I’ve been reading quite a bit of literature on relationships, marriage, and sex this year. Some were enjoyable easy reads, some were meandering wordy affairs. I’m happy to say What Makes Love Last by Dr. John Gottman fits the former category. We’ll call What Makes Love Last WMLL for the rest of this review for the sake of brevity.
First things first, I highly recommend picking up WMLL for any couple at any stage of their relationship. You can use the information in this book not only to assess your current relationship and make improvements, but you can also use this book to improve your ability to form stable relationships in the first place. Dr. Gottman will show you how to avoid behaviors that break trust and tear down the foundation for long lasting relationships. Dr. Gottman also gives us a convincing argument for relationships as trust-based. I already viewed relationships as fundamentally trust based but WMLL helped provide me with evidence and arguments to defend that position, so those of you who are already high-trust types should definitely pick this up and give it a read. Ultimately, WMLL is a book for anyone that is currently in, or has plans to be in, a long term relationship and thinks the quality of that relationship and its success matters. That’s you right? You wouldn’t be reading a blog like this if you weren’t.
The primary feature that makes this book so attractive and such an easy recommendation is how it delivers its content. WMLL is a straightforward piece that trusts the reader to have some basic intelligence and the ability to make decisions that benefit them, which is something I find oddly lacking in the self-help genre as a whole. WMLL definitely deserves the phrase, page turner. WMLL also avoids having too few or too many pages, the content is delivered succinctly but without being abridged and it’s friendly to busy lifestyles. Gottman also avoids sugar-coating and sets reasonable expectations. You’ll get clear boundaries for when you can rely on the book to self-help and when to consult a professional. For example, there’s a warning on page 66 that cautions against trying to use the book to repair an abusive relationship.
Please note: The worst kind of betrayal-physical or emotional abuse perpetrated to control the victim of the violence-is not on this list. Do not use this book to improve such a relationship. Any kind of unwanted touch signals physical abuse, including forced, unwanted touch in the bedroom. Emotional abuse includes social isolation, sexual coercion, extreme jealousy, public humiliation, belittling or degrading, threats of violence or other acts that induce fear, or damage to property, pets, or children. If your partner is abusive, acknowledge to yourself that you don’t deserve such treatment and enlist help…You deserve support.What Makes Love Last? pg. 66-67
WMLL also goes through plenty of examples of how things can and often do go wrong. Dr. Gottman avoids the trap of painting this picturesque unobtainable storybook marriage in the delivery of his message of self improvement, he just draws clear lines for when bad is too bad. You’re not going to feel like WMLL is trying to make you into something impossible by the end of the reading. Dr. Gottman makes sure to mention when people are speaking strangely due to having been in therapy a while and notes that couples don’t typically speak to each other that way. This disclaimer is lacking in other books on marriage and the impression I got from those other books was the authors wanted to turn my house into an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I always said no thanks to that. So if you’ve ever felt like the road to relationship improvement was to be an emotional robot with a conversation tree you’ll find WMLL is a breath of fresh air.
Now let’s judge this book by its cover. Well, let’s judge the genre anyway. While WMLL‘s cover is far from the most cringe worthy cover I’ve seen in the relationship self-help genre I have to wonder where publishers think people read these days. Is it too much to ask the self-help genre to take itself seriously? Like I said before, Gottman’s book isn’t the worst about this, but as these reviews continue you’re going to see what I mean about the subject failing to take itself seriously. Fortunately, if you invest in an e-reader or e-book service you can avoid all these embarrassing cover woes. I like to have physical copy though so it’s a bother for me.
Minor cover gripes aside, I have to reiterate my emphatic recommendation that anyone with so much as a tertiary interest in improving their relationship pick this book up and read it cover to cover.
I am not a paid reviewer. My content comes from me and I was not solicited in any manner for this review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
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