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Useful Pain: Why Your Relationships Need Struggle was written as an enticement for growth. The book is based on a simple concept: interactions between partners are necessary ingredients of growth. Of course, instinct tells us to make pain go away. The reward is relief from tension, fear, anxiety, depletion, or the treat of failure. But what would happen if we allowed the struggle to run its course without being soothed?

When two people embark on a risk together, decisions are driven by either the most fearless or most fearful person. Fearless partners push their apprehensive counterparts forward. Fearful partners pull their more confident partners back.

This dynamic push and pull generates creative tension in the relationship that forces either growth or stagnation. The symptoms most likely to appear when the risk is being negotiated is either eagerness for or resistance to change. When the more fearful partner is pulling, the relationship will react to fear of failure. When the more fearless partner is pushing, the relationship will react to being “out on a limb.” Of course, both fearlessness and fearfulness have value, depending on what’s at stake.

Adventure brings excitement to a relationship. Much like driving a car, you are less likely to take a risk if your have passengers on board than if you are traveling alone. In relationships, risk-taking must account for the consequences on all parties involved. The resulting struggle has purpose – learning how to keep moving forward while honoring the pace of the partnership – useful pain.

About the Author

Kerry Galarza, MS OTR/L is the Clinical Director and a pediatric occupational therapist at Elmhurst Counseling. She provides specialized assessment and intervention with children of all ages and their families. Kerry engages clients with naturally occurring, meaningful home-based methods to empower autonomy and maximize functioning.