Books & More Writing

Book Recommendations & Relationship Resources

I am often asked HOW I came to understand and believe the things I do. The truest answer is: Everything hurt really badly when I got divorced, and for self-preservation reasons, I was motivated to understand why it happened so that I can avoid ever feeling that shitty again.

Certainly, the process of writing and the countless hours of thinking and conversing in the comments has also contributed.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some key books which affected me greatly throughout this continuing education process.

“How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” was the book that influenced me most greatly because it was the first one that flipped my switch to “Oh man. My wife wasn’t wrong and stupid and crazy all those times I thought she might be. Oh man. Much, if not most, of this is my fault. Oh man. This stuff is important. Why does it seem to be such a well-kept secret???” A significant moment in life.

The premise is simple. There are five distinct ways in which people FEEL loved and valued and respected. Some people like hugs. Others like receiving gifts, or hearing “I love you.” Some people feel it through acts of service. The point is, EVERYONE needs to feel loved and valued in their marriage. And just because you believe you are demonstrating love to your partner, DOES NOT mean that person receives it. When people don’t feel loved, marriages die. Learn what makes your partner feel loved. Then do THAT.

This is a different spin on Dr. John Gray’s super-famous “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” It’s a fun food metaphor, so it’s easy to remember. People sometimes get bent out of shape about gender stereotyping, and I get it. I’m certainly not trying to perpetuate the myth that men MUST behave a certain way, or that women ALWAYS think and feel X, Y and Z. But this idea that another human being is fundamentally DIFFERENT than you, but equally smart, or talented, or important, or valuable, or whatever is really important to me. I think men and women spend so many conversations and years trying to convince each other to behave and feel more like one another that we push each other away without ever embracing our differences.

“But Matt!!! There’s a bad word right on the cover!!! I don’t think I can handle it!!!” Ugh. Fine. Spend the rest of your life locked up at home listening to Yanni or the Kenny G. Christmas album. ORRRRRRRR. Recognize that things that make us uncomfortable help us grow into stronger, more-capable people. Mark Manson makes me UNCOMFORTABLE. But damn if he isn’t a thoughtful, talented writer with a unique ability to take all the big, elusive concepts you learned in high school psychology class, and bring them down to human-sized nuggets of wisdom and hilarity. Will this book help improve your relationship? Why, yes. Yes it will.

“What the hell is this? Psych class? Get back to the relationshippy stuff!” This IS relationshippy stuff. You just need to apply good ideas about how to influence others to your communication with your partner and loved ones. Learn how to use the most influential human behavior to lovingly and persuasively nudge the people you care about in the direction of Not Getting Divorced and/or Hating Each Other Forever. 

So much of what ails us are our bad habits. Routine, routine, routine. I think most of the things we do, think or feel in a given day is more habit and reflex than it is mindful action. I’m not talking about smoking and biting our nails. I’m talking about mindless assholery that causes divorce and sobbing children. These bad habits and reflexes can cause emotional terrorism in our personal lives and ultimately destroy love, homes, families and all kinds of other good stuff. So maybe if we learn how this happens, and how to develop GOOD HABITS, we can do cool shit, like save the world.

[NOTE: More book recommendations are coming.]

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