So, I've been reading a really great book. I'm not sure many will believe me (she has many critics), but I really like what she's written, and I love the ideas she presents. Here's the book. And you can buy it, here. And it's for women, FYI:
She doesn't really believe in killing marriage counselors, but she does admit she wants to kill what they've been taught to teach married couples. The author actually experienced extensive marriage therapy and it made their marriage much worse. As a person who loves therapy, who is very pro-therapy, who thinks therapy blesses the lives of many people (especially if you can find the right one), and who actually had a therapy appointment, today (it was a great session!), I was skeptical at first. I know good therapists! I'm sure there are plenty who have saved marriages. But you know what? I agree with what she says --that if most therapists learned and thought about what she's discovered (and now teaching others), I think they'd agree with a lot of what she's saying. Some might even already be doing it! The six intimacy skills she suggests are actually very gospel-centered (although non-religious) and embrace the ideas of respect, gratitude, and love for self and others.
What I really, really love is that she decided to find help by seeking out successful, happy married women and ask them why their marriage was so great. She went to the source! Instead of relying on a degree (which can be very good in the right circumstances), she went to people who have lived it.
This was huge for me because I've had my fair share of therapists. Some have been great, and some have been not-so-great. In fact, I could say the same thing about any level of professional care. Let me give you two examples:
I once had a midwife who had never been married and had never given birth. She wasn't a horrible person, and she was very skilled. But she had no idea what to do with a woman like me, and she had no personal experience giving birth. I found her to be very self-centered and it was one of my worst labor/delivery experiences overall. She wouldn't listen to me and she even went back on my birth plan in the middle of transition when I didn't have the opportunity to make a level-headed decision. It made me very upset (and very sad). I've had many male OBGYNs, too, and I encountered the very same problem --only they can't ever rectify it! Am I saying that men and that particular midwife are incompetent? No --but they could only help me so much. They were limited by their lack of personal experience. The very best birth care I've ever received were from two midwives, both of whom had given birth to more than 9 children. They understood almost every situation on a very personal basis. Their care for me was coming from experience. My pregnancy care and subsequent labor/deliveries were fantastic! You can't put a price tag on that! (Well, I guess you can, but you know what I mean.)
I once had a therapist that was older, non-religious, and single. She had never married, never had kids, and there I was, with 7 kids, deeply religious, and married for almost 2 decades. She was not a horrible therapist. She did her job well. She was very kind and non-judgmental. She would ask clarifying questions, and she took a genuine interest in my life. I'm sincerely grateful to her for her help because she was there during my darkest time, and I believe she helped me. But... she focused so much on things I simply could not do as a mother of many. I could not always follow her advice, and so I did my best without it. Could she have been a better help to me if she personally understood where I was coming from? I think so. That doesn't negate the help she did give to me, but it makes me ponder about why we navigate to groups of people with similar experiences to ours --and it just makes sense.
Back to the book! The biggest hurdle for readers, I believe, has to do with how she describes the difference between the masculine and feminine. For any woman who is a feminist and leans very liberally, they're going to have a hard time swallowing the idea of respecting their husbands. Even my conservative (moderate) brain, which balks at the idea of subservient and oppressive women had to pause for a second and think about what she was saying. As I kept reading, I found myself agreeing with her and I'll tell you why:
First, she makes it clear from the get-go that her ideas will never work with an abusive, addicted, or unfaithful husband. If your spouse is abusive in those ways, there needs to be professional help right away (or you need to get the heck outta Dodge!).
Second, what she teaches about respect goes to the core of the differences between men and women. I have been taught my whole life, and society has seen this throughout thousands of years, that the male species appreciates respect. So do women, yes, but stay with me --when I hear the word "preside" or "lead" (most often used as religious terms describing male roles), I think about righteous men who are doing good things for their families. This is because I know so many who lead and preside in this way. But the tainted side of my brain (the one being schooled by extreme liberal thought that screams really loudly, and from experience witnessing men who abuse their roles) thinks about equality for women; no man should rule over me! And I find that interesting. Because when a man is respected, it doesn't automatically mean the woman is being oppressed, so why do we, as a society, assume this? We all deserve respect, every one of us.
Another hurdle: women steer the relationship and have more power than they realize. If read without charity, love, and respect involved, it seems incredibly manipulative. But I promise you, it's not. It's just how it is. There will always be exceptions, but for the vast majority of people, this is true: the woman cares more emotionally about the relationship and spends the most time analyzing and thinking about it. Men just usually don't, you know?
Once you can get over these ideas (like I did), you can begin to see the truth of what she teaches. Not only that, but she has proof! Her own marriage was saved and now her efforts have saved thousands of marriages. Her whole career is now to help save marriage! Her goal is to empower women to keep the marriages and have the marriages that they want --and to do it with grace and aplomb.
I'm going to cheat a little and tell you the six intimacy skills she teaches about in the book:
1. Replenish your spirit with self-care
I've always believed there is a fine line between self-care and selfishness, and I think there has to be great care taken to balance life as to not swing into the selfish realm. But she is absolutely spot on in this case. You can't expect anyone else to make you happy, dear reader. If you do, you will always be disappointed! You have to find ways to make yourself happy, and then share that happiness with others. Take care of yourself!
2. Restore respect
Husbands desire and deserve respect. When they feel respected, they react in kindness! (If they don't, then go back to where I said this is not for abusive men.)
3. Relinquish control
When you attempt to control everything about your husband (and you're doing it more than you realize), you are pushing him away from you (and hurting his self-worth). Attempting to take away the agency of another person will rarely endear them to you. You can control yourself, your children (to a point), and to those who work under you (if you're a boss), but you should never attempt to control your spouse.
4. Receive, receive, receive!
Just say thank you!
5. Reveal Your Heart with Vulnerability
It takes much more courage and strength to risk yourself emotionally than it is to stay defended. Express your desires, ask for help when needed, and own your feelings.
6. Refocus your view with gratitude
Gratitude is the most powerful virtue! Being grateful for even the smallest of things can have a great impact on changing large things.
See what I mean about these ideas being pretty gospel-based? I think it's great to see them in a very specific and focused way. It's helped me to see how I can apply things like charity, long-suffering, humility, gratitude, respect, etc. in my marriage, with the end goal being a happy, loving relationship.
Because let me be frank for a minute. I have a very loud, honest, overbearing, and sometimes shrill personality. I am not an easy person to live with because I have high standards and I can be very demanding, even when I don't think I'm being demanding. I also have a husband who has a strong personality, and so we clash at times. We've been married for almost 18 years, now, and I have seen that when I'm angry, disgusted, frustrated, rude, petty, shaming, or stonewalling, I don't get the marriage I want. Well, guess what? When my husband does the same things to me, do you think he's getting the marriage he wants? We respond, dear reader, to the attitudes and feelings around us. If we don't feel safe or loved, we're not going to be very open. We'll be defensive --or on the offensive. But somebody has to apologize, and someone has to forgive (I actually happen to have a very forgiving husband; it's one of his best qualities!). It has to start somewhere... This book is asking the wives to start it.
There's not much to lose, you know, in trying to be a kinder spouse, and what I have found to be amazing is that when these skills are applied, the reaction is almost instantaneous. I actually tried it this past weekend --just to shift a little in the way I spoke to Brandon. Dear reader, his reaction to me was exactly what she claimed it would be. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. Think about it --if every person treated every person with charity, respect, gratitude, kindness, etc (basically, the way Christ has asked us to treat each other), marriages would last.
I'm so grateful to the friends who recommended this book for me. It's given me some good insight into things my heart already knew. Maybe it'll help you, too?
For more on Laura Doyle, go here.
P.S. I was not asked to review this book. I wasn't even given it for free! Nor am I being paid to give such a glowing review. I totally bought it on the recommendation of friends and loved it enough that I felt like I should share it.