The Divorce Remedy, by Michelle Weiner-Davis (Simon & Schuster, 2002) was recently recommended by a colleague and fills a useful niche in a very crowded genre.
What I liked about this book includes:
- Emphasis on the value of trying to save a marriage or relationship, even if it is in a difficult condition. I think too many counselors steer clients toward divorce, perhaps due to their own unhappy experiences in intimacy. Divorce has a high cost, particularly if children are involved, and many players in the drama (relatives, friends, lawyers, counselors) try to deny or trivialize those costs.
- Emphasis on taking responsibility in the relationship, instead of just blaming the other person. Along with this emphasis, the author also minimizes psychological categories (such as attachment styles, codependence terminology, Freudian constructs, etc.) which I think can become a hindrance to growth. I also like how the author softens the use of the term “love,” which can really confuse a person trying to understand what is happening. In my experience, “love” has too many meanings to be helpful, and people splitting up because they no longer feel “in love” will benefit from experimenting with different language to get at what are their real experiences including preceding attitudes and expectations.
- Practical, step-by-step, easily understandable things to do in the relationship. I think many struggling couples benefit by having specific strategies to enact. Of course there are many books and magazine articles that use a step-by-step advice format and many of these are also valid and excellent. This author’s approach is thorough and consistent with my observations over the years.
There are a couple of points that I would offer as possible additional considerations.
- The term Divorce is so prominent in the title that the reader might be confused into thinking it is just useful for crisis situations, when actually the strategies offered would be good for everyone. I can imagine a person having this book on the reading table and the spouse or partner becoming alarmed, when actually the reader might not be contemplating divorce at all, but rather just wanting to understand strategies for increased harmony and coherence in the relationship.
- As with most couples books that I have read, there is not an over-arching theoretical model being applied to guide the development of the strategies. I think having a big picture in mind can be very helpful in making small decisions. This is the great benefit of the Polarity Therapy model, which has the Yang/Yin conceptual base so well-established and thoroughly detailed. Among many benefits of a big picture, the underlying tendencies and soul purpose of each gender can be a great resource, increasing self-awareness and consciousness for higher quality performance in a relationship and reducing the pressure on the other person.
- I think the author’s approach repeats the so-common idea of the relationship being mainly an interplay between the two participants. In energy terminology this is called a dipole. As described elsewhere, dipoles actually are highly unstable, whereas three-dimensional structures are more enduring and less susceptible to the inevitable cycles of attraction and repulsion that are omni-present in all phenomena including relationships.
All in all, this is an excellent resource for people in relationships who can use it to fine-tune their experience, people contemplating divorce who can have some new insights and strategies, and counselors who want to have something dependable to give their relationship-oriented clients.