Four steps to keep the love alive in your physician family marriage this Valentine's Day | Book Review

If being married is hard work, being married to a physician is harder. The long hours apart and the work stress that follows you home may make you feel like you need to spend more time trying to keep your love alive. But how?

You have less time now than when you spoke your vows, and you haven’t had a chance to talk about it.

That’s actually a good thing, according to Dr. Patricia Love, a Certified Relationship Educator and author of four books on marriage, and Dr. Steven Stosny, a therapist who specializes in men’s issues who has appeared twice on Oprah and written a book on the subject.  “The five words a man dreads most are ‘Honey, we need to talk.’”

In How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, a book Stosny co-authored with Dr. Patricia Love,  the pair assert that love is not about better communication. It’s about a sustainable connection. And they seem convinced that the worst way to improve that connection is for spouses to talk to each other about it.

Foot-In-Mouth Moments Demystified

The first half of this 213-page book gives facts, rooted in social science and biochemistry, plus plenty of examples that demonstrate the measurable differences between men, women, and their perceptions of self and surroundings. Female readers will begin to understand the shame and easily-aroused anger that makes a guy sprint for his man cave. Guys will begin to appreciate the female fear of isolation and “being alone” that makes them venture toward the bathroom only after forming a dynamic duo.

“Understanding each other's core vulnerabilities and learning how to manage them will give you a new perspective on your relationship--one based on both points of view--that leads to compassionate connection and love beyond words,” Stosny and Love promise... and they deliver.

Have you ever said or done something to your mate and wished later you had done something completely different?  My two favorite chapters: “The Worst Things a Woman Does to a Man” and “The Worst Things a Man Does to a Woman,” contain a rich list of the top ten goat getting gender gaffs, like:

  • Wives who make unrealistic demands of their husband’s time by asking, “Why weren't you home at 7:00 like you promised?”
  • Husbands who fail to share their wife’s dreams by whining, “Do you really need me to look at one more carpet sample?”
  • A wife who criticizes her husband’s decision by exclaiming, “Wow… do you have to wear THAT shirt to the party?”
  • A husband who forgets to pay attention to his wife when sex is not the motivation by saying something so stupid that I cannot even repeat it here.

These two chapters alone are fascinating and well worth the price of admission. You will become more aware of the stuff that clobbers connectedness so you can begin to appreciate your partner’s perspective.

Use Binoculars to Take a Closer Look at Yourself

The second half of this book is arguably more woo-woo than the first but compelling nonetheless. Stosny and Love answer the question, “What do I actually do to improve my marriage?”

It begins with a self-assessment that helps you gain “insight into your unconscious views of men and women.” Next you learn how your past experiences are shaping your perception of your marital reality, and you begin to understand which of your own behaviors are reducing the odds that you will get what you want from your relationship.

These exercises help you develop “binocular vision” or the ability to see the world through your partner’s eyes without losing your own perspective or sense of self-worth.

Beyond the exercises, there’s not a whole lot of guidance here. The assumption seems to be that this new awareness, unto itself, will be the thing that helps you change your behavior toward your mate, thus improving the marriage without talking about it.

Then there are a dozen or so pages that don’t really fit the flow of the book but you might as well read them because they’re all about sex, which the authors say is one of the top four hot buttons (no pun intended) in every marriage. This chapter is complete with the top twenty reasons you should have sex when you don’t really feel like it, and some solutions to help spouses with definitively different sex drives.

How to Improve Your Marriage without Reading This Book

In the final chapter, Love and Stosny share their Power Love Formula, a four step process you can begin doing right now.

  1. Make a gesture from the heart. Touch your partner or say something nice at the four transitions of your day: when you wake up, when you leave for the day, when you return, and before you go to bed. (Two minutes)
  2. Hug your spouse six times a day for six seconds. (Thirty-six seconds)
  3. Hold a good thought about your relationship. (Ten seconds)
  4. Make a contract (with yourself) to hand out love… and honor your agreement with yourself. Determine that you will do something nice/special for your partner every day… something small. For example, text her a quick love note or look him in the eyes to tell him how much you appreciate him. (Two minutes)

Having done some of this myself—though not as consistently as I should have—I can tell you that the formula works. By investing as little as four minutes and forty-six seconds in your marriage every day, you can build an emotional lifeline that keeps you connected during times that challenge your relationship.

There is one problem this book will not solve.

After reading this book and fully implementing all of the author’s excellent advice yourself (as one half of a twosome), you are likely to ask yourself the same question I did, which was, “How on earth am I going to get my significant other to read this book too… without talking about it.”

Might I suggest a solution?

Find someone who understands how important your marriage is to you—a friend, a colleague or maybe even a your trusted financial advisor—and ask them to ask your spouse to check it out. If you want my help with this, please contact me.

*image source: microsoft