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April 30, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-30

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Editor's Notebook

Community Views

The Difficult Process
Of Changing Relationships

All The Rest
Is Commentary




ewton's third law, sim-
ply stated: "For every
action there is an equal
and opposite reaction."
Unfortunately, the simple
principles of Newtonian me-
chanics have little to say
about the universe of human
relationships. In that uni-
verse, with apologies to Sir
Isaac, the principle might be
stated: "For every action de-
signed to bring about change,
there is a stronger, more pow-
erful reaction designed to
maintain the status quo, no
matter how unsatisfying."
It is the awareness of the
difficulty of instituting
change, as well as the prob-
lem of not really knowing
what to do to bring change
about, which frequently cause
partners in unhappy mar-
riages to see their marriage
in either of two ways:
1. "Most marriages have
ups and downs. Mine just has
more downs and I just have
to accept them because it's
better than leaving." Or,
2."I can't take him/ her any
more. No matter what I'll en-
counter out there, it has to be
better than this."
Although there are certain
circumstances in which leav-
ing may very well be the best
choice, more often there are
times when alternatives be-
tween these two positions can
be found. The path to these
alternatives is uphill; but
those who have climbed it in-
variably agree that it was
worth the effort.
Further, the attitudes we
adopt toward our marriage
send significant messages to
our children. The issue goes
beyond the debate of whether
children are better off raised
with both parents. How we
choose to deal with problems
models whether we view our-
selves as active or passive
participants in our own expe-
The generations of parents
before us modeled the value
of commitment to relation-
ship, sometimes at the ex-
pense of personal happiness.
With the greater awareness
and insight into the patterns
of relationship which have
evolved over recent years, our
generation has the opportu-
nity to model ways of finding
a balance between the needs
of the individual and of the re-
Sometimes it is difficult to
be able to stand back and see
what steps can be taken to
begin to bring about changes.
Many couples express corn-

Janice Goldfein, M.S.W., is in
private practice in Southfield.

plaints openly to each other,
believing that if they express
their feelings, change will oc-
cur naturally and sponta-
neously. There is the
unspoken and misguided be-
lief that if the other person re-
ally cared, he/she would take
the complaints seriously —
and change. Not changing is
viewed as either a sign of not
caring, or of the person's in-
herent incapacity to be dif-
What really keeps patterns
from changing instantly is
that behavior on the part of
both husband and wife rein-

forces existing patterns. The
behavior of both partners is
driven by a variety of factors:
expectations and examples
learned in the family of ori-
gin, unconscious feelings, so-
cial learning and personality
What one partner observes
or complains about in the oth-
er may well be accurate. A
problem arises if complaints
in the relationship are seen
as the fault of the other per-
son. There is often the feeling
that if only the other person
would change, everything
would be wonderful. Viewing
it this way represents a pas-
sive approach, abdicating re-
Self-help books have man-
aged to teach the phrase:
"You can never change an-
other person. You can only
change yourself." Each per-
son has to understand the
role he/she plays in main-
taining the patterns of the re-
lationship. For example,
Ann's complaints that David
is often preoccupied and emo-
tionally unavailable may be
accurate. Although it is his
behavior which is painful to
her, she has to become aware

of how her pattern of criticism
and nagging only reinforces
his sense of alienation and
contributes to an atmosphere
in which he withdraws.
Although what she would
like from him (feeling close),
may be fair, it cannot be
achieved by demanding it.
Ann will have to develop a
way of responding to David's
withdrawal, different from
the manner in which she has
typically responded. By her
changes, a pattern of slowly
evolving differences will de-
velop, initiating the process
of change.

It is very difficult to accept
the notion that responsibility
for change rests within the in-
dividual. It is most often met
with resistance. Ann may ask,
"Why do I have to change?
He's the one with the prob-
lem." Resentment and anger
often get in the way. Surren-
dering these feelings often
seems impossible, as they ap-
pear so justified. Letting them
go may also feel as if the oth-
er person has the upper hand
and has not suffered a conse-
quence for the behavior.
The questioti then becomes
whether it is more important
to hold on to feelings and be
right, or to work through
feelings and be able to reach
for change for the better.
Actually beginning to
change patterns generates
anxiety in both parties, in-
voking our "variation on a
Theme by Newton." For ex-
ample, Brenda and Allan typ-
ically get into a major
argument after Brenda legit-
imately reacts negatively to
something Allan has done. Al-
lan usually retaliates by crit-
icizing Brenda in return for


Now that the
Mideast talks
have resumed
in Washington,
a dirty little se-
cret can be told.
A number of
American Jews
who are strong
supporters of
Israel and deeply devoted to
its welfare would like noth-
ing better than to see the
peace talks collapse.
Consider: Norman Pod-
horetz, the editor of Com-
mentary, makes the case, in
an essay in the April issue of
the influential monthly, that
Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin is so eager to
please the Clinton adminis-
tration, or so anxious to make
peace with the Arabs, or so
naive — or all of the above —
that he is giving away the
The only reason such Arab
leaders as Syria's Assad or
the PLO's Arafat are sup-
portive of the peace process,
Mr. Podhoretz reasons, is
that they are confident that
the end result will be victory
for them and defeat for Israel.
"I cannot help suspecting that
the enemies of Israel know
something about these [Ra-
bin government] policies that
the friends of Israel are fail-
ing to see. I will go further,"
he continues, "and assert flat
out that if those policies are
meeting with so much ap-
proval in certain quarters, it
must mean that they are not
good for Israel." (Italics his.)
Mr. Podhoretz feels so
strongly about the dangers of
the Jerusalem government
that he reversed his longtime
position not to criticize Is-
rael's security policies.
There's a certain logic to
Mr. Podhoretz's argument.
After all, are we to believe
that such murderous enemies
of Israel as Assad and Arafat
have suddenly done teshu-
vah, or repentance, and are
now reconciled to the exis-
tence of a Jewish state on
what they believe to be Arab
And doesn't it appear that
the Rabin government is only
too happy to please the U.S.?
While Yitzhak Shamir would
give an inch only in the face
of intense threats and pres-
sure from the U.S., Mr. Ra-
bin happily makes major
concessions seemingly before
he is even asked. Is this any
way to negotiate with those
who wish you dead?
But if Mr. Podhoretz has
long maintained that we in
the Diaspora, whose lives are

not on the line, do not have
the right to reproach
Jerusalem for its security
policies, why change now?
Wasn't Mr. Rabin elected
by his countrymen through
democratic means?
Mr. Podhoretz acknowl-
edges that his change of
mind presents a problem.
But he suggests that while
in the past Israel was al-
ready being attacked by
"an abundance of critics,"
the situation is now re-
versed: Israel's policies
have become very popular.

I support the
peace process
because most
Israelis support it.

He dismisses the possi-
bility that they are popular
because they are wise and
sound, preferring to con-
clude that Mr. Rabin has
fooled himself and fallen
into a deadly Arab trap, so
eager to make peace that
he is in effect sealing Is-
rael's fate. The Arabs have
not abandoned their goal of
destroying Israel but the
more moderate among
them have decided to ac-
complish this in stages, ac-
cording to Mr. Podhoretz.
He argues that these Arabs
"have come to recognize
that they can get at the
bargaining table what they
have been unable to win on
the battlefield."
What are we to make,
then, of Yitzhak Rabin? Mr.
Podhoretz's Rabin would
seem to be a blindly ideal-
istic young Israeli rube, not
the military hero and vet-
eran political pragmatist
who, as defense minister,
threatened to break Arab
bones when the intifada be-
gan, and who as prime
minister has deported ter-
rorists and sealed off the
territories for more than a
Don't misunderstand. I
think there is reason to
worry about the peace
talks, and that Israel's se-
curity may be compromised
in its rush to end decades
of hostilities with the
But to argue that the
prime minister of Israel has
suddenly gone soft, or lost
his mind, and therefore it
is now permissible to speak
out from the Diaspora and
publicly criticize Israel to


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