Rather than focusing on the details of particular conflicts, his new book, The Courage to Love, takes a wide-angled view, placing relationships in the context of the full round of human experience and revealing what lies below the surface of everyday tensions. He proposes that the real source of conflict and abuse in everyday marital life is our disguised struggle with our human vulnerability.
Relationships go wrong because we expect them to provide a certainty we cannot be guaranteed in this life. When our requests, needs and arguments are not treated with respect, it exposes us to the insignificance we often feel in a life that has no certainties. We use our relationships and our partners to prove to ourselves that we are significant, powerful and worthy, and to shield ourselves against some of the harsh truths about life, but we know deep down we cannot control our destiny and this is what makes us vulnerable.
Conflict arises when we repress and deny that love is a consequence of our human vulnerability. Yet it is this vulnerability that makes us reach out and connect with others and it is what actually makes love necessary. Therefore, in order to survive and thrive in our relationships it is necessary to embrace this vulnerability and accept that fear is part of love and marriage, just as much as all the positive feelings – love, security, care, joy are a part of it.
Failing to come to terms with our human vulnerability is what really lies behind relationship distress. Based on this new understanding of marriage and intimacy, Dr O’Connor prescribes radical new solutions to common dilemmas experienced in relationships.
Colm O’Connor is a clinical psychologist and family therapist with over twenty years’ experience working as Clinical Director of the Cork Marriage Counselling Centre. Founder of the Cork Domestic Violence Project in 1992 and co-founder of the Association of Agency Based Counselling in Ireland, he has lectured widely on couples therapy for many years. His previous book, The Courage to be Happy, was published by Gill Books in 2010.
The Courage to Love is published by Gill Books on 15 March 2013, priced at €14.99.
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