If you are a long time reader of this blog you'll know that I've been married to my husband Matt for thirteen years. It has been a hard road to say the least. I haven't really talked about the giant pot holes we've experienced, mostly because it isn't my story to tell. We've gone to counseling. I have read countless books. I have realized that after fifteen years together total, Matt is not the person who is going to change. He is a terrible communicator, he isn't great for my emotional needs, and when it comes to empathy he rivals a dead houseplant. I've come to realize that if I'm going to be happy, I am on my own. I cannot count on Matt for anything other than financial stability, heavy lifting, killing spiders, and cleaning up blow out diapers and puke. All big, important things, OBVIOUSLY, but sometimes I want to cry and have my spouse care.
Clearly, this book was screaming my name.
With a focus on self-empowerment and resilience, this refreshing and witty relationship guide has a reassuring counterintuitive message for unhappy spouses: you only need one partner to initiate far-reaching positive change in a marriage.
Conventional wisdom says that “it takes two” to turn a troubled marriage around and that both partners must have a shared commitment to change. So when couples can’t agree on how—or whether—to make their marriage better, many give up or settle for a less-than-satisfying marriage (or think the only way out is divorce).
Fortunately, there is an alternative.
It Takes One to Tango is a groundbreaking guide that shows how one determined partner—acting alone—can spark lasting, significant change in a marriage, often accomplishing change that cannot be made any other way. It doesn’t matter how short-fused, argumentative, or seemingly impossible your partner can be—or how long you’ve been stuck.
Marriage and family therapist Winifred Reilly has this message for struggling partners: Take the lead. Doing so is effective—and powerful. Through Reilly’s own story of reclaiming her now nearly forty-year marriage, along with anecdotes from many clients she’s worked with, you’ll learn how to:
-Focus on your own behaviors and change them in ways that make you feel good about yourself and your marriage
-Take a firm stand for what truly matters to you without arguing, cajoling, or resorting to threats
-Identify the “big picture” issues at the basis of your repetitive fights—and learn how to unhook from them
-Be less reactive, especially in the face of your spouse’s provocations
-Develop the strength and stamina to be the sole agent of change
Combining psychological theory, practical advice, and personal narrative, It Takes One to Tango is a fresh and engaging guide that will empower those who choose to take a bold, proactive approach to creating a loving and lasting marriage.
Let's just get into this, shall we? The book is broken up into three parts (For Better-or Worse, Now What Do I Do, and Welcome to Your Stronger, More Loving Relationship) and each part has little sub-chapters in it. The first section is basically a background of the author's own marriage and how she had an Oprah like "AHA moment" at a continuing education conference led by Ellyn Bader who talked about marriage. Winifred Reilly is a counselor and often deals with couples on the brink of divorce, for various reasons, and she (like so many others) finds difficulty on guiding these couples through troubled waters when her own marriage isn't an example of what a relationship should be. Like so many couples they bicker, fight over stupid stuff, and over time drift apart. Winifred and her husband had wildly different measures of contentment and the status quo so it's no wonder they were at odds all these years later.
And raise your hand if that mirrors your own relationship- I would bet all of us are sitting at our computers with our hands in the air like morons.
So part two is the meat of the book, it's essentially free marriage counseling with concrete how to steps on changing your marriage, all by yourself. So many of my friends are open to counseling but their husband won't go, doesn't see the point, doesn't think anything is wrong with him, etc and that's OK- that's why this book was written. Easily my FAVORITE chapter was the "Keep your anxiety from running the show: Strengthen your tolerance for the things that push your buttons" and holy hell, that is what I needed. Matt and I are very different communicators. I am very open, I'm willing to talk about anything and everything, and if I have an issue- I say it. Matt is the exact opposite. He says nothing. Ever. I could ask him a point blank question and I will get absolute silence. Eventually, when I get so angry at getting zero response, he'll say things like, "I was trying to think.." and then I lose it all together because I'm a mom, I will wait you out, buddy. We will sit on this damn couch for 45 minutes until you think of something but you damn sure aren't getting out of here without saying a word.
Cue the silent showdown. It's really terrible and I hate it. This book covers that. I'm trying really hard to implement the suggestions and it is HARD. At this point I seriously wonder if he is trying to send me over the edge on purpose.
The other chapter I really identified with was called, "What Happens Once You Calm Down?- Growing Separately, together". The best time in our marriage was around 2012-2014. I decided that since Matt didn't like to do the things I liked to do, and it was a nightmare to find a sitter for over nights and he always works, that I would go out with my friends. I went to concerts, I went to dinner with friends to talk, I would go out running and really took care of myself. I was the best wife during those times because I was happy. Not only that, but I was a great mom. I got breaks away from it all and I really feel like that was the key to a happy marriage/life. I didn't let the small things bother me, I felt like I more attentive to Matt, our communication was better, all things were functioning better in our relationship. When I look at life now and it's really awful, I see I'm not doing any of those things and we're all paying for it. I don't think having separate interests means you're bound to grow apart, it did the opposite for us. On page 220 there's a line that has always been a guiding thing for me, "..it's our job to make ourselves happy in our relationship." and it is so true.
Overall? I'm giving this book 5 stars. Truly. You know I don't give those out willy nilly but this is one of the first self help books I've read that left me feeling inspired and optimistic. I really think this is a great gift to newly married couples who think they'll never hit that rut, because we ALL hit that rut. I think that's why the divorce rate is so high, people think the lovey-dovey phase will always be around and nope... it sure won't. That fades, but you have to look around and see what is still there, hopefully a solid foundation. There is a certain calm and confidence you have when you know that without a doubt, you have someone who will always have your back even if you are dead wrong. Which reminds me of the time I made a scene at a local business because I was absolutely SURE I had just gotten ripped off. Matt was with me but figured it out far quicker than me that I was actually totally wrong and making an ass out of myself. He went along with it, backing me up, and as we were leaving he says, "you know you were totally wrong, right?", to which I replied, "Yup, but I was too far in before I figured it out." and we just laughed. So though Matt drives me to the edge of my sanity, I know he will always have my back.
You can catch up with author Winifred M. Reilly through her website, her Facebook, or on Twitter!