Happy Relationships Blog

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My biggest influence, and the reason I have taken on the challenge of saving marriages, were my parents, who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  And their influence wasn’t because of anything they ever said to me, but what they did, stayed married.  What makes this more important was they had the typical marriage of couples of their generation, full of fights, but the managed to stick it out.  They taught me that divorce was not an option, that quitting was not the path to take.  

My mom actually had my career mapped out when I was a kid to be a priest, something I took very seriously.  I was an altar boy (no, I do not have any stories) and studied the bible intently.  Although I haven’t read the bible since I was a kid I have used a lot of what I learned in my book.  And then I discovered girls.

Although my career was extremely successful I never met a girl who lit up my passion, until at the height of the stock market (I worked as a Wall Street analyst) in 2000 I met a girl I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and then we started arguing.  Towards the end we went to a therapist looking for help solving our relationship troubles.  When I realized he wasn’t really helping I decided to tackle the issue myself, although that relationship ended.  Writing this book was my cathartic reaction to that pain.  

When I met this girl I had worked for 5 years as a semiconductor analyst on Wall Street.  So I studied like a Wall Street analyst, reading over 100 books in a period of 10 months, which equates to 2 ½ books a week, straight for 10 months.  I believe this may be one of the most researched books ever written. And at the end of this research my confidence in my ability to solve the relationship problem resulted in the book, after 9 months of writing.  

The bottom line is a professional psychologist could not have written such an expansive book as “Equality: The Quest for the Happy Marriage” because of the limitations of the industry.  My joke is the 100 books read included nearly 2 dozen relationship books and the only books read that were fiction were the relationship books.  In fact, the first title concept I came up with was “Men Are From Earth, Women Are From Earth” to demonstrate just that point.  

by Tim Kellis


Here is another media inquiry, requested during the time that Hilary Clinton was still running for president.  The question concerned what to do in a relationship when the woman made more money than the man.  

We just may have a First Matey in the White House. In this day and age, is there still a sticking point when the wife is more successful than the husband? We’ve seen Academy Award-winning actresses losing their men after winning the little golden one. How is Bill going to deal with Hill being the big chief? University professors, marriage counselors who are psychologists/psychiatrists/M.D.s — I need good studies or long-term experience to back up statements about the pitfalls of a wife’s super success. Have the times been a-changing? And how to make the marriage work? Also, if you are a woman who is success-driven, what kind of men should you look for? 

Well, the primary purpose of the psychology industry is supposed to be to help individuals within a marriage learn how to have a balanced ego.  Unfortunately, because of Freud’s biology conclusion this message is lost.  And a woman who is more successful than her husband is a perfect example, given the financial pressures on marriage today.  Because of the lack of focus on balancing the ego the industry has also not embraced another concept, and that is happiness is not possible if the individuals define themselves by what I call the 2 false Gods, looks and money.  If you define yourself based on your looks or level of income, then you will not be able to find happiness within your marriage.  What this means with our question above is that you cannot define yourself based on your job, whether a man or a woman.  If a woman is using her status with her job to gain power in the relationship then the relationship cannot be balanced.  

And if the man is intimidated by his wife’s success then he cannot find balance in the relationship.  In fact, this brings up one of the more humorous points with marriages, the situation where the woman does make more money than the man, and the man is intimidated.  Are you kidding me!!!  I would be doing high-fives all the way to the bank if my wife made more money than me.  I just do not understand men who are intimidated by a successful wife.  There is not balance in that situation. 

Here is the way I answer the situation in the book:

The best way to look at the interaction of the partnership is that both people in the partnership have exactly fifty percent of the say in the decision making process.  No one person can tell the other person what the solution to the problem will be.  Both perspectives must be taken into consideration.  If you are not able to see the perspective of your partner then you cannot understand the other side of the discussion.  The right relationship is a fifty-fifty partnership between two people where the outcome of the discussion is what would be best for both people on an equal basis.  If you want ten dollars and the best solution for both of you is for you to have nine dollars then you get the nine dollars, and you understand why!  The path to happiness leads directly through the road of compromise. 

No this does not mean that you do half of the dishes and she does the other half, or you decide where to go to dinner on Tuesday evenings and he gets to decide on Thursday evenings, or that you both must make exactly fifty percent of the income of the household.  Even more importantly, this does not mean that if you make eighty percent of the income then your partner must make up the deficit in another manner.  Pessimists would argue that if you structure a relationship based on thinking then you take all of the emotion out of the relationship, you get bored.  Common sense, though, would tell you the exact opposite.  

If you have a relationship based only on love then the only emotion that is growing in your unconscious is the emotion of love.  That other emotion, of unhappiness, is not even present.  Emotions are never stagnant.  They either grow or they shrink.  If everyday your relationship involves only love then you only grow the emotion of love.  Life is actually a lot of fun.  Guess what, you become happy.  Granted life is tough because of this and because of that, but is it really that tough?  Getting along with your partner is actually one of the best investments in life you can ever make.  It is actually free.  You can only get there though if you develop a relationship based on the psychological notion that both get to share equally in the thinking and the feelings that go into developing the emotional bond called love. 

Getting The Love You Want, A Guide For Couples
By Harville Hendrix, PhD. 

Introduction: 

Another relationship book that has sold extremely well is Getting The Love You Want, A Guide For Couples by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. Dr. Hendrix has been a featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She introduced him as the best marital therapist she has ever known. So does the esteemed Dr. impart some wonderful wisdom that really helps relationships overcome their difficulties? Well, yes and no.

The first statement he makes in his book that is yet to be understood in mainstream psychology is the position of the therapist in therapy. Because of Freud’s ego the therapist has maintained a position of status over a patient that has yet to be rescinded. If the industry were to understand this notion, then the path would be cleared for understanding the objective of therapy, balancing the ego. Dr. Hendrix’s wife actually realizes what their concept does when she states “you’re shifting the emphasis to the relationship between the couple, not the relationship between the client and the therapist.” Way to go Helen! Freud is probably turning over in his grave. To him, the individual patient was insignificant.

Details:

So what major breakthrough does he offer the reader? To his credit, Dr. Hendrix fully understands the impact parents have on the individual. He realizes that if one or both parents were either too loving or too remote then the child grows up to be a wounded adult, the personal history of the individual is the cause of the trouble in the marriage. What he does with this knowledge unfortunately does not help the reader other than pointing out this fact. Dr. Hendrix is also blinded by his heritage, the heritage of Sigmund Freud.

He, too, falls into the biology trap. “…we instinctively select mates who will enhance the survival of the species. Men are drawn to classically beautiful women…Women select mates…with pronounced ‘alpha’ qualities, the ability to dominate other males and bring home more than their share of the kill.” He does at least admit, “We select mates who are more or less our equals.” This, though, is the last you read about equality.

To him, the process of the relationship is nothing more than biological. He defines the processes as romantic love, the power struggle, transformation, and “spontaneous oscillation.” What is “spontaneous oscillation?” Friendship! Yes, the objective of the relationship, according to him, is not love and happiness, but friendship. Argue until you become friends.

At least he is not pontificating a dulling of the emotions. He even explains romantic love from a biological perspective, and what changes romantic love. “Scientists can’t explain the release of these potent chemicals [that are released in our brains when we fall in love], or what causes them to diminish.” Jung would call them the psychic energy called the anima and the animus. Falling in love is not a biological phenomenon.

And how does he develop his theory of childhood development? He argues we develop biologically, of course. He states that as children we develop our “old brain” as children, which causes the problems as adults. Does he then explain the only way to overcome our childhood traumas is by forgiving them? No, we cannot change our biological makeup.

What he does explain is that when we reach adulthood and find a mate we unconsciously choose someone who has the same negative character traits as our negative parents.

Unfortunately, here is where the logic becomes illogical. He does state when we find a mate we hide our insecurities. We reveal our “false selves” in new relationships when we have insecurities. “One bit of make-believe in which virtually all lovers engage is trying to appear to be more emotionally healthy than they really are.” What is so illogical about this point in the relationship is that because people with insecurities hide their insecurities until they become comfortable enough to expose them is, “how do you know that the person you fell in love with had the same insecurities that your parents had?” You don’t! The insecurities are not revealed until the arguments begin. Dr. Hendrix rationalizes arguments by stating you were looking for them in the first place!

How does he tiptoe around the subject? “It’s impossible to define precisely when the [power struggle] stages occur.” This is another perfect example of a cop-out for trying to resolve the arguments in the first place.

Harville doesn’t seem to grasp the objective of the positive relationship is to behave equally, not letting the relationship degrade into the power struggle. This “stage” is the figurative fork-in-the-road; you either take the road to happiness or the road to unhappiness, which is paved with the power struggle.

In an example of the illogic of a psychologist, Dr. Hendrix makes a statement about his patients using the term always and never by saying this is a “clear indication that [the patient] was in a regressive state,” which he then follows by stating his belief that “all people have a dark side to their nature, a part of their being that they try to ignore.” How does he know that everyonehas a dark side?

Until we explain the cause of anger we will not resolve the problems in our relationships. Does he explain the psychology behind the relationship? He doesn’t need to explain our relationships from a psychological perspective. In his mind, we are simply biological beings.

Relationship Rescue 
by Phillip C. McGraw, PhD.

Introduction:

A book that clearly demonstrates the lack of understanding of the successful relationship is Relationship Rescue by Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D. What is so sad about this book is that he is so close to the answer yet still unable to understand. Today he is the highest profile psychologist in the industry but that doesn’t mean he comes close to really helping troubled relationships.

Because of his profile, though, he is the most colorful in his words and his writing. Unfortunately for his audience, he is even more emphatic about his beliefs, which turn out to be even more illogical than many of his competitors. This fact is most obvious in his section defining the myths of the relationship. Yes, even the esteemed Dr. Phil falls into this trap with his relationship book. In the book Dr. Phil first assumes that yes every relationship includes arguments. 

Details:

For example, he explains that it is “completely naïve and fanciful thinking” to believe serious disagreements can be resolved and that “In the twenty five years that I have been doing work in the field of human behavior, I have seen few if any genuine relationship conflicts ever get resolved.” Yes, it appears he is admitting that he has not solved one conflict in twenty-five years of practice!

So is he saying we just move on without any possibility of reconciling differences in relationships? His “logic” is that “If arguing is done in accordance with some very simple rules of engagement, it can actually help the quality and longevity of the relationship in a number of ways.” He cites numerous times throughout the book this belief. “…Whether you have arguments is not what determines the long-term success or failure of your relationship. It’s how you argue.”

In most of the rest of the book he elaborates on these very simple rules of how to argue as his new revelations. Without a platform of common sense, the logic of arguments is followed by suppression of the negative feelings behind the discontent, without any psychological explanation for the source of these negative feelings.

He also mentions, “Men are going to be men and women are going to be women, and no therapist can change it.” Dr. Phil actually reveals that therapy is not directed towards men by stating in a letter written to men at the back of the book, “I’m assuming that this letter is the first thing you’re reading in this book.”

On the positive side, this book begins his quest to help individuals become happy by explaining the path to overcome the troubles is the responsibility of the reader. Individuals must be happy with themselves before they can make the relationship happy.

In a section where he comes oh so close to discovering the positive relationship is a section entitled “Make yourself happy rather than right”. Ironically, in this section he cites one of the few case studies of a chief master sergeant father and a rebellious son in exhibiting the differences between being right and happy. Again, this is one of the few case studies cited. 

The father comments his son should obey him “because I’m the father, by God, and as long as he’s living under my roof, eating my food, and spending my money, I’ve got the right to tell him what to do and how to do it.” Does Dr. Phil follow up with successfully helping the father’s perspective? No. Two and a half weeks after this session the son dies playing basketball. Now of all of the examples he must have seen in his “twenty five” years in practice this is the only example he could come up with? Why wouldn’t he give an example of an unhappy man and wife with whom he was able to convey this message?

Dr. Phil has given up on relationship therapy as he mentioned on Oprah, though, because he realizes there isn’t anything he can do. He does try sometimes now that he has his own show. David Letterman even ribs Dr. Phil nightly on his show: Words of Wisdom From Dr. Phil, “I don’t know what I am doing,” “I’ll beat the crap out of you.” “Call your wife a bitch.” “90% of people are stupid.” Apparently Dr. Phil has now become an entertainer instead of a psychologist, sort of a Jerry Springer with a diploma.

Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus                       
By John Gray, PhD.

Introduction:

Prejudice. One of the greatest gifts that has been discovered because of our wonderful system of democracy is the problem caused by having prejudicial beliefs. Prejudice breeds ignorance and contempt, results in anger, produces an overwhelming urge for power, blinds individuals from seeing the path to happiness, and in reality is the cause for the troubles within our relationships. Unfortunately, this concept has not yet breached the walls of the ivory tower of the psychology industry.

The very theme of the granddaddy of modern relationship books, Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D., is the prejudice that men and women are different. In essence, what Dr. Gray is claiming is the key to the successful relationship is that men and women are different, if you want to be happy then you must realize this and simply get over it. Sadly, he couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Ah yes, say the critics of this prejudicial perspective.  The formative Dr. Gray is merely propagating a perspective that men and women should simply accept these differences, that tolerance will lead to loving and caring for each other through the understanding of these differences.  The only problem with this perspective is that it promotes prejudices between men and women.  Unfortunately Dr. Gray isn’t a fan of history, or he would have known this. We have a perfect example that completely debunks his platform, the famous “separate but equal” decision in 1896 that kept African Americans and White Americans “separate but equal” until it was overturned in 1954 with the Brown v The Board of Education decision. 

The only difference is instead of different drinking fountains and restaurants we have different households, with our current culture of divorce. In fact, this book has probably done more than any other to help propagate our culture of divorce. 

Yes the idealism of tolerance and acceptance makes sense intellectually but unfortunately is impossible to implement. Promoting the difference between people only promotes the underlying fear of those differences.

Overview:

Ironically, he begins the book by claiming, “I do not directly address the question of why men and women are different,” which would add profound insight as to how to overcome those differences. Throughout the book it becomes extremely clear what those differences are. In his world, men only think and women only feel, which may be true of relationships in the nineteenth century but does nothing to help relationships in the twenty-first century.

In fact, to really help troubled relationships requires an understanding of the reverse that men can also feel and that women can also think. He does, though, contradict this logic, as he does with much of his “circular” logic, by stating that sometimes men do learn to feel “in order to become more loving and nurturing,” and that women do learn to think, “in order to earn a living in a work force.” His logic goes something like this; “Men mistakenly expect women to think…women mistakenly expect men to feel.” But can’t men feel and women think?

In fact, if this book is read with a critical eye the reader would actually feel incredulous over his logic. For women his comment that “Their egos are dependent not on looking ‘competent,’” says it all. He is asking women not to think as part of the relationship. So his advice for women is to forget their ability to think. After all, that is man’s work.

And he does the same for men with feelings. “When having a conversation with him at home, it seems as if only 5 percent of his mind is available for the relationship while the other 95 percent is still at work,” the place where men are supposed to think. In other words, Dr. Gray is trying to convince the reader men have only 5 percent of their brains available for feelings. He goes even further by stating, in essence, if men are not thinking then “he is drawn to solving little problems, like reading the news, watching T.V., driving his car, doing physical exercise, watching a football game, playing basketball, and so forth,” all behaviors that replace his feelings within the relationship. He even goes so far as to say that when a woman wants to engage in a discussion of feelings with a man, asking him “What’s the matter, honey?…he may feel insulted or repulsed.”

His advice for the reader then follows the logic that “Men need to remember that when women seem upset and talk about problems is not the time to offer solutions,” while “women need to remember that unsolicited advice or criticism…make him feel unloved and controlled.” In other words, the key to the happy relationship is for men to do their thinking but not associate with the women’s feelings and women can feel but helping a man think makes him somehow weak.

He uses this same logic when he explains that a man needs to periodically sink into his cave when he is upset while a woman retreats to her corner. What is true about his logic is when a couple argues a man does revert into the mode of thinking while a woman reverts back into the mode of feeling. Explaining this does not help couples overcome arguing. And again, he defends this point when he claims women want respect, respect for their feelings, while men want trust, trust that they can think. But don’t men want respect, and women want trust as well. Not according to Dr. Gray. This circular logic is repeated throughout the entire book.

The rest of the book is spent giving behavior advice, just like all of the others. Dr. Gray even goes as far as explaining a point system, both positive and negative, that men and women should use to keep score of their different behaviors. Does he explain the causes of behavior? No, like he states initially he doesn’t even discuss the “why”. He doesn’t even attempt to! So without the why, how can he provide an inkling of a solution? Again, he doesn’t.

Well, he did sell over 20 million copies. Why did his book sell so well? People in troubled relationships identify with his description of the problem. How many copies do you think he would have sold if he wrote a book entitled, Men Are From Earth Women Are From Earth?


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