45 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
A collection of outdated recipes for marital problem solving, overlooking personal happiness and "better relationships", 6 Mar 2011
I am a relationship consultant by trade and hence I have read a lot of books on better relationships, some good and some bad. In a nutshell, I find this Relate Guide by Sarah Litvinoff is based on outdated paradigms for love relationships and totally misses the point of what "better relationships" are, while giving its earnest attempt to provide unhappily married couples with a variety of recipes for marital troubleshooting, that would perhaps ensure that above couples have a more tolerable co-existence in their marriage.
Here's where this book gets it wrong in my professional and personal opinion:
1. There is a confusion over what Love is and why people get together in the first place. A lot of terminology in the book like "falling in love", "romantic love", "newly in love" romanticises and misunderstands the mechanisms of human sexual attraction and lust that have little to do with actual Love.
2. "Perseverance rather than Happiness" could be the slogan of this book. The main focus of this book is on making existing marriages less miserable, rather than on fostering personal happiness of two individuals who decided to have a relationship together. For a better account of how to cultivate personal wellbeing in a relationship, see The Relationship Handbook
3. The book draws its evidence from the Relate marriage counselling which main claim (on their website) is: "80% of respondents said that Relate counselling had strengthened their couple relationship". Notice, there is nothing about happiness or fulfilment in this claim. It helped people to remain stuck together, yes, but at what price?
4. It equates "serious commitment" with getting married. I.e. if a couple is not getting married, they are somehow "unserious" about their commitment. Here's a direct quote from the book: (p.35) "Marriage is a definite commitment, while living together is more of a trial - a time for thinking." And here's another, even more outdated quote: "Living together is more acceptable than it was, though still not entirely so."
5. The only kind of "marriage" that is seemed to be discussed in this book is a strictly monogamous, heterosexual marriage strongly informed by extremely conservative Christian morals and dogmas without acknowledging it. Open relationships or civil partnerships are totally ignored in this book.
6. There is not a single word in the book about Co-dependency - people getting and staying together due to the perceived lack of wholeness and resources to live separately. In fact, many symptoms of Co-dependency are confused with notions of love, care and family duties. To find out more about Co-dependency and how to avoid it in your relationships, see Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment
7. The book does not confront the conventional gender roles in a marriage (i.e. a woman takes care of the kitchen and a man earns money for the family) despite giving examples of their detrimental effects of relationships.
8. The book arms the reader with rudimentary understandings of psychoanalysis (like "You're acting like your mother, and I'm acting like a naughty boy."), but seems to overlook the importance of taking personal responsibility for one's feelings and ability to consciously reassess and override family conditioning with modern psychological interventions offered, for example, by Neuro Linguistic Programming or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
9. There are much clearer strategies (for example, for arguing in the family) that can be found elsewhere for enhancing communication between partners. For example, see Nonviolent Communication: a Language of Life
10. Last but not least, there is not a single paragraph in the book that states the obvious: If married partners are not mutually compatible anymore (or perhaps neither have they ever been), the best thing they can do is to split up! Once again, the focus of the book seems to be on keeping the marriage at all costs, and not on being happy, or fulfilled in your relationships.
To sum up my review, I acknowledge that the author of the book (and Relate Marriage Council she represents) is well-intentioned and gives struggling married couples some useful tools to cope better with their misery (hence 2 stars, instead of 1 I would have given it of the basis of its efficacy). Unfortunately, this book fails to help people have "better relationships" due to being based on outdated models for relationships, and prioritising "marriage perseverance" over "personal happiness and wellbeing". I would therefore strongly encourage you to look elsewhere if you need sound relationship advice.