Monday, September 26, 2022

This is how your marriage ends

This is How Your Marriage Ends, Matthew Fray (Souvenir Press, 2022)

This new relationship book stands out with its raw honesty and frank assessment of just how awful divorce is. Fray’s life came apart when his wife left with their young son. Once he worked through his anger and blame of her, he started to think more about his role in the breakdown of their marriage. This led to a blog, relationship coaching, and now a book.
“My overarching premise is that good people who want to be married accidentally hurt one another and betray each other's trust without either partner being aware of it as it is happening until their marriage slowly becomes toxic and/or ends.” (p8)
Fray thought he was a good guy - he never hurt people intentionally, he provided, and he cared. But he came to the conclusion that good people can make bad spouses when they do not try to understand their partner’s emotions. He frames one of his key concepts around the “invalidation triple threat”.

#1 - My wife’s thoughts were wrong - what she thinks happened is wrong.
#2 - My wife’s feelings were wrong - how she feels about it is wrong.
#3 - The justifiable defence - defending or explaining your actions to justify the two things above.
“Constantly, and most of the time unconsciously, we invalidate the lived experiences of the people we love. With great conviction, we tell them to their faces that their thoughts and beliefs are wrong. We tell them that their feelings are wrong. And we tell them that their treatment of us is wrong - that it’s unfair.” (p127)
Rather, he has come to realise:
“I want to be a person who chooses to comfort and support the people I love when they feel hurt or sad or afraid rather than try to convince them that they SHOULDN’T feel these things. (p147)
“If any of us want to succeed in dating, marriage, parenting, or friendship, we need to replace this habit of judgment with something else. Curiosity. Empathy. Encouragement.” (p122)

He proposes with 6 key relationship skills to practice and master:

#1 - Choosing safety and trust over being ”right”
#2 - Know your partner almost as well as you know yourself
#3 - Differentiating between character flaws and habits
#4 - Arguing or criticising effectively - goal is not to win, but to arrive at truth.
#5 - Connection rituals
#6 - Move the dots closer
“Every day - every conversation, every moment - is an opportunity to move closer to one another or further apart. You get to choose.” (171)

Some things I liked about this book:
  • His raw honesty. A man who will share in detail his emotional and physical reactions when his wife left, and his owning of his own mistakes as a result is worth listening to. It has value if it stops a divorce that could have been prevented by alarming people so much as to the consequences. (Note: he thinks his wife was right to leave him, but he grieves that it had to be that way). 
  • His assessment that people are not taught how to relate well, have few skills at it, and this is something that is crucial for youth and young adults. 
“One of the ways we can make this world a better place is by getting collectively serious about educating both ourselves and younger generations about the knowledge and skills we will need to excel in our human relationships." (p39)
“We are not taught, nor are we teaching our kids the truth that nothing in life will affect us more profoundly as our closest interpersonal relationships - namely, marriage or a romantic relationship that looks and feels like marriage.” (p79)
  • He challenges couples to honestly consider that their marriage should come before their kids. 
  • He challenges men never to put their wife in the position of having to do something for them that their mother did. So, work together to manage the mental load, the second shift, and the emotional labour in the home. 
Other things to note:
  • It’s written from a secular point of view. Which is totally fine, just different from most relationship books I review here. He is somewhat ambivalent about pornography use. It’s crass at points and includes a fair amount of swearing. I’m not convinced all concepts are referenced (e.g., his 6 second hug is very close to Gottman’s 6 second kiss). Practically, it was a bit too wordy and could have used a cleaner edit. At the same time, some more specific relationship examples might have been beneficial (often examples were about other aspects of life). 
  • It really is aimed at men and how they fail their wives. Because he is a man who has done so, it has credibility, but it does seem very one-sided. I’m not sure how well it would go for a wife to read this, decide it describes her husband, and then put it in his hands. So, perhaps men need to recommend it to men. 
  • On a broader note - it continues the stereotype that women are emotional and men are rational, and neither can do the other well. 
  • I can see it’s usefulness for those relationships with regular conflict and with accusations of not understanding each other. It could be of help to those who are new to considering emotions and their partner’s point of view.
In conclusion, it was an interesting read. I am appreciative of extra voices in the relationship space, and there is something refreshing about someone openly admitting their failings and learnings. Having said that, if you need relationship help and want to use a book to guide you, I’d probably suggest Gottman over this (either The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work) or his newer one with his wife Schwartz Gottman: Eight Dates.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Ticket to Paradise

This new offering from Universal Pictures is a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy with two big names as
the leads - Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Georgia (Roberts) and David (Clooney) have been divorced for almost 20 years, cannot stand each other, and only agree on one thing - how much they love their daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever).

Before she starts work as a lawyer straight out of college, Lily heads to Bali for a well-earned holiday. She meets and falls in love with Gede (Maxime Bouttier), a local seaweed farmer, and they plan to marry straight away. Georgia and David put their differences to the side and head straight out to try stop her making the same mistake they made 25 years prior.

Its filmed in absolutely beautiful settings with gorgeous tropical islands, sunsets, and oceans (apparently filmed in Queensland). As such, it feels luxurious. It’s quite a lot of fun seeing Clooney and Roberts in action, they make a good pair and the chemistry and conflict between them is enjoyable. Overall though, there’s not a lot of substance to the story, none of it goes into much depth, there’s no real major climax or surprise, and it plays it out exactly as a feel-good Hollywood romance should. Which is perfect - if that is what you’re in the mood for!

I was a guest of Universal Pictures. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

God Made Babies

God Made Babies, Justin & Lindsay Holcomb (New Growth Press, 2022)

What a fantastic addition this is to the God Made Me series, as Justin & Lindsay Holcomb give parents of little ones a head start on the conversation about where babies come from.

Like all the books in this series (10 at last count) they are aimed at toddlers and pre-schoolers, and again Trish Mahoney demonstrates her skill with eye-catching and engaging illustrations.

What I loved the most was their angle into the topic. It didn’t leap straight to people, but started with God creating the world, plants, animals, and people. 

Then they break down how reproduction works across the variety of life God has made, starting with flowers, then reptiles and birds, and finally to mammals.

Scant but adequate details are given about how a mom and dad both give a small part and they join together in the mom’s body to make a baby. Then details show how the baby grows from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a watermelon, and how it develops over that time. I think they have hit the mark with just the right amount of information for this age group. It’s accurate, with the correct words used (reproduce, sperm, egg, womb, vagina), but not too detailed. This means parents can use it as is, or if it prompts more questions they have the groundwork laid to give more information.

The explanation about flower pollination was more complicated than it needs to be at this age. But that’s a very minor quibble, and overall it’s very helpful.

If you read books to little ones, you'll want to add this one to your collection. 

I was given an ebook in exchange for an honest review.  

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex (updated)

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, Sheila Wray Gregoire (Zondervan, 2022)

Some readers may recall that I have reviewed a number of Gregoire's books over the last 12 months - The Great Sex Rescue, The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex & The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

When I reviewed the Good Girl's Guide I noted how it was likely travelling back in time in an author's mind, seeing I first read her newer writing, then turned to what was written in 2012. Thankfully, Gregoire has done a complete update, re-releasing this book alongside the new one with her husband - The Good Guy's Guide - for men. 

As such, this is not a detailed review, because much of the content from 10 years ago is similar, and I have already reviewed it, Having said that, every question I raised with the last book has pretty much been addressed or changed. I'm still uncertain whether two books are needed to cover married Christian sex. I feel like one addressed to both partners could have more value. However, the Gregoires have chosen this path, and they've done it well.   

With the overarching premise that great sex is pleasurable, intimate, and mutual, Gregoire helpfully explores three aspects of intimacy – physical, spiritual, and relational. She covers sexual intimacy, orgasm, differences in libido, and challenges that couples face, and ways to grow in love, service, and pleasure with each other. It addresses many common questions and issues, as well as areas of disappointment or concern. 

I noted that at a number of points her message to women is "you're not broken". It's sad to consider how  often she must have heard this sentiment in order to keep addressing it.

An appendix covers honeymoon sex in detail, with lots of helpful tips and guidance, without being overly prescriptive. 

This is a detailed, frank, balanced, and honest book that promotes mutual pleasure in the bedroom. It works well on its own, but will have most value being read alongside the companion volume (and in fact, the questions for couples to work through are the same in each). 

My hesitations raised at the end of The Good Guy's review remain, especially regarding the Gregoire's online presence.

Despite that, these two books are now solidly near to the top of my recommended reading for married intimacy.