Many people seem to take issue with self-help books. It's like there's just something about getting advice from a book, that hurts our pride. Which is why I suppose, my father made us promise to read the relationship books he bought for us back in March.
But I personally don't feel any resistance to such books. Though I will admit that I only remembered to read the books because of the promise, I was never particularly resistant to the idea of reading them in the first place. So it was only after I had finished reading them, that I learnt that sometimes, it may not be wise to mention the source of your new found wisdom, until after the advice has worked.
Because hearing that the reason it occurred to someone to do something you appreciate was because they read it in a book, makes you doubt its genuity; and hearing that it's the reason they did something you didn't appreciate, makes it sound like an excuse. So if there's one piece of advice I'd like to give to bachelors and bachelorettes as I recommend the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, it would be that:
You should either read this book with your partner at the same pace, or read it alone without mentioning it.
As luck would have it, my ex-girlfriend and I started out reading this book together. I remember it vividly, because we were both amazed at how accurate many of the statements in the book were! In fact, I was a little bit hurt because she made a point of pointing out the places where I had gone wrong, by highlighting them for me (which unbeknownst to her, was kinda like rubbing it in my face).
But you know, this was before we read a few pages later, the section on women giving unsolicited advice and criticism: after which, the highlighting stopped. 😀 So within the first 27 pages, this book had already made us laugh AND solved what could have become a problem: because I wasn't going to tell her, that a little highlighting was hurting my feelings! Especially since she meant no harm by it...
Unfortunately, we only made it up until about the 4th chapter together. During which time we found other gems, like the one about men and their caves: The assertion that men retract into themselves when they have problems, and how and why women get upset by it.
This was yet another lifesaver, because it is something that I do a lot of. So it helped us both understand why and how to deal with it. Especially since I wasn't doing it consciously, and it was making her feel unloved. So even without knowing the rest of what we discovered in those four chapters, you should already be thinking to yourself:
Wow! If this can really improve my relationships so dramatically, I should probably get it.
...and that's where my little piece of advice comes in. Yes, you should get it, and preferably while you're in a relationship. But you want to keep pace with your partner, because my case went something like this:
After that 4th chapter, my ex had to go and stay with some friends for a while, and I, being the highly curious and avid reader that I am, couldn't wait for her return to continue reading. I continued reading the book, and in a short time, finished reading it completely.
Now, while the first half of the book talks about the things men and women do, and how they should best react to each other's quirks, the latter half actually goes into why we do those things to provide a better understanding of our sexist natures. The book does however, strictly warn that these shouldn't be used as excuses. Just because your natural inclinations follow a certain pattern doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to change them.
Yet armed with all this new found knowledge (that only I had), I just had to try one out - a suggestion about writing all your negative feelings down and sharing them with your partner. So I typed them up in an email which I wasn't going to send. For me, it was more about getting my frustrations out, than sharing them.
Sadly, Gmail had other ideas. With the “Send” button right next to the “Save Now” button, I accidentally hit send and she received the full brunt of my negative feelings: in all their unkind glory. But imagine how much worse it was, trying to explain that not only did I have these depressing feelings, the only reason you even know about them is because the book suggested I leave evidence... followed by the cherry on top: "I wrote all this down, and feel this way, because I love you."
Not to mention my subsequent attempt at apologising, where I tried to explain some of the realisations I had now come to, as a result of reading the book. My God! I still cringe at the thought of that experience... but I wouldn't say it caused the end of our relationship. In fact, the book's advice was spot on: writing down my feelings did help to relieve some of that sadness. Even so, I can imagine how much better that conversation might have gone had she read what I had read. At the very least, she would have been more prepared for the email.
Edit: I recently discovered she never understood that email: thought I was bashing her, when I meant to express worry. Another great reason to read this book with your partner.
In conclusion, I say to you that Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is a fantastic book by John Gray, full of some of the most pertinent relationship advice you will ever read. But be careful when applying that advice! For it is neither a crutch nor a wheelchair, but merely a point in the right direction.