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869 of 899 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 1999
After a 20+ year marriage to a decent guy who was a good provider but not in any way my true friend, lover or life's partner, I had tried everything imaginable to make sense of my commitment -- especially because we had two children. I sought years of psychotherapy, read a library's worth of self-help books, listened to every "relationship expert" from Tony Grant to Barbara DeAngelis to Dr. Laura, always searching, concentrating to the point of exhaustion, to glean that essential kernel of truth that would illuminate the path I should take to find acceptance and happiness. But I could find no peace, no resolution, no answers.
FINALLY, this book gave me the tools I needed to understand the many issues and problems that weighed so heavily in my marraige. Mira Kirshenbaum provided the template I needed to lay over my decades of ambivalence. Her direct, snappy writing style was a breeze to read. Her observations cogent and concise. She makes no bones about taking a clear stand and expressing a firm opinion about whether people where happier that they stayed or left a relationship when the issues she explored were identifed as problems.
She gave me the language to articulate and define my marital problems. It became undeniably clear to me that I would be happier if I left. With tremendous relief and some real trepidation, I gave myself the freedom to leave for my 46th birthday present. Fast forward two years -- I have never been happier!
I recently reread the book and my second thorough reading reinforced my initial interpretations. I am now using Kirshenbaum's criteria to judge whether my current relationship meets my needs in the categories that are most important to me. YEAH! Success! This book has even helped me explain the complexities of relationships to my own daughters and what makes for a quality relationship with a long term chance for success.
For the first time as an adult I am living an authentic life that I am proud to model for my children. I am absolutely sure that this book saved my life! I am grateful beyond words for the clarity that this book provided. You will be too!
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364 of 378 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2000
I first needed this book -- okay, I needed it before I married. I recognize now that I needed it in 1988, when the pain and confusion were enormous, and the counseling I received was, to put it generously, ridiculous. But Kirshenbaum hadn't yet written the book. Then I needed it in 1995, when totally on the fence. But Kirshenbaum hadn't yet published. Finally she did, in 1996 (hardcover), and even though I'd already made the decision to leave, and knew somehow it was right, I bought the book.
Gosh, how come I wasn't taught all this stuff before?!?
Too Good To Leave is not only the book you pick up when you're on the fence. It's not just the book you turn to to make sure you made the best choice under the circumstances. It's the book you refer to again and again and again to help you learn what IS a healthy relationship, what IS love. Because in showing us what ill-health can look like, Kirshenbaum also teaches those of us who just didn't get it what we can look for in the future, when our hearts decide to risk again.
This is an easy read: each chapter is structured the same way, with the issue, circumstances, diagnostic questions, couples examples from Kirshenbaum's practice (she provides therapy in the Boston area), and guidelines...are most people in this particular situation happier if they leave or if they stay? She begins with the incredibly painful (are you being beaten?) and moves through the book toward less and less clearcut circumstances.
Take Chapter 8, for example: "What Is This Thing Called Love?" The issue: is there any real love left? Kirshenbaum reviews what people know of love (not a whole lot, it develops), discusses feeling and perceptions, and hits a diagnostic question: "In spite of admirable qualities, and stepping back from any temporary anger or disappointment, do you genuinely LIKE your partner, and does your partner seem to like you?" A poser, right? So Kirshenbaum walks you through her experience with Ann (married to Dave) who has had to work through this question. Does she really like Dave? Or does she merely like what Dave likes?
Painful. Very painful. But healthy, because the guideline Ann must confront is, "If it's clear to you that basically and overall you just don't like your partner, then your love is a ghost... Quick take: In the long run -- no like, no love." (The quick takes, available with each guideline,are wonderfully useful as memorizable, immediate reminders.) Kirshenbaum continues through the chapter with different examples of couples wondering if love is present, with more guidelines and suggestions for unraveling the knots.
This is powerful healing, because it names the problem. In medicine, the terror that comes with extraordinary pain can be eased by words: "Sounds like a kidney stone." Definition removes confusion removes fear. Just so does Kirshenbaum, in defining what we know is present, ease our hearts. We're not crazy. There is something odd here. And we are not alone in our perceptions.
By showing us what is unhealthy in relationships, then, Kirshenbaum also teaches what is healthy. You've got to have like, to have love. Quick take #7: "Power people poison passion." Okay...so passion flowers where neither partner is into power. Quick take #28: "Time heals all healable wounds." But some wounds are so severe, and some partners so unwilling to act in healing ways, that the relationship is not a healing one. Okay...look not for partners who seem perfect, but for partners who are both unwilling to harm, and willing to heal.
Where was Kirshenbaum when I was 12?
I've grown so much from this book. Buy it, borrow it, somehow READ it before 2001 arrives. Bring your new learning with you into the new year.
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646 of 722 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2002
My wife and I have been married six years and have had marital troubles for nearly a year. However, we are taking very concrete steps to try to address them and we're making good progress. We're learning a lot more about ourselves and each other, about personalities and temperaments and what influences them. Now we are better able to appreciate how those factors manifest in our day-to-day behavior. It is hard work, but we both agree that in the end it's worth it -- regardless of the eventual outcome of our marriage. This book was recommended to me by a person that I have generally known to have good judgement, so I took a look. I can say without a doubt that if I had read this book a year ago, my wife and I would now be divorced and that decision would have been the biggest mistake of our lives. Several of the so-called guidelines pointed to behavior on my wife's part AND others on my own part that would have caused each of us to conclude that we would be more happy if we left than stayed. The method of decisionmaking suggested by this book is bereft of the kind of hard work it really takes to evaluate the future of a relationship and the behavior of people in relationships. It fails to explore personality types -- a cornerstone to understanding why your partner may behave the way he or she behaves. It also assumes the problem MUST reside within your partner, not within yourself. In my relationship, the problem was 80% of my own creation. But, through self-evaluation and study we have been able to LEARN more about our own personalities so that now we can better appreciate our differences and give our love for one another a chance to flourish. Unfortunately, this book rests on the premise that people are inflexible, cannot observe themselves and that their mates cannot change themselves, and therefore, whatever you've got is as good as it will get. I disagree and urge anyone who reads this to use great caution. Mira Kirshenbaum has attempted to boil life and relatinships into a simplicity that belittles the capacity of humans to love and change.
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189 of 210 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 1999
Believe it or not - I picked this book up on a marriage retreat weekend! I had been going back and forth in my head for years over the issue of leaving or staying. We spent thousands of dollars on counseling and retreats yet I was on the verge of making myself crazy with no clear decision ever coming from the incredible amount of thought I put into the question of whether I should leave or not. I could always come up with a long Pros list of why I should with an equally long Cons list of why I shouldn't. I read this book in two hours and knew that I was incredibly unhappy in my marriage and had to get out. Kirschenbaum helps the reader to assess their relationship through a series of guidelines and come to the decision on their own. No more pros and cons lists, just a step-by-step guide on how to make the decision that's right for you. I am in the process of a divorce now but know that this is the right decision. On difficult days, I sit down with this book and review some of the questions that she asks in such a no-nonsense way and remember that yes- I am happier being out of my relationship.
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2006
I read this book when I was engaged to be married, and it's the best thing I could have done. I was stuck in what the author calls "relationship ambivalence", where I was caught up in deciding whether my fiancé was the "perfect" man for me, and whether I really wanted to commit my entire life to him. My doubts were starting to take a toll on our relationship, and as the wedding date got closer, it only got worse. That's when I thought of seeking help and found this book. By the end of the book, I realized that my relationship was truly too good to leave. It helped me recognize the many great things that my fiancé and I have going for us. The book was a huge relief for me. I was able to let go of my doubts once and for all, and I have never been happier. My fiancé and I will be married soon and I cannot wait to walk down the aisle and say I Do!

I highly recommend this book to anyone having doubts about their relationship. It is easy to read and helps you take a good look at what you're getting or not getting from your relationship, and what you need to be happy.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2000
After two years of agonizing over whether I should end my marriage, I found this book. It doesn't give definitive answers, but helps you organize your thoughts and feelings, and look at the relationship as a whole. It didn't make it easier, or less painful, but it did help me move confidently toward the decision I had to make.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2007
This book is it. If you are in a relationship in which you are confused or ambivilant, but don't know why, this book will give you your sanity back. I am in a marriage that, when I look at it objectively, is "too good to leave", yet I am unsatisfied and not fulfilled. I could never figure out why, so I have drifted along, figuring that I expected too much from a relationship or was buying into too many romance novels. After all, with kids and jobs and mortgages, don't we all think the grass is greener on the other side? Well, guess what..the grass SHOULD be greener. Mira Kirshenbaum validates everything I feel, and has given me the knowledge and language to finally articulate what is wrong with my marriage. I'm not crazy, after all. This book is beautiful in the sense that Mira is brilliant in her ability to capture what love truly is and should be. She can put words to those vague feelings and emotions and needs that we all have, in a way that is smart and accessible. She can help make a decision on whether to leave a marriage much more concrete and valid, which in turn will make you stronger and more sure of your direction than you ever thought you could be.

What makes this book even better is that if you read it and answer the questions, you may instead find that your marriage truly is "too good to leave". Although this did not happen to me, what a relief and blessing it would be to feel that you could get off the fence and stop wondering about your life, because you already had what you wanted! I think alot of marriages could actually be SAVED by this book, and that is a great testament to the author's true authenticity and belief in love and what it is.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2002
This book was extraordinarily helpful to me! It dealt with both logical and emotional aspects associated with the struggle over whether to stay or leave a relationship. The diagnostic questions and the "bottom line" suggestions were especially valuable for me. Having been "in limbo" for many years, I really needed to hear the messages in this book. The no-nonsense, yet compassionate and non-judgemental, writing style spoke perfectly to me. I highlighted the book and continue to re-read sections whenever I feel doubtful or need a reminder of my decision-making rationale. I am so glad I read this book, and I recommend it HIGHLY to anyone on the fence!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2007
I purchased this book prior to getting engaged, because I wasn't sure. Today's culture had me believing, "you can do better," but how I could I turn down such a great emotional connection?

In this book, she asks questions. There are two types of questions. For one type, if you answer in the negative, she tells you to stop reading and end the relationship (ie physical abuse), or to keep reading. For the second type of question, if you answer in the negative she says it's not a big deal, but if positive, she tells you you'd regret leaving. If you get to the end of the book, it means you have a good relationship.

I got to the end of the book, and had many of the "you will regret leaving." I also realized that whereas I did have some negative responses, all were on questions that she said did not make as big of a difference.
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67 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2008
If I followed the advice in this book, I'd be divorced. This book does not take into consideration depression, anxiety, and the normal cycle that relationships go through. When someone in a marriage is going through one of these bad period of thier life, thier views may not necessarily be clear, and they have difficulty remembering the good or happy times, or what made them marry thier spouse in first place. And this book does not take even explore the possibility of people changing and growning to learn to meet the needs of a healthy fulfilling marriage. This book is too one-sided. No one is born knowing how to make a marriage work, some are lucky and can figure it out, but a lot (hence the 50% divorce rate), need to learn to compromise, and skills to turn thier marriage around. This book does have some very valid points, and provide a few good thinking points, but please don't let this be the only book you read when contemplating one of the more important decisions in your life. If you must read this book, please also look at the the divorce remedy, and Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart. You owe it to yourself to look at all points of view on marriage, and read others books. Unless you are abused, I think everyone should try to do everything to save thier marriage (you did choose to marry this person at one point), as difficult as it may be, you don't have any more to lose, and only the world to gain. Good luck with your long journey!
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