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Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards

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  • Posted April 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Time-tested ideas

    Raymond N. Guarendi, Ph.D., ("Dr. Ray") is a clinical psychologist and father of 10, who is a nationally known speaker and syndicated radio show host. His seven previous books deal with parenting and family life. In his new book, Dr. Ray explains that in marriage, just as in parenting, small steps can lead to improvements not only in the primary relationship but also in overall family life. The book is presented in ten chapters, representing what the author calls "commonsense, time-tested ideas" such as saying I'm sorry and practicing good manners. Chapters consist of a brief introduction, common rationales spouses use to avoid taking the advice in question, and an example of the ineffective way followed by an improved version with comments from the therapist. The "Protect" chapter stems from Guarendi's observation that the mom in counseling is often the lead authority in the home; the dad lets her deal with the kids' resistance and sometimes even undercuts her. This pattern, Guarendi writes, can widen a parental rift and with it, a marital one. He tells fathers, firmly, "Get up. Get in there. Get involved. In a word, protect." The goal is to stop the child from harassing your wife. A man who protects his wife in this way teaches their children respect and "strengthens the family's image of (him) as the man of the house," writes Guarendi. He then presents and counters four common resistance rationales: (1) I have never done anything like this before, (2) I don't know how she'll react, (3) she doesn't like the way I discipline, (4) she needs to establish her own authority. In the scenario for the protect chapter, a 15-year-old girl is arguing with her mother about going to the mall. The father participates in a half-hearted way, which the therapist notes is ineffective. After another round of family dialogue, the therapist contributes a half-page script. Using this, he writes, the dad would rate about 7 (of 10) on the protection scale, which he could raise to 7.9 "if he follows through tomorrow."

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