Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Talk to Me Like I'm Someone You Love

Talk to Me Like I'm Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a Flash
Publisher: Tarcher
Published: 2009 (Spiral-bound)
ISBN-13: 9781585427703
304 pages

Introduction: The idea behind this book is rooted in a piece of basic common sense: no matter what form of strain in your relationship is taking--be it jumping down each other's throats, nit-picking, walking on eggshells or endlessly revisiting an ancient grievance--it will be near impossible to begin to solve your problems if the energy between you and your partner feels more 'unfriendly' than 'friendly'.

How true. Words (the way they are used or not used) can make or strain a relationship. Do we hammer our point home? Or do we be non-defensive and seek another way to connect? How do we react when we are feeling threatened? How do we seek to generate goodwill and restore intimacy? No relationship is without its challenges and this book is like a first-aid kit that seeks to go right to the heart of "feeling connected." The author, Nancy Dreyfus, Psy.D., is a veteran psychotherapist, and she did a fine job with this book explaining when, why and how to use the statements on the flashcards.

What is special about this book is its flashcards concept. The idea was inspired when the author was working with a particular couple (unrelenting wife versus emotionally withdrawn husband). As a last resort, the author scribbled on a scrap of paper, Talk to me like I'm someone you love! and gently instructed the husband to hold it up to his wife. She noticed things began to shift between the couple and a strikingly more mutual connection began emerging in front of everyone's eyes.

This is how the flashcard looks like in the spiral-bound book. There are more than 100 "flashcards for real life" that can be used immediately during a crisis, which I think is a wonderful relationship tool that is both unique and insightful.

I try picturing myself having to use the book "in the heat of the moment" and actually flash a card. Is it practical? I do not know until I am in that situation that warrants the use of a flashcard. But I suppose I could--judging from the type of crisis I am facing--think through the situation (the relationship is, after all, important to me), and seek direction by picking from the theme the book is organized by:

  1. Shifting Gear
    The basic message here is that what is going on is not good, and one of you is asking for something different; transform something unattractive to something beautiful.

  2. Setting Limits
    Think of this set of flashcards are interpersonal stop signs for intense times (heartbreakingly frustrating to rageful). It demonstrates that you are willing to demonstrate goodwill and straightforward vulnerability (which brings us to the next theme).

  3. Feeling Vulnerable
    Think of it this way: As long as I stay in the self-protective mode, I will never really feel close to you or make it safe for you to feel close to me. Loosen the grip when your instinct is to protect yourself from the states that we were taught as undesirable. Be beautifully human. By wanting your special someone to recognize your vulnerability is wanting that person to see the real you.

  4. Taking Responsibility
    This section helps us to be more aware of "how you are feeling" and "how I look to you," and also to examine the impact of our sub-wholesome behavior on our partners. Build love and trust.

  5. Giving Information
    This section helps you to let your partner know how their stance is affecting you. This is the reverse of Section 4, and lets your partner look at themselves and their impact on you. If we leave things unspoken when they should be addressed, they make real intimacy close to impossible.

  6. Getting Clarification
    Interestingly, there are two versions of your partner available to you--the real one and the one in your head. So ask pointed questions so that your partner can take some real responsibility for the vibes they are putting out. Example of flashcard, When you treat me this way, it feels like you don't respect me. Is that true?

  7. Apologizing
    "Love means never having to say you're sorry" is crap. This section provides opportunities to take something that transpired between you and your partner that was petty, mean-spirited, hurtful or thoughtless, and turn the moment into something honorable. Example of flashcard, I'm sorry that I've been acting as if everything's all your fault.

  8. Loving
    Here, I am going to quote the author directly because she articulated it well: "Love is all it's cracked up to be. There are times when nothing else will do but loving your partner and, and in the case of this book, letting them know that they are, indeed, loved by you." Example of flashcard, I love you. I hate fighting. Can't we just hug?

  9. Making Up
    The happiest couple also fight, and sometimes frequently. The trick is to stay happy and the flashcards in this section are designed to "bring sparring or disconnected partners into a friendlier home-stretch." Example of flashcard, I want to hug you, and I'm not sure I am welcome. May I come closer? Now, the author did explain why this flashcard exists, because my first thought when I read this was, what? I need to ask for permission to hug? The author explained that this is not about negotiating for a hug, so I leave you to read the rest for yourself.

I took a very long time reading this book and frankly, the review is overdue. I am sorry for that but I do want to go through it properly because it is such an insightful read. It would be a sin to rush through it just for the sake of posting a review. Irregardless of your relationship status, whether you are single or attached, I recommend reading this book. It should be added into your personal library.

Note: I thank Lisa Roe of Online Publicist for sending me a copy of Talk to Me Like I'm Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a Flash.

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