Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't Hang Up Your Glass Slippers Yet! Dr. Denkin Has the Answer to Happily Ever After.

If your "Happily Ever After" isn't turning out quite the way you planned, you may want to check out Edythe Denkin's new book, Relationship Magic. Denkin, a marriage counselor with 30 years experience, uses the parable of a prince and princess whose kingdom needs some tending to to teach readers about finding happiness and fulfillment in marriage. It sounds hokey (my 6-year-old daughter asked me if the book was about how to be a princess - we've been watching a lot of Enchanted at our house), and it is. In fact, I would have liked this book a lot better if it used real-life examples instead of a fairy tale, but I appreciate the author's attempt to make her material more readable.

Anyway, the book follows Prince James and Princess Cinda, a couple whose marriage has hit a brick wall. Already stressed with the pressures of ruling the kingdom, James doesn't have the energy left to deal with Cinda's neediness. Feeling rejected, Cinda spends even more time collecting the material possessions that just never seem to fill her empty heart. Cinda's spending stresses James out even more, leaving him feeling bitter and unsuccessful. Tension mounts until the prince decides he has to seek some help before his marriage crumbles. Enter Satori, a wise old sage, who knows exactly how to help the royal couple.

Through a series of counseling sessions, Satori shows the pair how the hurts they experienced in childhood affect the way they communicate and relate to one another as adults. He also points out the ways in which James and Cinda unconsciously mimic their parents' tense marriages, creating a rocky union of their own. As he helps them acknowledge their fears and take responsibility for their own contentment, the couple is able to create a stronger, less contentious marriage.

As an Imago Relationship Therapist, Dr. Denkin believes that most marital problems begin long before the wedding. In fact, they start in childhood. She says children who feel ignored, abandoned, and misunderstood by their parents grow into adults who feel they must control their spouses to avoid more abandonment. Furthermore, kids watch their parents interact, and internalize what they see. Because of this, Relationship Magic dwells a lot on James and Cinda's parents (Cinda scolds James for wanting to hang out with the guys, because she feels as if he is abandoning her like her father once did; James feels hurt when Cinda criticizes him because he could never please his father either). Although I understand the concept, I don't necessarily agree with it. The idea that most of our problems stem from our parents' bad examples seems to place too much blame, and leave too little room for accepting responsibility for our own actions. Plus, I don't understand how it applies to me. My parents have a strong, loving relationship (that has spanned 37 years). As far as parenting, they were always kind and supportive. Maybe I'm in denial, but I really don't my parents scarred me emotionally, so I don't get how this idea relates to me.

The concept I did find enlightening was this one: When your spouse barrages you with angry words, those words "are not about you, but about your partner's own feelings" (96). The key to handling the criticism is to avoid taking the harsh words personally. By mirroring your spouse's words (or, basically, repeating their words back to him/her, which feels awkward and corny, but still ...), you begin to understand what your partner is really saying. As Satori explains to Cinda:

It is a difficult concept, my child. What James says may be his reaction to what you say and the feelings it triggers within him, but what is happening is not about you. It is about him (97).

Overall, I thought the book was okay. The whole fairy tale idea put me off, as did the parental blame thing. Still, I thought there was some valuable information in the book. I think I would have preferred a more traditional self-help approach with real-life cases and examples. Perhaps this format was more entertaining, but it was just a little too corny and contrived for me.

Grade: B-

1 comment:

  1. Hmm sounds interesting. I think that the general population, was just not as blessed with the kind of parents we have! :)

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