Friday, July 16, 2010

Book - "Secrets of a Very Good Marriage"

AUTHOR: Sherry Suib Cohen
PUBLISHED: NY: Carol Southern Books, 1993.

Secrets of a Very Good Marriage: Lessons from the SeaA good marriage is hard work. Encouraging good marriages is good work. This alone is one reason why we ought to regularly learn about ways to nourish our own marriages. This book is a pleasant contribution to the field of marriage. It is not a scientific or marital counseling type of book. Instead, it is a person's own journey on what it takes to keep a marriage warm and cuddly.  Although the title seems to suggest a list of secrets that can lead to marital bliss, it is more about the author’s desire to cherish her third marriage. It is in essence a litany of her continuous longing to make it work, far better than all of her previous relationships.

In doing so, she attempts to put together a very creative way of looking at marriage from a fisherman’s wife point of view. She adds in lots of funny stories and gently ease out some learning points for readers to consider. The book is divided into four parts. Each part, using the boating metaphor, Cohen sees each marriage having firstly a ‘launching’ aspect, where couples enter into a new relationship together. The next phase is the ‘tides’ where the marriage will progress quite rapidly toward flowing and ebbing like waves. It describes how relationships move through ups and downs, ins and outs as each partner discovers more of the other each day. The third phase is ‘crosscurrents’ which is likened to the tougher challenges of any marriage. The final phase is that of discovery of a ‘sea of great plenty.’

She supplies 31 lessons of a ‘very good marriage.’ Each lesson is launched with a short chapter. For your convenience, I have summarized the 31 lessons below. Some you can understand at first read. Others, well, you'll have to buy the book to know more. The secrets are summarized as follows:

  1. Reach back into the memory of your first date together and recapture the way you felt. Do it often.
  2. Love has only one sure route: unconditional support, even if you’re scared, even if you have to bluff it.
  3. When you’re upset, let the other know – even if you seem crazy.
  4. Tend the superstructure of the marriage. Don’t let it accumulate dry rot, never aim for its humming heart, cherish its dignity.
  5. Spend time together: hearing about catching the shark isn’t the same as feeling shark’s breath.
  6. Create love rituals. Make sure number one is: Always pull socks on the other’s cold feet.
  7. We become what we name each other. Call me Rascal and watch how cute and rascally I get. Call me Stubborn and watch.
  8. See the beauty in what he loves, even if it looks, for a minute, like ground-up fish bait.
  9. Speak your love out loud. Saying it often – saying it enough – makes it invincible.
  10. Be an island. Sting if the world moves in too close.
  11. Hold your horses, bide your time, cool your heels: eventually, the bait looks interesting to the fish.
  12. Give some, get some: we take and give back through all our days.
  13. The tides are constant, and you better be, too: its monogamy, honey, or I’m out of here.
  14. Dependency is not a dirty word. Risking reliance on another can be the way to self-growth.
  15. True intimacy requires a dollop of mystery and a tad of Victorian modesty.
  16. Lying, even a little, puts you in treacherous water; getting your bearings in marriage requires honesty in the small things.
  17. Adventures together whet the marital appetites.
  18. Never take the other for granted or push him too far.
  19. Home is safe harbour for all the family – even if they kick up a storm there.
  20. Try not to try to change him.
  21. Can you divert him from a heavy heart? Better learn how.
  22. Let the lines out: unravel the knots that choke relationships
  23. A good laugh tames a tempest. If you’re not funny, get funny.
  24. Only when you let yourself be completely vulnerable will the earth move.
  25. An occasional change of scenery makes the show comes alive!
  26. When the other’s in trouble, do something.
  27. When you marry your best friend, the talk never grows old, the sex never grows cold.
  28. “Go play, “ our mothers told us. Who would have thought that playing was the ultimate sex technique?
  29. The confidence of a mate is: “The Gift of the Magi.”
  30. Just when you think you know everything there is to know about him, there’s another layer revealed. If you dig.
  31. Choose passion over romance: Wild, deep passion rocks the waves. Romance is a pretty sunset.

My Comments
Readers might struggle to piece together the lessons of this book and link it back with the author’s life. A twice divorced author, readers may be questioning why they should listen to someone with two previous broken marriages. I suggest that it is for this reason, we ought to be open to Cohen’s sharing. After all, the school of hard knocks remains one of the best places to learn from. That said, this book is an easy read and at times, you should take the lessons with a pinch of salt. Like I said before, it is still to me a litany of the author's desire to make her third marriage work.  If readers can find just one of the lessons meaningful, it is already worth the price of the book.

Rating: 3 stars of 5.


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