- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (January 29, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345480864
- ISBN-13: 978-0345480866
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work Paperback – January 29, 2008
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Advance praise for The New Rules of Marriage
“Terry Real helps overturn old-fashioned, confining roles and opens up a treasury of hope for lasting and exciting intimacy for couples everywhere. This is a wonderful, joyful, and highly useful book.”
–Edward Hallowell, M.D., author of Crazy Busy
“Falling in love is easy, staying in love is another matter. Couples yearning for more closeness are truly in uncharted territory . . . until now, that is. This book offers amazing new insights about men and women and what it takes to make relationships work in our ever-changing culture.”
–Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW, author of Divorce Busting
“If you’re tired of the same old dance, get ready to learn a few new steps–real steps–the ones that will make a difference in your life and the lives of those you love.”
–Cheryl Richardson, author of Life Makeovers
“Terrence Real offers a brilliant, winning strategy for achieving the full-tilt, authentic, exhilarating connection both women and men crave. Real’s revolutionary program is sure to lead them to it–with the dignity, fairness, and humor that characterizes his work.”
–Dalma Heyn, author of Drama Kings
“An amazing guide to developing powerful relational skills. It is served up with great wit and a keen sense of humor–a great read.”
–Pia Mellody, author of Facing Love Addiction and The Intimacy Factor
“Groundbreaking, insightful, funny, this book brings readers the inside scoop. Sharing the deep and simple truths, it offers us practical wisdom everybody can use to make love work.”
–Bell Hooks, author of All About Love: New Visions
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Are You Getting What You Want?
Outgrowing the Old Rules
Are you happy with the relationship you’re in today? Or are you frustrated, knowing that no matter how hard you try, the open-heartedness that first drew you and your partner together seems awfully hard to win back? Perhaps you’re in a difficult relationship that needs substantial change, or perhaps you are in a good-enough relationship that could be made better. Maybe you’re looking for a new relationship that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. In any case, if you are reading these words, chances are you feel that something has been missing. It may be tempting to avoid acknowledging that feeling, but I’d like to ask you to trust your instinct. Twenty-five years of helping couples change and grow has taught me that if you feel things could be better, you’re probably right. A lot better, in fact.
People may tell you that what you’re looking for is unrealistic. I don’t think so. Well-meaning friends and family may focus on your need to compromise. I don’t want you to. Your relationship is too important for compromise. Your work may be rewarding, your kids great, and your friends wonderful, but in the end, your bond with the person you live out your life with—the one you grow up and grow old with—is the single most important connection you will ever have. I want you to go after what it is that you want—with skill and with love—and get it.
Both in counseling couples and in workshops I’ve lead around the country, I have taught people from all walks of life how to turn bad relationships into good ones, and good relationships into great ones. Because great is what you’re really after. Great is what you deserve. Not merely a relationship you can live with, but one that is truly alive—passionately, tenderly, maddeningly filled to the brim with unexpected twists and turns, with comfort and solidity, with the sense of knowing and being known, and loving one another anyway. How do you get such a relationship? You don’t get it, you build it, thoughtfully and skillfully, brick by brick.
Do you have the skills to do this? Have you been taught the craft of creating and sustaining a truly great relationship? If you’re like most of us, your upbringing—that curious mixture of what you’ve picked up about how to be close from society in general and from your family in particular—has not only failed to give you the tools you need, but has actively filled your head with a bunch of unhelpful nonsense. Nonsense like “You’d better not make him too angry.” Or, “If she really loved me, she’d . . .” Or, “I could be happy if only you’d . . .”
Like a tennis player who’s performed well enough with rotten technique, in order to master relationships you don’t just have to learn how to do it; first you have to unlearn all your bad habits. Think of me as your intimacy coach. Together, we’re going to strip down your usual relationship routines and redo them, from the very basics. Will it be comfortable? Probably not. If it is, it means I’m not doing my job. Imagine going out on a tennis court with a totally new grip after years of holding your racquet in one familiar way. Comfortable? No. But does the new, proper grip give you a more effective stroke? Once you get used to it, there’s no comparison.
Reading this, a part of you may be wondering, “Has the game of love really grown so technical that I need an intimacy coach just to have a decent relationship? Whatever happened to falling in love and, well . . . just getting along?” That kind of spontaneity is fine—if it’s working for you. Ask yourself: Is it? If you’re like most people, the honest answer is somewhere between a definite no and “Not as well as I wish it would.” If that’s the case, don’t be embarrassed; you’re in an awfully big boat. The truth is that navigating your relationship by simply doing what “comes naturally” actually stacks the odds against achieving lasting happiness. Roughly half of all marriages fail altogether, and of those marriages left standing, how many are really fulfilling? How many truly great relationships do you see around you? Everywhere you turn, it seems that people who can be terrific parents, friends, workers, and neighbors fall short in the one arena that matters the most. As if that weren’t sobering enough, consider this: The grim picture of relationships I’m describing has been relatively stable for the last forty years. The emergence of couple’s therapy in the 1950s has done nothing to change it. Self-help and psychology haven’t put a dent in it. Multimillion-dollar government programs and church initiatives have been helpless in the face of our current intimacy crisis. What is going on?
Twenty-first Century Love
Try as they might, most “experts” aren’t helping much because they fail to address the fundamental issue. What’s robbing your relationship of the closeness and passion you deserve is history; or, more precisely, your particular moment in history. If you are like the millions of men and women who feel dissatisfied, you have been trying to negotiate a twenty-first century relationship using twentieth-century skills. Your expectations of what an intimate relationship is—emotional sharing, mutual support, responsibility, vitality—belong to a new kind of marriage, one very different from your parents’ or grandparents’. But your old rule book, and your bag of relationship tools—your game plan and ways of coping—are not nearly as fresh as your vision is.
The Big Picture: Where Are We Now?
One of the reasons why men and women are so frustrated and confused with one another is that the nature of marriage itself is undergoing a sea of change.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, with the coming of the industrial revolution, men left their farms in droves and moved into the city to work. Before urbanization everyone pitched in together in all sorts of ways, but from then on men began working away from their families while women and children stayed home. The great roles for men and women of the twentieth century were forged: Man-the-Breadwinner and Woman-the-Caretaker. Both at home and in school, children were raised to have character traits that suited these roles. Boys learned to be strong, goal oriented, and competitive; girls learned to be caring, emotional, and cooperative. For at least fifty years, this arrangement, if not always equally rewarding for both partners, was nevertheless largely stable. Through the 1950s and well into the 1960s, divorce was exceptional, and in all but the most extreme cases, if marital unhappiness existed, it was kept discreetly behind closed doors.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the sleeping giant of half the population began to wake up. Starting in the 1970s and mov- ing with accelerating pace, women became the largest addition to the workforce. Women gained economic freedom, political power, a new psychology, and a collective drive to support feminine strength and independence. The women’s movement changed our society forever.
Newly empowered, women across America turned to men and began insisting on levels of emotional intimacy that most men—raised under the old regime—were not readily able to meet.
The reason why things have been so difficult between men and women in the last several decades can be pared down to this: In the last generation women have radically changed and men, by and large, have not. This is not a criticism of men. It is a simple fact.
If Woman the Caretaker was compliant and repressed, the new Liberated Woman was armed and angry, leaving many men feeling unappreciated and bewildered. “What do they want from us?” men asked. “Why can’t they accept us for who we are?” On the women’s side, finding a “good man,” a man who “got it,” seemed to grow more and more difficult. If the ancient Greeks identified with heroic Odysseus setting sail for adventure, we moderns cheer on Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda of Sex and the City, as they quest for a satisfying heterosexual relationship, or as Charlotte once put it, “to dream the impossible dream!”
What most of the men I work with don’t “get” is that their relationship job description has changed. According to the unspoken rules governing traditional twentieth-century marriage if a man was a reliable provider, a steady hand, and didn’t drink a lot or beat anyone, he was a good husband. A generation ago, if a woman went to her mother and complained of such a spouse that “He never takes my feelings seriously,” or “He puts me down in public,” or “He’s so shut down I feel like I live with a stranger,” what do you imagine she would have been told? Stop whining, suck it up, and go home—of course! But we have outgrown those rules, and now it is just such quality-of-relationship issues that break up modern couples—or, perhaps worse, render a once loving union chronically miserable. Just as women’s roles have radically changed, so, too, have their expectations of long-term relationships. While many men would be delighted if women retained more of their traditional caretaker role, most women need men to be more than providers. The refrain I hear over and over again from dissatisfied women is “I don’t feel like I have a real partner.” A partner who shares in the details of domestic life and in her concerns about the kids. An intellectual partner who cares about what she thinks and supports her development. And most of all, an emotional partner who shows interest in and appreciation for her feelings and who has a few feelings of his own to bring to the table. As women join their husbands as workers, as they step beyond the confines of their caretaker role, they redefine the rules of marriage and of relationship itself. The breadwinner/caretaker paradigm of marriage that came into existence at the beginning of the twentieth century ended at the century’s close.
The twentieth-century marriage was traditional in the sense that, like marriage for centuries before, happiness meant, above all, being good companions. Husband and wife pulled in harness together. Shoulder to shoulder, they faced life’s challenges, raised their kids, paid their taxes, and faced war and deprivation, good times and bad. No one seriously expected marriage to be passionate, or thought about long, complicated, exquisite communication. That was the stuff of romance. And romance was for kids, for the start of relationships, before things settled down, or, in some instances, for love affairs. But, as we faced a new millennium, women began to want more.
The new marriage takes the stability, the building of a life together, that was the whole of marriage a generation ago, and grafts onto it the expectations of a lifelong romance—deep talks, exciting times, and great sex.
Contemporary women want to be more than companions with their spouses; they want to remain friends and lovers. If the twentieth-century marriage was companionable, the new marriage is intimate—physically, sexually, intellectually, and, above all, emotionally.
The fly in the ointment is that while some men might be thrilled if their wives remained as sexually provocative and generous as a mistress, the rest of the new package—particularly emotional closeness—leaves them feeling inadequate and mystified, if not downright put-upon. And while women’s new empowerment may well equip them to stand up for themselves, it does a terrible job of teaching them how to stand up for the relationship.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I also love the variety of subjects like boundaries, anger management and using time-outs to calm down, and requesting change in a helpful way without nagging or getting passive aggressive.
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.
Highly recommended read...