The Marriage Turnaround: How Thinking Differently About Your Relationship Can Change Everything
Through his decades of counseling married couples --- and his own 26 years of marriage --- Mitch Temple has come to one overarching conclusion about most marital problems: The fault lies not with the specific problems in the marriage but with the faulty thinking that each spouse brings to the marriage. Rather than treating marital problems symptomatically, Temple believes couples need to get to the root of their problems and transform the distorted thinking.
THE MARRIAGE TURNAROUND exposes a dozen myths based on flawed thinking that threaten to destroy otherwise salvageable relationships. Among the myths: happiness is everything, courtesy isn't necessary, conflict is bad, marriage is too hard, attitudes don't count and crisis equals the end. Those and half-dozen others contribute to a seething undercurrent of anger and resentment.
"If you are angry, afraid, resentful, jealous, or depressed --- in other words, if you are struggling with negative emotions --- the fault may lie in your thinking," Temple writes. "Cognitive therapists operate on the theory that distorted thinking lies at the root of most of these negative emotions. These therapists help their clients identify the distorted thinking, understand what is distorted about it, and then correct it so that emotional healing can begin."
That process is crucial for couples in trouble to undertake, Temple says, because distorted thinking creates ruts that keep couples stuck and gets them mired more deeply into the muck that bogged down the relationship to begin with. Temple singles out nagging and defensiveness as two such ruts.
The author also tackles some traditional problems in marriage, such as different communication styles, gender-specific ways of thinking and personality clashes and emphasizes the importance of genuine listening in all communication between spouses. And he places great value on spouses making their needs known to each other instead of expecting them to figure it out on their own.
One of the most prevalent marital myths, he writes, is the notion that "the one" --- a person's true soul mate --- is still out there and that the existing marriage was all a mistake. Temple takes issue with that concept: "It's not so much a matter of finding 'the one,' but becoming one…A soul mate is not something that you look for or find like an Easter egg or a missing wallet. A soul mate is someone that you become."
Among the book's strengths is the way Temple expresses his insights into marriage. Some examples:
"Would you like to know one of the single most powerful, effective and life-changing choices you could ever make in your marriage? … It is the conscious, ongoing, sometimes daily decision to give up rights."
"Couples who learn how to forgive experience the happiness that some people search for all their lives."
"I've seen a number of marriages destroyed by big fights, big disagreements and big misunderstandings. But …I've seen even more marriages get into trouble over a buildup of little things."
Temple ends with his "Seven Ups" prescription for keeping love alive: light up (delight in each other), dress up (don't let yourself go), stand up (for each other), start up (begin each day with prayer), shut up (when you should), pull up (encourage each other) and look up (toward God).
Temple, who holds graduate degrees in ministry and marriage and family and serves as director of marriage programs at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, writes openly about his struggles with depression and an anxiety disorder, both of which caused serious problems in his own marriage. Temple’s honesty and vulnerability about his own shortcomings lend authenticity to his insights. THE MARRIAGE TURNAROUND is not just an analysis from a mental health professional but is also an account from someone who understands the struggle firsthand.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on January 1, 2009