The Relationship Blog

How my book, We’d Have A Great Relationship If It Weren’t For You, Applies to the Government Shutdown

The number one topic in the newspapers, TV, and all of the media has been on the consequences of the government shutting down as a result of being totally ineffective. From my perspective, the reason that this has happened and will continue to happen regardless of the frustration and resentment is that the government reflects a dysfunctional relationship. In a relationship you need to know how to deal with another person. I believe the government shuts down because the government doesn’t know how to deal with anyone who isn’t a clone of itself. When the person you’re relating to is an exact replica of yourself, then it’s easy to handle because you’re just saying “yes” to one another. But when you have an issue that results in a lot more conflict and differences and the person isn’t a duplicate of yourself, it requires a lot more skill and an openness to relate to them.

Even though my primary focus in my work is dealing with couples, my book We’d Have A Great Relationship If It Weren’t For You, contains principles that are relevant to all levels of relationships. Part of the difficulty that governments like ours has is that they predominantly relate in what I call the difference game. The difference game is when we use any topic to prove that one of us is better or less than the other, and we end up either inflating or deflating ourselves. The moment we do that, just like with any of my couples, there can be no connection. When that happens on a government level, there is no real communication, nor is there the ability to listen, because no one listens to anyone who is not their equal. All we end up doing is spending our time proving how unequal we are. And that’s about all we’ve seen here, consistently on a government level.Instead of the relationship getting killed, the government just shuts down

In my book, We’d Have A Great Relationship If It Weren’t For You, I simplify the many theories of why couples don’t relate down to one thing: the playing of the difference game, proving one is better than the other, and using the other for that purpose. When you can cut through the difference game, and see that partners are the same, harmony becomes the outcome. In governments, there would be no shut downs. But since many of us don’t appreciate the sameness which lies beneath all of our differences, there is very little time spent discovering how we are the same, so we merely seek out our differences. Take republicans and democrats, for example. They are the same, yet no one admits it. They are both one dimensional listeners, they would rather talk than listen, they think they’re better than the other, and they both care more about proving they are right **rather than accomplishing anything. If they were able to adopt the major principle in my book, which is learning an attitude of mutuality, we would never see our government shut down.

Shut downs only occur when a relationship dies, and that only happens when we have fully proven that the other is not an equal partner. When we can maintain a mutual perspective it is much more difficult to get divorced, and there’s no way for us to sustain a lasting conflict with our partner. Only unequals can fight and unequals can divorce and shut down.

I feel that my book has a great message beyond just the couples I work with and provides a way for mankind in dealing with the world. That message is to leave the difference game. Stop trying to prove you’re different than the other. Appreciate how you’re the same, recognize the sameness and integrate it into all of our relationships. Then when we begin talking to the other side, democrats or republicans in the government’s case, we’ll really want to listen to them. We won’t be trying to kill what they’re saying. We’ll really want to understand them. With this approach, when we come to a difference we’ll be a master of the difference, and not a victim of it. Right now, the government is the victim of differences. But when you’re the master of differences its no longer a roadblock. All the difference become opportunities to try to solve. The emphasis switches from using the difference, to solving the difference.

Author: Bruce Derman Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of his best-selling books about relationships. He specializes in working with people in all stages of relationships. You may reach Dr. Derman by calling (818) 375-7194.

For more information on couples therapy in Los Angeles & Woodland Hills, contact Dr. Bruce Derman PH.D. at

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