What follows are two lists of relationship resources that that I find helpful and interesting. One lists the resources that I have used in the past to good effect. The other, larger list is for resources I am discovering now.
The Gentle Art Of Verbal Self Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. is perhaps the most valuable of the hundred or so self-help / relationship books I read over the last thirty years. I hope it is still in print. I know Dr. Elgin has written other books; I haven’t read them but I would trust her judgment based on this one book.
One of my deficiencies as a clueless man was a tin ear to the subtext in relationship communication; all communication of any kind. My therapist recommended the book and I was happy to learn to identify and politely counter verbal abuse aimed at me. It is a tremendously fun book to read and I did learn those skills. In the process, however, I also learned to hear, with a recipient’s ear, what I was actually saying. (This may have been my therapist’s real intent.) My conversation was filled with subtle barbs and innuendos that I was unaware of, but which my partner was hearing loud and clear.
So . . . I switched from feeling picked on to cleaning up my side of the street. The Gentle Art Of Verbal Self Defense is a very powerful book.
Staying with fun and useful books, I wish I had known about Get Out Of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. when my daughter was a teenager. Her mother, who is a psychologist, and I only found this book after she was grown and had the satisfaction of learning tha,t in spite of our doubts and uncertainties, we had done most things right.
We would have welcomed this guide at the beginning of raising a teenager with its reassurance that teenage behavior that seems crazy is normal, for advice on how to respond to that behavior, and for the assurance that it will all end on schedule.
My editor and several readers of drafts of A Clueless Man’s Guide To Relationships suggested the book needed more advice about sex problems and a reference to additional sex advice. I didn’t follow that advice because I only wanted to write about what I know and what I have used with good results. So you get no sex advice from me.
I did read a half dozen books on sex advice recommended by psychologists I trust looking for one that fit the tone of my book’s relationship advice. I settled on Rekindling Desire, A step-by-Step Program to Help Low-sex and No-Sex Marriages by Barry McCarthy, Ph.D. and Emily McCarthy. Regardless of the limited focus of its title, this book addressed all of the problems I could think of and made the most sense to me. And, surprise!, surprise!, it helped me identify and remedy (partially) a sex problem in my marriage.
The dating process (dance?) was often confusing to me. (I thank God I won’t be doing that again!) But, like most things in life, dating has a structured flow that a bright researcher can identify and describe. Judith Sills, Ph.D. has done just that in A Fine Romance: The Passage of Courtship from Meeting to Marriage.
This is not a how-to book, per se, but it can offer some direction along with comforting knowledge that this really is the way these things go. It is not an easy read. I read it once, years ago, and even though I have passed on or thrown out 95 percent of the self-help books I read, each time I reach to cull this book from my library it stays on the shelf.
Laura Munson‘s book This Is Not The Story You Think It Is . . . A Season of Unlikely Happiness describes how she handled a crisis in her marriage and, by example, how to respond to any relationship problem. What she did was accept and react to the facts (not the explanation), decide what outcome she wanted, tell her husband what she saw happening and what she wanted, and continued to lived her life to be as happy as possible. (My summary doesn’t begin to do it justice. Read her book!)
Her decision wasn’t so much “living well is the best revenge”. It was more “I’m not engaging with you about decisions I don’t agree with and (therefore) you own it all”; I’m getting on with my life.
Ms. Munson also has a blog titled These Here Hills.