Laura Doyle has set herself the modest goal of ending worldwide divorce. She isn’t aiming to do this by changing laws. She isn’t laying the responsibility for this change on men. She is instead seeking to show women the power they have to set the tone for their marriages and how to make those relationships satisfying.
Doyle’s latest step toward accomplishing this mission is her book, “First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors“. The book’s cover promises to reveal to its audience “Modern-Day Secrets to Being Desired, Cherished, and Adored for Life.”
Doyle lays out options for women feeling stuck in marriages that are far from where they’d like them to be. She urges readers not give up on their marriages, not to give up on their husbands.
Instead, she suggests women learn what she calls the “Six Intimacy Skills”. By learning and practicing these skills, Doyle says, women can improve their relationships and keep them fulfilling.
In spite of the subtitle’s claim to offer “modern-day secrets”, Doyle’s advice actually hearkens back to the wisdom of the past. Her approach to marriage involves urging women to accept responsibility for their behavior, to care for themselves and to strive to respect their husbands while making every effort not to control them. In one section, Doyle advises women to let their husbands be primarily responsible for the family’s finances.
Because Doyle’s books assume that women are capable of being adults, and that the health and happiness of a marriage depends largely on women’s attitudes, they are bound to be controversial. Her earlier book, “The Surrendered Wife”, inspired a movement of women eager to relinquish control. Naturally, the movement drew criticism, including stupidly being compared to slavery by an Australian feminist bureaucrat.
Nevertheless, the thousands of women who are happier because of these books vindicate Doyle’s approach. After having read “First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors,” I have a hard time seeing how any woman who read and applied this advice wouldn’t improve her situation.
The concern, of course, is abuse. Doyle deals with this early in the book as she tries to help women discern between men who are normal with good intentions and men who are truly dysfunctional. Anyone who imagines Doyle encourages women to passively accept abuse needs to polish her reading comprehension skills.
Doyle stokes the controversy by expressing her ideas in provocative ways. Even the title of “First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors” is startling. In Doyle’s oddly titled section “The Myth of Verbal Abuse”, she courts controversy by appearing to downplay the seriousness of spoken assaults. Ultimately, in that section, however she provides women methods both to control their own tongues and to help curb their husbands’ tirades.
The penchant for provocative writing highlights one area where the book could be stronger. Contrary to what the title implies, Doyle does not advocate actually killing anyone. The title is an allusion to a line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI.
Instead, Doyle argues that marriage counseling is often counter-productive because it focuses couples on what is wrong rather than on equipping themselves with skills to strengthen their relationship. She leaves unanswered the question of what couples should do when personality issues or mental illness interferes with the natural desire for intimacy. In those cases, it seems marriage counseling would remain essential.
When Laura reached out to me and asked me to review her book, I was interested to see how I, as a man, would respond to a book written so overtly for a female audience. Throughout the book’s 223 pages, I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what Doyle says about men. Doyle writes for women, but she does so with a deep understanding of the masculine sex. More importantly, she likes and appreciates us. This kind of attitude, doubtlessly, helps men to trust her to deal with issues in their marriages.
If you are married to someone you believe is basically good-hearted; someone who lacks underlying character problems and is not mentally ill, then this book would likely help you. If things are worse than that, if your spouse has intractable problems, this book could help if those issues can be resolved. If you are married to someone who has serious, ongoing issues, in spite of Doyle’s urging, you probably need to see a counselor and instead of killing him, just sit down and talk.
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