balance their need for relationship with their need for individuality, relinquish judgment and criticism, improve their decision-making and communication abilities, celebrate their sensuality and sexuality, and include children in their lives without sacrificing their own relationship. The Stones' greatest contribution has been revealing the many selves that make up our ...
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Partnering: A New Kind of Relationship

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Famed therapists Hal and Sidra Stone show readers how to turn their relationships into true "joint ventures" - ones in which partners balance their need for relationship with their need for individuality, relinquish judgment and criticism, improve their decision-making and communication abilities, celebrate their sensuality and sexuality, and include children in their lives without sacrificing their own relationship. The Stones' greatest contribution has been revealing the many selves that make up our personalities. In this book, they show how those selves impact our relationships, and they offer both general concepts and specific tips that will help couples of all kinds succeed.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing on pop psych paradigms from the '70s and more than two decades of experience counseling couples, both privately and in groups and seminars, the Stones Embracing Each Other; Embracing Our Selves, etc. advise readers on how to transform their intimate relationships into a "joint venture" based on "cooperation and equality, mutual respect and mutual empowerment." While they frequently refer to "the many selves" within each person the "voice dialogue" therapy for which they are known involves these various "voices" in conversation with one another, the Stones' examples primarily feature an "inner parent" or "inner child," along the lines of the '70s classic I'm OK, You're OK. Their "no-fault" approach to conflict resolution in marriage is underscored by relatively benign case studies in which the partners tend to fall into traditional, stereotyped roles. Additionally, the Stones provide a list of "top ten challenges" to committed relationships that is incomplete, if not seriously unbalanced, in its neglect of such topics as conflict with in-laws, lack of money, problems on the job and addictions. While they offer good basic advice, and their view of the relationship as a "third entity" needing attention and nurture is sound, the Stones' overall approach is dated and simplistic, aimed mainly at couples who are already pretty well off. Feb. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577311072
  • Publisher: New World Library
  • Publication date: 1/15/2000
  • Series: Gawain, Shakti
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 806,609
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Each of us has our own special basket that contains the magic of who we are and what we hold most precious in life. When we first meet and fall in love we get a glimpse into, and a feeling for, the interior world of our partner. We inhale the fragrance and magic of the other's essential being. Then come the problems of life and one day, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, the magic is gone.

We would like to begin this book by telling you the story of "The Star Maiden." We read this wonderful Bushman tale in Sir Laurens van der Post's book The Heart of the Hunter and it is one of our favorite stories. We feel that it provides a beautifully haunting introduction to this book and to our picture of partnering as a "joint venture" relationship.

    Once upon a time there was a Bushman who raised cows on a farm in the Kalahari Desert. His life was serene and simple but lonely. One morning when he went out to milk his cows, he saw that they had already been milked. He couldn't imagine who had done this. The next morning when he came out he found again that the cows had been milked during the night.

    The next night the Bushman resolved to hide in a shed near the cows in order to discover who had been milking them. As midnight approached he saw a remarkable sight. Climbing down from heaven on a ladder that extended between the stars and the earth was a multitude of Star Maidens. Their beauty took his breath away.Each Star Maiden carried a bucket and as she touched down onto his land, she began to milk his cows. The Star Maidens milked the cows all night long and as the dawn approached they began their trip back to the stars, ascending the ladder one by one. The farmer could not bear to see them leave. Just as the last Star Maiden approached the ladder, he darted out from his hiding place, took her by the hand, and begged her to become his wife. Surprising though it was, the magical Star Maiden was happy to marry the simple farmer.

    When they returned to the farmhouse, the Star Maiden told him the following: "I am delighted to marry you and I promise you that your farm will prosper. I have only one condition that I must set. I have here a basket. You must promise me never to open this basket. If you do open it, then I will be forced to leave you." The farmer promised that he would do as she wished. The Star Maiden put her basket down in a corner of the room, and so their life together began.

    As his new wife promised, the farmer's farm and crops prospered and he became one of the most successful farmers in the whole area. His wife went out into the fields to work every day and everything that she touched seemed blessed by the gods. He was a very happy man and, as the years passed, he became happier yet with his good fortune, for he loved and appreciated the Star Maiden.

    One afternoon when his wife was out in the fields and he was at home looking for something, he found the basket she had put away many years before. Though he remembered the injunction of his wife, he didn't take it seriously any longer so he picked up the basket, put it on the table, and opened it up. To his surprise he found it empty. He found this very amusing and had a good laugh over the fact that it was empty. He remembered well the seriousness with which she had warned him about not opening her treasure.

    A short time later the Star Maiden returned from the field. As she entered the room she knew immediately what had happened. She spoke to her husband with the following words: "A long time ago I warned you never to open up this basket because it was very special to me. I told you also that I would have to leave if you did open it. Well, you violated your oath and this evening I am going to be leaving you. I want you to understand the reason for this. I am not leaving you because you opened up this basket without my permission. That would have been all right after all these years. I am leaving you because when you opened the basket you found nothing in it. That is why I can no longer be with you."

    And so it was that as night came the Star Maiden, with great sadness, climbed the ladder back to her home in the sky, not because the farmer had broken his vow, but because he had looked into her most precious possession and could see nothing there. This basket contained the Star Maiden's essence. When he looked into her basket, he had looked into the depths of her soul, at the magic she had brought with her to this earth from her home in the stars. He had looked, but he had seen nothing. He was blind to her magic, and the Star Maiden could no longer stay with him.

    Isn't this really how it is so often in relationship? Each of us has our own special basket that contains the magic of who we are and what we hold most precious in life. When we first meet and fall in love we get a glimpse into, and a feeling for, the interior world of our partner and we inhale the fragrance and magic of the other's essential being. Then come the problems of life. We feel pressured to succeed, to make more money, to push harder. We have children who begin to carry the magic and we have less and less of it with one another. One day, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, the magic is gone. When we look into the basket, it is empty and we feel hurt, disappointed, and bewildered. The relationship is over even though we may live with one another for the remainder of our lives.

    Despite many claims to the contrary, this magic does not have to disappear. Keeping the magic requires some effort, however. We must be willing to learn the lessons that relationship has to teach us. We must also be willing to take time to nourish the connection that exists between our partners and ourselves. All this is possible. This book is about keeping the magic — and the excitement — alive in your relationship.

    Believe it or not, it is possible to keep this magic alive. We have built our lives together upon this belief, and are living proof that a relationship can more than endure over time, it can blossom. But you need to give it the right kind of attention, and you need a certain willingness to commit to the unfolding of your relationship and to the idea of using it as a teacher. The following pages outline some of the fundamental truths that are necessary to successful partnerships, as well as the core principles of fulfilling relationships. They are born out of years of our working with couples, and constitute what we believe to be the very building blocks of an emotionally healthy, sexually fulfilling harmony. You'll find that these ideas are interwoven at various levels throughout the book; they provide both the framework for the book and the framework for thriving relationships.


    As you can tell from the story of "The Star Maiden," we are a pair of incurable romantics. But we have discovered that romance is not enough. So, we use the term joint venture to describe a new kind of relationship in which two people come together for not only love, romance, and sexual chemistry, but also partnership, personal growth, and spiritual evolution. Love alone cannot make a relationship work because the forces that can destroy love are too powerful and, for most of us, too unconscious. Mutual exploration, learning, and personal growth without love cannot do the job either, because love is the oil, the elixir, that soothes everything and makes it all worthwhile.

    So, what does this mean? It means that, according to the first principle of partnership, you must have both love and a commitment to the mutual exploration of consciousness in order to convert your relationship to a partnering model. We cannot tell you how many times in our earlier years together that we reached a point where we both feared our love was dead. We felt utterly defeated and saddened and frustrated that the end had come. Then we did some work with each other. Hal may have shared negative reactions he had been harboring toward Sidra that he hadn't been aware of. Sidra may have realized that they both were overworked or that she was giving too much energy to her family. Or a dream may have come that clarified what had been going on unconsciously. Suddenly the love returned, in full force and even more powerful than before, because we had mastered a new experience. After we saw this happen hundreds of times in our clients and ourselves, we realized the power of this combination of love and mutual exploration. This is why we scoff at people who insist that passion and romance must die with marriage and children. Romance dies because people don't have any kind of systematic way to deal with the host of things that impact marriage in a negative way. That is why the exploration of consciousness is a process that must go on forever.

    We are not suggesting that all partners will be together forever. It often happens that the process of relationship can lead people to separate. What we can say is that the vast majority of relationships end because people don't know how to handle the negativity and the sense of being overwhelmed that so easily invades primary relationships.


    The second basic principle of partnering is that there is a fundamental equality between the partners. This kind of partnering is nonhierarchical. Each partner may have strengths and weaknesses in relationship to the other (for instance, one may be good with the big picture and the other may be good with the details), but these differences are seen as a way to augment and help support each other. Achieving this fundamental equality is more easily said than done because such a shift requires us to examine our basic power motives in our dealings with people. As each of us came to our relationship accustomed to being the person in charge, we can assure you that the ability to come to this equality with each other was not easy, but the rewards have been well worth the effort.

    Most relationships exist in a hierarchical form. What this means is that people either adopt a role of wielding power over someone weaker or of being submissive to someone who is more powerful. This classical hierarchical relationship is what creates the "bonding patterns" that have contributed so much to our understanding of relationships. In its simplest form, bonding patterns is a term that describes the parent-child interactions we learned as children that automatically govern our relationships until we become aware of them. These bonding patterns can be positive or negative. (For more discussion of bonding patterns, see chapter 3.)

    Hierarchical relationships are often related to family and cultural training that establishes rules about how we should behave in relationship. (For more discussion of hierarchical relationships, see Sidra's book, The Shadow King: The Invisible Force That Holds Women Back.) For more and more couples, however, this traditional hierarchical structure no longer works.

    Most of us yearn for a more equal partnership and a deeper and more fulfilling kind of relationship. To achieve this, however, we must address our traditional hierarchical training. Most of us need to spend a good deal of time learning to recognize how these ideas and behavior patterns live within us and color our system of relationships. When we recognize and understand these, we have the freedom to accept or reject them as we see fit.

    Once we have tasted partnering, particularly in primary relationship, we simply cannot have any other kind of connection. Partnering moves us into a relationship that is truly a joint venture, a venture that takes us into spiritual realms even as it helps us to deal with the myriad practical details of everyday living. A joint venture relationship can exist whether the partners are of the same sex or opposite sexes. Partnering is partnering and the same psychic laws apply to all of us.

    In the business world, if two very different people start a business as a joint venture, they are equal partners. The success or failure of the business will depend to a great extent on their ability to function as equal partners. The same thing is true in partnering relationships of all kinds. Although many of us would prefer this joint venture kind of connection in our business and personal relationships, life has a way of messing things up and what begins as a very positive system of interactions between equals can easily turn into murkiness and negativity or outright war.

    It is one thing to want a true partnering in our relationships. It is another thing to know how to get it and keep it. This takes work and learning and an attitude toward relationship that is radically different from anything that has been available in the past. In the following chapters we talk about how your partnering can go sour so easily. You'll learn why this happens, what this is all about, and what you can do about it.


    The skills we must learn for successful partnering require us to explore areas of knowledge and experience that may be completely new to us. Some of this knowledge is based on what our minds can handle. Some learning has to do with the development of a knowing heart. Other insights are based on — what to our minds are nonexistent — matters of the spirit. Still other knowledge comes from our physical bodies. Once we enter into the adventure of real partnering, we begin to explore all of these areas because each has its own secrets and these secrets impact our interactions with other people. Let's look at some of the learning that a joint venture relationship requires of us.

Discovering the Reality of the Many Selves
and How They Interact

    You can learn about relationship from many wonderful teachers, writers, and therapists. When it comes to learning about the psychology of selves and their interaction in relationship, however, our work is the primary source.

    From our perspective there is nothing that is more important, more vital, more helpful, or more essential than the realization that we have within us a group of selves that regulates our lives and directs our actions, even though we think that our choices come from free will.

    Put another way: Without the knowledge of one's inner selves there is little possibility for truly rewarding and successful relationships. Why is this so? It is so because a relationship is not something that exists between two people. Any relationship involves a multitude of selves in each person that interact with similar or opposite selves in the other. We have to learn who in us is interacting with our partner at any particular time.

    As a man, I (Hal) discovered that I had been leading a life that was dominated by a particular self that had to do with being responsible. This often forced me to do things that I really did not want to do. When we are identified with a particular self we have no choice about our behavior. It is automatic. And when we do things automatically it is not healthy for us or for our partners, because often we become resentful without consciously recognizing it at the time. We can change this, however. In order to do so, we must learn to recognize the selves that run our lives and separate from them. Then we can choose to use their expertise in a conscious way. For instance, when the responsible father within Hal happily and automatically wants to give up an enjoyable afternoon at the gym in order to help Sidra around the house, Hal takes some time to see what the more self-nurturing parts of him would have to say about this. Then, instead of automatically staying home — and later resenting this decision — he is able to consider the alternative of not helping her. Hal has a real choice; his responsible father self does not.

Balancing the Process of Primary Relationship with
Individual Choice and Freedom

    To surrender in partnering does not mean surrendering to your partner or to another person. It means to surrender to the process of relationship that develops when two people commit to one another. This process of relationship becomes the third party. Incidentally, this surrender is not necessarily a commitment to either monogamy or non-monogamy. Neither is it a guarantee that the relationship will remain forever intact. It is simply the recognition that the process of the relationship is a third and separate entity that has a life of its own.

    If you surrender to the process of primary relationship then you must learn to listen to your partner. This does not mean that you must obey or agree with your partner, just that you must truly listen and feel your partner's reality. If you cannot listen or you do not hear what your partner is trying to say, then you must find out why this is so. Why can't you hear what your partner is trying to tell you? What stops this from happening? You must continually give energy to the process of relationship and do whatever is necessary to move through the roadblocks that inevitably develop between partners.

    It is not easy to find a balance between this surrender to the process of relationship and your need to feel and behave like an independent human being. If you do something that goes contrary to the requirements of your partner, you must learn to understand the viewpoint and feel the pain of your partner. You must carry both of your realities, yours and your partner's. You cannot just fly off into rebellion or power to prove that you are tough and strong and independent as you go off to "do your thing."

    The key here is that each of us must learn to feel our own vulnerability so that we can feel the vulnerability of our partners. This deepens connections. Embracing our vulnerability is a very threatening thing to do in relationship because it means meeting the other person without defenses. To learn to live with our vulnerability in an emotionally healthy way is to learn to live in relationship in an undefended way. This does not mean that we give up our power and become victims; it just means that we must feel our vulnerability.

Relationship As a Business Venture

    We find ourselves in awe of the complexity of life these days. We do not know what it was like in earlier times, but this complexity seems to have risen exponentially since the industrial revolution. When we combine two lives, add in children and family and friends and the technological revolution we are in, it can feel as though each of us is running a giant business corporation.

    It is important to recognize that life is very complex and the details of relationship are also complex. It helps to recognize, as early as possible, that a primary relationship is not just a personal adventure but also a major business venture that involves an enormous number of details. If you do not take the business side seriously, these details begin to erode the intimacy of the personal connection and the magic disappears.

    There is an excellent analogy to computers that can help you to see this point. Computers have a number of default settings that simplify their use. For example, the type of print and the type size are set up so that whenever you start to work this default position automatically opens. You can change it if you want, but it is quite automatic and saves you a good deal of time. Otherwise, there are a multitude of settings to see to every time you begin to work.

    In a similar fashion, if partners do not consciously decide who is going to handle what in the multitude of tasks that face them, then a default position goes into operation and the partners do things not out of conscious choice but rather out of old habit patterns. So, if a woman has been a very responsible person from her earliest years, she will, by default, take on more and more responsibility for more and more things until she is eaten up by details. The woman that she was in the beginning of the partnership easily dies in this way as she drowns in obligations and requirements that, at a deeper level, she resents. Imagine that her partner is used to his mother taking care of all of his needs. His default position is to view a wife as someone who is there to take care of his needs much as his mother did. This causes no end of trouble because the early family patterns are transferred onto the new relationship and this ultimately creates serious problems.

    One of the wonderful things about relationship is that partners have different strengths and weaknesses. Each person brings into relationship a unique set of values, sensibilities, experience, and knowledge and many of these are complementary. So it is that one person's strength can be another person's weakness. If used properly, this is one of the great gifts of partnering. Partners can "rest into" each other and allow the partner with a specific strength to handle the main responsibility for that particular area of life. The idea of "resting into" means using these differences in a conscious way and not allowing the default position to determine what each partner does. Consciously resting into someone is very different from unconsciously allowing that person to take over a particular area of expertise.

    For example, in our relationship Sidra has historically had the primary responsibility for keeping our finances in order. On a regular basis, however, we talk over the finances so Hal knows what is happening. If we do not do this, then when things go wrong Hal can easily become irritable and angry (we would say that a self that is irritable and angry takes over) because he has abdicated financial responsibility to Sidra, or Sidra may become resentful about carrying the entire burden.

    On the other side, Hal has had the primary responsibility for setting up the teaching and travel schedule. Sidra is apprised of these activities and no final decision is ever made without her participation. So, she rests into Hal in this area without abdicating responsibility just as Hal rests into her expertise on the finances without abdicating responsibility.

    To deal with the myriad of issues that partners must handle, it is necessary to honor the business side of life and relationship and make clear choices in partnership about what belongs to each person at any given time. This may change by the week, month, or year but it must be attended to.

Understanding the Role of Judgment
and Self-Criticism in Relationships

    For most people it is relatively easy to fall in love. Sadly enough, it is even easier for this love to be destroyed. To create a successful relationship, you must understand the issues that destroy love and develop the ability to partner with another person so that together you can combat the destructive forces and overcome them.

    Certainly understanding judgment is a major key to success in partnering. There are two kinds of judgments. One is the kind of judgment we make toward someone else. The other is the judgment we make toward ourselves. This last is commonly known as self-criticism and is based on what we call the inner critic, a self that lives inside of us and just loves to say nasty things about us. Both of these have a devastating effect on partnering. (For more on the inner critic, see our book Embracing Your Inner Critic.)


Excerpted from PARTNERING by Hal Stone, Ph.D. & Sidra L. Stone, Ph.D.. Copyright © 2000 by Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra L. Stone, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix
SECTION 1 A New Way of Looking at Partnering
Chapter 1 Relationship As a Joint Venture 17
Chapter 2 But I Thought I Was Married to Just One
Person! 39
Our "Selves" in Relationship
Chapter 3 Mapmaking for Partners: Understanding the
Patterns in Your Relationship 71
Chapter 4 Vulnerability: The Key to Intimacy and Beyond 99
Chapter 5 The Magic of Linkage: Energetic Connection As
a Healing Force 115
SECTION 2 Enhancing Relationship
Chapter 6 Passionate Partnering: Sexuality and
Sensuality beyond the Bedroom 139
Chapter 7 Partnering As a Business Venture: Learning to
Share the Details of Life 167
Chapter 8 Partnering and Parenting: A Couple's Guide to
Romance 181
Chapter 9 The Top Ten Challenges to Relationship:
Keeping Your Love Alive Amid Life's Routines 197
Chapter 10 Partners on the Path:Spirituality and
Partnering 217
Afterword The Star Maiden's Basket 239
Acknowledgments 241
About theAuthors 245
Books and Tapes by Hal Stone and Sidra Stone 247
Additional Resources 251
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