As a Marriage Therapist, I am sometimes asked for book recommendations. Although I love to read, I am very selective with the books I recommend to therapy clients. Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I reserve only two beloved bookshelves (out of 15) for this purpose.
I cherish these books.
So, in my series Better Through Books, I am revealing each of the books in this esteemed portion of my therapy library.
And today, you’re in for a treat.
Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Terry Hargrave’s transformational book, The Essential Humility of Marriage!
Dr. Hargrave is one of the most beloved professors at my alma mater, but I was a fan of his work before he even stepped foot on our campus. Why?
He illuminated me to the idea that each marriage includes a third identity:
You, Me, and Us.
Confused? Let me tell you the story of Dr. Hargrave’s breakfast conversation with one of the pioneers of Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Carl Whitaker.
“Carl said that as much as he would miss [his wife] if she were to die, he would miss what they were together even more. He would call what they were together ‘we-ness’ or ‘us-ness’. What is exciting about this concept of ‘us-ness’ is that it is not quite me, and not quite you. ‘Us’ is what we are together” (pg. 6).
The “Us” is the relationship itself.
What I love about this third member of each relationship is that it allows couples to build something bigger than themselves.
And yet, the ‘Us’ depends on the individuals in the relationship to nurture its growth.
Spoiler alert: Hargrave’s answer is not, “The Us-ness in a relationship is the result of each person’s awesome brilliance.”
Rather, the Us-ness is built through humility.
By coming face to face with their own limitations, couples realize that they are equals. When each partner humbly gives of themselves to benefit the “Us”, love and trust in the relationship grows. Its a beautiful thing.
As a bonus? Dr. Hargrave notes that humility is the antidote to criticism and contempt, which are two of the relationship killers Dr. John Gottman identified in his extensive relationship research.
There is so much more to Hargrave’s book that I haven’t had the chance to cover here today. I invite you to explore the third identity in your relationship by reading The Essential Humility of Marriage, or by exploring these questions in relationship therapy:
- How are we building the ‘Us’?
- What are the limitations that I bring to our relationship?
- How am I addressing my challenges in order to build a more secure ‘Us’?