Betcher (Intimate Play, 1987), a clinical fellow in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a psychotherapist specializing in couples' therapy, begins on a positive note: "If there was something true and good that brought two people together in the first place, it has probably been misplaced rather than lost." He goes on to describe seven of the most common areas of strife in marriage, which he characterizes as "basic quarrels"--gender, loyalties, money, power, sex, privacy, children--and to offer guidance in negotiating through them to a "basic pact." A basic quarrel, Betcher explains, differs from a more superficial, limited conflict in that it is complex, recurrent, and enduring: "a bleak and hostile climate as opposed to a sudden thunderstorm now and then." Betcher shows the evolutionary nature of basic quarrels as marriages mature through predictable stages, such as early intimacy, parenthood, the midlife crisis, etc. By citing relevant studies and the thinking of other eminent psychologists as well as his own, Betcher steers couples toward asking the searching questions that will help them understand their basic quarrels, and to discover "touchstones"--pleasures, rituals, and habits of behavior that reestablish civility and remind the contentious duo of how good marriage can be as they work toward a basic pact. Intelligent, and often elegantly written with the collaboration of essayist and novelist Macauley (A Secret History of Time to Come, 1979), this transcends the self-help genre, offering sensible, compassionate guidance rather than quizzes and one-size-fits-all remedies.