Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Book Review: Author Offers Practical Advice for Couples Therapists

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Book Review: Author Offers Practical Advice for Couples Therapists

Article excerpt

Infidelity, as noted by Dr. Scott Haltzman, is "the single most destructive act that a marriage must endure" and plays a role in one-third of marriages that end in divorce. Figuring out how to proceed after an affair comes to light is knowledge that virtually no couple possesses. This book provides many helpful answers.

Dr. Haltzman, a psychiatrist/couples therapist with many years of experience treating couples, aims "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity" (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) at the lay public. However, the book provides practical advice that should be helpful to clinicians who see patients suffering in the wake of affairs and wish a road map to assist them. As a clinician whose practice for many years has centered on treating couples, I not only found the book's advice sensible, I also acquired a few new tools for my own toolbox for working with this challenging population.

The book is the fourth in his "secrets series." The three previous books are "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" (New York: Jossey-Bass, 2007); "The Secrets of Happily Married Women" (New York: Jossey-Bass, 2008); and "The Secrets of Happy Families" (New York: Jossey-Bass, 2009).

Like his other books, "Surviving Infidelity" mixes just the right amounts of scientific research, clinical examples from his practice, relevant humor, cultural commentary (Tiger Woods and the reality TV show The Bachelor" are discussed), and direct quotes from couples who have posted to his website.

While entertaining, he is always respectful as he seeks to unravel this complex subject without oversimplifying the challenges and moralizing about the sins of offenders. Unusual in the self-help literature on infidelity, Dr. Haltzman is writing as much for those who have been unfaithful as for those who have been injured by the infidelity.

The book begins with chapters asking, "Why people cheat?" Answer: for the same reasons people fall in love--wishes to feel special, important, and attractive; for connection; and for sexual gratification.

Throughout the book, Dr. Haltzman also emphasizes the pernicious impact of unrealistic expectations about marriage, such as the notion that the institution should meet all of our patients' many, often semiconscious desires.

After discussing the cooling of romantic passion in marriage and some underlying biological forces that might encourage sexual infidelity Dr. Holtzman notes that while our animal biology might press for multiple partners, this is an insufficient explanation for affairs. "It's not okay to steal food because of the biological sensation of appetite, nor is shooting a neighbor's barking dog permitted because of a biological need for sleep," writes Dr. …

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