A couples counselor shares her own story and outlines the key qualities of mature, enduring relationships in this debut self-help guide.
South African author Clucas begins her book with a snapshot from her own childhood. While helping to pack up the apartment of her deceased father—whom she portrays as an “angry, abusive” alcoholic—she reflected upon a photo taken years before, in which she and her siblings were “all smiling like a normal family.” She then relates how her clients have expressed their desires to feel more “wanted” in their own relationships, and she shares a strategy to make that happen. First and foremost, she says, one must be aware of “Opponents”—one’s own “disabling behaviors,” such as passive aggression. “Intruders” are also a threat; these “toxic external elements,” Clucas says, can include in-laws and stepchildren who “can clog up the taps of connection and intimacy.” She then spends the bulk of the rest of her guide detailing 14 “Allies” or “keystones,” which she says are necessary for relationships to thrive: trust, respect, tenderness, listening, delight, disruption, freedom, resilience, reciprocity, energy, responsibility, friendship, passion, and belief. As she discusses these, she also shares stories of her own relationship struggles (such as her tendency to avoid conflict), examples from other couples’ lives, and counseling tip sheets and exercises. She concludes with a discussion of “endings,” how to break off a relationship in a compassionate manner and how to realize that love comes at the culmination of a healthy relationship, not at its outset. Overall, Clucas is an appealing, nonjudgmental presence throughout her book. Her admissions about her own insecurities are relatable; at one point, for example, she tells of how she felt unattractive when she was pregnant. Her tip sheets offer practical “talking points” to keep conversations out of “Opponent” territory, and her sexuality survey exercise is a particularly effective “detachment” device to explore an often touchy subject. She occasionally strays from her main topic, such as when she addresses the subject of her family members’ racism, but overall, she delivers a handy guide for couples navigating their relationships.
Inspiring, actionable advice to “participate as your best self” in relationships.