Summary: We have a way that we attached to romantic partners. Finding a partner that is compatible with our attachment type makes those attachments more secure, longer lasting, and more fulfilling. Oriented toward single adults more than couples.
I am fascinated by science books about human relationships and behavior. One of the best I have read is Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me. You can get the point by the title, and nearly two years after I read it, I still frequently bring it up in conversation. Another interesting and more general book like this is Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.
Book of this genre are best when they really are based in science, but they attempt to make the science real in lay person terms and ideas. Mary Roach, who wrote Bonk, takes the tack of writing about the science through her own discovery. She is a very present character in her books. The authors of Mistakes Were Made were more traditional science writers. They referenced studies and gave lots of examples but they were mostly writing from as academic narrators.
Some books get to science based or take a fairly simple idea and run it into the ground far past the attention spans of most readers (The Narcissism Epidemic I think fell into this trap.) But ever since the original Freakenomics and some of Chris Anderson and Malcolm Gladwell’s books became popular, this style of science/self-help/popular non-fiction came out, there have been many authors that are trying to find the secret to writing good books, that are actually useful and based in real science and understandable.
I picked this up in a New Years’ Self-Help sale. It was $0.99 for the audiobook if I remember correctly. I bought it because I like the science, but I also thought it might be useful background in the newly married small group that I lead.
I do think it is probably a useful book, but it is much more oriented toward singles than married or seriously dating couples. I did not listen to the entire books. I listened to about 2/3 of it and could tell pretty clearly where it was going. I was not the target audience, but I am seriously considering buying it for a friend.
The summary of the book is that there is a fairly new field of research around the way that people attach. There are three basic types, Avoidant, Anxious and Secure. We get to these types through an unknown mix of genes, family of origin, adult dating/marriage relationships and other influences. The research seems to suggest that while most people stay with their same attachment time from infancy, there is a small group (25-30%) that move between groups.
The positive of this book is that is really is trying to be helpful. Most of the first quarter of the book are tests to help you see what type of attachment you have and how to determine what types of attachment those around us are. I would strongly recommend getting this in a print format or kindle so that you can read and fill out the questionnaires and easily go back and discuss them with others. The problem with starting this way is that you really need to buy into the model before you go through the book. So I wish the tests were in the appendix and were referenced instead of spending so much time at the beginning.
This also a hopeful book. The authors want you to know that even if you have the two types that are more difficult, there are some good features about those types and that you can have good, strong marriages without changing your type or who you inherently are as a person.
This is a secular book. On the one hand there are some scientific ideas presented that suggest that sexual partners/couples are one in more than just the biblical metaphor (couples literally influence on another’s biochemistry/moods/etc), but on the other hand, there assumption of the book is that couples will be (if not should be) having lots of sex outside of marriage. And that marriage may not be the goal of a relationship.
With that caveat, I think that this probably is a useful book for single people to read to explore why they seem to find themselves repeating the same relationship mistakes over and over. It is still a self-help book. And I have some hesitancy with romantic self-help books because I just do not think that we can really control romantic relationships. There is a sense of mystery that has to be involved in love and marriage. If not then we are left with a determinism that I find unhelpful. The very root of Christian thought is that while we are all sinners, we can be saved and we can live differently because of grace. Determinism (we can only do what our genes tell us we can do) seems to limit the extent that grace can play in our lives. So as long as you go into it believing that this can be useful, without having all of the answers, I am all for making yourself into the best spouse that you can be, and looking for someone that is also doing the same.