Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

# Paperback: 304 pages
# Publisher: Plume, 1997
# Price: $15
# ISBN: 0452275350

I imagine most readers of Mira Kirshenbaum's Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay are leaning towards the going. Most of us tend not to mess with the good, or spend time analyzing why we feel bliss; rather we seek out deeper understanding only when something hurts. Human nature, I suppose. Take notice only when life becomes a pain. But as I read Kirshenbaum's easy to absorb guide on fencesitting relationships, I realized this is a good read even for the best of relationships. Even for those currently between relationships. Why not gain understanding as a preventative measure and avoid the iffy relationship entirely?

Kirshenbaum's book uses a series of diagnostic questions to ascertain if a relationship weighs more heavily on the side of staying or leaving. Yet, even as she encourages insights, Kirshenbaum, a trained psychotherapist who offers relationship counseling in Boston, is careful to remain in neutral territory, making no hard and fast judgments. A good therapist, after all, doesn't make decisions for you, or even give advice, as much as she offers guidelines and helps you find the answers for yourself, the right ones for you. Kirshenbaum stays on the up and up throughout. Even when a diagnostic appears to point to a major GO! she gently states: your situation may be different. Fencesitting? Nah. While we are all the same, as human beings, we are also all unique, and our relationships especially so. Take with grain of salt, then, and a recommendation to talk to a therapist one on one if truly stuck.

That said, I enjoyed this book and found myself recommending it to several others, regardless of their relationship status quo. The diagnostic questions are good ones. They lead to a good, long look in the mirror, a reassessing of one's own emotional well being, and gauging that one is in, or out, of a relationship for all the right and healthy reasons. And, if you are in a good relationship, the many yes's to Kirshenbaum's questions can rejuvenate any fencesitter, giving new appreciation for maybe what was pretty darn good all along. It's always nice to know you're doing just fine.


ken said...

I find your review of this book very encouraging. I am in deep marital trouble and this book was recommended to me by my therapist. I've read some reviews seeming to indicate that the book had a "leave, don't stay" bias. Your review is helping me to see that I can take a more balanced approach and perhaps uncover some core issues that will help my wife and I decide to stay or leave whatever is best. Very scary times, very painful times, remarried widower that maybe jumped in too soon.
Thanks for your review.

Susan said...

i didnt know my husband was "on the fence" because he totally shut down all communication with me in a total of 2 months and became very hostile and angry and asked for divorce.. i found this book by his dressser. i sumise he read the book, and with its assumptions of disrespect guided him down a very dark path, where he wasnt before. i read the book and decided our marriage was worth every 30 years we put into it. however, am interested to open up some discussion of the guideline points to understand how he came to his conclusion, only hoping that its not too late now with his newfound hostility toward me thanks to the leave dont stay bias. i hope this book hasnt ruined thousand of marriages already.

Zinta Aistars said...

Since I'd read this particular book, I did eventually decide to leave the relationship I was in at the time. I have never looked back, never regretted that move. His problems were only escalating, including anger, pathological lying, repeated infidelity, and denial about addictive behavior. In short, it was an emotionally abusive relationship, and those usually only get worse with time.

The book I recommend for others in similar situations is this one, see review link for Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. It gave me my ticket to freedom.