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An Interview with William Glasser, MD and Carleen Glasser on Happier Marriages

David Van Nuys, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 17th 2007

download this podcast read the transcript

William Glasser, MDIn this Wise Counsel episode, Dr. Van Nuys interviews Psychiatrist William Glasser (developer of the influential Reality Therapy approach which became popular in the 1970s) and his wife Carlene Glasser. Together, they have written a new book on marriage titled Eight Lessons for a Happier Marriage.

Over the last thirty or so years, Dr. Glasser has evolved Reality Therapy into something he calls Choice Theory. The basic premiss of this approach centers around the need to learn how to take personal responsibility for your actions. This is difficult to do becuase many people do not experience what happens to them as a product of their own choices. Rather, they believe that they have been acted upon and are not responsible for what happens to them. They both believe they are controled by others, and work hard to control others so as to make those others conform to their own ideas of perfection, and in the process, end up making themselves and others miserable.

According to the Glassers, a tendancy they label External Control is responsible for the destruction of many marriages. External control occurs when one partner tries to control the behavior of the other partner. External control occurs when partners criticize, blame, complain, nag, threaten, punish and bribe one another to act in particular ways. People try to force their partners to behave in particular ways becuase they believe that if they can only get their partner to conform to their ideal, then things will be right with the world. This idea doesn't work ultimately because attempts to control ultimately provoke defensive reactions and drive partners apart. The Glassers argue that marriages work better when both partners independently give up their efforts to control one another (and each do so without needing the other to do so first which is itself another instance of external control). Partners still need to communicate their interests and expectations to one another (something the Glassers call each partners's "Quality World"), but in such a way as to not make demands. Partners who want to be with one another and mutually recognize the benefits of being marriage will open themselves to being influenced by their partners so long as that influence is non-cohersive.

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About William Glasser, MD and Carlene Glasser, MA

William Glasser, MD

William Glasser, M.D. and his wife, Carleen Glasser, M.A. are authors of the 2007 book, Eight Lessons for A Happier Marriage. William Glasser is a world-renowned psychiatrist who lectures widely. His numerous books have sold 1.7 million copies and he has trained thousands of counselors in his Choice Theory and Reality Therapy approaches. He is also president of the William Glasser Institute in Los Angeles. Carleen Glasser, MA is a senior instructor at the William Gasser Institute and the author of two books for children.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Divorce Failure? - Sharon Greenlaw - Jul 15th 2010

The last comment I read said something to the effect that because there was so many more marriages ending in divorce that we are still doing something wrong.  I've been married 34 years but in that time I have had close friends divorce and it was not a failure, it actually was the right choice for them. I watched as many spread their wings and completed their dreams.  It's great that some of us can do it in marriage but it doesn't mean marriage equals success, I have watched many stay in marriages where they lost their self-respect yet because of family or traditional values they have not been able to move on.  I don't believe in luck, a long marriage is only successful when you support and celebrate your differences as well as your shared values and good friends don't have to be married.

Relationships - - Apr 10th 2009

I believe that both partners need to be involved in such an approach. It staes that you should be willing to give up control of a person without the other person doing it as well. However, I feel that might start up some trouble as well. I relize that I did many of the things that they mentioned not to do like nag and put down. However, it was only until I felt that he was not putting any affort into our relationship and I felt that he was completly beig selffish. My Ex husband began to have a heavy drug problem on tom pf drinking. I tried supporting AA and trying to get him involved with herapy, but he didn't go for anything. He would go to one AA meeting on the account that I said I would leave and that was it. We were to gether for almost 9 years and had 3 girls together. My oldest in in 1st grade and I didn't want her to grow up seeing how her father is and what a difficult life we leaved. He was the bread winner with a bachalors in Chemistry, but couldn't hold down a job. Meanwhile, I had to work fulltime as a waitress to make ends meet, but he didn't want to care for the children properly while I was at work. Sleeping all day or giving them chips for breakfast is not my idea of being a parent. My daughter loved it though and hated that I made her eat veggies, so I looked like the bad guy. It was unfair and truly a horrible feeling to always hear that your daughter hates you. Anyway, we had a tramatic experience in our lives which made me change my way of thinking. See, I was always one to stick it out try to better myself and our relationship, but I felt like he enjoyed being himself in some sense. He got his cake and ate it too. Anyhow, My last child passed away last year, which brought me to a change in my life. I didn't know what I was doing wrong and I wanted t be the one who could make him want to be a better person, but I felt like he chose the substances over the girls and myself. Now, it has been 6 months since I have left and I am in school fulltime with a major in Psychology. I work two parttime jobs and I have just moved out of my moms, who took me in when I left, to live on my own again. In addition, I am waiting for the car that I just purchased. I know that I am going to struggle financial, but I have been doing that for 9 years and the thought that I will one day have a degree gets me through the days.

I told you guys this story because when people hear that you should work on a relationship "it is better for everyone". You have to sit back and view the relationship you are in. It is one thing if ther are dirty socks left on the floor, or that the other person won't help clean up, but it is a totally different thing when it involves you and your inabilities to better your self and the affects that it could have on your children. I know I thought at one point that I could never do it, but I was willing to go to shelter in order to get my children out of there. It is not fair to them. Regardless how much you think they hate you they will love you when they relize what you have done-besides that they love you anyway- you are their parent!! In addition, I felt that I couldn't make it on my own with 2 babies to care for, but I am doing it and I know that in the near future I will see results that I will be proud of and feel accomplished.

One last thing I must ask of those single people out there. When you get involved with somebody try to see how openminded they are. I say this becuase if they are no open minded to change and therapy it may be a really hard road for both of you and it could end up in divorce if married.

Sincerely, Broken but Fixable

Relationship Problems - rosesmith - Aug 19th 2008

As discussed in this topic many relationship problem occurs due to misunderstanding. It is always better to get counselled by some good person who can guide you in a right way....



Magic - Anne Frid de Vries - Sep 20th 2007

The only question that I am left with: we have had this advice, basically, ever since we can remember, also when divorce ratings were much less than today. So what are we doing wrong? Are we so bad at listening, learning, internalizing? Or could the advice miss out on something? I really do not know. Eventually a successful marriage is a kind of magic.

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