A Letter: Husbands and Wives

Dear Katie,

Lately I had a client who had a fight with her husband a few months ago. She saw him drunk in the car of his company and she wanted him to be home and take care of the children. It happened often that he was drunk and now she was furious and she tried to hit him with a hammer. She missed and she was arrested by the police and spent the night in jail.

She became my client and she wanted to get out of the misery. She said her husband was not likely to cooperate and come with her to me. So a few weeks ago I explained to her the Mediation (conflict resolution) exercise and she would try to explain it to him and do the exercise together. Today she came back. She told me she spent a few days to explain the exercise to him.

Constantly, as she read her worksheet, he started to interrupt her with justifications, attacks and so on. Then, after a few days, he seemed to get it and they could both read their worksheet without being interrupted. My client said her world has changed since then. Now she can openly communicate with her husband, something she couldn’t do since she met him five years ago.

She feels more peaceful inside and she said people told her she has changed. “The book is open”, as she put it. We can now get along. I could hardly believe her enormous shift from the hammer to this peaceful way of communicating, which she said she experienced since she did the exercise with her husband. And they did it together at home, didn’t even need me, the social worker. She told me she didn’t want other sessions with me for some time, as she needed time to enter her new world.

Thank you for being there Katie and offering us these beautiful exercises (and The Work of course),

in gratitude and love,


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  1. Hello R, hello Katie,

    it reads very beautifully : wife and husband reading at eachother he worksheet.
    I’d LOVE that! But what when the husband just cann’t understand what the wife is looking und finding in Thework. When the husband is angry because the wife works.
    My husband will never do the work with me,
    even if I ask myself thousand times :Is that true???
    I’m sad: in a way the work heals me and has so much helped me when I was very, very sick. On the other hand, it splits me from my husband, it separates us.
    Is that the price I have to pay for the work? Is there any price?

  2. Hi Brian,

    Here’s a copy of ‘The Work with a Partner’, which seems to be the process that was used by the couple in the posting above – I’m not sure where I got it from now – maybe the ‘old’ Work site.

    With love,



    The Work with a Partner
    (Conflict Resolution)


    The following is a powerful exercise that can be done by two (or more) people who seek resolution and the end of conflict. The key when working with another person is to be clear that The Work is for you, not for the other, and to end the conflict within yourself. Both people are there to go inside and discover their own freedom. After all, it is the truth that sets us free.

    You may be tempted to use this exercise as a forum to get your partner to change. Having such a motive is manipulative, leading to frustration and further misunderstanding. The Work is not for people who want to be right. It’s for people who want to be free. We have been other-realized forever. The Work is about self-realization.

    Step 1 – Fill out a Worksheet

    Each person involved in the conflict fills out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet (available from Katie’s book, Loving What Is, or from http://www.thework.org) with their honest, direct, and petty judgments of the other.

    Step 2 – Take turns reading the Worksheets

    Decide who will be Partner A and who will be Partner B. Partner A shares his or her Worksheet aloud, statement by statement, without crosstalk, speaking directly to Partner B in the second person. For example, “I’m angry at Paul because he doesn’t love me” becomes “Paul, I’m angry at you because you don’t love me.” After each statement, Partner A pauses and makes eye contact with Partner B.

    Partner B’s job is to meditate on each statement, one by one, and see where Partner A is right. Whether Partner B finds it or not, he or she replies only with “Thank you.” Only that—no more and no less. Partner A has just shared the gift of his or her painful thoughts. Partner B, notice any desire you have to justify or defend. Stop, listen, and feel, and respond only with “Thank you.”

    When Partner A has finished reading all the statements from the Worksheet, switch positions so that Partner B now reads his or her Worksheet aloud, and Partner A listens, following the same procedure outlined above.

    Step 3 – Facilitate inquiry

    If a third party is present to facilitate, this facilitator helps both partners to question their Worksheet statements in turn (after Partners A and B have completed reading their Worksheets to each other).
    If there is no third party present, Partner A facilitates Partner B through the entire Worksheet, going through all four questions and the turnaround for each statement. At this point, Partner B reads the Worksheet as he or she wrote it, in the third person (“I’m angry at Paul because he doesn’t love me”).
    When asking question number three, you may want to add these sub-questions:

    “How does it feel when you think that thought? Where do you feel that thought in your body? And notice in your life if this is when you go to the refrigerator, cigarette, shopping, alcohol, wanting a different partner.”
    “How do you treat Partner B when you think that thought?” Be specific. How do you treat yourself?”
    “How does it feel to treat Partner B that way?”
    “Does that thought bring stress or peace into your life?”

    Partner A’s job is to listen only. Notice the temptation to add or subtract something. Stop. Go back to listening. This is an active role—remember that this inquiry is for you, not for the other.

    When Partner B has finished questioning the Worksheet, the roles are reversed. Partner B facilitates Partner A.

    Step 4 – Discussion

    Now discuss what you realized about yourself, how you, not your partner, could live differently, and how those changes might contribute in a positive way to your own life as well as to the relationship. As you share—from the heart—your own possible changes, ask for your partner’s help in this process. Ask him or her to help as you make changes in your life by reminding you each time you slip back into your old patterns—but ask only if that is what you truly want. Make it a game to see if your partner can catch your slips before you catch them yourself. Discuss subtle signals to use in this process and kinder ways of communicating. Pointing out the other’s patterns without kindness may feel hurtful inside you. Also, the agreement can end at any time. Be gentle and respect when your partner is too fragile for reminders and does not want your feedback or help. Don’t try to do this exercise perfectly; have fun instead. Change doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.

    When you notice that you step into your partner’s business without permission, stop and move back into your own again. Notice the stress that comes from being mentally out of your own business, the stress of trying to change another human being before he or she has sincerely asked for your assistance. This process is the beginning of the end of war with your partner.


    Simply reading Worksheets to each other can seem uncaring if you are not deeply committed to questioning your statements through inquiry. This is an opportunity to use another person to get closer to the parts of yourself that you may not have seen clearly, and thus allows the possibility of more intimacy with yourself and the other person. By relating more deeply and honestly to ourselves, we find freedom and joy in relating to the world. Couples fight, separate, and divorce—this often seems to be the way of it. However, in these situations, there is no reason not to love and support in the deepest way the one you are with, the one you are leaving or the one who is leaving or has left you. Until there is nothing anyone can do to keep you from loving your partner, your work isn’t done. Your partner’s job is to test you each day just by living his or her life. Have fun, and welcome to The Work.

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