The other night, I browsed the shelves of one of those popular discount bookstores.
I was looking for nothing in particular when I ran across several shelves of “self-help” books. You name the disorder, the problem, the ailment, or the issue and there seemed to be a self-help book for it: Getting organized, living without panic attacks, surviving eating disorders and more.
But my eyes stopped when I saw at least two shelves of books focusing on helping yourself with relationship issues. They weren’t just books for marriage or dating, but books about helping you getting along better with your mother, father, other family, your friends and others you come in contact with.
I thumbed through a few of the relationship-focused self-help books and laughed at what I was reading.
Authors interviewed either anonymous folks or people whose first names only were used.
The advice and steps offered to work through relationship problems or to strengthen relationships were quite hilarious, too. The authors used tactics that, while maybe helpful, seemed to be extremely far-fetched for the average person.
I read things suggesting that one listen to their partner without any interruptions, gain self confidence, etc. Yes, those things and many more are extremely important to making any relationship work. But it’s how the advice is given I question.
Add a Midwestern twang and I felt as though Dr. Phil McGraw was speaking to me as I glanced through these books. One suggested writing in a journal for at least six months and list all of the good and not-so-good things about your partner to discover why you dislike certain things.
Seems sensible, but who’s really going to stick it out and continue through with that? And then, after six months or a year, are you really going to talk about all these things you wrote?
All of the self-help information sounds great and wonderful and probably can work to make your marriage and other relationships better, but you’re picking up the book because you need help; and few of us can look at a problem we’re facing from outside of our shoes and then work to fix it.
But, then again, people pick up these books for a variety of reasons.
There’s no question some people read self-help books because they aren’t sure where else to turn or what to do. They might be too embarrassed to seek out professional help (if it’s serious enough to do so) or they might not be able to afford professional help.
Taking your partner to a therapist is a big step. It is the first step in recognizing there is a breakdown in communication. So that alone is huge.
Some people also might not think their problem warrants therapy or they simply might not want to go to counseling.
Sometimes people seek out self-help books because they want something they only dream about. But, the “perfect” relationship — marriage, dating, family, etc. — truly only exists in movies, television and in our fantasy worlds.
Sadly, people are out there to make money off of those who are down and out about their own personal relationships.
If you want my advice for making a relationship better, try this: be honest. And the next step? Show and tell the person you love and care for them. Third step? Spend time with them.
Those are the three most important steps to making any relationship stronger. Honesty, love and quality time together.
Without those basic ideals, no relationship functions in a healthy way. And it certainly won’t last, either.
twoday magazine wants to know: Have you read any self help books? Were they helpful or useless? Share with us your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Like this article? Check out other great pieces from twodaymag:
5 Easy Ways to Show You Care By Natalie Bencivenga
Is Your Relationship Worth Saving? By Kristen Houghton
Keeping Secrets From Your Partner By Bobby Cherry