Crisis Intervention: A Social Interaction Approach (11)

Chapter 11 Building an US box

The key to building an US box is remembering that the relationship is not repairable, and that it is not going to serve as the foundation for the new relationship. To do this, it is important to help the individuals see that the “us” in their relationship is and will be only part of their individual worlds. Husbands and wives, for example, sometimes act and feel as if their entire world is shattered when their relationship stops working. The same thing can sometimes be seen when parents or children discover a bad relationship. In part, the reason for thinking that the world is coming to an end is that people tend to wait too long—far too long—before they accept the fact that the old relationship has “gone to pot” and will not work anymore. Compounding the problem is the fact that people tend to do some rather strange things when they see that the old relationship is no longer functioning. Married people sometimes decide to have another child. Teenagers decide that being physically closer might help. Friends quit speaking to each other, and so on, including those typical coping patterns discussed in Chapter 10.

As you work with people in conflicted and crisis relationships, it is important to help them maintain focus on the goal of building a new relationship, while avoiding the trap of trying to repair the old one. The focus is on building a new US box. It is important to see that the goal is not to change the individuals, building either a new ME box or a new YOU box. They simply need to focus their attention on building a new US box. They say to you, “But we will both have to change.” No. That notion should be put under the heading of “an old wives’ tale.” The old adage says that when a relationship goes bad, both people will have to change. This is not only silly but also quite unlikely. As individuals, people usually do not change very much, and then only grudgingly because they feel they have to. They may behave a little differently. They may slightly modify some of their habits, reactions, demands, expectations, and so on. But they are, nevertheless, the same people—relatively unchanged, but growing. It is not unusual, after a crisis experience, to talk with people who indicate that things are much better, their new relationships are more satisfying, but they are the same as they have always been. “I don’t feel any different. I am the same as I always was. It’s the new relationship that’s different. That’s what makes the difference.” …