Anyway. Marriage therapy, like certain other fields I could name, suffers from a variety of problems. Experts who spend about as much time saying why the other guys are no good as they do explaining why their own are so good. A shocking lack of detailed _qualitative_ research, never mind quantitative. And a bunch of interesting clinical insights which they don't seem able to create a plausible rhetorical framework for. Honestly, I think I'd rather read a book of aphorisms from these people than what they try to pass off as an explanation for their life's work.
This is not a new complaint for me. I've been uttering variations on it since I first learned about marriage therapy.
Hamburg says you should optimize, rather than satisfice, when picking a marriage partner. But when he says optimize, he _means_ "satisfice using the three areas of compatibility I have already laid out", and when he says satisfice he means "pick the best person you've been in any kind of relationship with already, when you decide It's Time to get married". That is he has reversed the meanings. You can just imagine my conniptions.
Regarding optimizing: "You just have to be similar in enough key ways so that there's enough continuing mutual affirmation for you to continue to feel in love... I am not talking about perfection and you shouldn't be looking for it. That's not what optimizing means."
Fucking Humpty Dumpty. "I'll make words mean what I want them to mean." It really is pretty good, as these things go. I'll be updating this.
ETA: "With good faith your partner could make those changes, using the two-step process that people use when they succeed in changing their habits: Step 1. Awareness. Step 2. Brute force of will. (A simple examples: You want to stop biting your nails. Step 1. Notice whenever you put your fingers in your mouth [awareness]. Step 2. Shove your hands in your pockets [brute force of will].)
Honest, I did not make that up! Even for a book about marriage published over a decade ago, this displays an inexcusably weak (or contemptuous) view of habit change. I'm sort of shocked it is here.
"(My favorite version of "We are all wounded" is that we men -- privileged as we are in so many ways -- are nevertheless wounded because we were taught not to express our emotions as we were growing up. Give me a break!)"
I don't even know where to go with that.
The general theory of three dimensions of compatibility I will reserve for the actual review, but here is the author's example of a "no compatibility" marriage. "Howard, for example, married Florence while he was in a manic state. He was not quite psychotic when he married her, but his reasoning and judgment were severely impaired by his mania. Florence was extremely Bad News, which Howard realized as soon as he came down from his manic state. With his reasoning and judgment restored, Howard couldn't imagine how he could have thought it was a good idea to marry Florence, and he immediately left her. And that's what happens more often than not in Zero-Dimensional Marriages: They break up in a matter of months or even weeks."
Er, they _were_ actually compatible -- while he was manic. Using that as a zero compatibility example seems problematic.
He does this a lot, actually. Here's one of his examples of a two dimensional compatibility marriage (no compatibility on sex supposedly):
"Horace and Colleen were in their late thirties ... neither had much sexual experience. ACtually, neither had ever been very interested in sex or comfortable with it." They dated, but attempt p-in-v until after the wedding. "Finally, they leveled with each other and told each other how they felt about sex. Each was relieved to discover that the other would be perfectly satisfied with a marriage that didn't have the pressure of sexual expectations."
I cannot imagine two more sexually compatible people than Horace and Colleen. The idea they _aren't_ sexually compatible is insane. What the heck is wrong with this author?
There's a lot of stuff like that in this book: terrible examples of what may well be real phenomena, displays of shocking ignorance about things you would sort of hope a therapist would know about.
This author's handling of attachment is also kinda weak. "They confuse attachment with love. They think that what is really just attachment is actually love." Anyone capable of saying "just attachment" is probably not adequately respecting attachment.
Good news: he thinks breaking up (the earlier the better) over a difference of opinion about whether to have kids is crucial. Bad news: while he has a list of Red Flags (he calls these people Bad News) AND it includes a catch-all Bad Vibes category, it also includes:
"uses illegal drugs at all"
Making this a blanket rule for everyone seems ... probably not right.
"has contempt for their opposite-sex parent"
I sort of feel like you should _meet_ their opposite-sex parent (or at least ask around a bit) to determine whether the contempt is justified, before turfing someone out for feeling contempt for their opposite-sex parent. There are some truly evil parents out there.
"habitually makes fun of you, criticizes you, or otherwise humiliates you in front of others"
Where the illegal drugs and contempt items struck me as going entirely too far, this one doesn't go far enough. Living with someone who habitually makes fun of other people, is constantly critical, or routinely humiliates anyone is pretty wearing. More wearing than most people seem to realize. Don't wait for the knives to dig into you; if you see the poking and cutting directed at a really wide array of others (hey, I recognize that some people and some situations invite sharp comments), watch out.
Here's his summary of the five mundane tasks:
"1. Making Money
2. Spending Money
3. Maintaining Your Household
4. Filling Your Free Time
5. Dealing with Your Families"
A clearer confusion (ha!) of what vs. how is hard to imagine. It leads into an understandably muddled summary of three models of marriage (at least one major common one totally missing -- apparently this guy cannot actually imagine a household in which most/all money financial decisions are made by a woman, whether or not she is the one bringing that money into the family or not. Maybe they never need marriage counseling? Hmmm.).
On money quarrels:
"That's because no set of spending priorities is objectively better than any other." Oh, I'm sure we can come up with a pair!
His description of "value-oriented" is mostly about not paying full price. His description of "quality-oriented" is mostly about someone having a different set of relative priorities (spending money on food vs. clothing) than what he's used to seeing (eat beans to afford the nice business suit). His description of "deliberative" is an exhaustive optimizing strategy. He calls "non-deliberative" shopping "satisficing", and he abuses that term _again_. The only good news is he recognizes that having some conflict over acquisitions can actually benefit the collective decision making process.