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on April 11, 2007
This is in most respects an excellent book, and certainly a very useful one. Real is an excellent writer, and has thought through couple's issues in a smart way, refreshingly different than many who have preceded him. He takes his good points almost too far at times, which -- in addition to some annoying self-hype -- is my reservation.

In both this book, and in his prior "How Can I Get Through to You? Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women" (also excellent, similarly challenging) Real faces head-on the reality that many women come into couples work with fierce anger, maddeningly frustrated with trying to achieve true emotional intimacy - Real says `relational intimacy' - with their man. His premise is that many women's responsibilities and aspirations have grown as part of the women's movement and their resulting, empowered roles, during decades when many men's roles and expectations have progressed less dramatically. As difficult as the tone of the anger and complaint, Real suggests the substance of women's satisfaction is right-on. He makes a good case for this, which will provide some much needed vindication for women readers.

This book -- like its predecessor -- is full of composite examples of couples-therapy sessions where the woman's attitude sounds in complaint and anger. As a guy, this anger feels withering. The man presented in these composite examples typically sounds clueless, mystified, and deeply hurt by his mate's harsh anger. Both the anger and the instinctive male response are sincere, and is true to my own experience trying to get help in couples therapy. So initially, I have found Real's analysis very alienating. His prototypical woman may often come off like a nag, and has that special knack of shaming while complaining. This both infuriates and, more deeply, frightens us men. Aarrgghh.

It is at this point, I believe, where I and other men typically recoil and turn away from facing women's needs, and their own fears, as Real's approach requires. Fortunately, after initially putting his book down in my own anger, something inside led me to pick it up again.

In Real's analysis, entitlement - often unconscious and almost always unacknowledged -- is at the root of the typical man's side of the relationship problems. We of the boomer and earlier generations were raised to quietly sit back in much that happens in the home, letting things take care of themselves. In reality, things don't really taking care of themselves; women are taking the care of the home. As men, our toughest work is traditionally as breadwinner outside the home. Once home, perhaps enlightened some by the women's movement, we may do chores and help with the kids. But we may also quietly avoid the challenging work of true relational intimacy with our woman. The man often sees no problem, or no rational issue.

The man remains clueless, according to Real, partly by being silent. We may think, "what's the problem: I am nice and thoughtful, even sending flowers. I don't rage or abuse., etc...." Her anger seems mystifying. But the nub may be in the silence and disengagement, and in the urgent - even if silent - avoidance of shame. Having much earlier studied and written about male depression ("I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression"), Real understands that men's issues are often driven by shame, where women's are often driven by fear. (That distinction is worth reflecting upon more generally!)

Because women are most heavily tasked with maintaining relationship, and have traditionally often been dependent on the man for economic and child-rearing reasons, women's fears are usually first expressed circumspectly, on eggshells, rather than angrily or "naggingly." A woman may attempt a host of careful, often fearful strategies for reaching for relational intimacy. The fierce anger arises gradually -- as more delicate strategies maddeningly fail. The ferocity feels like poison to the man, and is typically counterproductive.

This book coaches us through techniques to address the resulting anguish and deadlock. Real presents examples and exercises that gently but deftly lead both woman and man through the territory I'm describing, including approaches by which women can bring their man over to considering confrontation with the deeper feelings that keep him at a distance.

Real's approach is much needed, and this book not only explains unflinchingly, but suggests ways out of the deadlock. There have been important contributions along the way - e.g., Harville Hendrix' Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples. And there are libraries full of hyped up, supposed love-life panaceas. This fellow has a smart, tough set of insights, with ideas for finding our way out of the wilderness of too many current relationships.

Caveat: Promotion of the book smacks a bit of hype. (This includes, for example, much of the book descriptions above.) Surprisingly - given the value of his analysis - the author writes with some self-promoting hyperbole - suggesting he is a virtual savior, rather than a man with some excellent advice. A wise reader can pretty easily ignore some of his self-flattering comments, which is well worth doing.

More concerning, he sometimes 'sloganeers' about "21st century women and 20th century men," when he could do better to speak of changes in roles and expectations. He uses such demeaning labels and phrasings more here than in his prior work, and it is counterproductive.

Thus, Real's approach can prove problematic in the actual couple's therapy setting. Some less-skilled therapists -- "Terry Real disciples" -- may encourage the 'more evolved' woman to vent at length before welcoming the 'less evolved' man's voice. Real sometimes reads like a scold, and a partner scolded in therapy will likely reject the work on a fundamental level.

However legitimate the woman's complaint, venting about one's partner in couple's therapy can be as destructive as venting elsewhere. Worse yet, firmly establishing that he is indeed a "less evolved" person will profoundly undermine him, and thus destroy the therapy. Unless the goal is to end what the therapist judges to be a hopelessly bad partnership -- by simply giving an unhappy partner the voice and setting in which to leave -- mutuality of commitment is essential to couple's work. A key challenge for making Real's techniques work is to proceed without 'shaming' either partner.
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on February 20, 2007
Many of us come into life without any tools in our toolbox. Why? Our parents had very few tools to pass on to us. This book is full of tools and ways to keep your relationship honest and alive. I have read all of the author's other books and this one is just as good. I keep them all around for reference when I haven't loaned them out to a friend in need.

Highly recommended read...
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on June 15, 2007
If you are serious about your relationship, and both interested in learning your limitations, this is an exceptional resource.

The author describes the difference between men (who retreat into their caves to avoid intimacy and work on problems) and women (who retreat into anger to avoid problems and end up limiting initimacy). Becoming self aware is an essential aspect of operating in the world, if we are willing to be honest about our behaviors we can become more functional.

I also listened to the Audio version of the book and it was much more informative to hear the examples and conversations in this format. Having a tendency to drift when I read such examples, hearing them was better.

The behaviors identified, practices provided, and exercises are well worth the effort. We don't expect ourselves to be trained in our occupations, why is it we expect that we will be perfectly skilled to succeed in relationship? It takes learning, and enough esteem to realize we don't know everything about making it work.

This is a great start to intimate health.
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on June 18, 2007
This is the BEST relationship book that I would recommend people read no matter if you are in a good, solid relationship and want to keep it that way, in a rocky relationship that you'd like to improve, or just thinking about someday being in a relationship. In fact, it is excellent even for those who are not going to be married - just socially interacting with other human beings!! Written by Terrence Real (a family therapist, who also specializes in male depression) this book certainly makes MY FRIENDS MUST READ list. Chapters are divided and activities arranged in such a way that individuals can work thru the book on their own (and see true positive changes in their relationships - with partners or friends) OR you can work thru it as a couple in addition to individual work. Real does makes some inaccurate statements about feminism and the feminist movements in our country, but I guess no book can be perfect and not everyone has background education in Women's Studies. :)
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on March 8, 2007
Terrence Real hits the nail right on the head! I've been trying to bring my husband into the 21st century and therefore had been focusing solely on his problems. The New Rules Of Marriage opened my eyes to the things both of us need to learn and practice in order to get out of our old way of dealing with conflict and to be able to move on to the next level. This book is fantastic.
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on February 6, 2007
This is not just another self-help book that will give you more tips and good ideas that you won't be able to implement. This is the book that will take you right to the core of what creates struggle in marriages and relationships, and help you fix yours step by step. The work this book lays out is not easy, but will lead you to happy relationship, as I can personally attest.

I am making this book required reading for all my clients and am planning to use it as workbook to help them put their relationships and marriages back on the right track. Get it, study it and you will see what I mean.
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on June 7, 2011
Terry Real's reputation as a marriage counselor has couples flying in from all over the country for two-day intensive sessions. His estimate is that he has been able to prevent destruction of the marriage in about nine out of ten cases.

The New Rules of Marriage is a self-help book that will also be interesting to clinicians. Verbatim excerpts from sessions demonstrate Real's counseling style. He is not afraid to call people out on relationship-destroying behaviors, especially when grandiosity is involved. It is clear how as a family therapist he uses methods very different from those used by the typical individual therapist.

Real says, "Men are not all that unhappy in their marriages. They are unhappy that their women are so unhappy with them." He sees that a major source of wives' unhappiness is that they are trying to conform to either the traditional rules of marriage handed down from the beginning of the twentieth century or the "liberated" rules that have grown in popularity since The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963. He says that neither set of strategies will lead to the kind of loving marriage most people are looking for.

Real says, "The shift from seeing marriage as companionship to seeing marriage as a sustained form of intimacy is a transformation of historical proportions." This might be a bit of an exaggeration, and one might debate how "new" are Real's rules for a happy marriage, but I found them eminently sensible.

It is almost axiomatic that, "We are drawn to people whose issues fit perfectly with our own in a way that guarantees a reenactment of the old familiar struggles we grew up with." Real says that a great marriage is one in which the wounds of the past are healed. This, of course, is not easy, and there are many ways to get it wrong. He explains misguided "losing strategies" that people use to try to get their partners to change into the person who will make up for the hurts of childhood. The losing strategies just drive the partner away.

Real also explains what he calls "winning strategies," which doesn't mean strategies for winning arguments, but strategies where the marriage wins. He also has great ideas for renewing the romantic and sensual energy of a marriage.

I have seen some of these rules in John Gottman's work, some in Marsha Linehan's. I think Terry Real's success is due to his recognizing what rules work now, and to being able to explain them so clearly. Real is sensitive and realistic about the needs of men and women. The writing is colorful and well organized, and the case studies really make the material come alive. I learned a lot from The New Rules of Marriage, and I recommend it highly.
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on June 13, 2012
"Would you rather be right or married?" is one of the pragmatic questions posed by author Terrence Real in his book "The New Rules of Marriage" and clear questions like this addressing issues of control and "rightness" can cut through the walls that maintain distances between people and drive them to marriage disaster. The book doesn't really have any "new rules" but rather a lot of good sense taken from what a grandmother or grandfather would have offered before the plague of I-gotta-be-Me therapists came on the scene to preach the sermons of Fritz Pearls. For example Real addresses the idea of "Unbridled self expression" as being healthy by noting how self-serving and even hostile such an unloading of emotional baggage on another often is. The unloading may feel better to the dumper but the damage to the relationship in the process can often serve to make things worse. One early reviewer claimed that Real was putting men down because the clear logic offered by a male point of view was being dumped in favor of the more emotional outpourings of the female. As a "recovering" therapist (and a man who supports men AND women and the fact that they often see the world differently) Real reads as being very even-handed, clear, honest and compassionate with both men and women. This is a very easy read, no preaching and nothing here that doesn't work in the real world of relationships. The book helped in my relationship, one, I am happy to say, with very few difficulties to begin with, but clearly it can be a HUGE help even in one that seems headed over a cliff. If two people want a thing to work this book offers just the help needed.
I'd give it Five Stars but I think we tend to overdo the "Wow!" thing these days.
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on August 25, 2008
I read TR's previous two books while trying to save my 16-yr old marriage. I even went to see him for a full-day (w/ my ex-) and a half-day. Full cost: $11,000. In hindsight, TR punched through the psychobabble of 4 previous therapists and hit home on how both of us were sabotaging the relationship. Our marriage was one of those were the woman was running from self-analysis and I sought the safe-space of a therapists office. Net net, she didn't take his advice and I did (to be more honest and less nice) - which he had predicted; two months later we separated and I am now in a much more intimate, loving relationship with my second wife.
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on November 15, 2011
I'm on disc 4 of 5 of this audiobook that I checked out from our local library (read by the author). Despite not even being finished yet, so far I have heard so much more than I have ever found in another book. NEVER have I encountered a book that seems to so clearly dissect what is going on in modern relationships, and better yet, TECHNIQUE AFTER TECHNIQUE for improvement.

Not everything Dr. Real says is easy to hear, trust me. I cringed and despaired as Dr. Real went through all of the things that I do wrong. I also rejoiced when he discussed the things that my partner does that I find unbearable -- there were plenty of "HE GETS IT!" moments. I suspect there will be plenty of those for everyone! There is plenty of blame to go around re what is causing so much divorce and unhappy marriages. But crucially, there is a technique for each situation, ...SIMPLE TECHNIQUES that any earnest person can use right away.

What this book does is change your frame of reference and expectations from early 20th Century marriage values, to the realities of the 21st Century relationship. Dr. Real takes into account post-women's-lib complexities, describing how marriages have changed over the history of the United States. Very insightful. With this information, you can go about strategies to start building what he calls "full-respect living" into your marriage.

One of the things I really like about this book is that in addition to nailing behavior patterns that we all have heard by now are toxic (acting out, cheating, addiction, verbal and physical abuse, criticism, nagging, irresponsibility, low self-esteem etc.), that he has tremendous insight into the equally poisoning behaviors of ommission -- withdrawal, people who have to be always right, grandiosity, half-hearted commitment, among others. You seldom see discussions of these harder-to-identify behavior patterns in such certain and clear terms. Dr. Real identifies ALL of these things as being destructive to relationships. Better yet, he gives you TOOLS to identify and re-frame all of these things. You will for sure see your partner and you will also see yourself in this book. Which is great! That is where the new rules begin...with you!

I especially liked that Dr. Real doesn't blame or judge. On the contrary, he says that these behaviors are almost universal these days; hence the need for a new set of rules. Also, he explains how from his years of experience, in EVERY CASE we attract the partner that is going to push our most hurtful buttons because we choose relationshipos to resolve issues that still need healing from our childhood.

It seems that if couples manage to follow the techniques in this book that they will be ensconsed in full-respect living (with a side bonus of not just their marriages, but all of their relationships)...and if they are not re-kindling romance, at least they can live in low-or-no-conflict supportive partnerships. If you are lucky and have the right partner, maybe even relationships that are vibrant and fulfilling.

If you are the only one in your relationship using this book, even so you will move toward being centered and empowered, knowing that you are doing your absolute best to treat your partner respectfully, while at the same time finding and setting the boundaries and limits that you need. Using tools in this book you will identify your partner's bad habits and hurtful behaviors, and you will have what you need to avoid falling prey to them time after time. You will also learn how to clean up your own act so your partner will be comfortable.

Whether you are with someone who is "the right person" for you, or not, I believe Dr. Real gives you tools here to empower yourself and your marriage. If both partners use these concepts and techniques, it seems that it could not fail to bring couples to a truly respectful partnership, if not much more.

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