Customer Reviews: Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
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on January 17, 2012
The timing of the arrival of this book was somewhat uncanny, as it arrived the day after my wife and I had had our first fight in quite a long while (in the past, there have been rough spots). During that fight, uncharacteristically, my wife was really anger with me and lost her temper, screaming and yelling and cursing; that night, she even slept in another room. The next morning my instinct was (fitting of Ms. Lerner observation that we tend toward fight or flight) to be frosty, but I reminded myself that won't change a downward spiral effect; so I tried to be pleasant, but that probably just got me to neutral. Then, a few pages in to Marriage Rules, Lerner wrote (quoting a friend and colleague): "It's just when your partner is being the biggest jerk that you're called upon to be your best self." Now, my wife wasn't really being a jerk (I could understand why she was disappointed in me, even if she was over-reacting [from my vantage point]. But it helped me reset my emotional thermostat and got me excited about Ms. Lerner's new book.

The excitement wasn't because of any big breakthroughs, but because the book offers timeless reminders delivered in an engaging way and illustrated with good vignettes. For example, in Rule #43 in the "Fight Fair" section, she tells about a San Francisco-based couple that fought viciously over just about everything. They seemed to have no control over their attacks on each other -- until a distinguished British professor stayed as a house guest for months, sleeping in the bedroom right next to theirs. Over those months, they were courteous with each other and agreed it was among the best months of their marriage. The point: you have more control than you think.

Not every rule or vignette moved me (for example, her story about communication about sex in Rule #55 seemed a bit too obvious), but the general message in that section "Forget About Normal Sex" is spot on and relieves pressure that can only make things worse in the bedroom. So overall, well recommended, especially if you're looking for a book to keep by your bedside and read a rule or two or few at a time -- and then share the book with your partner.

Other books on marriage to consider: Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, 20th Anniversary Edition (helpful for looking at the deep underlying patterns that cause disfunction) and The Couple's Survival Workbook: What You Can Do To Reconnect With Your Partner and Make Your Marriage Work (especially helpful if you're really struggling).
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on February 11, 2012
I have been married for nearly 34 years. I want to be married at least another 34. I believe marriage is the second greatest gift God has given us, and I want to extract all the joy and beauty available from this special present. I treasure my marriage above all earthly possessions and relationships. I think I know a few things about how to make a marriage work. And yet, do my wife and I descend into stupid, completely preventable, fights? Sure do. Maybe this old dog can learn a few new tricks.

All the other positive reviews here do not require me to write at length. This book is worth reading. Studying. Sharing. There is much in here that it took my wife and me years to figure out; I wish I had read it (and implemented it) 33 years ago. But marriage is a path, not a destination, and the gentle yet consistent advice in here, with a few simple sample responses, is so effective and so adroit that it is hard to imagine anyone reading this who could not enhance his or her marriage. If you want your relationship to be one of the rocks upon which the rest of your life stands, read and savor the advice Dr. Lerner has to offer.

As she says, you don't need all 106 rules. But if you can learn one new thing that re-directs a destructive behavior or salves an exasperating wound, this would be time and money well spent.
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on January 10, 2012
My wife got this book and I picked it up, expecting to scan it briefly and then put it aside. Instead, I got hooked. The stories are easy to read, often witty as well as poignant, and not a word is wasted. Harriet Lerner doesn't give predictable "advice." Instead, she gets inside a couple's tired old patterns and comes up with something new to try--something simple, powerful, and often unexpected that may shift the "dance." Who knew that I would read--and even learn from--a self-help book? I'm here to say that I did and I'm proud!
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on August 12, 2013
This book was very helpful for me to see alot of areas that my husband and I need help in our marriage.. He DID NOT read the book, however when I really thought a rule was one that concerned us, I would read the the chapter to him and he WOULD listen and take it to heart as well... This book has helped me change some amazing areas in marriage that I didnt even realize we needed help in....
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on November 28, 2015
When read daily to each other, this simple marriage rule book invites conversation and perspective shared together. We took turns each day reading one rule to the other. The flow of this books starts a 'troubled' couple off at the stage, when both are feeling unheard and unsure of where the relationship stands. Once you get past the rules about speaking to each other, the "right" way, you move into the next chapter of rules with the foundation necessary to make improvements in the way you communicate and relate to your partner. As we marched through the book, we already decided we would revisit chapters or rules to strengthen what we learned. So much of this is common sense, but something that also vanishes when emotions are hurt and high. It saved us, and got us back on track, back on the path which we somehow departed without recognizing it was happening to us. We found this book better than our marriage counseling sessions at times and even bragged to our therapist of things we had learned as we read the rules. Therapy can work slowly, but this book gives a simple rule per day that keeps the momentum going and preventing a couple from backing up in between sessions. Not complicated to read or understand, this book won't scare off either partner and even covers rules for those with children (or step-children) and a little family of origin in there. We would definitely buy another rule book by this author, if she made this a series. Thank you for formatting a self-help book in this manner for those of us weary of psychology books full of psych jargon and over-explanation!
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on June 1, 2012
Harriet Lerner's writing voice is the most loving and comforting of any marriage author I've ever read. Whenever I read her books, I feel as if my adoring grandmother is holding my hand and setting me straight with the love and acceptance that only my grandmother could--until Lerner came along, of course. As a result, Lerner's books provide a sanctuary for the reader, which is quite important as far as marriage improvement goes. Many people pick up marriage books because we feel lost and alone and because we're in pain. The last thing we want when going through such painful emotions is a book that preaches at us, and Lerner's never do. They comfort and they teach. Marriage Rules is exactly as it sounds. It includes 106 simple rules organized within 10 topic areas. It's the kind of book one can read one rule at a time, and it's also the kind of book one can re-read over and over again, as needed. It's a wonderful resource for people on the brink of divorce as well as for reasonably happy couples who want to take things to the next level.

Because I write about relationships, I interview Lerner periodically for various magazine pieces and also for my own marriage site. As a result I can report that she's just as warm and real in person as she is throughout the pages of her books. Often when I interview experts, I gain great insights, but I don't necessarily connect with them on a deep level. Lerner is different. We quickly and easily became friends, and I believe that's how she is with pretty much anyone. She's real, approachable and knows her stuff.
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on July 9, 2015
Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up is not so much a typical self-help book as it is a set of helpful suggestions, for maintaining a healthy relationship or mending a broken one pieced together, by a seasoned expert in the fields of psychology and family relationships. Harriet Lerner doesn’t waste time with wordy prose, instead she effectively provides a list of 106 rules, divided into ten chapters, which suggest concrete examples of common issues and ways to alter perspectives and behaviors to improve relationships. Despite the sound information she gives, it is difficult as a reader to learn about all the possible missteps he or she is making without feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Still, if the reader wants to learn and change, Lerner imparts something to take away from each example.

Lerner’s rules are diverse, concrete and are sure to contain advice which applies to every reader looking to improve his or her relationship. The author gives the reader ideas about how to change his or her own behaviors in ways that will positively impact both partners. She gives specific examples of how to create a more loving and positive atmosphere by pointing out things many people do in relationships that cause tension and suggests alternatives, such as only criticizing once per day or telling your partner things you admire about him or her. She points out important aspects to maintaining successful relationships over time, which most people are not aware of, such as: marriage expert Goldman says a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions are necessary for a lasting marriage. The reader may feel like he or she is doing many things wrong, or that this might lead to a break up, but Lerner has suggestions for every situation.

The author gives advice for happy couples, those who don’t get along, or those on the verge of splitting up, which is a bit unsettling, but also means any reader can take ideas from a variety of examples and apply them for his or her own purposes. By showing couples at different stages,
Lerner, gives the reader a chance to reflect on his or her own relationship, roles within the relationship, and how it might change in the future. The reader wonders, for example, if he or she exhibits the problem behaviors that lead to divorce. In allowing the reader to consider different options, for failure and improvement, Lerner literally helps the reader make better choices for his or her relationship. Her rules support and empower decisions for the reader.

No one ever says marriage is easy. We know all relationships take work. Most partnerships don’t have a guidebook like this one, with straight-forward advice. If you’re ready, use it and welcome it. No matter what the circumstance of the reader, Marriage Rules is a start to making changes from within you’ll need to improve your life with another person.
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on November 30, 2012
Practical, constructive, loving and MATURE instruction on how to communicate with the person you love. How to express yourself clearly, how to clarify an issue, how to deal with a spouse who has his or her own communication issues, and what to say and what not to say in the heat of the moment -- and always keep the preservation of the relationship and everyone's dignity intact. A very wise and realistic approach -- I would recommend giving it to every bride (and groom) at a wedding shower. In fact, I think I'm going to start doing just that. I read it after being married for 30 years, and I cringe at the memories of my own immaturity, and feel lucky that my marriage has survived. Turn off the pop culture "advice" and listen to someone who can really tell you how to honor your relationship. If you truly want a strong, loving, respectful relationship, this is the book for you. If you want to get your partner to do it all your way, you're not going to get that from this book, but you need it too. A profound wake-up call.
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on January 5, 2012
The best part of this book is the tone Ms. Lerner takes - that change can be small, that things change and you can make that change work for you, that relationships are worth saving and worth working at. This was something I remembered from reading Ms. Lerner's other "Dance" books and something I admire about her approach to relationships. The rules in this book are common sense, really, but bear being repeated because often when things are going bad in a relationship, all common sense flies out the window! I particularly liked the first couple of chapters on increasing warmth in the relationship and reducing criticism. I have found these two things to be key to my most rewarding relationships. Other chapters cover such topics as how to listen, how to break up the chase-pursued dynamic, how to fight, how to negotiate regarding sex, how to adjust to having children, how to know and establish boundaries, making step families work, and maintaining relationships with extended family. Overall a very useful book with something for everyone. I liked Ms. Lerner's challenge to find ten rules to practice and see if they don't make a difference.
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on January 7, 2012
It is not often that a book filled with advice about marriage is this much fun. The chapters on various hot spots divided into short, pithy comments is so clever and wise that the ideas are easily understandable and actually possible to follow. The chapter on how we talk and listen is particularly inspired and, as in her other books, she helps us look at our own power and accountability and infuses her writing with humor and hope. Don't miss.
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