Review: Why Couples Fight by Mira Kirshenbaum

Mira Kirshenbaum has written a wealth of books (mostly about couples) and the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere are consistently 4.5-5 stars. This book is specific to fighting and working out conflicts. There was only one thing I didn’t like about this book and that was what I considered the unprofessional kind of language that she uses. I know I’m not reading a textbook, but saying things like “Look, I ain’t gonna hype you”, makes me think of something my teenager would write. I get that she is trying to be relatable, but I don’t think you have to do it that way. It’s really a small complaint, but it was bugging me throughout.

There wasn’t anything I read in this book that I didn’t already know as a couples therapist. However, if you are a therapist who doesn’t specifically specialize in couples therapy, or if you are just a person who is part of a couple trying to work out conflicts, I think the information is super useful.

I feel like there is kind of two parts to this book. The first part is where she claims that “power moves” are the main (only?) culprit in couples being unable to resolve conflict. And because she knows that many people will not resonate with that, she goes to great length to define power moves, giving a lot of examples and stories. The bottom line is that anything I say or do that makes my partner feel disempowered is a power move, even if that was totally not my intention.

Then she moves on to her solution, which she calls the “1, 2, 3, Method”. For any conflict there are three steps: 1. fully understand and hear each other, 2. explore a ton of options, and 3. brainstorm solutions and decide. This sounds crazy simple, but obviously it’s not or we would all be doing it! In my experience, couples go into conversations like this knowing already what they want and therefore they don’t hear each other, they only have one option idea (theirs) and therefore they never get to step 3. This is the kind of process that any couples therapist will lead you through but the book is intended to help couples do it on their own.

She also talks about some topics that are specifically problematic, like money and sex, because they have inherent power issues attached. All in all, I think the book could be useful to laypeople or therapists who only see couples occasionally and don’t have a ton of skill in resolving difficult arguments. This book comes out January 2021 and is available for pre-order now at the link below.

Disclaimer: the link above is an Amazon affiliate link, for which I receive a small compensation. My summaries are NOT intended to replace purchasing the book; they are simply intended to save you time if you do not currently have time to read the whole book, or in this case, to access the main points while you wait for the book to become available.

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