A doo-wop group named the Monotones once hit #5 on the Billboard charts with a hit called “(Who Wrote the) Book of Love?”
You’ve heard the song – if not the bouncy original, then a cover version by the Four Seasons or Sha Na Na. Bette Midler and Billy Crystal sang it onscreen in 2012’s “Parental Guidance.” Don McLean namechecked it in his epic “American Pie.” It seems a lot of fuss for a book about love. But there’s good reason for that. When it comes to relationships, we need all the help we can get. A book of solid relationship advice can be a lifesaver.
In school we are taught how to solve complex mathematical equations. We learn how chemicals combine to form compounds, mixtures and explosions. But they never tell us how to find true love or how to keep a loving relationship on-track.
I’ve rarely needed to solve a quadratic equation since I graduated from high school, but I need to work on my relationship every day. Shouldn’t they be teaching that in school?
Do Great Relationships Just Happen?
Relationships were a mystery to me when I was growing up. It seemed you were lucky if you met people you “clicked” with as friends or lovers. Although I grew up in Sweden where sexual relationships are as natural as your morning muesli, it’s not like “how to have great sex” was a topic in high school biology.
As I grew up, I began to see that there might be more than luck involved. I gradually learned that it’s possible to build personal and sexual chemistry. Contrary to what you see in romantic movies, successful relationships don’t happen by chance. They’re the result of hard work and commitment.
Yes, it’s true: Initial attraction is either present or absent. Our first emotional connections with partners seem to happen according to chance. It’s what happens later that we should work on. The emotional and sexual attraction that brings us together at first is just a foundation for a fulfilling, lasting relationship.
Love may be unconditional, as people say, but relationships aren’t. You have to build them and you have to sustain them. It takes work and it takes skill.
Why Relationship Books Matter
Gary Chapman’s classic The Five Love Languages was the first relationship book I read, and it really opened my eyes. I had just broken up with a partner, and with every page I found myself thinking, “If only I had known!”
I’m not sure The Five Love Languages would have saved that relationship (nor even, now that I think about it, that I would have wanted it to), but it certainly would have helped us communicate and get clarity about how we experienced each other. After I read it, I felt I understood better why that relationship never really felt right.
Since then, I have become a relationship-book junkie. I can’t pass a bookstore without browsing through the offerings. You never know when a tip or insight you read in a book might make the difference in making a success of your loving relationship. I’ve become a real advocate of ongoing learning about love and romance.
Other books I recommend are The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida; The Mastery of Love and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz; John Gray’s classic Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus; and My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson, edited by Sidney Rosen. Oh, and while I’m at it, you might check out Only Love Is Real by Brian Weiss. It’s the intriguing true story of how a clinical hypnotherapist one day gets a woman to talk about past lives and soul mates.
Be the Woman Men Adore
Most recently, I encountered Bob Grant’s The Woman Men Adore…and Never Want To Leave.
The Woman Men Adore is all about stepping into your heart and living from that emotional space. Instead of letting your emotions weaken you, stand firm and use them as a strength.
This insightful book details the dynamics between men and women. Grant understands that men and women have different kinds of energy, and that they are complementary.
My own observation is that in their rush to achieve equality, too many women have tried to become men. Sometimes the workplace demands that, but it’s a shame for that approach to muddy your relationship. Women and men are inherently different. I’m not saying one sex is smarter or should expect a higher salary, but that they experience emotions and process experiences differently. And of course, there is a world of difference in communication styles. I’m sure you have experienced that!
A Delicate Dance
This is tricky territory. No woman wants to be seen as needy. If you constantly need your man to do things for you, if you are always telling him how you would fall apart without him, then he will feel smothered. He’ll run like the wind.
If you are completely independent, however, his admiration will be tinged with insecurity. A man feels strong and necessary when he carries your heavy bags, protects you from the cold or fixes the car. If your fear of being needy robs him of these experiences, then he will feel less like a man in your presence. And no man wants to feel his manhood diminished.
Grant analyzes this dilemma clearly and offers specific advice. His prescriptions are grounded in a specific time and place, it’s true. They might not work in a country that is more patriarchal, and they might not be needed here in 25 years. But here and now, his advice is right on the money.
There’s a similar line to be drawn between taking care of a man and controlling him. Men do like to feel taken care of, but if you smother him, he’ll feel controlled. You’ve got to find the fine line between supporting him (by organizing his calendar, say) and controlling him (by telling him when he needs to get ready for a meeting).
Men love to hear about their good attributes. If your guy is arm-wrestling at the local pub, Grant says, you’re better off rooting for him and joining in the fun than teasing him for caring about participating in such a silly contest. That rule might seem obvious – but how many women break it every day? How often do you break it?
Grant explains a lot about how men and women share information. Men want to hear information, Grant says, while women want to share it. The average woman talks about four times as much as the average man, Grant says. That’s more than most men are able to listen to. The predictable result is that men zone out – and that leaves their mates feeling unheard and unappreciated. If you want to share something, Grant says, make it short and concise.
It’s fine to share emotions, but try not to do it when you are feeling emotional. Talk about them later, intellectually, instead of blowing up like a volcano. Grant describes in-the-moment discussion of emotions as impulses, and he says it’s generally a bad idea to cater to them. It’s better to talk things through after you’ve both calmed down, whether an hour or a week later. Then you can talk about your emotions instead of exhibiting them.
Grant makes many valid and provocative points that can help you understand yourself and your man better. Follow his advice and you will surely improve communication with your mate and minimize the hurt feelings and disappointments that arise from the different thinking and feeling traits of men and women.
A Few Points to Ponder
The Woman Men Adore can be confusing. Grant uses terminology and language in a distinct way. The distinction he draws between impulses and emotions is an example. He’s using “impulse” in a nonstandard way. In the book, it’s a bit of jargon. It can take some time to get used to that.
Grant also uses words such as “witch” and “tease” with negative connotations. Usually such usage indicates a sexist point of view. To Grant, however, these terms have distinct, almost clinical meanings. To get the most from the book, you have to set aside the negative connotations associated with those and other words.
As a final criticism, I observe that Grant’s text can wander freely from topic to topic. Sometimes I find he has moved to a new topic while I am still working to understand the last. I think his analyses and advice are valid, but – ironically enough! – his communication style didn’t always work for me.
A Place on Your Reading List
Nonetheless, I do recommend The Woman Men Adore. It’s filled with insights and useful advice. You’ll still want to read the other books I mentioned, but The Woman Men Adore deserves a place on your shelf.
There are billions of people on this planet, and each views life from a unique perspective. We all have different experiences, and that colors our facility at understanding certain communication styles.
That’s why there will always be more than one relationship book on the shelves. Even if they all said the same things – and they do, more than you might expect – they present those insights so differently that you can read one and find it irrelevant while another speaks directly to your deepest self.
Different relationship books also address different parts of your relationship. The Five Love Languages is about expressing love in a relationship in a way that your partner understands, while The Woman Men Adore focuses on how women need to understand themselves in order to make their relationships work.
In sum, The Woman Men Adore is about becoming more of who you truly are as a woman: living from your heart and communicating with your man in a way that helps him understand and treasure you.