The One - Kathy Freston

I think it's important for a book to set out clearly who it is meant for. If you write a book to help teenage girls learn how to date safely, you should probably title it SAFE DATING ADVICE FOR TEEN GIRLS. If you title it TRADITIONAL JEWISH RECIPES, then undoubtedly people who buy it will feel confused and let down.

That is part of the issue here. Kathy titles the book in a way that implies readers will learn to find their soul mate, their true partner in life. However, the entire book then seems to be about building a personal relationship with God while working on your existing marriage or relationship.

So point 1 - if you are single and LOOKING for a soul mate - or if you don't believe in God - this probably isn't the book for you. That is fair enough.

Now, on to the bulk of the book. I agree with many things Kathy says. You can't expect your partner to "fulfill you" when you're bored and cranky and desolate. That is not how life works. You need to find ways to be happy and content - and then you will be a productive half of a happy relationship. You need to work towards becoming a self-fulfilled, peaceful person. As you move down that road, you will find your life in general - and your relationship with your partner in particular - will become more and more joyous.

She explains that you can often approach a given situation from the point of view of fear, or from the point of view of love. If you choose the fear approach, you probably are going to end up disappointed. If you choose the love approach, while it might be tough, more often than not you will end up happier. Yes, it's easier to be defensive and rough, but it really is worth the effort to be nice to others and to give others that chance.

That all being said, some of her tips along the way range from strange to downright harmful. For example, she says if you're angry to go to a parked car, scream, rant and rage inside it, and then either:
1) your partner will magically become better
2) you will give up and just accept the way things are
3) you will throw in the towel and leave your partner

What kind of advice is that?? Studies show that if someone meditates and seeks calm, they tend to find a calm, peaceful response that is productive. If someone rants and raves, it builds up the anger in them and they actually become more hostile. I'm not saying to bottle emotions up. That is NEVER good! But there needs to be a healthy, productive outlet. If you train yourself to scream and yell and curse when you're bothered, that is a habit that will do far more harm than good.

Never mind that her repeated advice to "just give up" goes against everything I believe in. Yes, you can't change people. But if you are in a relationship, you are responsible for half of it. Closing your eyes and hoping for a magical change in your partner is irresponsible. In fact, she even says that staying with an abusive guy is perhaps teaching a lesson. That every relationship teaches you a lesson and is therefore good. Hah! My friend was raped. I'm sure she could have been a happy and productive adult without that little lesson. Some relationships are just WRONG and if you get into one by mistake, it is best to know that and get OUT without waiting around for magical change or for mysterious lessons to emerge.

Still, again, there are good parts here. She says, when making amends, that you should bring up past "truths" only when the real purpose is to help someone else feel better - not to assuage your own guilt at the expense of someone else's emotions. If you're upset you should not hold it in, but communicate calmly - not as a 'victim' but as a mature adult with boundaries. If you have a harmful person in your life, you can accept that you care for them but that it is time for you to move on with your path, one that does not involve frequent contact with them. You can never change another person. They can only change themselves, and sometimes they do that best without certain support in their lives.

Kathy explains that a soulmate relationship involves committing yourself to another's growth and emotional welfare *even when it's hard* and communicating proactively to sustain the connection. You need to listen - and also to be honest. You cannot make your partner guess at your needs because you're shy or because "he should know". It is your responsibility to make things clear.

But again, the downside. She says if you're really upset with your partner that it is probably your own "dark side" you're angry with, not his behavior. So if your partner hits you in the head, you're upset at yourself for having a violent dark side??

So there really is a mix here. I really like some of her comments. I really DISlike some of her other comments and feel they could cause great harm. I have to say as a whole that with all the other great books out there that take on this topic with a fully rounded set of writings that I can promote without reservations, I would probably not add this book to my recommendations listing.

Relationship Book Reviews