Book Review: How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

Authors: Patricia Love and Steven Stosny

I have a lot of books on relationships, marriage, and other related topics (“Hi, my name is Dan and I’m a bookaholic”). This one I recommend above all others.

The title got me hooked and the content kept me reading. I’ve worked with many couples where the husband and the wife look at talking about their relationship from vastly different perspectives. The wife believes that talking about the relationship is essential to its health. The husband would prefer to do anything but. In this book, we find out why and what to do about it.

To most women, the title of this book probably seems preposterous. The book tells us why: women fear isolation and deprivation and they manage stress, including the stress caused by their fear, by talking to others. Another author refers to this tendency as “tend and befriend.”

To most men (those few who read self-help books), the title probably seems like a gift from above. The book tells us why: men fear shame and failure and they manage stress, including the stress of someone shaming them or wanting to talk about their failures, by using their “fight or flight” mechanism. That is, men either get angry or leave the scene, mentally or physically.

In other words, a wife’s “We need to talk” sounds an awful lot like “I need to complain” to her husband.

Following this revelation (which, to me, was worth the price of the book all by itself), the authors (one female and one male) go on to emphasize connection and compassion over communication. They propose the “compassion paradox,” which states that when people, men or women, feel someone else’s compassion and support will be there when they need it, they naturally become less dependent on it.

The reverse of this, which describes most of the couples I see, implies that when someone feels deprived of another’s compassion and support, they go after it with a vengeance. This seems especially true of women, who fear deprivation and disconnection. This leads me to …

Advice to men: Apply “pre-emptive” compassion in small doses throughout the day, so she knows it will be there when needed. Then, she will hardly ever need it. Try it! It works!

Using what they call Core Values, the authors encourage both men and women to filter their worldview through the lens of what’s most important to them. This, according to the authors, will soften one’s attitude toward one’s partner, thus allowing greater compassion and connection. Communication, former thought of as the Holy Grail of good relationships, then becomes less about the relationship (thus preventing stress for the man) and more a natural, integral part of the relationship. Greater satisfaction for all!

Lastly, in case some guy does pick up this book or gets it forced on him by you-know-who, the male author has written a chapter specifically for men, though women will gain from it too. It addresses the issue that many men fear related to their relationships with women: that they need to become more like a woman. (Hmm, I thought I just heard a door slam.) At any rate, Dr. Stosny relieves male readers of this requirement that goes against the strict code of maledom (a topic for another time).

I very highly recommend this book for:

  • Women and men who want to improve their relationships with men and women, respectively, in any scenario including marriage. (Also, for men and women in same-sex relationships to better understand themselves and their partner.)
  • Marriage counselors who want to improve their ability to help clients make lasting, meaningful, positive changes beyond providing “tools for communication.”

On second thought, your reading this book might put me out of business! Never mind!

Copyright 2013 Daniel J. Metevier

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