Our review of someone who is also working to understand relationships
Visit her website here.
No-nonsense, practical techniques designed for one person to understand and address problems in a marriage or relationship. Not the "deepest" perspective in the universe, and doesn't take into account the larger societal trends at work in relationships today, but still one of the most direct, realistic, and practical available anywhere.
Michele's approach, described in her two books, is her variation of what is called "Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy (SBT)" and also "Brief Therapy" (an upgraded offshoot of the cognitive-behavioral approach of Aaron Beck and similar to the approach of Anthony Robbins, Dr. Phil, and others). This approach consists of several clearly spelled-out action steps, all taken in specific order, consisting of specific questions which help readers define their needs, set specific marriage goals, and monitor results. And so on.
The audience for this book is primarily for people whose marriages are teetering dangerously on the brink of divorce . . . for those who, more than anything else in the world, want to do whatever they can to make their marriages work and keep their families together.
What Works In Michele's Approach
Touting "a seven-step program anyone can follow to revitalize even the most damaged marriage," Michele's eyes are wide-open to the gritty realities of divorce and marital counseling, and she's barely out of the gate before she launches into showing "how typical counseling and communications tactics backfire" (an area in which, by the way, the us LiveReal Agents are in wholehearted agreement with her about). So, Michelle wisely bypasses nerve-wracking discussion topics and emotional letter writing and other such unpleasant relationship-therapy-chores that are often as harmful as they are helpful but which are still brought up in other therapies.
Her approach has many advantages: for example, she makes it clear that you can be your own marriage counselor (which is good news for the money-side of things), and you can succeed even if your spouse won't agree to work on the marriage (which is good news for those with spouses who don't want to cooperate). And she is buoyantly optimistic, too - based on her experiences as a marriage counselor, Ms. Davis feels that almost any marriage has the potential to be saved, while also pointing out the often-ignored reality that divorce is no bed of roses.
She also covers such concrete areas as infidelity, depression, midlife crises, and "passion meltdowns," showing how basic relationship skills (like the "easy-to-say, hard-to-do practices of understanding and patience) can reverse even very grim marital scenarios.
She directly encourages readers to save their marriages, unless their spouses are a chronic source of physical abuse, substance abuse, or unfaithfulness and they refuse to change in any one of these areas. The end of the book has several chapters for dealing with very severe problems like infidelity ("most marriages do survive infidelity"), a depressed spouse, the classic male mid-life crisis, and having sexual passion cool to the disappearing point.
She also includes many stories and letters provide ample testimony for the program's success, and her sensible approach to revitalizing one's marriage seems truly worthy of praise and practice.
"I have been married for 16 years, 3 kids, 2 dogs, great home - what I thought it was the perfect life. Almost two years ago my wife came to me and told me she wanted a divorce. She "loved me but wasn't in love with me anymore", was how she put it. She had been going to a therapist for over a year who had encouraged her to "find herself", "make herself happy". Never mind her husband and her children.
I agreed to go to counseling sessions with her therapist. The counselor wanted us to explore our past and express our anger at each other. With each session our marriage got worse. I begged my wife to stay in the marriage and keep trying to make it work, not just for us, but for the children. She refused. She said it was over.
I bought "Divorce Busting" after visiting the author's web site. I read that there was a name for what happened to me. It's called the "walkaway wife syndrome." I read the book from cover to cover several times during the next few months.
I immediately stopped chasing and begging my wife to return. I employed every technique in the book. I even tried what Michele calls "the last resort technique". I learned that I couldn't change my wife, but I could change myself. If I changed, truly changed my behavior, it would have to change my marriage.
I love how this book is so clearly written. I really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) setting and achieving my goals. I love how this book gave me hope. It took almost 4 months of constant work on my part, but it worked!! My wife came back." - true story *
What Doesn't Work In Michele's Approach
One of the greatest strengths of Michelle's approach is that you can change yourself, and therefore your relationship, and therefore, you aren't dependent on an uncontrollable spouse having to do the work for you.
The flip side of this, and a possible drawback, is when one partner has typically been the one to change (i.e. do all the work) all along, and so this book would then be more of the same.
Here, the book can sometimes be misleading: if one partner has been working themselves to death already while the other person has insisted on changing nothing, this will most likely be more of the same. At a certain point, a partner might be better off realizing that they are working with a brick wall.
Timing and appropriateness of the "remedy" is also important: Michelle's approach is perhaps the best to road to take when the situation has reached a crisis level; but once the situation is out of crisis, a long term approach (such as those of John Welwood, Harville Hendrix, or Roy Masters) should be used to follow-up.
To elaborate . . . this book is great to help the couples that need help to retreat from the brink of disaster. But at the same time, it has little or no effect on the deep rooted problems that may be plaguing a relationship. More often than not, some deeper digging on uncovering the root of the problem is needed more than a quick-fix first-aid approach. More often than not, when it's overused, her advice can be a form of ignoring the problem, and that will just build resentment when nothing is really resolved.
In addition, the subtleties and uniqueness of a couples' own situation needs to be taken into account, considering the differences in unique situations. Therapists especially are often guilty of finding one approach that works and working it to death, using it in situations that are inappropriate ("To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.") Understanding a couples' marriage background and personalities and taking their unique differences into account are crucially important. Simply rushing into a "focus on what works and not what doesn't" frame of mind can often cause a couple to skip over some vital issues.
Yet despite it's shortcomings, Michelle's approach is one of the best and most practical available today. With a proper understanding of its strengths and weaknesses - which is exactly what you stellar LiveReal Agents have outlined here - Michelle's work can be truly helpful.
"Most books on relationships take a problem-solving approach -
pinpointing trouble spots and developing strategies to correct them.
Like Western allopathic medicine, which focuses on relieving symptoms,
that approach has a certain usefulness.
However, for relationships to thrive in these difficult times,
we need to go beyond mere symptom relief.
Just as treating symptoms cannot in itself produce health,
so solving problems is not enough to create healthy relationships."
- John Welwood