Human behavior has always fascinated me and is, I'm sure, a compelling force behind my life-long love of mystery genre. Before opening the cover to Sharyn Wolf's memoir, Love Shrinks, I enjoyed toying with the multi-layered meanings of her title. The sub-title, "a memoir of a marriage counselor's divorce," raised its own questions: do those, whom we seek for counseling in our own relationship challenges, have thriving, successful marriages or relationships? How, otherwise, could those therapists help others? Was it even possible that a successful author of five self-help books such as 50 Ways to Find a Lover, This Old Spouse, and How to Stay Lovers for Life, had not been a lover with her own spouse for years?
It turned out that the answers were, "Not always," "Yes, they still can," and "Yes, amazingly, that was true."
Wolf drew me into Love Shrinks on the first page with, "This is the story of a marriage counselor who couldn't keep her own marriage together. She had loved her husband in the past, and still loved parts of him. She tried everything she could think of to make their fifteen years work: individual counseling, couple's counseling, group therapy, self-help books, pretending everything was fine, anti-depressant medications, waiting, praying, pretending everything was fine."
Wolf tenaciously held my attention throughout Love Shrinks. She spared no dark facts. Her raw honesty, raucous-at-times humor, and excellent writing skills wove a fascinating memoir. She not only experienced her marital problems at home; she frequently encountered pieces of them as she listened to and worked with her therapy patients. It was interesting that, at times, she gained personal insights into her own situation through her work with a client or when talking with an acquaintance who was relating a problem, as well as in other varied situations.
Early in my reading, the questions I had quickly transformed into a formidable puzzle: why would a smart, attractive, talented woman stay for years in an austere marriage without support for her needs, without sex, and without even basic furniture in their home.
Answers slowly appeared, unfolding in a fascinating manner through Wolf 's unique chapter organization. Following each of the eighteen chapters that chronicled the inner workings of her marriage was a brief personal note, often less than a page, titled "Why I Stayed Married: Reason #1," which described an incredibly touching or loving act that Wolf's spouse, a prominent, talented musician, said or did. These "reason" notes equated to rays of brilliant sunshine peeking out from dark, heavy clouds and each served to renew Wolf's hope for restored conjugal health and happiness. I found this technique a first-rate way to show the rollercoaster ride the couple traveled for their many years together.
For any woman who has ever stayed far too long in an unhealthy relationship, believing that if she just worked a little harder, things would get a little better, Wolf's book gives validation to both the seductiveness and the senselessness of that fantasy.
Sharyn Wolf, LCSW, is a New York State licensed psychotherapist in a twenty-year Manhattan based private practice working with individuals, couples and families. In this capacity she has been a frequent media commentator on celebrity marriage and divorce, and has been a frequent guest on television and radio shows, including Oprah, Katie Couric, 48 Hours, and CNN. Her work has been profiled internationally in newspapers and magazines including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, and The New York Times, as well as magazines such as Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men's Health, and Self. Her books have been translated into six languages. Visit her website.
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