John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, N.J., 2010; $25.95.
“Life serves up crazy struggles” that, if allowed to do so, can create distance between a wife and husband. This book wants couples to realize it is possible to get through tough times without losing sight of the love they have for each other.
The husband and wife authors of “In Good Times and Bad” focus principally on the financial woes that often leave spouses working at odds with each other. But tough times can arise in the wake of a health crisis or other troublesome events, the authors acknowledge. They outline concrete steps for turning things around at home, whatever the cause of a difficulty.
M. Gary Neuman, a rabbi and psychotherapist, may be known to many readers both as an author and for appearances on various TV programs, including “Oprah.” Melisa Neuman is a journalist and columnist.
“How utterly disappointing it is when we see our world crumbling around us and begin to feel our family drowning or a relationship becoming more distant,” the Neumans write. After all, most people want to believe that their “relationships, marriage and/or family will persevere, grow closer and develop a renewed meaning of love and togetherness,” despite the experience of tough times.
It would oversimplify “In Good Times & Bad” to say it accents the value of positive thinking. Nonetheless, the authors advise readers to take steps toward developing a positive attitude in the face of problems.
A positive, hopeful attitude is important because it has a way of redirecting a couple’s energies, the book suggests. It says, “We have to believe that things will work out; then, as a practical matter, our energy can instantly be more efficiently focused on the real problems at hand.”
The Neumans believe it is possible to “work to be close to our loved ones in any period, in good times and bad.” Couples are urged to recognize that their “relationship deserves a fighting spirit.”
Teamwork in the face of struggles is essential, in the authors’ view. “The first and most important step in managing life’s struggles as a couple is to decide that you will focus on the struggle as a team, not as two individuals ready to blame each other,” the book states.
“The number one way to get through any bad time is to work together and use your collective energy to solve, solve, solve,” according to “In Good Times & Bad.” It encourages spouses to find ways “of being there for each other” when their “place in the world feels shaky.”
Can anything good come of the tough times a couple experiences? The authors propose that weathering tough times can yield learning and growth. They write: “There is no denying that certain losses and the challenges that accompany them change us forever. When couples face tough times, they come away with a body of knowledge that others don’t have – bought and paid for with the currency of heartbreak.”
I particularly enjoyed a section in this book on how to converse with children about the financial difficulties a family experiences. The authors’ guidelines were insightful on listening in a way that allows children to express their real concerns about the problem in their home, not the concerns their parents imagine them to have.
The Neumans also are perceptive when it comes to money. This book’s advice may enable more than a few husbands and wives to grasp how inner fears of money and hidden beliefs about its meaning contribute to the shape of their relationship for better or for worse.