Over a two-year period, Charlie and Linda Bloom interviewed over 50 couples who had been married for an average of thirty-one years and seemed as happy as newlyweds. Were they just lucky? Or did they know something that most other couples don’t know? Or did they do something different? And if so, What?
Their ground-breaking book features 27 of those couples who share the sometimes surprising secrets of their success in overcoming the challenges that occur in nearly all committed partnerships in one form or another.
The Blooms found that these couples had faced real challenges — difficulties with children and stepchildren, war wounds, infidelity, health crises, and financial ruin. They also found that with loving dialogue and open hearts, the couples had found ways to heal, grow, and deepen their commitment through, not despite, their challenges. The authors distill this real-world wisdom into practical, positive actions any couple can use to achieve or regain not just a good marriage but a great one!
Praise for Secrets of Great Marriages:
— Harville Hendrix, Ph. D. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples
“Reading this incredibly enthusiastic, confident celebration of marriage is a total joy! Every couple is unique. Every story is engaging. The level of candor in which matters both tragically dire and delicately intimate are presented is thrilling. The message — commitment to love supports and sustains through difficulties — resounds throughout.”
— Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life
“A fascinating and moving glimpse into twenty-nine very different happy marriages. Think of it as a primer: Marriage 101 — Daily Love.”
— Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly
“Charlie and Linda Bloom use real-life stories to relay real-world wisdom to couples in all stages of relationships. Take their words as golden–they’ve walked the walk!”
— Pat Love, Ed.D., author of The Truth about Love
“With Secrets of Great Marriages, the Blooms have captured the essence of true partnership and what it involves. These stories illustrate the essential qualities that are necessary for genuine communion with another person. This book provides compelling evidence that no matter who we are, we can develop the skills to create truly extraordinary relationships.”
–Marianne Williamson, author of A Return To Love, Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Healing for the Modern Plagues of Anxiety and Depression and The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for Living Your Best Life
“The Blooms’ commitment to relationship, demonstrated by their many years together and their fine undertaking in Secrets of Great Marriages, is certainly commendable. The couples in this book eloquently describe the relationship roller coaster, offering very enjoyable lessons that give readers an opportunity to compare notes with others on the same path.”
–Stephen and Ondrea Levine, authors of Embracing the Beloved
Review by J. Steven Svoboda
Therapists, workshop co-leaders, and life partners Linda and Charlie Bloom have written a book that is more unusual than it should be. This book is packed with inspiring stories of pairs of people who manage to stay committed, to enjoy each other, and to move forward despite the many challenges life and marriage can offer. The Blooms networked through colleagues, relatives, and friends to locate twenty-seven married couples to feature in their book, each of whom have been together at least fifteen years and an average of thirty years. The list is diverse, including lesbian and gay couples, couples of various races including interracial couples, working-class people, four couples who like the Blooms co-lead relationship workshops, a restaurant manager, a dress shop owner, a multi-millionaire (who later ends up losing all he has), and professionals from a number of different fields.
The Blooms certainly cannot be accused of having picked out people lucky enough to have led relatively charmed lives free of serious conflict or strife. If anything, many of the couples depicted here have faced and overcome more than the typical level and number of issues. Deaths of children, marital infidelity, life-threatening health challenges, and many other difficulties crop up. Yet in ways as different as the individuals depicted, they somehow manage to negotiate these minefields, usually emerging with a stronger relationship with their spouse than when they started.
From the very first example, it is clear that the Blooms have located some great couples. Lobsterman Pete Smith hires Deanna as his first female assistant. Initially skeptical that any woman can do the job, he eventually becomes convinced and also ends up creating a successful, long-lasting marriage with her! Well-known Christic Institute lawyer Daniel Sheehan achieves perhaps his greatest success in his remarkable support for his wife Sara Nelson’s recovery from breast cancer. Maya Spector leaves her marriage to Barry for another man, yet four years later, in the wake of an injury to their son, Maya and Barry reunite, re-open their hearts to each other, and re-marry. The portrait of Hassidic rabbi Nehemia Cohen and his wife Rachel (and their twelve children) provides a fascinating glimpse of a lifestyle that many of us might never directly encounter.
Yet all is not golden. Next we meet a married couple living in denial, so focused on their kids they make no time to nurture their marriage, with the result that husband Drew Coleman eventually has an affair. To Drew’s surprise, when the news comes out, Shirley takes responsibility for her part in the breakdown, and the marriage recovers. Later when their daughter Anne becomes troubled, news emerges that a relative who babysat their daughter had molested her from ages ten to thirteen, and the couple are able to help their daughter through recovery from this trauma. Barbara Dossey travels with husband Larry back to Vietnam many years after he served in the military there, and with her support, he is able to go through a night of catharsis that rids him of the nightmares from which he had been suffering.
What can we learn from these couples? As the authors lay out in their introduction, we see throughout the book that—among other keys to their successful relationships–they: have a high level of mutual respect and trust for their partners; have a nonhierarchical relationship; tend not to hold grudges; address unfinished business expeditiously rather than putting things on the back burner; tend to avoid cycles of blame, express affection, appreciation, and need for each other frequently; are honest with themselves and their partner; and engage in frequent acts of service to each other. “The way to avoid divorce,” Hal and Sidra Stone wisely counsel, “is to have a no-fault marriage.”
Barry and Joyce Vissell were able to endure the severe disapproval of both sets of parents when they married despite their different religious backgrounds (Jewish and Protestant), but when Barry has an affair with Joyce’s best friend, the relationship nearly ends.
“Sooner or later most couples are challenged in unwanted ways that they never imagined…. Your heart breaks, and you feel great pain…. It’s a chance to finally learn to live with an open heart.”
Apart from a brief introduction to each chapter, the Blooms mostly abstain from inflicting lessons or conclusions on the reader, limiting themselves to presenting twenty-seven diverse stories from diverse couples. The people in this book are not simply halves of amazing (yet ordinary) couples but are also phenomenal individuals, yet they struggle with many of the same challenges the rest of us face. Highly, highly recommended.