Review of Controlling People, by Patricia Evans


Controlling People

How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You

by Patricia Evans

Adams Media Corporation, Avon, Massachusetts, 2002.  300 pages.

Starred Review.

A friend recommended Patricia Evans’ first book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, to me.  I found what I began so helpful, I checked out all of her books.  I seem to be finishing them in the opposite order in which they were written.  However, I am finding each book tremendously helpful.

Controlling People helps make sense of behavior that seems inexplicable.  I read most of this book at a time when my mind kept spinning, trying to understand how someone I loved could say some things that seemed completely outrageous.  The scenario described in this book enabled me to understand more clearly how this could be, and strengthened me to keep from the conclusion that I was somehow the crazy one to think this behavior unacceptable.

In the introduction, Patricia Evans says, “You are not alone in your desire to understand the problem of control.  Thousands of people have asked me, “Why would anyone act ‘like that’?”  They describe the way they’ve been treated, and they wonder what compels one to try to control others.  “Why don’t most people who try to control others see that they’re being oppressive?  Are they under a spell or what?” they ask.

“Many people have also asked why they can’t seem to stop attempting to control others, even when these destructive behaviors are driving their loved ones away.  They often say that something seems to “come over” them and things “go wrong.”  At times, they are so unaware of their behavior and its impact that they don’t realize that anything has gone wrong until it’s too late — a loved one has left or violence has erupted….

“This book is a quest to find answers to these questions.  It will take us on a journey of exploration through a maze of senseless behaviors woven into our world.  By the end of our journey we’ll be in a new place with a new perspective on the problem of control.  And the journey itself may very well be spell-breaking.”

She talks about how and why verbal abuse is based on pretending:

“If someone defines you, even in subtle ways, they are pretending to know the unknowable.  There is a quality of fantasy to their words and sometimes to their actions.  Even so, they are usually unaware of the fact that they are playing “let’s pretend.”  They fool themselves and sometimes others into thinking that what they are saying is true or that what they are doing is right.

“When people “make up” your reality — as if they were you — they are trying to control you, even when they don’t realize it.

“When people attempt to control you they begin by pretending.  When they define you they are acting in a senseless way.  They are pretending.  When people act as if you do not exist or are not a real person with a reality of your own … they are pretending.  In this subtle and often unconscious way, they are attempting to exert control over you — your space, time, resources, or even your life.

“We know that they are pretending because in actual fact, no one can tell you what you want, believe, should do, or why you have done what you have done.  No one can know your inner reality, your intentions, your motives, what you think, believe, feel, like, dislike, what you know, how you do what you do, or who you are.  If someone does pretend to know your inner reality:  “You’re trying to start a fight,” they have it backwards.  People can only know themselves.  It doesn’t work the other way around.

“Since you can only define yourself, your self-definition is yours.  It isn’t necessary that you prove it or explain it.  It is, after all, your own.  Self-definition is inherent in being a person.

“Despite the evidence, it is difficult for many people to realize that the person who defines them is not being rational.  They feel inclined to defend themselves as if the person defining them were rational.  But by trying to defend themselves against someone’s definitions, they are acknowledging those definitions as valid, that they make sense, when they are, in fact, complete nonsense.”

Patricia Evans goes on to explain how someone can fall into this trap of building up a Pretend Person whom they anchor in the body of their loved one.  When the real person acts differently than the way the Pretend Person is supposed to act, including not knowing or not agreeing with their own thoughts and feelings, then they naturally get very angry.

The sad thing is that these Controllers are trying to connect with someone, but end up with severe disconnection.

The author doesn’t leave it at that.  She does offer suggestions for how to become a Spellbreaker and break the spell that Controllers seem to be operating under.  Even if the Controller in your life does not change, she shows you ways to break out of the influence of the spell yourself.  At the very least, the understanding of the dynamics involved helps break the crazy-making aspects of being exposed to these irrational behaviors.

This is a valuable and helpful book.  If any of this sounds the slightest bit familiar, I highly recommend reading further.  Patricia Evans goes into great depth and great detail about this pervasive problem, even covering groups connected by hate.  Ultimately, her message is one of great hope.

“Instead of acting to keep Pretend Person “alive” by means of fear, intimidation, and dominance, former Controllers find that they can accept and give love freely.  Their strength flows from spirit full enough to nurture another, alive enough to act toward good, clear enough to understand, faithful enough to wait and see, fearless enough to reveal the truth, free enough to choose to learn, courageous enough to stand alone, connected enough to love the other.”

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Review of Forgive for Love, by Dr. Fred Luskin


Forgive for Love

The Missing Ingredient for a Healthy and Lasting Relationship

by Dr. Fred Luskin

HarperOne, 2007.  234 pages.

Starred Review.

After my husband left me, I did a lot of reading about forgiveness.  What do you do when your life falls apart?  Well, I look to books to help.

Of all the books I read about forgiveness, the one that made a breakthrough for me in helping me actually DO it (instead of just thinking about doing in) was Dr. Luskin’s earlier book, Forgive for Good.  (

The key thought that helped me was this:  This person has already hurt me.  Why in the world should I give them power to continue to hurt me by brooding over that hurt?  And he has some practical tips to help you get your mind away from all the ways you were wronged.

I thought that book was so outstanding, when I learned that Dr. Luskin had written a book about forgiving in the context of romantic relationships, I knew I had to read it.

So much of this book rang true for me, quotes from it fill up five pages of my Sonderquotes blog (

I have come to believe, along with Dr. Luskin, that forgiveness is the essential key to a lasting marriage.

“Think about it.  The centrality of commitment in relationships is expressed through the marriage vows, which ask us to love our partners through richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, and for better and for worse until death.  That means that we promise to love them when they are not doing well, when they have failed, when life is not exactly turning out as hoped, or when we’re going through a financial reversal.  What I see in the marriage vows is a basic prescription:  if we want our relationships to last, we better be prepared to forgive.”

But Dr. Luskin doesn’t only tell us we should forgive, he also shows us how.  This book is full of wise and practical tips toward becoming a better forgiver, and thus a better lover.

As he says in the final chapter, “Both the good news and the bad news about being in a relationship is that you will get many opportunities to practice forgiveness.”

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Review of The Prodigal’s Perspective, by Robert E. Steinkamp

The Prodigal’s Perspective

by Robert E. Steinkamp

Rejoice Marriage Ministries, 2006. 263 pages.

Of all the books from Rejoice Marriage Ministries, I think I am most encouraged by the ones Bob Steinkamp has written about his experiences as a “prodigal.”

Bob’s wife Charlyne divorced him for adultery and abuse, on the advice of her pastor.  But then her heart was convicted and she felt God was telling her not to give up on Bob, but to fast and pray for him to repent and come back to God.

At the time, he thought she was crazy.  He told her the marriage was over, and melted down his wedding ring to prove it.  He told her he was never ever coming back.

But now, twenty years later, he tells a different story.  He tells how God was working on him the entire two years that they were divorced before he finally gave in to God’s promptings and remarried his wife.

He says, “It took a long while, crisis after crisis, almost a promise of a plane crash, and even coming face to face with three visible demons in my bedroom, for me to do what the Lord desired.  Yes, I had my own ‘free will’ as people are reminding you, but it would take a book to share all the ways God used to bring my free will into alignment with His will for my life.”

This book gives a window into what happened behind the scenes while his wife was praying.  She certainly didn’t know what he was thinking at the time.  I thought this paragraph was eye-opening:

“How many times a day do you think of your absent mate?  How often does something happen that will instantly remind you of the one you love?  Rest assured that you are coming to your prodigal’s thoughts just as often.  When you were married you became one flesh, a relationship that simply cannot be dissolved at will.  Your absent mate may wish you would drop from their memory, but God will never allow that to happen.  As you stand strong, doing things God’s way, those memories in your mate’s mind will be enhanced.  Take that as fact from a man who called the other woman by his wife’s name a year after our divorce!”

Bob also reminds the reader that his transformation came from God’s work in his heart, not something that Charlyne engineered.  He urges you to give your marriage to God, but reminds you that prayers for your spouse are far more effective than you may realize at the time.

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Review of Your Father Knows Best, compiled by Bob and Charlyne Steinkamp

Your Father Knows Best

True Reports from Court of God Moving When People Are Praying

Compiled by Bob and Charlyne Steinkamp

Rejoice Marriage Ministries, 2003.  93 pages.

Rejoice Marriage Ministries was founded by Bob and Charlyne Steinkamp to minister to spread the word that God heals hurting marriages.  Twenty years ago, Charlyne divorced Bob for adultery and abuse.  But God spoke to her, asking her to pray for Bob and pray for their marriage to be restored.  And God did that very thing, after two years divorced.

This summer, when I got to visit a meeting of Rejoice Ministries in Florida, I told Charlyne about my upcoming court case.  It looked like I might get out of the November 5 trial if my husband and I reached an agreement about custody and visitation, but it was looking more and more likely that at the very least there would be a final divorce hearing on December 10. 

Charlyne, who is compassionate and kind and a radiant believer in the power of God, reminded me about their book, Your Father Knows Best.  I’d read the book before, but agreed that this was an opportune time to go over it again.

Your Father Knows Best is a compilation of true stories people have told to Bob and Charlyne about ways that God moved in surprising and miraculous ways in court cases.  This book is an encouraging reminder that God can still work, even when divorce has gotten to the final stages.

I could add my own story to a later version of the book.  A few days before our custody and visitation hearing, our lawyers came to an agreement that would settle matters between us.  I went to my lawyer’s office and signed my name or initials 300 times on 5 copies of two different versions of the agreement. 

A couple days later, I learned that my husband did not like the agreement and had a dispute with his lawyer.  It was too late to get another lawyer before the case came up in court, so he dropped it completely.  I am still married.

Now, my husband still fully intends to divorce me.  I was disappointed that this development meant no spousal support is forthcoming.  I’ve wondered if maybe I shouldn’t file for divorce myself to get things settled.

However, I prayed and asked God if I had really heard correctly and if He was still telling me to wait and pray for my marriage to be restored.  He answered swiftly and surely, yet again through a sermon the very next Sunday, a Christmas sermon not quite like any other I’d ever heard.

And God already did an amazing, unexpected and impossible thing by putting a stop to the divorce case this first time.  Who am I to say He cannot do this other thing of restoring and rebuilding our marriage?

Books like Your Father Knows Best remind me that mine would by no means be the first marriage God has miraculously restored.

A wonderfully encouraging book about God’s power.

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Review of Tell Me No Lies, by Ellyn Bader and Peter T. Pearson


Tell Me No Lies

How to Stop Lying to Your Partner — and Yourself — in the 4 Stages of Marriage

by Ellyn Bader, PhD, and Peter T. Pearson, PhD,

with Judith D. Schwartz

Skylight Press (St. Martin’s Press), New York, 2000.  241 pages.

Starred review.

I think of myself as a truthful person.  So I was a little offended by the first paragraph of this book.

“Everybody lies.  Friends lie to friends.  Children lie to their parents.  Politicians lie to constituents.  And, certainly, husbands and wives lie to each other.”

However, they do point out that these lies definitely don’t start out mean-spirited.  For example, classic lies of the Honeymoon Stage are “I like everything about you.” and “We like all the same things.”

The authors show common lies in the four stages of marriage and how they can lead to the marriage getting off track.  Their explanations ring true.  I was able to realize that the belief that I always tell the whole truth was definitely a lie I was telling myself.

They define four stages of marriage as The Honeymoon, Emerging Differences, Freedom, and Together as Two.  They explain the pitfalls of lies in each stage:

“Certain types of lies arise at different points in a marriage in response to the specific challenges of each stage.  Deception will stunt development in each stage, creating an emotional gridlock that leaves both partners stuck.  We call these stalled points “Detours and Dead Ends.”  From the Honeymoon, you can veer into The Dark Side of the Honeymoon.  When deceit obscures your Emerging Differences, you can end up in the Seething Stalemate.  The failure to negotiate independence can thrust you into Freedom Unhinged.  The only way to get on track is to confront the truth.”

The authors don’t place all the blame on the person doing the lying.  They include a chapter on “The Lie Invitee” explaining why there are times when we really don’t want to hear the truth.

This is a fascinating and helpful look at what makes an open and honest marriage.  You can’t really know one another if you don’t tell the truth to each other.  If you are beginning to feel distant and “so different” from each other, maybe it’s time to take a look at what truths about yourself you are hiding from your partner or maybe from yourself as well.

This book is full of good advice for building a good marriage.  It can also help you understand the dynamics of what went wrong if your marriage falls apart.

“Intimate relationships are difficult, despite what cultural myths would have us believe, and every couple will encounter some tough situations.  The grit to withstand those challenges — and to keep your marriage growing and alive — requires that you find the courage to voice the truth.  And the resolve to listen to it.”

Here are more helpful quotations from this book:

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Review of The Verbally Abusive Man, by Patricia Evans


The Verbally Abusive Man

Can He Change?

A Woman’s Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go

by Patricia Evans

Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts, 2006.  269 pages.

Starred review.

When you think of verbal abuse, most people think of name-calling, yelling or swearing.  Patricia Evans gives us a clear definition.  I knew I didn’t like it at all when someone talks to me as described here.  Now I understand why.  It is verbal abuse.

She gives a clear definition, a definition that enables me to spot exactly which sentences are not only not true, they are abusive.

“Verbal abuse defines people in some negative way, and it creates emotional pain and mental anguish when it occurs in a relationship….

“Any statement that tells you what, who, or how you are, or what you think, feel, or want, is defining you and is, therefore, abusive.  Such statements suggest an invasion of your very being, as if to say, ‘I’ve looked within you and now I’ll tell you what you want, feel, etc.’  Similarly, threats are verbally abusive because, like torture, they attempt to limit your freedom to choose and thus to define yourself.  Of course, if you have defined yourself to someone, ‘I’m Suzy’s Mom,’ and that person says, ‘That’s Suzy’s Mom,’ they are affirming or validating what you have said.  On the other hand, verbal abuse is a lie told to you or told to others about you.  If you believe the lie, it would lead you to think that you are not who you are or that you are less than you are….

“Another common way the abuser defines his partner is by walking away when she is asking a question, or mentioning something, or even in the middle of a conversation.  By withholding a response, he defines her as nonexistent.”

Here is a nice explanation of why being defined negatively by your partner is so painful:

“Clearly, when one person defines the other, the person doing the defining (abusing), has closed off from the real person.  When a person is told what they are, think, feel, and so forth, it is not only a lie told to them about themselves, but also it means that the abuser is closed off from the real person.  The abuser cannot really hear, see, and take in information from the real person.  It is as if he sees someone else.  For instance, if the abuser says, ‘You’re too sensitive’ or ‘You’re not listening,’ he is talking to someone whom he defines as ‘made wrong’ or as ‘not listening.’  So, the real person isn’t seen or heard.  It is as if a wall has arisen between the verbally abusive man and his partner.  This is why, when a man defines his partner, she feels pain.  At some level, she experiences the end of the relationship.” 

One refreshing thing about this book is that the author does NOT blame the person being abused for the abuse she receives.  However, she does help you understand better what’s going on and equip you to respond more effectively.

The crux of this book is about giving the abuser a wakeup call in the form of an Agreement — an Agreement for both parties in the relationship.  She also gives the reader guidelines as to whether the abuser is likely to actually change back to a loving, empathetic partner.

Even if the relationship is not in a place where you can use the Agreement, this book is invaluable in its presentation of how to respond to verbal abuse.

One important point is to learn not to try to respond to verbal abuse with logic.  That only dignifies his viewpoint, as if it had a basis in reality.  If you think about it rationally, how can he possibly know what your motives are?  Verbal abuse is inherently irrational, so defending yourself with a rational argument is an ineffective response.

“Realizing that verbal abuse is not rational, it becomes clear that the man indulging in it can’t hear a rational response from his partner.  But it is difficult for the partner not to respond with a rational explanation.  For instance, she may say she didn’t deserve to be yelled at, or she didn’t do what she is being accused of, even when she knows that rational explanations just won’t work.  It takes enormous conscious effort for the partner not to explain herself to her mate.  It usually seems to her that he is rational and will apologize and not do it again.

“Women often talk about how hard it is to remember that there is no point in their ever responding rationally to verbal abuse, even when they know that verbal abuse is a lie.  However, it is important for you to keep in mind that since the verbal abuse is a lie, it is incomprehensible.  You must decide to see it as so untrue, so unimaginable, so unreal, that you simply say, ‘What?’ or ‘What did you say?’ or ‘What are you doing?’  This may gently prod him toward hearing himself if he starts defining you in any way.

“If in the past you told him, ‘Stop!’ when he was abusive and he didn’t, it is likely that he accused you of being abusive, saying, ‘Now you’re giving me orders and trying to control me.  That’s abuse!’

“A good response to this lie is to simply say, ‘What?’ or even, ‘Did I just hear you tell me what I was trying to do?  What did you say?’  After all, he just told you what your motives were and what you were trying to do, as if he were you….

“Ultimately, since you know that blaming is a category of verbal abuse, it should be easier not to blame yourself in any way for his behavior.  You can see it as abusive no matter how much he blames you, tells you that you ‘made’ him mad, or tells you that it is your fault.”

If you still have a relationship with the verbal abuser, this book does offer hope of change: specific steps you can take to issue a wake-up call. 

Even if the book only verifies that change is not likely, I found it well worth the cover price for two key ideas that it presented:

— Defining verbal abuse so you can easily recognize it and won’t be tempted to believe it.

— Teaching you to respond to it as incomprehensible, not as something you can reason away.

As with some other books I have read on unpleasant topics, I can’t help but think of the Bible verse, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  Understanding and naming the situation you’ve been living in is a huge step toward healing and being better able to cope.

This is truly a wonderful, helpful, and healing book.

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Review of Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend



When to Say YES

When to Say NO

To Take Control of Your Life

by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.  304 pages.

I finally read this book that I have heard recommended or referred to many, many times.  It struck me as the Christian version of Melody Beattie’s book, Codependent No More.  Boundaries deals with many of the same issues, but I do think that the term “boundary” is easier to understand than the term “codependency.”

What are boundaries, anyway?  Drs. Cloud and Townsend say:

“Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries.  Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”

“Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.  If I know where my yard begins and ends, I am free to do with it what I like.  Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options.  However, if I do not ‘own’ my life, my choices and options become very limited.”

The authors definitely take a Christian perspective.

“The concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God.  God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself.  He defines and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes.”

Often, Christians think that we are supposed to be “nice” to everyone, and it doesn’t feel nice to hold onto our boundaries.  The authors are good at showing why this doesn’t truly help anyone.

“Two aspects of limits stand out when it comes to creating better boundaries.  The first is setting limits on others.  This is the component that we most often hear about when we talk about boundaries.  In reality, setting limits on others is a misnomer.  We can’t do that.  What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right.

“Our model is God.  He does not really ‘set limits’ on people to ‘make them’ behave.  God sets standards, but he lets people be who they are and then separates himself from them when they misbehave, saying in effect, ‘You can be that way if you choose, but you cannot come into my house.’…

“Scripture is full of admonitions to separate ourselves from people who act in destructive ways (Matt. 18:15-17; I Cor. 5:9-13).  We are not being unloving.  Separating ourselves protects love, because we are taking a stand against things that destroy love.

“The other aspect of limits that is helpful when talking about boundaries is setting our own internal limits.  We need to have spaces inside ourselves where we can have a feeling, an impulse, or a desire, without acting it out.  We need self-control without repression. 

“We need to be able to say no to ourselves.  This includes both our destructive desires and some good ones that are not wise to pursue at a given time.  Internal structure is a very important component of boundaries and identity, as well as ownership, responsibility, and self-control.”

It’s struck me that there are several boundary issues going on in my life right now.  The big one is negotiating a divorce settlement.  I started feeling guilty that we might have to go to court.  But then I realized that if I don’t stand up for what I need and deserve, who will?  Sometimes if being “nice” means allowing yourself to be mistreated, it’s not really very nice at all.

The authors warn us,

“No weapon in the arsenal of the controlling person is as strong as the guilt message.  People with poor boundaries almost always internalize guilt messages leveled at them; they obey guilt-inducing statements that try to make them feel bad….

Do not explain or justify.  Only guilty children do that.  This is only playing into their message.  You do not owe guilt senders an explanation.  Just tell what you have chosen.  If you want to tell them why you made a certain decision to help them understand, this is okay.  If you wish to get them to not make you feel bad or to resolve your guilt, you are playing into their guilt trap.”

I also like what they have to say about blamers:

“Blamers will act as though your saying no is killing them, and they will react with a ‘How could you do this to me?’ message.  They are likely to cry, pout, or get angry.  Remember that blamers have a character problem.  If they make it sound as though their misery is because of your not giving something to them, they are blaming and demanding what is yours.  This is very different from a humble person asking out of need.  Listen to the nature of other people’s complaints; if they are trying to blame you for something they should take responsibility for, confront them.”

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the writing in this book; I still find Melody Beattie’s books more inspiring.  However, the concepts are basic and important and life-changing.  This book deserves its status as a classic.

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Review of Staying Connected to Your Teenager, by Michael Riera


Staying Connected to Your Teenager

How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying,

by Michael Riera, PhD

Starred review.

Perseus Publishing, 2003.  275 pages.

This book resonated with me.  My sons are 20 years old and 14 years old, and this book gave me good tips for dealing with both of them.  My older son just graduated from college, and my younger son is starting high school.  They’re growing past disciplinarian concerns.  Michael Riera puts into words what I really want in my relationship with my sons — connection.

His introduction says it well:

I respect teenagers a great deal, and I respect the parents of teenagers even more.  Nothing in a parent’s life is more trying, confusing, and frustrating than raising a teenager.  They are moody, self-centered, and full of mixed messages; at least that’s the way normal, healthy teenagers behave.  That will not change.  As the parent of a teenager, you know all too well that your job entails setting limits, having big talks, enforcing consequences, helping them to learn from their mistakes, and putting them on course for a happy and successful adulthood.  Talk about an exhausting task.

What I find curious, however, is that hardly anyone ever mentions the importance of staying connected to our teenagers throughout their adolescence.  Given the enormous To Do List  from the previous paragraph, why isn’t anybody addressing practical ways of staying connected to our teenagers throughout this trying time?  From a practical perspective, all the items on your To Do List  are handled more efficiently, more effectively, and more pleasantly when you are connected to your teenager.  For instance, research has shown that the emotional connection between adolescent girls and their parents (especially their mothers) significantly delays the onset of sexual activity.  When you are connected, everything else comes more easily and naturally.  And when they do misbehave — as they will — nothing worthwhile can happen until your connection is reestablished.  The number one complaint of the parents of teenagers is a lack of communication with their teenagers, but even in the face of this, if you are paying attention, thinking creatively, and maintaining your curiosity, your connection will hold steadfast despite the lack of regular heart-to heart talks.

Beyond effectiveness, there is another reason to maintain your connection with your teenager:  It’s fun.  Teenagers, for better and worse, are some of the most creative and fun people on the planet, and when you stay connected you, too, enjoy these aspects of your teenager; and in doing so, you regularly replenish your parenting batteries.  Besides, sharing humor itself promotes connection.  Or, as the humorist Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people”….

This book looks directly at the connection between parent and teenager, and aims to give you solid, practical advice, ensconced in psychological and developmental research, on how to understand and how to improve the quality of your relationship with your teenager.

Indeed, Michael Riera succeeds brilliantly at making this a practical, encouraging book.  I was reading the chapter “Extend the Comfort Zone,” right when I was ready to take my son to get his driver’s license.  It so happens that a teen learning to drive is a prime example of a teen expanding his comfort zone in order to learn new skills.

By the end of a story like this, parents have a much better sense of what a comfort zone is and how and why their teenagers would choose to expand it.  It’s important that, as a parent, you are successful in supporting your teenager in expanding her comfort zone, because whenever you do so you deepen the connection you already have with her.  If, however, you push too hard or are too cautious, you miss golden opportunities.  Striking the right balance in this arena is an art form.

Reading Michael Riera’s advice was just in time to help turn the trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles into a positive experience between my son and me.

This book is positive and encouraging.  It shows you how you can use your own common sense to help your teen learn to use his own common sense.  I like the way Michael Riera encourages you to get your teens focusing on their own integrity.  They know how they should act — if you tell them how they should act, they probably won’t want to do it, though.

I think I’m going to buy myself a copy of this book, so I can refer back to it often in the next several years.  It is wise, encouraging, and practical.  And it helps you see what you truly want your teen to grow into — a responsible adult with opinions of his own, who still loves and cares about you, and enjoys discussing those opinions with you.

Here are some excellent quotations from the book:

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Review of Beyond Codependency, by Melody Beattie


Beyond Codependency:  And Getting Better All the Time, by Melody Beattie

Harper/Hazelden, San Francisco, 1989.  252 pages.

Starred Review.

In Codependent No More, Melody Beattie explains codependency to those trapped in it, and helps them start down the road to recovery.

In Beyond Codependency, she celebrates recovery and revels in the fact that life does get better.

She says herself, “Codependent No More, my last book, was about stopping the pain and gaining control of our lives.  This book is about what to do when the pain has stopped and we’ve begun to suspect we have lives to live.  It’s about what happens next.”

As such, this is a hopeful, encouraging, and uplifting book.

Here are some examples of quotations I found helpful:

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Review of Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie


Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie

Hazelden, 1987.  231 pages.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2008:  #5, Personal Growth

Starred Review

Codependent No More is by now a classic work on codependency.  If you want to understand what people are talking about when they mention “struggling with codependency,” this book is a good place to turn.

My friend Doris Rauseo gave me this copy of the book when I was a newlywed.  Interesting.  I have a feeling she saw many codependent traits in me which I was oblivious to.  Though I did read it and thought it had some good ideas.  However, 20 years later, I found the book in my moving boxes, and reading it now as an abandoned wife, I could suddenly see myself clearly.

Who is a Codependent?  The author describes in the introduction how as she became a codependent she began to understand them better:

“I saw people who were hostile; they had felt so much hurt that hostility was their only defense against being crushed again.  They were that angry because anyone who had tolerated what they had would be that angry.

“They were controlling because everything around and inside them was out of control.  Always, the dam of their lives and the lives of those around them threatened to burst and spew harmful consequences on everyone.  And nobody but them seemed to notice or care.

“I saw people who manipulated because manipulation appeared to be the only way to get anything done.  I worked with people who were indirect because the systems they lived in seemed incapable of tolerating honesty.

“I worked with people who thought they were going crazy because they had believed so many lies they didn’t know what reality was.

“I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people’s problems they didn’t have time to identify or solve their own.  These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves.  The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.

“I saw hurting, confused people who needed comfort, understanding, and information.”

In this book, Melody Beattie manages to convey comfort, understanding, and information.  She helps you understand what codependency is, and helps you understand why sometimes being helpful ends up being hurtful.

Best of all, she offers hope of recovery:

“Codependency is many things.  It is a dependency on people — on their moods, behaviors, sickness or well-being, and their love.  It is a paradoxical dependency.  Codependents appear to be depended upon, but they are dependent.  They look strong but feel helpless.  They appear controlling but in reality are controlled themselves, sometimes by an illness such as alcoholism.

“These are the issues that dictate recovery.  It is solving these problems that makes recovery fun.  Many recoveries from problems that involve a person’s mind, emotions, and spirit are long and grueling.  Not so, here.  Except for normal human emotions we would be feeling anyway, and twinges of discomfort as we begin to behave differently, recovery from codependency is exciting.  It is liberating.  It lets us be who we are.  It lets other people be who they are.  It helps us own our God-given power to think, feel, and act.  It feels good.  It brings peace.  It enables us to love ourselves and others.  It allows us to receive love — some of the good stuff we’ve all been looking for.  It provides an optimum environment for the people around us to get and stay healthy.  And recovery helps stop the unbearable pain many of us have been living with.

“Recovery is not only fun, it is simple.  It is not always easy, but it is simple.  It is based on a premise many of us have forgotten or never learned:  Each person is responsible for him- or herself.  It involves learning one new behavior that we will devote ourselves to:  taking care of ourselves.  In the second half of this book, we’ll discuss specific ideas for doing that.”

This is a helpful, encouraging, and liberating book.

Here are more quotations that struck me as I read it:

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