Scarf, author of Unfinished Business, provides us with a manual on how to render the marital dilemma not just tolerable but sensational. She does this by attempting to make us all understand the dynamics of relationships that lead almost everyone into the same pitfalls. There are recognizable stages: first the idealistic stage, when both male and female see the other as perfect. But seeds are sown here for future discontent. That same idealization causes one to see personality traits in the other as charming or, more, an addition to the couples' store of strengths. A quiet man, for instance, may feel that his lover's extroversion is an excellent foil for him. Later, though, that same characteristic may seem tyrannous and intolerable (""She never shuts up!""). Childbearing and career-building years bring new commitment to the couple. Often, though, these processes only keep the lid temporarily on previous problems. Later, those problems may resurface with a vengeance, or the couple may find an even greater companionship. Scarf's technique involves much case history. She recounts conversations with some 30 couples, and concentrates heavily on a handful. She also introduces (although many therapists use such a tactic) the ""genogram,"" which seeks to demonstrate that we are often condemned to repeat the emotional traumas and mistakes of our ancestors. For those who wish that Passages went on forever.