Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bibliotherapy and Beyond 06/2009: Healthy Relationships

At the close of our Spring Workshop, we circulated a survey asking members opinions about topics of interest for future workshops.  The most popular choice by a wide margin was marital therapy.  In the interest of meeting the needs of the membership combined with the fact that June is the most popular month for weddings, the topic for this Bibliotherapy and Beyond article is marital therapy.
The two “grand masters” of marital therapy are Harville Hendrix, PhD and John Gottman, PhD.  Both have published many books on why we choose the partners we do, how to have good long lasting relationships and how to get through relationship rough spots and emerge with greater intimacy.  We are very excited that Dr. Hendrix will be the speaker for our Spring 2010 BCPA Workshop!  Dr. Hendrix’ 2 most popular books are “Getting the Love You Want” and “Keeping the Love You Find.”  His books discuss the psychological and emotional reasons why we fall in love with the people we do and how this knowledge can help us heal our emotional wounds and build successful intimate relationships.  His books are insightful and thought provoking.   Dr. Gottman’s approach to successful relationships is more cognitive-behavioral.  His work focuses on a research informed approach to successful marriage.  His book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” was one of the first books ever recommended to me about marital therapy.  It is still one of my favorites.  In this book, he describes the “Four Horseman of the Marital Apocalypse” which defines the negative cascade that leads to the collapse of a relationship.  His more recent book, “7 Principles For Making Marriage Work”, provides clear cut guidelines for enhancing problem solving and communication.
Dr. Pat Love’s books provide a different “angle” on relationships.  Her specialty is the neurochemical basis of attraction and how it affects relationship success.  Two of her best books are “Hot Monogamy” and “The Truth About Love: The Highs, The Lows and How You Can Make it Last Forever.”  Her books are interesting, practical and informative and yes, her last name really is “Love!”   There are many authors who discuss marriage and relationships from an attachment perspective.  Of these, my current favorite is Dr. Sue Johnson.  Her recent book, “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations For a Lifetime of Love”, is a highly readable discussion of  the neurobiology of attachment and how our early attachment experiences influence our romantic relationships.  I just finished a fascinating book by Bonnie Weil, Ph.D. called “Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker.”  In this book, which was just published in March 2009, Dr. Weil uses attachment theory as a basis for understanding financial conflict in couples.  She outlines many practical strategies for managing financial disagreements and how the trust, compassion and cooperation that comes with successful money management can be the foundation for a lasting, satisfying marriage.
            I tried to find some memoirs about marriage with little success.  The best was written by Diane Rehm (of National Public Radio) and her husband John Rehm.  Their book, “On Commitment” is a very frank and open dialogue about their struggle to create a lasting supportive marriage.  I applaud them both for the unflinching honesty and willingness to share their journey with the hope of helping others navigate this treacherous territory that characterizes this wise little book.  I actually keep a copy of this in my waiting room! 
I think novels and movies give us some of the best (and most pleasurable) opportunities to gain an in depth understanding of the vicissitudes of marriage.  Unfortunately, there really aren’t too many movies that provide a meaningful window into the intimate realm of marriage.  Some of my top pics are “The Four Seasons”, “Jerry McQuire”, “Shadowlands”, and “The Bridges of Madison County.”  “I Capture the Castle” is excellent in both the book and movie versions.   Sue Miller is my favorite novelist for an insightful exploration of the emotional landscape of married life.  Her most recent book, “The Senator’s Wife” was a wonderful read.  In my opinion, two of her older books, “The World Below” and “Family Pictures” are her best.  A few recent books I’ve particularly enjoyed, as have the clients I’ve suggested them to, are: “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, by Audrey Niffenegger (which is soon to be released as a major motion picture… I can’t wait!) and “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards.  Put them both on your summer reading list if you have the time, they are worth it!

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