A Book That Could Unf*ck Your Relationship: I Want This To Work By Elizabeth Earnshaw. Reviewed by Angela Kempf.

A Book That Could Unf*ck Your Relationship: I Want This To Work By Elizabeth Earnshaw. Reviewed by Angela Kempf.

. 4 min read

When we think about romantic relationships—and especially their beginnings—we think about the fun stuff. The electricity. The chemistry. The banter. The mystery and the surprise.

What’s less romantic to think about are the patterns in those relationships. It takes some of the stars out of your eyes when you realize that relationships are typically a series of habits so predictable that you could graph them if you wanted to. The first point is where you are attracted to the same type of person as always. The subsequent point is where you are captivated by their scent, humor, and how much your dogs love them. The next point is when you make a series of sacrifices for them that you may or may not be entirely comfortable with. The next point is resentment.

Your graph will undoubtedly vary from the example above. But chances are, if you’ve had a series of long-term relationships, your graphs would look similar no matter who you’re dating. That’s because it’s difficult to avoid developing a series of habits inside of relationships. And I Want This to Work by Elizabeth Earnshaw guides you through taking an in-depth look at whether those habits are serving you.

In the March 4, 2021, Crush Letter, we told you that Earnshaw’s Instagram was one of the best social media accounts to follow for practical advice that can transform your relationship. So, it’s no surprise that her book is a compendium of helpfulness, a resource you’ll return to again and again for intimate tune-ups. Elizabeth Earnshaw is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and she uses her real-world experience to provide readers with example problems and, more importantly, solutions. The advice she gives is practical and goes beyond common sense—plus, you can use it whether you’re on your first date or your 30th anniversary.

I Want This to Work offers a holistic look at relationships—starting by assessing and evaluating your relationship with yourself, then your partner's relationship to themself, and eventually, your relationship together. Some of us tend to lose sight of ourselves and get swallowed up inside our romantic entanglements, while others are so independent that it can make intimacy impossible. Earnshaw understands how a lack of self-care and self-awareness is linked to relationship struggles. Our treatment of ourselves will eventually become our treatment of others.

Her style is less poetic than, say, Esther Perel. But her advice is also more concrete and easier to implement, even for the busiest people. Each chapter ends with conversation prompts that you and your partner could have to deepen your relationship. There’s even an estimated conversation time so that you can plan the conversation around your schedule.

Consider the age-old fight over domestic responsibilities, for example. Earnshaw advises you to categorize and prioritize the unmet needs that this argument represents, like the need for help, fairness, peace, and rest. She helps you formulate a specific statement that focuses on what you need rather than falling into the trap of saying “you never,” or “I always,” making the conflict much more resolvable.

If you keep having the same fight over and over—or the same relationship over and over—this book can help you shake free from old patterns and access the best parts of yourself. In chapter 4, entitled “Looking Back to Move Forward,” Earnshaw talks about attachment styles. She offers helpful tips for connecting with our partners rather than the all-too-common notion that you ought to heal your entire childhood before the next argument with your spouse. Often, relationship books acknowledge that we learn our "love template" from our parents, but they don't have many tips for better conflict resolution without years of therapy first. What stands out about this book is that it has practical, let’s-implement-this-tonight advice.

No one enters a relationship with the end in mind. The beginning is blind, blissful optimism that you won’t end up unhappy. But understanding the stages of a relationship and how even the most self-aware people get stuck in a cycle of bad habits is crucial to having a meaningful long-term relationship. Earnshaw doesn’t bother with vague jargon and instead offers insight to help you and your partner get un-stuck. Relationships, prepare to be unf*cked.

Angela Kempf is a sex writer and sex toy reviewer. One of her erotic stories appears in Best Women's Erotica Volume 7 published by Cleis Press, and her other sex writings have been published by multiple notable publications.

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