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A Lack Of Being Connected And Present

Author Interview
Author Interview Alyson Nerenberg

No Perfect Love is a self-help book designed to help couples communicate and work through common relationship issues and concerns. Why was this an important book for you to write?

As a psychologist who has been counseling individuals and couples for the last 30 years, I have found myself struggling to find a book to recommend to my patients which addresses many of the challenges we all have in our relationships, in particular the disappointment that occurs when we realize that our expectations for a perfect partner are let down. In the past there have been many books written about the challenges of overcoming our own perfectionism, as well as many books that address couples therapy issues. However, there has not been a book that addresses the perfectionistic expectations we put on our partners, our children and the other important relationships in our lives. This book encourages us to let go of our perfectionistic expectations of others in order to be more authentic and present in our relationships.

What do you feel is the most common pitfall in a relationship that couples struggle to work through?

The most common pitfall in a relationship is not communication problems. It is much deeper than that. It is a lack of being connected and present in our relationships. What this looks like is when a husband doesn’t look up from the game when his wife enters the room. It is when a couple is on a date and they both spend the whole time scrolling on their phones. It is the man saying that his partner is in front of him but is looking past him.

What is one piece of advice you would give couples that are struggling to make things work?

We all want to know that our partners see us, care that we are here and believe that we are enough for them without needing us to be better in some way. We want to know that we are special by the way they look at us.

My advice is simply that we take an extra second to look at the other person. We allow our eyes to sparkle as we smile. We truly connect. Connection is not based on the amount of time we spend with someone but the quality of our presence. Being present does not require meditation, deep breaths or any mantra. It is simply a decision. “Ok, I’m going to be present now. I will smile with my eyes and listen to what the other person is saying. I will do my best to communicate that I am happy the other person is here.”

What is the next book you are working on and when will it be available?

I am not working on a new book currently. Instead, I am just catching my breath in order to slow down and be present in my own life. I am showing up to clap loudly at my oldest daughter’s college graduation. I am laughing wholeheartedly at my younger daughter’s escapades. I am watching my son play tennis matches and enjoying sharing all of the little moments, and the ups and downs of life with my husband.

Perfect couples do not exist; nor do perfect families. Yet, in our photoshopped, Instagrammable world where we only present flawless versions of ourselves, we are easily tricked into believing they do. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Alyson Nerenberg has spent 30 years listening to couples, families, executives, celebrities, and professional athletes, and is here to share the truth. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, every one of us experiences challenges in our relationships.

While many books have been written about overcoming our own perfectionism, rarely has one described our tendency to expect perfection from others. How do we cope when our illusions of flawless relationships are shattered? What do we do when we discover extra-marital affairs, addiction, financial betrayal, or dishonesty from our partners? What happens when we realize our children are in crisis? In those moments, we have several decisions to make: we can face our loved ones, we can deal with our own vulnerabilities, or we can run. 

With wisdom and compassion, Dr. Nerenberg thoroughly explores the origins of perfectionism and how it keeps us stuck in a cycle of disappointment, anger, and resentment. Expertly combining psychological theory, popular culture, her patients’ life-changing moments, and her own challenges and growth, Dr. Nerenberg transforms trauma into triumph. Through case studies and powerful tools, including 12 clarifying questions that help us decide whether to stay or leave our relationships, she helps us write a new story where we overcome our adversities and find meaning in our heartbreaks.

No Perfect Love

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Relationships are hard work. Psychologists who work with couples, like Dr. Alyson Nerenberg, make their living helping others do that hard work. In her recent book, No Perfect Love, Dr. Nerenberg writes about the difficulties couples can face, and how to work on and overcome them. Each chapter details an element of a relationship. These elements range from adaptive strategies, like forgiveness and healthy boundaries, to pitfalls, like perfectionism and relationship dysfunction. Dr. Nerenberg then illustrates each relationship element with a story from her clinical practice and concludes the chapters with relationship exercises that can be done alone or with a partner.

I picked up this book expecting to go on a journey where I would examine my relationship and find new ways to make it better. For the most part, No Perfect Love delivers that. I especially appreciated the clinical stories, which I found perfectly paired with the concepts they were supposed to explain. These stories also help reframe some truly difficult times in a relationship, like addiction and infidelity, in a non-judgemental, therapeutic way. The exercises that follow each chapter are also helpful and constructive; these are exercises anyone can benefit from, even if their relationships are already healthy.

Dr. Nerenberg presents her material with a relatable, conversational style. At times the subject matter is uncomfortable, but Dr. Nerenberg makes the conversation comfortable for the reader. She introduces some psychological concepts that may not be familiar to laypeople, but she explains these clearly. However, sometimes she refers to uncited research to support her points, I expect this is because Dr. Nerenberg is drawing on years of clinical practice. This book addresses conventional relationship issues with conventional psychological approaches.

No Perfect Love is a relatable self-help book, filled with useful explanations and practical exercises that promise to improve one’s relationship. I think it would be beneficial for most couples to read this and do the work recommended in it.

Pages: 111

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