Bert: How did you start doing this relationship work, and
how did you discover this magic of differences and start telling
people about it?
Judith: We come to our marriage from two very different
backgrounds. I didn't get married until I was 44, so I spent,
I calculate, 30 years dating. [chuckling] I was very frustrated.
In my 20s, I thought it was all men's fault. I was very angry
at men. But it got very clear to me as I started to do my own
work, on me, that in my own way I had attitudes toward men, toward
romance, toward marriage, toward intimacy, that were incorrect.
When I changed those, I became available for the relationship
that I have with Jim, and I knew I had something to teach, that
was valuable to a lot of people.
Jim: On the other hand, this is my third marriage. I was
what was called a "serial monogamist." I was never unfaithful
to any woman I was with, but I was with a lot of women. It seemed
like an act of God, that just as I was tiring with one woman,
another woman would show up. So I never "dated." From
about age 20, I was never without the woman. The problem, though,
is that the relationships would start with such promise, then
right before my eyes (and there was nothing I could do about it)
they would dissolve. No matter what I attempted to keep them together,
to sustain them, I couldn't. Judith said before we were married,
"I know I could do well in a marriage if only I could get
into one." My response was that getting into one was a piece
of cake. But how do you make these damn things last?
That's what brings me here. To be perfectly honest, Bert, if someone
said to me at 15 or 20, or maybe even 30, that I would be having
this conversation on this topic, from this point of view, I would
have said that's absurd. But I can go back to when I was 14 years
old, and the girls that I was flirting with at the beginning,
and I began to see at that age that there was something wrong
with what I was doing. What it came down to was projection of
fantasy and making them into me, but I never would have known
it at that time. So even back when I was 14, the idea of differences
was in its embryonic stages.
Judith: We're both very strong characters, and very different
from each other in many, many ways. So when we first came together.
It became clear to us very quickly that if the love we were feeling
for each other were to grow, we were going to have to learn how
to really value each other's ways. Otherwise, we'd be creating
World War IV in a power struggle. We didn't want to do that. We
considered our relationship really precious. We saw that the work
for us was around respecting and valuing each other's ways, still
respecting that we were still going to have fights, and learning
how to resolve these fights in very creative and productive ways.
Bert: So you were already working on your relationship,
then began to move into working on relationships. Jim, you had
a prior involvement in the "men's movement." Judith,
you had a prior therapy practice. How did living these lives the
convert into "the magic of differences" and writing
Jim: Actually, we met on March 7, 1987, and I think our
first relationships workshop was in August. We went out for a
weekend, sometime in May or June, and took a tape recorder along
with us, to jot down ideas about what we might like to say about
relationships. We had it transcribed. Recently we found it. It
was this book, in its seed form.
So the truth of it is that by the time we came together, we had
never articulated it but we had each in our own way discovered
the themes in the book.
Also, a bit about my involvement with the "men's movement."
I dearly, dearly love men. I'm adamant about protecting them,
particularly in these days. I wanted to do something about relationships
that would honor men, not protecting them when they didn't deserve
it, but not bashing them out of hand. Men want relationships as
well. That was demonstrated by the fact that only one of people
who bought the book this afternoon was a woman. So the "men's
movement" brought me into this from the perspective that
I wanted to make sure that this book was not only male-friendly,
Scott: How did you manage to make this book male-friendly,
when in fact the vast majority of books that I've ever had the
misfortune of reading [group chuckles] basically blames men for
the failure of relationships, and places the onus of change and
the responsibility for the success of a relationship on whether
the man is able to keep the woman happy?
Judith: I think what we have to look at is that those books
are framed in an old paradigm. The old paradigm is a "right-wrong,"
"good-bad," "either-or" way of looking at
difficulties. The New Intimacy holds that the truth is
never found just in one version of reality; that two people are
always co-creating the relationship. They are always teaching
each other how they expect to be treated, right from the first
moment that they meet. So it cannot be possible for the blame
to rest in only one gender's lap, or one person's lap, in a relationship.
Jim: I'd like to say very directly that this book is male-friendly
because Judith is very male-identified and very supportive of
men. I'm also very supportive of women. So one of the things we
have in our work is there is no "conflict of interest."
I take out after the men sometimes, and Judith takes out after
the women. So I'm not taking out after women and becoming a female-basher.
To answer your question, it was a conscious commitment out of
what I saw happening with men; not so much the pain that men were
in, but the bullshit that men don't care about feelings. Men don't
care about feeling. Men don't care about relationships. Men don't
care bout commitment or connection. It's all simply crap.
So part of what I did for men was to insist that that be infused
into this book without turning it into diatribe in defense of
men. No, no, no, no, no. But we also bring to the game our own
stuff that undermines relationships. Neither side of this game
is off the hook.
Judith: I just want to add that it does not serve women
to feel like victims or to position themselves as victims with
respect to men. That undermines anything that the women's movement
has accomplished for women's power.
I think that men are being coerced into particular behaviors,
to protect themselves in the workplace and the universities. But
I don' think men are being taught to respect differences between
men and women, because it's not being presented in a way that
really speaks to men's hearts. It's presented that you men are
the problem, Men can stop making complements in the workplace,
they can stop asking colleagues out, but it's not going to change
men's hearts. Our book presents the message of respecting the
differences between men and women in a way that says that both
men and women are responsible and that both men and women have
to change. Hopefully, when people read this book it will touch
their hearts, their souls, and open them to the beauty that is
possible when both genders respect each other.
Jim: One point I would like to make, that is not in the
book, is that one of the things we're the proudest of. When we
do our work, our seminars, our workshops, our book-signings, we
are averaging 50% men in attendance. In the kind of work we're
engaged in, it's usually 80-90% women. I feel in a sense blessed
by whatever force exists, that's supporting our planet and this
experience of ours, that we have said something, we've done something,
we've organized it in such a way that men are finding it attractive,
either consciously or unconsciously. I love that, because men are
just as interested in relationship as any women. I'd also like
to say that women have no more of a corner on the market on relationship
than men do. There's a cliché that women are the ones who know
about intimacy and romantic relationships and men don't. There's
a simple, obvious question to be put here. If the women do and
the men don't, with whom have the women been intimate? So we are
grateful to, for lack of a better phrase, the "higher power,"
that we are attracting men.
Bert: I chuckled when I read in your book that we are not
alien beings from another planet, we live here on earth. [group
chuckles] I can't help but think of John Gray's book Women
Are From Venus, Men Are From Mars.
Judith: How did you guess? [laughing]
Jim: The fundamental difference is first of all in the
title. It's a commercially successful title. But it implies an
inherent alienation between the genders. If you read the book
carefully, what he says is that the male does X, and the female
does Y. The intimacy that is suggested in his book is created
out of a fundamental approach of coping, toleration and management
of people. When he goes here to do this and she goes there to
do that, she may not be disturbed by what he's doing, but she's
not any closer to him than she was. She won't get any closer
to him, because Gray suggests that she go in another direction.
Scott: So it's relationship maintenance, not relationship
Jim: Exactly! What we talk about is that when there are
differences, and the two people engage each other in those differences,
I get to understand her, first and foremost, as she describes
herself to me. Secondly, by finding in myself the value in what
she's doing, I get to understand her better. If I can understand
the value in what she's doing, and she can understand the value
in what I'm doing, when I move toward her position at in any given
moment, it's not because I'm coerced, not because I'm managing,
but because I have found value, and I've become larger than I
was before knowing her.
Bert: I'd like to expand on that a bit. You say that this
book is not about managing or coping. What is it about, instead?
Judith: At the heart of the book, it's about the fact that
the differences between two people, if properly understood as
being rich treasures for each other, then when there is conflict,
when there is difficulty, when there is challenge, both people
can understand this is a time of opportunity, to present themselves
even more fully into the relation and express even more fully
who they are, so the partner can understand them more intimately.
Then the tension in the relation function like the sand in the
oyster, that helps create the pearl.
Without the difficulties, the people never learn. They never grow.
They never expand the relationship. It stays static and boring.
People say, "Is this all there is?"
Jim: Judith uses the word "difficulties." Certainly
there are difficulties. But differences in the relationship, even
when they create tensions, don't necessarily make difficulties,
in the sense of conflict or irritation.. I just might not understand
her. That, in and of itself, can be a joyous engagement in the
differences. The differences that tear people apart, of course,
are those in which the difficulty is produced. I want to add the
caveat that difficulties are only a part of this. The differences
are a wonder, and a pathway toward treasure. Because ultimately
the people get to be understood, recognized and appreciated for
who they really are.
Bert: Marion Woodman talks about holding the tension of
the opposites, and being in that tension space, so that a third
alternative can emerge. You seem to be saying a similar thing.
I would use the term "the dance of creative engagement."
Judith: That's very nice. One of the chapters in the book,
"Conscious Creativity," teaches people in a nine-step
process how to live in that tension and engage in a creative process,
so the resolution of those issues bring them into a larger space
together, so both people are honored and both people are satisfied.
Jim: But there's a key difference here. Marion Woodman
uses the term "tension of the opposites." For me, the
term "opposites" can be a huge trap. We are different.
We are very different from each other, but we are hardly opposite.
I am not "opposed" to her in any way. I am other than
her, that's true. I stand different from her, that's true. But
she isn't the "opposite" sex from us, she is the "other"
sex from us. The term "opposite" has such connotation
of leading to difficulty, conflict and combat, that I don't like
the term "holding the tension of the opposites." "Holding
the tension of the differences" creates the same result,
yet it's more inclusive and it's more friendly.
Bert: You are very particular in your book about using
the term "real life love" ...
Bert: And there's no hyphen. I'd like to take that in two
parts, first to explain that, and second to throw out another
idea, based on Sam Keen, The Passionate Life, Stages of Loving.
Loving life. Loving the universe. Einstein's ultimate question
for us is, "is the universe a friendly place?" Keen
asks, "is the universe a loving place?" So when I hear
"real life love" I also hear "loving in real life."
Judith: We specifically wanted the hyphen left out between
"real" and "life" because that then puts the
emphasis on love. So many people are caught up in romantic fantasies
about love, and do not have their focus on real life and real
love. They have their focus on being redeemed by some ideal of
perfect love. We want to help people to get back onto the ground,
with each other. The humanity of one another.
Jim: I come from a Catholic background. The stewardess
on the plane reminded us of the joke, "I'm a Catholic, which
means I haven't been in church fur 15 or 20 years." What
happens, I think, not only in Catholicism but with humanity in
general is that we are such vulnerable creatures and life is such
a difficult ordeal for so many people, that we've established
in the Western tradition, "Heaven." The Eastern tradition
speaks of "Nirvana." These are different concepts for
the idea of release from earth, release from the pain of life.
We use "real life love" because I dearly love being
right here on earth, and it took me a lot of money and therapy
to get here. But I'm finally here. In terms of what Sam Keen is
talking about, "real life love" is about loving in real
life, but also about loving real life. To tie that in, if love
does not happen on this earth, in the real lives we are in, then
we create some type of a facade we live in, and lift off the ground.
We live in illusion. That illusion, although pretty for a while,
will always bring you down into despair, bitterness, resentment
and the phrase, "is that all there is?" Well,
there's a helluva lot that people miss, because they're not here,
on the ground.
Bert: It's funny you should mention Catholicism, because
Matthew Fox used to be a Catholic, and he talks about "co-creative
spirituality." We and God are in the process of co-creating
the universe around us. That seems so similar to what you talk
about, when you talk of co-creative relationships. I'm hearing
a spiritual dimension of active participation.
Judith: Absolutely. You're quire right. We talk about practical
spirituality in the book, Simply put, the spiritual dimension
in relationship occurs when I get outside my self-centered reality
and I include Jim's reality as being just as valuable as mine.
Now I enter the world in a way that allows me to value more and
more of what's here, that's beyond me. Then I can expand my appreciation
beyond Jim, to include all of you and more and more elements of
the world, and I live more in the spirit of being here, rather
than just in my own small self.
Jim: I would like to comment as well, Bert. Intimacy is
a very profound term. I wish I had a simple description of it
for you. I'll give you a metaphor, an example. When a sculptor
decides to sculpt something and chooses a medium, let's say, for
the moment, granite, the granite and the sculptor enter into a
profound intimacy because the granite defines the sculptor and
the sculptor defines the granite. There is a connection that evolves
in the process, until the object he or she is sculpting becomes
reality, is actualized. The sculptor is not imposing on
the granite, and the granite is not imposing on the sculptor,
but they co-create each other, because if the granite moves this
way, the sculptor moves that way. If the granite moves that way,
the sculptor moves this way. The dance between the two is so intimate
that finally the ultimate product is so infused with the being
of the sculptor, and the sculptor with the being of the product,
that it is almost a oneness.
Scott: That particular metaphor brings up a reference and
a synergy with older relationship models, in which women looked
at men as "projects" to be designed. Essentially,
granite, unfeeling, manipulable, and something that would be sculpted
into the ideal male, How does the book help people avoid such
Jim: I appreciate that, and I'm glad you said that, because
you're right. That does go in a direction I wouldn't want to go
in. We don't have a lot of "thumbnail rules" in our
book. But we have metaphors and suggestions. Here's one of them:
when you love, you are changed. When you are loved, you are changed.
Meaning, when you enter into a relationship, you will definitely
be someone other than you were, as the relationship progresses.
I need Judith. I need her in ways that I don't even know how to
articulate. There is some deep aspect of me that is in need of
this woman, and vice-versa. ... [voice: to create ourselves].
To create ourselves is a good way to put it. We are in a process
of creation. We quote a woman in our book, who says, "Whenever
I feel bad, I turn him into a project." What the book shows,
in a variety of ways, is that if, in fact, she takes him on as
a project. we are no longer in a relationship. That's the I-It,
not the I-Thou. As long as I can keep in mind that a relationship
is dynamic, reciprocal co-creation, then neither one of us is
the project but we are both the project, almost being projected
by the relationship itself.
Bert: What that ties back to is a theme that Judith brought
up earlier. It's the view of "co-creative spirituality"
that we work in co-creative synergy to create the world. The marriage
is a crucible. It's how we work in relationship teaches us how
we can relate to the world.
Judith: And to take that even further, the only building
blocks of society are men and women. How men and women treat each
other, so goes the world. So we are talking about profound possibility
for societal change when men and women really can treat each other
with this kind of transformative value for one another's differences.
Bert: In your book you talk about "positive trust"
and "negative trust," and then you talk about "sacred
trust." One of the things that struck me about "positive
trust" is that this involves a willingness to be accountable
for your dark side.
Jim: First of all, trust is trust. Negative trust, for
example, occurs in a domestic violence relationship. They can
count on the fact that they are going to do each other damage.
That is as trustworthy a relationship as any other kind of relationship,
but because it's a relationship that leads to violence we call
it "negative trust." It's also diminishment. Both people
become diminished inside negative trust, because the relationship
gets smaller, and they become smaller and smaller. Positive trust
opens out into the world. The basis of positive trust is that
those people can grow and enlarge. Sacred trust becomes a reality.
When I can trust her positively, I also know where her knives
are, I know where her dark side is. I don't think positive trust
is possible unless I do know where her knives are, and
we all bring them into the game. Then it becomes sacred, because
we can use all of who we are, to create the dance that we create.
The sacredness is two-fold. First, I go beyond who I know myself
to be. Anytime we do this we move into the unknown, and if we
do this open-heartedly, that becomes sacred. Secondly, it's sacred
because every day becomes a reality of sacredness as we live our
Bert: You also talk about the "masks" that we
wear. That reminded me of James Hillman. In The Soul's Code
he talks about authenticity and character, living authentically,
and being authentic to who we are. Does that relate to what you're
Judith: Absolutely. And unfortunately most of us have been
taught, either through our family of origin, or in our schools,
or in so many other ways, to not present ourselves with the truth
of what we're feeling, the truth of what we believe, for fear
that we will be found unacceptable by someone else. We've learned
to hide those precious, unique ways that we're different, special,
and present some marshmallow, ambiguous reality that we hope everybody
will like. Then we live in fear that if you really got to know
me, you'd reject me, you'd leave me, you'd laugh at me. We're
never safe in our relationships. We can never relax. And we also
can never believe that we're really lovable when we're hiding
behind masks. So in the book we encourage and teach people that
the only way to be loved for who they really are is to
present themselves as they are, and find out who actually likes
them, loves them.
Jim: There's also a deep trap in wearing a mask. A mask
is usually a product of feeling that when I present myself I find
that what I present is unacceptable, so I create a guise in order
to create acceptability. That's what we mean in simple terms by
a mask. As long as I keep my mask on, I have to perpetuate my
belief in my unacceptability, and I have to find a structure that
supports the pretense that I'm creating. So I perpetuate my ongoing
unacceptability and I perpetuate the sense of wrongness that I
am. The mask covers the wrongness. If the mask is not there, presumably
the wrongness will go away. So as long as the mask is there, I
am wrong, and that feeds on itself in a way that's like a cancer.
Bert: You also talk about games that we're taught, and
that seems to fit right in here. What are the games that we're
taught, and how do they get in our way?
Judith: Without fail, when we ask women at seminars, were
they taught before they started dating to play hard to get? Were
they taught not to reveal too much because men like a mystery?
That they should play "hard to get?" That they shouldn't
be too opinionated? That they should never beat a man at sports
and cards? And, especially, that it's just as easy to love a rich
man as a poor man? Invariably, 90% of the women say yes, that's
the relationship training they received. So the message has been
taught, unconsciously, that you're not valuable to a man for who
you really are. You have to trap a man by doing these manipulations,
by enticing a man with these gymnastics. You need one of these
men, and these men are such fools, they'll fall for it. Notice
the message we've all gotten about how to make a marriage. It's
destined to fail.
Jim: And just one last point, if the men are fools for
falling for it, why would a woman want one of these fools?
It just gets more and more cancerous.
Scott: What are the games that men are taught?
Jim: Basically, don't ever show her your feelings or you'll
be eaten alive. Wear the pants in the family. Somebody's got to
make a decision. Give her what she wants, and you'll get what
you want. And also, the fundamental one that men report is to
never show her your vulnerability. She'll use it against you.
So we go out to do that, with one set of games on one side, and
another set of games on the other side, and then we're told to
go out and make your lives happily ever after. And when you fail,
you should get a divorce. You're the one who made the mistake,
not us. Not the world, not society, but you. The instruction is
a template for disaster.
Judith: One of our positions, and one of our hopes, is
that relationship training begin when kids are young enough, before
kids actually start dating, hopefully in junior high. We'd like
to see this as a requirement in the schools. They should learn
to respect differences, to accept authentic behavior in terms
of communication and conflict resolution. That's one of the hopes
about this book, that we have the power to change people's minds
about what they need to know.
Scott: There are those that would argue that males are
being taught that kind of diversity, that kind of tolerance, but
that there is not a reciprocal understanding of the male nature.
It's not very "politically correct," but your book skirts
the grounds of "political correctness" by suggesting
that there are inbred, unchangeable gender differences.
Bert: So if we've engaged in this conscious co-creativity,
we've engaged in this dance of creative engagement, we've found
a way to remove the masks, we've found a way to stop playing the
games, what's the pay-off? What's in it, for us and for society?
Judith: The pay-off for a couple is that they can then
count on a relationship in which they can present themselves as
they are. They can relax. They can learn from one another's differences.
They can trust that when their old baggage comes to the surface
it's just grist for the mill. It's just part of helping the relationship
get richer, of developing the intimacy deeply between the people
by learning more about their past and more about their woundedness
and letting it get healed. By having it be loved. And, ultimately
they can live in serial monogamy with the same person, in which
the relationship continually changes, continually grows, and the
relationship gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper. You are loved
for who you are. That's all we really want.
Jim: The relationship doesn't become a goal to be achieved.
Marriage isn't something you work for and then you stop. Long-term
relationship is a voyage of discovery and an exciting way of being
alive. As opposed to a process that one just settles into, accommodates,
and ultimately is consumed by. It really becomes an adventure
in life, an adventure in what we call "practical spirituality"
and a meditation on daily loving. That's part of the pay-off.