Review of Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

tiny_beautiful_things_largeTiny Beautiful Things

Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

by Cheryl Strayed

Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 2012. 353 pages.
Starred Review

My son sent this book to me, and I love it so much. I love his words in the note that accompanied it: “Dear Sugar is… the sort of creature I am startled and pleased to find existing in the world. Like a Mister Rogers of heartbreak and anguish.”

Dear Sugar is an advice column for The Rumpus. There is a lot of heartbreak and anguish here. Definitely not neat and clean situations.

But Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) handles them all with so much grace! She relates things back to her own difficult life experiences and has much humble, practical wisdom to share. And all along, she addresses people with endearments and makes them feel like they’re okay.

I’m going to give some random quotations from her advice below. Perhaps it will give you the sweet flavor.

It’s going to be difficult, but that’s no surprise. The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.

Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word “love” to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Writing is hard for every last one of us — straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug.

There will be boondoggles and discombobulated days.

But it will be soul-smashingly beautiful, Solo. It will open up your life.

I have breathed my way through so many people I felt wronged by; through so many situations I couldn’t change. Sometimes while doing this I have breathed in acceptance and breathed out love. Sometimes I’ve breathed in gratitude and out forgiveness. Sometimes I haven’t been able to muster anything beyond the breath itself, my mind forced blank with nothing but the desire to be free of sorrow and rage.

What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision the commission made up. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that.

You asked me for practical matchmaking solutions, but I believe once you allow yourself to be psychologically ready to give and receive love, your best course is to do what everyone who is looking for love does: put your best self out there with as much transparency and sincerity and humor as possible.

As you are surely aware, forgiveness doesn’t mean you let the forgiven stomp all over you once again. Forgiveness means you’ve found a way forward that acknowledges harm done and hurt caused without letting either your anger or your pain rule your life or define your relationship with the one who did you wrong. Sometimes those we forgive change their behavior to the extent that we can eventually be as close to them as we were before (or even closer). Sometimes those we forgive continue being the jackasses that they always were and we accept them while keeping them approximately three thousand miles away from our wedding receptions.

I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

Isn’t love amazing that way? How it can bend with us through the years? It has to. It must. Lest it break.

Perhaps these give you the flavor. But dip into Tiny Beautiful Things and just see if you can come out again.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of The Science of Happily Ever After, by Ty Tashiro

science_of_happily_ever_after_largeThe Science of Happily Ever After

What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love

by Ty Tashiro, PhD

Harlequin, 2014. 278 pages.

I began this book when I had recently decided to try online dating. When I finished it, I was already in a relationship. By the time I’m posting the review, I’ve broken up with that first person. But the overall idea of the book fits perfectly with the reason I’d decided to try online dating.

I’d noticed that once I actually meet someone, it’s harder for me to see the ways they are not necessarily good for me. Once my emotions get involved, it’s harder for me to exercise good judgment. So my thinking with trying online dating was this: Why not screen out people who obviously wouldn’t be great for me right from the start, before I even meet them in person?

The Science of Happily Ever After fits perfectly with that idea, because it presents some objective things to look for when contemplating a long-term relationship. In fact, it’s given me some things to look for once I meet people that might be red flags. Why not optimize one’s chances of happily ever after?

In the introductory chapter, the author talks about his reasons for writing this book:

Although supportive friends, self-confidence and communication skills contribute to healthy romantic relationships, a much stronger predictor of romantic success is the type of partner you choose in the first place. The traits that a partner possesses before you ever start dating, such as his or her personality and values, are among the strongest indicators of whether a romantic relationship will be happy and stable many years later. However, for people who say they will choose a better partner for the next relationship, the intention to choose a better partner does not guarantee that they will end up making better choices. How many times have you witnessed friends who are smart and effective people in most aspects of their lives repeatedly choose the same dysfunctional partners and then appear surprised when the relationship is a disaster a few months later?

This book does give tips as to how to help yourself pull off a good choice.

This is not a prescriptive self-help book promising a soul mate in three easy steps. Love is too complex and too personal for a stranger to tell a unique individual like you precisely what to do with your love life. Instead, my goal is to help you clarify your version of “happily ever after” and then to provide you with the information needed to make wise decisions when choosing a partner….

The Science of Happily Ever After is about making smarter choices. It’s about learning to weed out the undesirable traits and rethinking our views about what really matters in a romantic partner.

Along the way, Ty Tashiro discusses studies that have been done on what makes an enduring relationship. These give you some ideas on what you should look for. He points out that you’re not going to get everything you want, since no one is perfect, and gives you ideas for which “three wishes” you should prioritize.

I think this paragraph from later in the book sums up things nicely:

The fact remains that when it comes to choosing a romantic partner, what you see is what you get. Forever. Although this second type of change is possible, why would you go into a marriage relying only upon a partner’s willingness to manage their negative traits, rather than choose someone from the start who gives your relationship the best chance of success? Partners who give your relationship the best chance of success also tend to be the kind of people who are most likely to manage whatever weaknesses they have with maturity. So, once again, finding happily ever after begins with choosing someone with the right traits.

I do love it that this book came in right when I’d started dating someone. And I’m proud that, for the first time in my life, I broke up with someone – and stayed friends with him. Whatever my future holds, I feel like this book is helping me evaluate relationships from a more rational place, thus increasing my odds of one day living happily ever after.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Runaway Husbands, by Vikki Stark

Runaway Husbands

The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal

by Vikki Stark

Green Light Press, 2010. 192 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Nonfiction

It’s been eight years now since my husband left me, and I’ve been divorced for three years. When I heard about this book, I had to read it. I was happy to be reading it from a place of healing. But still, the words were so validating. So good to know I’m not alone in this experience. Even better, I was able to recommend the book to a friend in the thick of it, and she said she was sure God prompted me to recommend it to her at exactly that time. I don’t doubt it for a second.

When I was in the middle of my husband leaving, the book that helped me tremendously was The Script: The 100% Absolutely Predictable Things Men Do When They Cheat. That book looks at what goes through the man’s mind as he’s getting ready to leave and leaving. Runaway Husbands is even more therapeutic, because it tells you what you will go through when you are left.

Now, I’m reading it from the perspective of several years out, but I so recognize the stages.

The author’s husband left her when she came back from a book tour, a tour during which he’d consistently expressed his love to her. Here’s how she describes why she wrote this book:

I was measuring what I’d observed with clients against what I was experiencing in my own life, and I just didn’t get it. Most people assume that it’s impossible for a person to have an affair without the partner having some knowledge — that the injured spouse is always either complicit or purposefully blind. However, that was not my case. Under even the closest scrutiny, I was unable to discern any trace that could have tipped me off that things were not hunky-dory in the marriage. On the contrary, few wives could boast of a more devoted mate, and, oddly enough, until the revelation of his infidelity and subsequent heartless flight from the marriage, he was the ideal husband!

I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how a man who genuinely appeared so committed to our marriage could morph overnight into an angry stranger. In the midst of my suffering, I knew that there’d be no rest for me until I could figure it out. So as days stretched into weeks, I started researching wife abandonment. Through reading and speaking with other women, a remarkable picture slowly started to take shape; my husband’s bizarre behavior seemed to fit into a pattern exhibited by other men who suddenly bolted from apparently happy marriages and then turned against their wives. The similarities were uncanny! I defined this pattern and named it Wife Abandonment Syndrome.

She names eight ways that Wife Abandonment Syndrome is different from a typical divorce: Shock value, a sense of powerlessness, lack of closure, deception, reality is shaken, a redefined past, greater effect on children, and greater effect on friends. There’s a reason this shakes your world so drastically! This book helped me feel better about how long it’s taken me to recover.

I like her eight Transformational Stages of recovery, because I recognize them all. It would have been nice to have this when I was going through them! She aptly names them after weather patterns: Tsunami, Tornado, Thunderstorm, Ice Storm, Fog, Sun Shower, Early Spring, and Warm Summer Day.

And here are her Seven Steps for Moving Forward, which she elaborates on more fully in the main part of the book:

1. Recognize that the chaos won’t last forever (needed to resolve the Tsunami Stage).

2. Accept that the marriage is really over (needed to resolve the Tornado Stage).

3. Integrate the fact that your husband has changed irrevocably and is beyond caring for your welfare (needed to resolve the Thunderstorm Stage).

4. Understand why he needs to justify his actions any way possible — including rewriting history, lying or attacking you (needed to resolve the Ice Storm Stage).

5. Give up trying to get the acknowledgment and apology that you deserve (needed to resolve the Fog Stage).

6. Turn your focus from the past to the future (a step in both the Sun Shower and Early Spring Stages).

7. Celebrate your new life as a single person (Warm Summer Day Stage).

Besides guiding you through these steps, this book offers plenty of helpful advice and encouragement for coping. Best of all, perhaps, is knowing you are not alone.

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Review of Living and Loving After Betrayal, by Steven Stosny

Living and Loving After Betrayal

How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity, and Chronic Resentment

by Steven Stosny, PhD

New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA, 2013. 235 pages.
Starred Review

Steven Stosny’s books helped me tremendously after my husband left me, particularly You Don’t Have to Take It Any More, which was retitled Love Without Hurt. I also went to his Compassion Power Boot Camp after I moved to Virginia, and it helped tremendously in my healing.

However, those materials were designed to help someone when in the middle of an abusive relationship. Now that my divorce is final, I have no more contact with my ex-husband.

So I was delighted when I heard about Steven Stosny’s latest book, Living and Loving After Betrayal. It uses his powerful approach of self-compassion to help you heal after betrayal and be ready to love again — whether getting back together with your spouse or someone else.

Now, I’ve come a long way since my husband left me. But these are wonderful reminders of how to stay healthy. Just this morning, I woke up from a dream about my ex-husband that made me feel rejected all over again. I turned to Steven Stosny’s methods, reminding myself of my core value, and didn’t get sunk in feeling bad all day.

What’s more, if I ever dare to get in a new relationship, I am glad to have this wise advice about avoiding a potential betrayer, and learning to trust again. And reading this also makes me less afraid to start a new relationship.

As with his other books, the crux of Steven Stosny’s healing techniques is self-compassion, and focusing on your own core value.

He doesn’t focus on what happened, but more on how to heal. However, he does understand that betrayal is hard to overcome.

Whether it crashes upon you in revelation or seeps into consciousness via delayed realization, intimate betrayal snatches the floor of personal security from under you. Most of my clients describe the initial aftermath of revelation and realization as a kind of free fall, with no bottom in sight. Shock and disbelief are punctuated by waves of cruel self-doubt:

Was I attractive enough, smart enough, successful enough, interesting enough, present, attentive, caring, patient, or sacrificing enough?

He shows you how to use your emotional pain to help yourself to heal, improve, repair and grow.

Self-compassion is a sympathetic response to your hurt, distress, or vulnerability, with a motivation to heal, repair, and improve. It brings a sense of empowerment — a feeling that you can do something to make your life better, even if you are not sure what that might be at the moment. It tends to keep you focused on solutions in the present and future.

Self-criticism is blaming yourself for your hurt, distress, or vulnerability, usually with a measure of punishment or contempt. It’s based on the mistaken idea that if you punish yourself enough you won’t make similar mistakes in the future, when just the opposite is true — self-punishment leads to more mistakes. (Who is more likely to make more mistakes, the valued self or the devalued self?) Self-pity is focus on your pain or damage with no motivation to heal, repair, or improve. It has an element of contempt for your perceived incompetence or inadequacy because it assumes that you can’t do anything to make your life better. Needless to say, self-criticism and self-pity turn pain into suffering.

One of the problems after betrayal involves post-traumatic stress and obsessive thoughts. This book shows you how to recondition your brain with restorative images whenever painful thoughts surface. I was able to use those techniques this morning after waking up from a dream about my ex-husband. They work!

Steven Stosny explains that the key to healing and growth is your core value.

Core value grows out of the uniquely human drive to create value — to make people, things, and ideas important enough to appreciate, nurture, and protect. Consistently acting on the drive to create value provides a sense of meaning and purpose in life. This chapter and the next will help develop your core value as a general means of healing and growth. Although a highly developed core value won’t make you forget your betrayal, it will definitely make all that you have suffered less important in your life as a whole. The past can no longer control us, once it is overshadowed by the deeply human drive to create value and give our lives meaning.

He finishes the book with tips about getting into a relationship again, whether with your betrayer or someone new. Here’s hoping I will have a reason to look at those tips again! Reading this book made that idea seem much less impossible. Here’s to healing!

Steven Stosny’s blog, Anger in the Age of Entitlement

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of “I Love You But I Don’t Trust You,” by Mira Kirshenbaum

“I Love You But I Don’t Trust You”

The Complete Guide to Restoring Trust in Your Relationship

by Mira Kirshenbaum

Berkley Books, New York, 2012. 294 pages.

I hesitated before reviewing this book. After all, I am not in a relationship any more. But I’ve posted reviews of so many books to help when a marriage falls apart, I wanted to mention this one, that looks like it would be great help at putting a marriage back together. And if I ever get in a relationship again, I want to remember that it exists!

I began writing Sonderbooks in 2001. At the time, I described myself as very happily married. And I honestly thought I was. Now I’m divorced and I’ve come to the place where I’m enjoying my life now. But I don’t want to cut myself off from people because I don’t want to get hurt again. However, a major betrayal leaves scars, and this book shows how to work with them.

There are other books out there that take you through a breach in trust. For example, NOT “Just Friends” takes you through the trauma of an affair. One thing I like about “I Love You But I Don’t Trust You” is that the focus is on rebuilding trust. This book gives you hope that trusting again is possible.

Here are some sections from the author’s words in the first chapter:

Can love survive betrayal? I believe it can. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. Hell, if betrayal necessarily kills love, then love is too fragile to exist in the real world. Because the world is made up of imperfect people who make mistakes. Imperfect people — people we love — will too often hurt us and disappoint us and betray us, which will set up a chain reaction that too often destroys a relationship.

Well, if we can’t stop ourselves from hurting the people we love and being hurt by them, then we have only one choice: We have to find a way to repair the damage that’s done when there’s been a betrayal.

We need to restore the trust because I firmly believe that while you can’t have people without betrayals, if only little ones, you can’t have love without trust.

Having trust makes love come alive. Trust isn’t just the basis for a relationship; it’s the lifeblood that keeps a relationship healthy.

The biggest difference trust makes in any relationship — and not just an intimate one — is that you can relax, be open, be yourself. Just think about it: If you can’t be yourself because you’re not feeling safe, then even if the other person “loves you,” he’s really just loving a stranger, the person you’re projecting who’s not really you. And so how can you feel loved if it’s not the real you who’s being loved? And how can you keep on giving love if you’re not feeling loved?

But when you trust each other so that you can be yourself and be open, the roots of love grow very strong. They grow into your very being.

This book will help you evaluate whether to stick with the relationship where you were hurt, it will help you calm your natural crazy-person reactions to betrayal, and it will help you learn to trust again, whether the new trust is with the original person or someone else.

One thing I like about nonfiction books is that without guilt I can quote the end of the book:

The good news is that we can learn from experience.

For some of us, that learning is all about how we can be hurt. And that’s too bad. But we can also learn that these hurts can heal. We can learn that there are people out there who are far less likely to hurt us. We can learn about how resilient we are. We can learn that trust makes sense. We can learn how to create the solidly based trust we’re so hungry for.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of The Journal of Best Practices, by David Finch

The Journal of Best Practices

A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband

by David Finch

Scribner, New York, 2012. 224 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

This book is sweet. As an adult, David Finch was diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. It actually opened his eyes to why his marriage was falling apart. He began working on learning how to be a good husband, and kept a Journal of Best Practices.

He writes with plenty of humor. Some of the practices, wives might assume a husband would know without being told. I’m thinking of things like “Laundry: Better to fold and put away than to take only what you need from the dryer.” David Finch used his diagnosis to tackle things like that without blame and simply strive to be nicer for his wife to live with.

Here’s where he explains how the diagnosis helped:

Once I learned that I have Asperger syndrome, the fact that we’d had these serious marital problems seemed less surprising. Asperger syndrome can manifest itself in behaviors that are inherently relationship defeating. It’s tricky being married to me, though neither Kristen nor I could have predicted that. To the casual neurotypical observer (neurotypical refers to people with typically functioning brains, i.e., people without autism), I may seem relatively normal. Cognitive resources and language skills often develop normally in people with Asperger syndrome, which means that in many situations I could probably pass myself off as neurotypical, were it not for four distinguishing characteristics of my disorder: persistent, intense preoccupations; unusual rituals and behaviors; impaired social-reasoning abilities; and clinical-strength egocentricity. All of which I have to an almost comically high degree. But I also have the ability to mask these effects under the right circumstances, like when I want someone to hire me or fall in love with me.

Looking back, I suppose a diagnosis was inevitable. A casual girlfriend might have dismissed my compulsion to arrange balls of shredded napkin into symmetrical shapes as being idiosyncratic or even artistic. But Kristen had been living with me — observing me for years in my natural habitat — and had become increasingly skilled in assessing autism spectrum conditions in her job as a speech therapist….

Most people intuitively know how to function and interact with people — they don’t need to learn it by rote. I do. I was certain that with enough discipline and hard work I could learn to improve my behaviors and become more adaptable. While my brain is not wired for social intuition, I was factory-programmed to observe, analyze, and mimic the world around me. I had managed to go through school, get a good job, make friends, and marry — years of observation, processing, and trial and error had gotten me this far. And my obsessive tendencies mean that when I want to accomplish something I attack it with zeal. With my marriage in dire straits, I decided that even if I needed to make flash cards about certain behaviors and staple them to my face to make them become second nature, I was willing to do it.

Kristen didn’t know it, but that was what her life was about to become — her husband, with the best of intentions, stapling flash cards to his face. Okay, not to his face. And there were no staples involved. But flash cards? Definitely. Many people leave reminder notes for themselves: Pick up milk and shampoo, or Dinner with the Hargroves at 6:00. My notes read: Respect the needs of others, and Do not laugh during visitation tonight, and Do not EVER suggest that Kristen doesn’t seem to enjoy spending time with our kids.

I found two things particularly endearing about this book:

1) That he was willing to make so many changes to make life easier for his wife.
2) That his wife loved him despite the hugely egocentric life he was living before the diagnosis and that she never asked him to be perfect. (Some of his descriptions of what he was doing before are pretty outrageous. But she clearly loves him.)

This is a lovely and humorous story about two imperfect people, one exceedingly quirky, learning to live together with love and grace.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller


The New Science of Adult Attachment
and How It Can Help You Find — And Keep — Love

by Amir Levine, M. D., and Rachel S. F. Heller, M. A.

Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2010. 294 pages.
Starred Review

Perhaps it’s silly for me, recently divorced, to read books on relationships. But I think it’s important to figure out what went wrong and how I could do better next time, if there is a next time. There’s much here that’s applicable to any relationship, not just a romantic one, and it also gives me insight into myself and what makes me anxious. What’s more, I would love to be more secure in relationships, and this book has much to teach me about that, too.

If I ever decide to seriously date again, I am definitely going to buy myself a copy of this book. I think this is one of the best guides I’ve ever read to choosing a partner with whom you can more easily build a harmonious relationship. By the same token, if my ex-husband were ever to want to reconcile, I’d buy myself a copy of this book, in order to avoid some of the mistakes of the past, which I can see clearly written here. Meanwhile, while neither of those conditions is true, I definitely have enjoyed reading the insights this book provides.

The first paragraph of the Author’s Note at the beginning sums up what the authors are doing here:

In this book we have distilled years of adult romantic attachment research into a practical guide for the reader who wishes to find a good relationship or improve his or her existing one. Attachment theory is a vast and complex field of research that pertains to child development and parenting as well as to romantic relationships. In this book we limit ourselves to romantic attachment and romantic relationships.

Some more background from the first chapter:

Adult attachment designates three main “attachment styles,” or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.

Armed with our new insights about the implications of attachment styles in everyday life, we started to perceive people’s actions very differently. Behaviors that we used to attribute to someone’s personality traits, or that we had previously labeled as exaggerated, could now be understood with clarity and precision through the lens of attachment. . . .

What we really liked about attachment theory was that it was formulated on the basis of the population at large. Unlike many other psychological frameworks that were created based on couples who come to therapy, this one drew its lessons from everyone — those who have happy relationships and those who don’t, those who never get treatment and those who actively seek it. It allowed us to learn not only what goes “wrong” in relationships but also what goes “right,” and it allowed us to find and highlight a whole group of people who are barely mentioned in most relationship books. What’s more, the theory does not label behaviors as healthy or unhealthy. None of the attachment styles is in itself seen as “pathological.” On the contrary, romantic behaviors that had previously been seen as odd or misguided now seemed understandable, predictable, even expected. You stay with someone although he’s not sure he loves you? Understandable. You say you want to leave and a few minutes later change your mind and decide that you desperately want to stay? Understandable too.

But are such behaviors effective or worthwhile? That’s a different story. People with a secure attachment style know how to communicate their own expectations and respond to their partner’s needs effectively without having to resort to protest behavior. For the rest of us, understanding is only the beginning.

They talk about their quest to translate attachment theory into a practical guide that can help people’s lives.

We discovered that unlike other relationship interventions that focus mostly either on singles or existing couples, adult attachment is an overarching theory of romantic affiliation that allows for the development of useful applications for people in all stages of their romantic life. There are specific applications for people who are dating, those in early stages of relationships, and those who are in long-term ones, for people going through a breakup or those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The common thread is that adult attachment can be put to powerful use in all of these situations and can help guide people throughout their lives to better relationships. . . .

This book is the product of our translation of attachment research into action. We hope that you, like our many friends, colleagues, and patients, will use it to make better decisions in your personal life. In the following chapters, you’ll learn more about each of the three adult attachment styles and about the ways in which they determine your behavior and attitudes in romantic situations. Past failures will be seen in a new light, and your motives — as well as the motives of others — will become clearer. You’ll learn what your needs are and who you should be with in order to be happy in a relationship. If you are already in a relationship with a partner who has an attachment style that conflicts with your own, you’ll gain insight into why you both think and act as you do and learn strategies to improve your satisfaction level. In either case, you’ll start to experience change — change for the better, of course.

Highly recommended for anyone who is in a romantic relationship or wants to be in one.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of ScreamFree Marriage, by Hal Edward Runkel

ScreamFree Marriage

Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer

by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT
with Jenny Runkel

Crown Archetype, New York, 2011. 276 pages.
Starred Review

Why, you may ask, would someone who’s recently completed a painful divorce want to read a book on improving your marriage?

Well, I asked myself that a few times as I was in the middle of this book, and I did read it slowly, only a chapter at a time, because in many ways the good advice made me wistful.

If I ever remarry, I will purchase a copy of this book. As it is, for my own growth, I think it’s good to look back and figure out the ways my own immature responses hurt our marriage. It can only help me grow.

And that’s what this book is about: Behaving like a grown-up, an emotionally mature person in your marriage.

I read the book because I was extremely impressed with the author’s earlier book, ScreamFree Parenting. So even though I’m not married any more, I very much wanted to read what he had to say about marriage. His mantra is in the subtitle: “Calm Down, Grow Up, Get Closer.” As the author talks about different scenarios in marriage, you can see what good advice that is.

When Hal Runkel talks about calming down and keeping your cool, he’s not referring to hiding your emotions from your partner. Indeed, that’s one of the ways he describes that some people scream.

“In ScreamFree Marriage, ‘keeping your cool’ does not refer to simple anger-management techniques or artificial rules of engagement (fighting fair). No, becoming ScreamFree in your marriage refers to something far more optimistic. Here, keeping your cool means discovering and holding on to your truest self — and having the courage to openly pursue your truest desires — even in the midst of your greatest conflicts. It means willingly and calmly facing the natural fires of marital commitment, and actually growing up — and getting closer — through them.

“Entering into such conflicts with integrity is not an easy task; it’s not supposed to be. Developing a marriage built on passion, commitment, and deep connection means committing yourself to a new way of relating. It means keeping your cool as you face conflicts with your spouse that may have previously set you off in some form of ‘screaming.’ Being Scream Free means holding on to your deepest desires for connection and boldy making yourself vulnerable . . . without knowing how your spouse will respond. It means viewing old marital patterns through new lenses, no longer seeing those patterns as indications of irreconcilable differences, but rather as opportunities to grow your personal integrity and transform your relationship. It’s not a journey for timid spirits, but the rewards are certainly worth the struggle.”

Now, I used to absolutely hate it when my husband said I was “screaming” at him when I knew full well that I was not. (I can give an example of screaming!) However, the author has this to say:

“Now, I hear what some of you are thinking. ‘But I don’t ever scream at my spouse.’ And that’s what I used to think as well. But what I mean by ‘screaming’ is not just yelling with a raised voice. Screaming is the term I use to describe the greatest enemy we all face in our marriage: emotional reactivity. That’s a big, clinical expression to describe the process of letting our anxious emotions override our clear thinking. Getting emotionally reactive means allowing our worst fears or worries to drive our choices, instead of our highest principles. And whenever we allow ourselves to be driven by our anxiety, we usually create the very outcome we were hoping to avoid in the first place.”

Again, the author is not talking about stuffing feelings. He’s talking about getting to a calm place where you can share your true feelings with your partner and be open to hearing your partner’s true feelings. And the “Grow Up” part of his mantra is about coming from a place of maturity, not from emotional reactivity. I liked this passage, because it rings true:

“The greatest thing you can do for your marriage is to learn to focus more on yourself, yes, I believe you actually need to become more self-centered. Now, before you call this crazy talk, hear me out. Every great marriage is a self-centered marriage because every great marriage requires two centered selves. Every great marriage is a bond between two whole, centered people. These two strong individuals actively work on improving themselves for the other’s benefit, without necessarily depending on the other to do the same. These two are afraid of neither separation nor togetherness, and work to seek a balance of both. These two pay more attention to their own behavior, which they can control, than their spouse’s which, thankfully, they cannot.”

The author goes on to show you the beauty of his formula: “Calm Down, Grow Up, Get Closer.” I’ll just summarize the two sub-steps of each step. For “Calm Down,” you Pause Yourself (self-explanatory) and Go to the Balcony, mentally take yourself out of and above the moment, gain some perspective.

In the “Grow Up” step, you first Spot Your Pattern. Figure out what part of the pattern you are contributing to. What actions that you are taking are contributing? Once you’ve figured that out, “Step on the Scales.” Analyze your own behavior and ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. (And Hal Runkel has a nice example in his own marriage to illustrate these steps.) Ask yourself why this particular pattern means so much to you. But also ask yourself, “What, in this situation, do I want most to see happen?”

The third step of ScreamFree Marriage is “Get Closer.” This begins with part one: “Show Your Cards.”

“And the first step in getting closer is, naturally, quite revealing. It is quite risky. It is the move we so often avoid in all our relationships, especially our marriages, because it necessitates so much openness and vulnerability. And yet, do it we must if we are going to have a chance at getting what we want most. What are we talking about? We’re talking about doing or saying that one thing you’ve been so reluctant to do or say for fear of rejection, abuse, looking stupid, feeling weak, or simply not getting the response you’d hoped for. We’re talking about laying down your hand and showing your cards.

“Now, for those of you totally unfamiliar with poker, this metaphor may not mean anything. My guess is that most of us, however, can understand the meaning here quite clearly. Showing your cards is about mustering the courage to recognize that it’s your turn to reveal what you’ve got. In the game of poker, this is always the tensest moment, because it’s the boldest effort to win — and thus carries with it the opportunity to lose. Showing your cards in marriage is daring to risk revealing who you are, what you’re thinking and feeling, and what you want most. This is the clearest, starkest move of Authentic Self-Representation.”

Then, after you Show Your Cards, the final part is to “Champion Your Spouse.” This does not mean telling your spouse he’d better do what you want.

“While getting closer is all about focusing on yourself and representing that self to your spouse, it is also about welcoming, and encouraging your spouse to do the same.

“Now I know that sounds a little contrary to what I was saying earlier about not doing this in order to provoke a particular response from your spouse. That’s not what this is. Championing your spouse is working hard to communicate — not so much with words or actions but by your very calm presence — that you welcome, and even invite, any response at all. Even if that response is reactive screaming (non-abusive, of course). Even if that response is silence. Even if that response is confusion, frustration, or choosing to voice a concern right back at you. By championing your spouse, you are again communicating what you want most — that voluntary connection that makes both partners feel prized, valued, and stronger as individuals. In reality, you cannot have that connection without your spouse choosing to reveal himself, in some way, back to you. . . .

“What you do want your spouse to do is show you what he’s got. You don’t want him to ‘play it close to the vest,’ hiding himself and his true feelings and desires from you. You want him to reveal and represent himself because just as you want to make yourself known, you want to know him. That’s why you got married! To share yourself with someone who wants to share himself with you. It’s ironic that we can’t wait to get to know each other better, until we get a few years under our belt. Then our fears, and memories of disappointment, make us a little gun-shy. We either shy away from conflict or reactively reveal ourselves in aggressive, attacking ways that force our partner to shy away from us.”

So you get the idea. The author talks about how to use these steps in many common areas of marital conflict, and then talks a bit more about developing true intimacy through self-revelation. I wish I could have tried it out in my own marriage!

Before I close my review, I want to cover a section that impressed me toward the end of the book. The author does, very realistically, encourage you to focus on yourself and your own growth — but I liked this section about personal growth and encouraging your spouse to grow:

“I certainly understand the dynamic of one spouse trying to change the other, and the other trying to resist those efforts. In many ways, that dynamic is the exact pattern I’m calling people away from. I’m asking folks to stop focusing on their spouse and return their gaze to themselves. But that applies to both the spouse doing the attempted manipulation as well as the spouse trying to resist being changed. Stop focusing so much on what your spouse is trying to do to you, and start focusing on something much more fruitful: changing yourself.

“What’s fascinating about the Popeye defense” [“I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam.” Your spouse should just accept you for who you are.] “is that when it’s used, it comes across as some healthy self-acceptance that everyone needs to adopt. ‘I can accept me for me — why can’t she?’ On the surface, in our pop-psychology-riddled society, this may have the appearance of wisdom. But dig deeper, and this attitude is not only unwise, it’s actually harmful to both you and your marriage. . . .

“Just think about that for a moment. You want your spouse to just accept you for who you are? Really? Even if you’re lazy? Even if you totally let your body go and become weak, fat, and unhealthy? Even if you drink too much or watch too much TV or read too many romance novels? Even if you neglect your kids, spend without discretion, complain about your spouse to your friends instead of addressing the issue directly? Your spouse is just supposed to sit back and accept all these behaviors as the honest, unchanging you he/she is stuck with forever?

“If your answer is no, then Calm Down, Grow Up, and Get Closer by actually seeking out your spouse’s feedback. Go to him and ask what you could be doing better. Ask her directly how she thinks you’re doing, and what she wishes you would do more or and less of. Why? Because if you’re going to be the best spouse possible, then you need continual feedback on how you’re doing and how you can improve.

“Now, if your answer is yes, that you believe your spouse should just accept you fully, warts and all, then I want you to listen carefully. Your problem is not your spouse’s efforts to change you. Your problem is that you don’t respect yourself — at all. You don’t even like yourself. Anyone who respects herself is going to actively work to improve herself, rarely sitting back and remaining satisfied. Anyone who even likes himself is going to nurture his God-given desire to grow in wisdom, and build on his skills and abilities. Instead, you’re just wallowing in atrophy, using your emotional muscles only to defend yourself against your spouse’s efforts to change you. And you’re wondering why even the good things in life just don’t seem to be as pleasurable as they once were. That’s because you’ve ‘accepted’ yourself and demanded that your spouse do the same.

“But I know you. I know that you don’t want your spouse to just accept you. You want her to respect you. You want her to respect that you are not a child, incapable of doing anything for himself and in need of a mommy to tell him how to behave. You want him to see you as an adult, one who knows herself and knows what she needs to do. Well, there’s one way to gain that respect.

“Let love rule. Call yourself to your own standard. The standard you’ve already set for yourself by saying ‘I love you’ and ‘I do.’ You wish for and work for your spouse to have the best possible life, including the best possible spouse, and you believe you’re the one for the job. That’s what it means to love your spouse, and yourself.”

See what I mean? There’s good stuff here! May it help many, many couples Calm Down, Grow Up, and Get Closer.

I’m going to close with a quotation Hal Runkel included that made me laugh:

“My friends tell me I have an intimacy problem. But they don’t really know me.” — Garry Shandling

After all, if your spouse doesn’t understand you, could there perhaps be something you can do about that?

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is…

This Is Not the Story You Think It Is…

A Season of Unlikely Happiness

by Laura Munson

Amy Einhorn Books (Penguin), New York, 2010. 343 pages.
Starred Review
2010 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 True Stories

I read this book months ago, but put off reviewing it because it was not a library book (and therefore wasn’t due back) and I hardly knew where to begin. However, now I’m trying to catch up and get reviews for all of my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs posted — and this was easily the nonfiction book that most stood out in my mind this year.

A year or two before, I’d read an e-mail that had been circulating with an essay by Laura Munson, and I’d been touched and impressed. It told how her husband had informed her that he didn’t love her any more, and wanted out. But she didn’t buy it. And she chose not to suffer. They went through a summer where he sometimes came around and sometimes didn’t. And in the end, he came back to her and realized how much she and the family meant to him.

When I discovered she had expanded the story into a book, I ordered it from Amazon as soon as possible. I was not disappointed. All the wisdom of the original essay was there, with much more background. The book is powerful. I’m strongly recommending it to anyone whose husband is going through anything remotely like a midlife crisis. Or anyone who has heard those awful words, “I don’t think I ever really loved you.”

Laura Munson wrote this book as a journal during her crisis. It comforts me that she let out some of her frustration to the journal! However, I can see that she’s also talking herself into being rational. She has chosen not to suffer, and she’s helping herself stick with that choice by writing out her reasoning. Here’s a section from the first chapter:

“At this moment in my life, I am not sure where my husband is. He left last night to bring the trash to the dump after announcing that he’s not sure he loves me anymore, and hasn’t come home. He isn’t answering his cell phone. He isn’t responding to texts.

“But I don’t buy it. The part about him not loving me. As much as it’s devastating to hear, I believe there’s more to the story. I believe he’s in a state of personal crisis. I believe this is about him.

“I’m going to give you a challenge here. I’m going to give both you and me a challenge here. Let’s try in all this not to take sides. Because how does it feel to take sides? Do we get to be right? Self-righteous? I think there’s more suffering in self-righteousness than most of us are willing to fathom.

“I see it like this: we all have our seasons of personal woe. I’ve certainly had mine. I know how much he hates his job, how much he punishes himself for not making enough money and not knowing where to go next with his career; how stuck and desperate he feels, especially in our small mountain town where the high-paying jobs are NOT plentiful. I know that he’s suffering intensely. I know because I’ve been there. I feel his pain and I’ve told him so.

“But he’s not hearing my voice. His own is too thunderous. He has to come to the end of it by himself…. And I know it’s more helpful to practice empathy here. Not anger. Or fear. Even though his words were like sharp sleet.

“It’s like when teenagers scream ‘I hate you’ and slam the door in their parents’ face. Does that ‘I hate you’ have credibility? Or does the parent know instinctually that something upsetting happened at school? That it’s not about the parent at all? I’m not saying that my husband is acting like a teenager. (Or, God forbid, that I’m his parent!) I’m just saying that I think there’s more to the story.”

She writes on about all her personal struggles with this. It’s not coming easy for her, and if she pretended it had, this book would have lost its power. I like this part, later in that first chapter:

“Now, I know, dear reader, there’s a strong possibility that you’ve got your hackles up. You want to tell me I’m being a fool to put up with this unacceptable behavior. You want me to fight….

“But I’m opting for a different strategy, and I’m going to believe it will work in a way that fighting, persuading, and demanding never have. Because whether or not he comes back to me, I will be ultimately empowered by my commitment not to suffer. It’s a way of life. A way to life. And it’s about many and no religions. Plug it in wherever it meets your life. We all want to be free, don’t we?

“And yes — this strategy is new to me, too. I’m sure it’ll be shaky at times. But I’m going for it. And I’m going to write my way through it. Both for my process. And for yours. For anyone in any situation in which one is tempted to go into panic mode, or worse, victim mode, rather than taking responsibility for one’s own well-being.”

She goes on and takes us through the next several months, as well as giving us the background of their marriage and life, and her own recent crises. She has some setbacks. But mostly she handles some awful situations with incredible grace. I love the scene where they have a “talk.” Because she responds brilliantly. She keeps asking the question (which she has practiced with her therapist), “What can we do to give you the distance you need without damaging our family?”

When he answers that he can get his own place in town, she asks him, “What would that look like?” And she talks to him. By asking questions, she gets him to realize that he hasn’t thought this through. Her conversation is brilliant and wise — and I love how she puts in italics what she would have really liked to say! He insults her and accuses her, but they work out that he will look into a studio apartment over the garage and still stay with the family.

As I was reading this book, I started feeling sad that I hadn’t come across it when my husband’s crisis started. That I did not react so beautifully and calmly. But you know what? I was comforted somewhat when, despite her wise and loving reactions, her husband did awful things and blamed her.

She said something perfectly reasonable: “Our son looked out the window this morning and said, ‘Oh look. Dad’s truck is in the driveway.’ And I didn’t like that to be a surprise — for him or for me.” His response is not even close to reasonable. He swears at her, slams the door, and sleeps in another room. She says:

“Here’s what inspires me to fall to sleep finally: he heard those words. He reacted like a child. He knows it. I didn’t say or do anything wrong. He got triggered by the truth. He doesn’t want to be who he’s being. His anger is real and it’s scary, but it’s anger toward himself. It’s not my fault.

“And here’s what I am convinced of. In fact, I think it’s the key to a relationship. Any relationship.

“If you get out of someone’s way, they will fight and they will kick, but eventually, there’s nothing they can do but look at themselves and get real. Very, very real. Or totally self-combust in a life of lies. Or that dear opiate, denial.”

What encouraged me about this was that even when she was reacting so well, her husband acted just like other men in midlife crisis. A light dawned in my brain. It really is all about him.

Mind you, I am sure that Laura Munson saved herself excruciating hours upon hours of suffering. But I don’t think that it was necessarily her good reactions that saved her marriage. If her husband had another woman who was egging him on, who knows what might have happened. Here’s another insight about the treatment she was given:

“All abuse is just bait. To get you to the be one who freaks out. So the other person doesn’t have to deal. Doesn’t have to take responsibility. Oh look — she’s the one with the black eye. She’s the one crying in the corner. She’s the one leaving. What a bitch.

Later on, in another incident where her husband yells at her, she says what she would like to say, and then reflects:

“But I stay silent and practice not taking the bait — not being resentful. Letting it wash over me. Because when I stay here I am powerful. Very, very powerful. Take note of this. Let him have the middle-aged tantrum. Just be sure to duck!”

It’s about him. It’s about him. This was so much easier to see in someone else’s story than in my own! And it helped to see that just because your husband yells at you does not necessarily mean that you deserve it. It also helped to see that even when treated badly, a wife can remember that this is a man she loves.

And they get through it. By the end of the summer, her husband was back in their home, spontaneously telling her that he loved her. I’m not sure if Laura Munson realizes that a midlife crisis only three months long is a minor miracle all by itself, and that it could have gone much, much worse. But I am sure that even if the situation had lasted years instead of months, she would have handled it with grace, and she would have continued to choose not to suffer.

In the beginning, Laura Munson tells about her Author’s Statement taped above her desk.

“It says: ‘I write to shine a light on an otherwise dim or even pitch-black corner, to provide relief for myself and others.’

“That’s what this book is all about. Maybe it will help people. Maybe even save marriages, and jobs, and children’s hearts from breaking. I wish I had this book on my bedside table right now. If only just to know that I am not alone.

“If my husband and I come out the other side, together, in love, still married, and unsuffering, then this summer will have been worth it. This book will be worth it.

“And even if we don’t, then I know I will be a better person for living this way.

“So stay with me. Like a gentle friend. Maybe we will both learn something that will change our lives. I’m willing to try. On our behalf.”

Take it from me: Laura Munson succeeds beautifully in her goals. She inspires you to keep going, whatever the outcome of your husband’s crisis. She reminds you that suffering simply isn’t worth it. You can love him, but you don’t have to take the bait.

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Review of Emotional Vampires, by Albert J. Bernstein

Emotional Vampires

Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry

by Albert J. Bernstein, PhD

McGraw-Hill, New York, 2001. 242 pages.

If you have enough difficult people in your life that you want to read a book to boost your ability to deal with them — well, you might as well have some fun with it!

This light-hearted look at difficult people actually has some very helpful tips. And it does make you laugh when the comparison with vampires seems especially apt.

The author explains that most emotional vampires you will encounter do not have full-fledged personality disorders, but the ways they think and act do seem to fall into patterns of five types: Antisocial Vampires, Histrionic Vampires, Narcissistic Vampires, Obsessive-Compulsive Vampires, and Paranoid Vampires.

He also explains that most difficult people are a blend of two or more types, so feel free to use whichever technique works best for dealing with them. I also liked this paragraph:

“If you see yourself among the vampires, take heart; it is a very good sign. We all have some tendencies in the direction of personality disorders. If you recognize your own, they are apt to be less of a problem than if you have no insight.”

Here are some attitudes that apply to all emotional vampires:

“My Needs Are More Important Than Yours.”
“The Rules Apply to Other People, Not Me.”
“It’s Not My Fault, Ever.”
“I Want It Now.”
“If I Don’t Get My Way, I Throw a Tantrum.”

Then he gives some general qualities of emotional vampires:

Night-stalking vampires will drain your blood. Emotional Vampires will use you to meet whatever needs they happen to be experiencing at the moment. They have no qualms about taking your effort, your money, your love, your attention, your admiration, your body, or your soul to meet their insatiable cravings. They want what they want, and they don’t much care how you feel about it.”

Storybook vampires can change themselves into bats, wolves, or a cold, formless mist that seeps through unguarded windows. Emotional Vampires can turn themselves into whatever you want to see, but only long enough to lure you in. To say that they are consummate actors doesn’t do them justice. Often, they play their roles so well that they fool themselves into believing they are who they pretend to be.”

If you want to know if someone is a vampire, hold up a mirror and see if there’s a reflection. If you want to know if someone is an Emotional Vampire, hold up a self-help book that describes his personality perfectly and see if there’s a spark of recognition. With both kinds of vampires there will be nothing there. Night-stalking vampires have no reflections; Emotional Vampires have no insight.”

Both kinds of vampires thrive on darkness. Blood-hungry vampires stalk the night. Emotional Vampires lurk in the darker side of human nature. They take power from secrets. Your dealings with them will usually involve a few little details that you’d rather not share, because other people wouldn’t understand.”

Throughout the ages, vampirism has been contagious. A few bites and vampires can have you acting just as immaturely as they do.”

The book goes on to help you recognize different types of vampires and understand how best to respond. Some of the advice seems particularly brilliant:

“The maddening thing about Passive-Aggressives is that their words are so different from their actions. If you ask them what they want, they’ll say they want to make you happy, even as they do things to make you miserable.

“On the surface, their actions make no sense, but there is an underlying logic. If you want to understand Histrionics, read their actions as if they were sad, angry adolescent poems about how the expectations of others are a prison from which they can never escape.

“If you’re involved with Passive-Aggressive Histrionics, you cannot avoid being perceived as the person who is imprisoning them. Don’t try. Instead, focus on your own behavior, and try to be a compassionate jailer.”

“Forget any attempt to make Passive-Aggressive vampires admit to what they really feel. It’ll only make your headache worse. Don’t make the mistake of demanding that they talk to you directly about problems. You might as well demand that they speak in rhyming couplets.

“There really are no battles you can win with the Passive-Aggressive. Once the situation turns into a battle, you have already lost.”

“Explicit instructions, while absolutely necessary will not work as well as you think they ought. Passive-Aggressive vampires deal with the world by misunderstanding and by being misunderstood. The thing they never misunderstand is praise. Use gobs of it.”

“Passive-Aggressive vampires will always do whatever you pay the most attention to. If you make a big deal out of forgetting, complaining, surliness, negative body language, or whatever, that’s what you’ll get. With Passive-Aggressives it is possible to waste considerable time and effort trying to get them to improve their attitude rather than getting the job done. Make sure your contingencies favor the behaviors you really want rather than the ones you find most annoying. What’s the point of rewarding people for giving you headaches?”

Of course, as helpful as this book was in getting me to understand how best to deal with certain difficult people, it also opened my eyes to why it might be difficult to live with me:

“Perfectionism is a vice that masquerades as a virtue. It can lead to excellence, but it usually doesn’t. Doing everything correctly can become the top priority, eclipsing the importance of the task or the feelings of other people. The wake of Obsessive-Compulsive vampires is an orderly row of insignificant tasks done to perfection, and significant people leaving in frustration because they don’t measure up.”

“Perfectionists, bless their neurotic little hearts, don’t have a clue about what a pain they are to everyone around them. It’s not that they don’t care what the people close to them feel; it’s just that they get so distracted by little details in the process of living that they miss the overall product….

“Perfectionists never do anything spontaneously, except perhaps to notice mistakes. To Obsessive-Compulsives, the notion of a pleasant surprise is an oxymoron.”

“If your feelings are hurt, say so. Don’t try to make your point indirectly by rebelling, withdrawing, ‘accidentally’ making mistakes, or griping to friends, family, and coworkers. Passive-aggressive behavior just makes Perfectionists feel more justified in their anger. There’s no point in throwing gas on the fire.”

“Show some appreciation. You can be sure that however hard they are on you, Perfectionists are twice as hard on themselves.”

Fortunately, he also has good tips for self-help if you recognize vampire qualities in yourself. For perfectionistic vampires, among other things, he tells us:

“Goof Off. Spend a little time every day just sitting and doing nothing. Computer solitaire was invented for this purpose. Learn some sort of relaxation technique and practice it every day, especially on the days you think you’re too busy.”

Hmmm. Sounds like a good excuse to start a computer game!

Another good tip: “Always Know Your Top Priority. Not for the moment, but for your whole life. Think about what you’d like to have carved on your tombstone and work toward that. The other details will take care of themselves.”

A funny thing happened after I wrote this review: At work the next morning, I was happily doing an excessively detail-oriented task. (Checking Y’s and N’s on an attendance sheet against what had been put in the computer.) I realized there’s a reason I related to the Perfectionistic statements. Now, there is a good side to being detail-oriented — but this book pointed out some ways that being too perfectionistic in relationships can cause conflict and barrel over people’s feelings.

I thought it was a bit ironic that they specifically mentioned how Perfectionistic vampires and Passive-Agressive vampires can particularly antagonize one another. When they are in love, their strengths can dovetail nicely. But when in conflict, they can definitely make things worse if they don’t take care.

In summary, this book has some valuable tips on interacting with difficult people and becoming less of a difficult person. As you can see, I focused on the ones that applied to my life. I’m sure the other categories are equally insightful if that’s what relates to you. All of the suggestions and insights are handled in a light-hearted, easy-to-swallow way.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.