Of midlife crises and all the ways a marriage can go south.
“Couples turn away from each other for any number of apparent reasons, but underneath it all, it’s usually because they feel misunderstood, unheard, or unable to agree.” So writes psychologist de Marneffe (Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life, 2004), who examines how the failure of emotional communication plays out, often coinciding with the arrival of middle age. In some instances, it may be that the couple is coping with an empty nest after the children have gone off to school or life; in other instances, it may be that one partner has re-engaged with an old flame courtesy of social media; in still others, it may be that someone in the marriage has yielded to the temptations of drugs or alcohol. The author looks into cases of these and other stressful emanations of the “rough patch” of her title, urging that there are workarounds and remedies, if ones that require a terrific amount of work on the part of the couple, each member of whom must undertake “a psychological journey of self-understanding that can take every ounce of your fortitude.” She allows that there is no guarantee of a positive outcome and that “fatally flawed marriages” may not be salvageable in any event, but for all that, she does not endorse the easy solution of following your bliss and heading off at the first sign of trouble. The book is full of observations that may help troubled partners think differently about their relationship. If some seem obvious—to stay connected, “hold on to the feeling of wanting to stay connected”—others are not, including her thought that often partners have romantic feelings outside the relationship because we haven’t found a way to conceive of other relationships in nonromantic ways and moved toward a “biodiversity of relationships we need to survive and flourish in a long life.”
A book of good intentions and helpful advice and a worthy manual for spouses.