Help my brother, please.
November 22, 2005 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a good relationship book for a marriage on the rocks?

I'm looking for a book for my brother to read. Here's the short story: My brother and his wife have been married for 16 years and have 2 great kids. About a year and a half ago, they decided that the best thing financially for the family was for my brother to buy a big rig and become a truck driver. They were both aware that he would have to be away for 5-6 days at a time. My brother hates it, but realizes that it's something they need to put up with for about another 2 years while they pay off some bills. Fast forward to last week, my sister-in-law slams my brother with "I don't think I love you anymore. I want a separation". Completely out of left field according to my brother. He took the week off from driving and they're talking more and it looks like they're going to work through it eventually (fingers crossed), but my brother can't get past the fact that the love of his life told him she didn't love him anymore. He needs to work through that hurt and I though some sort of a book might help if he could read it at night in the truck and help him formulate his thoughts and how he can communicate better with his wife. Everyone is in agreement that the best thing would be individual therapy and couple's therapy, but with him on the road all the time, there just isn't time to do that right now.

Have there been any books that have made a great impact on you or your relationship?
posted by SheIsMighty to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Even just one good long session with a couple's therapist might help more than a book would. Regular couple's therapy would certainly be best, but my boyfriend and I worked through a lot based on just two sessions, and even just one would have been incredibly helpful.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:01 PM on November 22, 2005

Ouch...I really feel for your brother. I enjoyed the information contained within The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The fact that your sister-in-law came up with such a hurtful revelation "our of the blue" leads me to believe that, bless his heart, your brother just couldn't see the signs of her pulling away, most likely due to the circumstances of his work. Maybe she was perceiving some sort of slight on his part, even when your brother honestly felt he was doing his best. I think if anything, feelings related to love are irrational, and the point of the book is that sometimes, even if we feel we're doing all we can to love someone, they're not getting the message because they perceive love differently. I think if he wants to try to patch things up (and she's willing), he's going to need to address the reasons her feelings toward him changed, and also whether she's truly feeling his love for her.
posted by justonegirl at 12:03 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Cynicism: one might guess that the reason she supported the truck-driving lifestyle 18 months ago is that she didn't want him around the house.

Is there another man? And now she's decided to jump ship and hang around with this new guy? But she's not totally certain so she lets herself be talked into backing down on the separation request... for the moment.

Out of left field - no, it wasn't. These things don't come out of nowhere. They build to a crescendo. The foundations are always there if you look.
posted by jellicle at 12:10 PM on November 22, 2005

Should You Leave? by Peter Kramer, psychiatrist and author of Listening to Prozac. Statistics indicate that although it now seems to her she'll find a better relationship, usually she doesn't. Greener grass, and all that. Well written.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:10 PM on November 22, 2005

"Difficult Conversations" by Stone, Heen, and Patton. It's about communication as a whole, not just in intimate relationships, but I bet it will be a big help. I have no idea what their communication patterns are currently like, but everyone could use some help in that area, and perhaps it's at the root of the problem.
posted by equipoise at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

I hate to be sexist, but do men ever read relationship books?
posted by matildaben at 12:47 PM on November 22, 2005

I'm going through a breakup right now, and Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times is helping. It's kicking my ass--the lessons are sometimes very painful, but it's helping me to feel my way through this process.
posted by hamster at 12:53 PM on November 22, 2005

John Gottman is one of the leading experts on successful relationships. He has a number of books/DVDs which are very effective, practical, enlightening and most importantly based on very sound research. In addition, at the Gottman instiute they offer various weekend type workshops they could attend together without committing to longer term therapy.
posted by blueyellow at 1:10 PM on November 22, 2005

I'm going to second Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages (caveat: his language can be very Christian at times, but not overwhelmingly so) and John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I will throw in a third: Mindful Loving by Henry Grayson. Chapman is a fairly quick read. Gottman can be a quick read but has a lot of exercises that, while a bit time-consuming, are worthwhile. Grayson is not easy, in that it forces some real self-examination, but that self-examination is a necessary part of the process.

(I'm on marriage number two, and very happy, and wanting to keep it that way. I think that just about every couple, happy or struggling, would find something of benefit in all of these books.)
posted by ambrosia at 1:27 PM on November 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Sounds like another person may well be involved. Couples therapy is usually beneficial only if both persons are committed to and want to amke the relationship work. if only one wants to preserve it and the other does not, then it may only be useful to hash things out and clarify the situation, but not to repair it. Second the Kramer book. Also good book by psychoanalyst Stephen Mitchell titled Can Love Last?.
posted by madstop1 at 3:47 PM on November 22, 2005

Fighting for your Marriage by Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley and Susan L. Blumberg is an excellent book on communication, and moving from confrontational to cooperative discussions. Lots of good ideas and skills to learn.

It's actually based on extensive research and testing which is more than can be said for many relationship/communication books.
posted by RecalcitrantYouth at 5:42 PM on November 22, 2005

I'm going through something somewhat similar, and on the recommendations of ask Mefi I got this book. It helped me a lot in that it was able to show me how relationships as systems tend towards these things and can sometimes indicate the strength of you both rather than being screwed up in the perjorative sense. It also helps in that the way ahead is to focus on rebuilding, redefining, and staying true to yourself rather than trying to get assurance or go insane trying to fix the relationship or the other person. Being well differentiated can make the relationship turn around, but more importantly it can help him be happy and deal. those are just some cursory remarks.
posted by aussicht at 6:08 PM on November 22, 2005

Some thoughts:

There are therapists that work over the phone/email, with the obvious caveats about the drawbacks. I'll dig one up if you can't find one.

Re: books--I find it alternately amusing and disturbing that I have read every book mentioned (except one).

John Gottman: I like his approach (more "scientific", doesn't talk down to the reader). His earlier stuff is less recommended (supposedly by himself as well), I think because it is somewhat centered on "if you show these traits, you have a 70% chance of divorce" (or whatever). Probably true, but not exactly helpful nor encouraging.

Five love languages: Somewhat more "fluffy" which I don't personally prefer, but *very good* at explaining the *very* common situation in relationships where one partner is showering the other with love and the other one feels neglected. Partner one is, like, "WTF?" (cliff notes version ;) ) Different people express love for others in different ways, and one partner will tend to express love for the other in the way that they themselves like, not necessarily what their partner needs. Also recommended.

"Passionate Marriage" (aussicht's book): Not your typical relationship book, but worth a read. Hard to explain, but it is definitely along the lines of trying to change one's self rather than the partner. This is not a bad thing, and I still recommend the book.

I've read some of Dr. Phil, the "Fighting for your Marriage" book (I forget how it is), let's see, "How to Say it for Couples", a couple of John Gray (mars...venus) books, Deborah Tannen, and no doubt others.

...but that doesn't make me particularly qualified to answer the question well, necessarily. There are people who are, and they aren't hard to find.

If you just want the quick answer, though, I'd say to find a counselor that'd work with their unique situation, and the Five Love Languages book by Chapman would be the most immediately useful.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:28 PM on November 22, 2005

I second the John Gottman recommendation. In particular, get the book Why Marriages Succeed and Fail. Gottman's work is based on studying couples interacting over long periods.
This book improved all the relationships I was in before getting married, and has helped me make my marriage successful.
An audiotape might be just the thing for a guy who drives a truck. I would recommend Gottman's The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work.
Rikkitikkitavi mentions above that some of Gottman's work may not be useful due to a "if you show these traits then you're going to get divorced" attitude." But of course that is the point of these books: figure out what traits and interactions are dangerous to your marriage and learn to recognize, change or at least moderate them.
The distinction of Gottman's work is its practicality. If that kind of thing appeals to your brother, then he could also try Deborah Tannen's similarly research-based work, also mentioned above. I found You Just Don't Understand to be particularly good.
posted by lockedroomguy at 1:06 PM on November 26, 2005

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