Analytical relationship advice books without esotericism?
February 27, 2012 7:54 AM   Subscribe

How to be an adult in relationships, but without fifties gender roles and esotericism?

I've seen "How to be an adult in relationships" been recommended a few times in human relations questions. Due to these recommendations, I've bought it and started to read it, since I do want to be more mature in my relationships. However, I really couldn't read it very far. The explicit role descriptions, that a mother should be nurturing and a father shouldn't or the "thousands of boddhisatvas who will help you" appalled me. While there were some useful questions and exercises, it was very exhausting to read. I constantly had to be vigilant, which statements to accept and observe, which to question, and which to reject forcefully.

Are there any literature recommendations filling this need without these drawbacks? Precision and abstract thinking are a definite plus.
I'm an early twenties straight male nerd, my relationships so far had a pattern of failing because of me being unable to really open up. "Psychology applied to modern life" sounds right to me, but is outside my price range. (Since I didn't read it, I don't know whether it is actually good.)

If reenka had a newsletter, I would read it intently.
posted by faux fabric entertainment device to Human Relations (11 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oh man, I haaaaated "How to Be an Adult in Relationships" for precisely those reasons (plus the writing is dreadful, just dreadful). I really like Gottman's The Marriage Clinic because it's much more therapy-based instead of the ooey-gooey Buddhist New Age stuff that Richo uses. The Marriage Clinic is basically a tool for marriage counselors and other therapists who encounter typical marital problems with their clients.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:04 AM on February 27, 2012

Best answer: I really, really like John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It's a bit heterosexist, with a focus on heterosexual marriages and all, but it's fairly progressive (and includes, in fact, a chapter about how men need to get used to women calling the shots sometimes in relationships) and has a lot of practical advice on how to communicate better in relationships, in a way that emphasizes connection between partners.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is kind of a long shot, but I learned a lot about being an adult in general from a book called The Drama of the Gifted Child. Specifically, the book helped me start to understand the difference between appropriate, boundary-having love as between adults, and parent-child love which is not supposed to be conditioned on how the child makes the parent feel. I don't think it a coincidence that I read that book after ending a string of unhealthy relationships and before commencing a healthy one.

Being unable to open up is not unusual: opening up is hard and comes with risks. It is ultimately worthwhile, but that doesn't make it easy. And please don't beat yourself up for "not being an adult in relationships": you're new at being an adult in general, there's no user's manual, and relationships are tricky anyway.
posted by gauche at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I really like the Adult Child's Guide to What's Normal. This book is not specific to romantic relationships, but the advice and relationship descriptions cover many types -- in-laws, immediate family, friendships, marriages, parent-to-child, etc.

My favorite parts of the book:

-Format. Descriptions + bullet point lists, short chapters. Reads almost like a documentation. :)

-The authors advocate for your health in relationships (to others and yourself) in a compassionate, non-lovey dovey way.


-Clarity about what people deserve and are capable of.

-Realistic about how much time change takes and whether people will change.
posted by mild deer at 8:37 AM on February 27, 2012 [9 favorites]

The Marriage Clinic is the more technical, professional-oriented version of Seven Principles...both by Gottman. If you're nerdy at all you'll like The Marriage Clinic for its more technical aspects, but Seven Principles has more practical exercises and is much more affordable.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really liked What No One Tells the Bride -- it's on the first year of marriage/first year of living together, and isn't wed to strict gender roles. FYI, tho, there are some references to Christianity, which I skipped.

It's especially awesome, because the writer is a military spouse, so there's useful stuff on LDR's, arguments, and finances.
posted by spunweb at 11:04 AM on February 27, 2012

Best answer: Check this out:

Not just about parenting. Mostly about egalitarian marriage.
posted by Cygnet at 12:26 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I cannot recommend Alice Miller's work enough! All good-at-school people who feel they are fucked up should read it.

I take your point about the mushy gender essentialism and Buddishist goo in Risho, but I don't think there's a lot of better stuff out there, alas. Gottman is certainly very strong, as is some of Pepper Schwartz's work (Love Between Equals is a work of hers that talks about some of the very issues you address), and Harville Hendrix has some good things to say.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:26 PM on February 27, 2012

Another vote for Gottman's Seven Principles. My first marriage was same-sex, and I found Gottman's studies quite illuminating with regards to the ways it failed.
posted by aabbbiee at 10:18 AM on February 28, 2012

Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch is worth reading, although I found the first half to be better than the remainder.
posted by doctord at 1:26 PM on February 28, 2012

Not sure if this is quite what you're looking for, but I found The Ethical Slut to be a practical read. It's mostly on how to do polyamory right, but I think the hardcore communication skills required to maintain healthy polyamorous relationships is equally useful for monogamous relationships. It emphasizes forthright communication in negotiating boundaries (instead of relying on assumptions) and how to point to the issue instead of blame the other party (the difference between "I feel resentful when you do X" and "You're pissing me off"). It can be a bit much with its never ceasing praise of polyamory (polyamory is good, but the authors perfectly explained their POV in the first two chapters and didn't have to hammer the same point throughout the book!), but I still think it's a worthwhile read for everyone. Also, this book is doubleplusgood for no gender or family structure essentialism.
posted by Hawk V at 7:05 PM on March 1, 2012

« Older Need feedback on Alaska Air v. Hawaiian Air from...   |   What's it like renting apartments? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.