A Review of No Perfect Love by Dr. Alyson Nerenberg
There is no such thing as a “perfect relationship.” Every relationship, whether it’s a friendship or marriage, has its own unique issues – and that’s okay. Clinical psychologist Dr. Alyson Nerenberg has spent over three decades listening to couples, families, and friends discuss their relationships openly so she can offer constructive help while they work on those relationships. The biggest step that you can take in creating and maintaining healthy relationships is being open and honest throughout them all
In a world where the intimate details of our lives and relationships are constantly shared, it can be hard not to compare the quality of your relationships to other people’s. With social media, there is increased pressure on relationships to be “perfect,” even though we know a perfect relationship doesn’t exist.
I read this book because I knew it would help me learn more about overcoming problems in relationships, but I was beyond amazed at the insight provided by Dr. Nerenberg and have an entirely new outlook on how to maintain relationships in a healthy way. The book highlights the difficulties of relationships while emphasizing the importance of overcoming those difficulties, giving the reader tips on how to openly do so in their life.
A Quick Look Into No Perfect Love (Review)
It’s no secret that being in a relationship is hard work. As two separate, special beings, it would be nearly impossible to not butt heads at some point in your relationship. Dr. Nerenberg has not only listened to but advised couples, families, and friends about how to work through the different problems that may arise in a relationship. Eventually, she decided to compile her insight.
Pairing her friendly tone with her unique experiences in varying intimate issues, Dr.Nerenberg addresses the different struggles couples, families, and friends may face in their relationships and how to work through them. These struggles are often elements of a healthy relationship that are needed, such as creating healthy boundaries, practicing forgiveness, and recognizing dysfunction in a relationship when it appears.
Dr. Nerenberg takes these categories and divides them into different sections throughout her book, all of which highlight why that element is so important in a relationship and how to overcome common issues that may arise within them. Nerenberg combines her constructive exercises for different aspects of relationships with stories of obstacles that she has helped others work through in the past to help readers relate to and feel comfortable with her advice.
No Perfect Love is a book that highlights the struggles just as much as the positive aspects of a relationship, which is something that we don’t see enough of these days. The work opens up an important discussion for couples and relationships everywhere: “What is bothering us and how can we fix it?”
Healthy Aspects of a Relationship
Healthy relationships play a vital role in a person’s journey to recovery. Lookatch, S. J. Wimberly, A. S., & McKay, J. R. (2019). Effects of Social Support and 12-Step Involvement on Recovery among People in Continuing Care for Cocaine Dependence. Substance use misuse … Continue reading Without a solid support system it can be easy to crumble under the effects of stress and struggle. Ozbay, F.Johnson, D. C. Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C. A., Charney, D. Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry 4 (5), 35–40. … Continue reading Here are some of the aspects that Dr. Nerenberg discusses in her book that can also help while you’re on the road to recovery.
Creating Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are something that every relationship requires. Without them, it can be easy to hurt other people in your life or for them to hurt you, whether intentional or not. Families, intimate personal relationships, and even friendships and work relationships all need boundaries. Every person’s boundaries look different because every person has gone through different experiences to get where they are today. Boundaries can be set in a variety of ways in almost any area of your life.
Setting a healthy boundary can look as simple as telling your friend you can’t see them this weekend because you have work to do, or it can be more complicated like telling a friend you can no longer see them because they aren’t good for your health. In intimate relationships, setting boundaries can even help to increase couple satisfaction. Russo, M., Ollier-Malaterre, A. Kossek, E. E., & Ohana, M. (2018). Boundary Management Permeability and Relationship Satisfaction in Dual-Earner Couples: The Asymmetrical Gender Effect.Frontiers … Continue reading Creating boundaries is something that often takes courage but can help you and your relationships immensely in the long run.
Forgiveness is another element of relationships that Dr.Nerenberg discusses, and it also happens to play a large role in the process of recovery. Sometimes, before you begin your process of healing, you may have neglected previous relationships or hurt other people while struggling with drugs or alcohol– or they may have hurt you.
Being able to practice forgiving those who have hurt you is an amazing step towards becoming a better you. As you and I both know all too well, people make mistakes. Being able to forgive a partner, a colleague, or a friend, is a crucial skill to practice in order to maintain healthy relationships. In intimate relationships, knowing how to forgive each other can go a long way.
Building Adaptive Strategies
The term “adaptive strategies” is simply another way of describing what are commonly known as “coping mechanisms.” Coping mechanisms are an intrinsic part of every person’s life. Again, because everyone has had a unique life with different experiences, this means that everyone also copes in different ways. Being able to understand your partner’s coping mechanisms is another way that you can better understand your partner altogether. Conklin, L. R. Cassiello-Robbins, C. Brake, C. A., Sauer-Zavala, S. Farchione, T. J., Ciraulo, D. A. Barlow, D. H. (2015). Relationships among adaptive and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies … Continue reading Some people, for example, shut down when they feel angry or upset.
Instead of getting upset at your partner for not speaking, you can first think about their coping mechanisms and why they may be acting this way. Of course, learning about coping mechanisms and how to act in intimate relationships is a two-way street. Your partner also needs to learn about you and how you cope so they can better support you.
Both people in a relationship need to not only understand each other’s adaptive strategies but learn how to properly support each other when they may struggle to cope. To overcome issues in a relationship, knowing how to properly deal with each other’s emotions is a great place to start.
Perfectionism is becoming increasingly common. Unfortunately, it is something that can seep into every aspect of your life when you let it take over. While doing things correctly, being helpful, and making others happy in the ways they want are all healthy pursuits, sometimes perfectionism can also be a negative thing. Dr. Nerenberg touches on perfectionism in relationships in her book and how it can both positively and negatively affect the mental health of those involved.
Science has found that striving to be perfect, while sometimes helpful and encouraging, is linked to psychological distress. Geranmayepour, Shiva., Besharat, Mohammad Ali. (2010). Perfectionism and Mental Health. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 5, 643-647. ISSN … Continue reading There is a fine line between trying your best and having to be perfect every time. In both relationships and recovery, there is no “perfect” – there is just happiness and health.
Relationship dysfunction arises often, and when it does, it can be hard to recognize. Dysfunction in relationships can manifest in many ways, from one or both partners not being able to emotionally support each other to the inability to properly communicate with one another. You might be familiar with the terms “dysfunctional relationship” or “toxic relationship,” which stereotypically refers to couples that are constantly fighting.
Dysfunction in relationships can also be minor and worked through together as partners with open, clear communication and open minds to the situation at hand. I have always found that the same can be done with recovery too. When it comes to recovery, recognizing dysfunction is the first part of the process. From there, healing takes time, communication, and strength to work through it.
Relationships and Recovery
Your relationships help to make you who you are. Every person that comes in and out of your life shapes you in a different way. Knowing what relationships to keep in your life and how to work on maintaining them and keeping them healthy can also help you through your journey of recovery.
Dr. Alyson Nerenberg’s book No Perfect Love perfectly demonstrates how relationships can have disappointments or issues, but also brings new light and optimism towards working through them in a way that leaves you feeling happy and filled with gratitude once again. No relationship is perfect, just like no recovery process is easy. Life is full of obstacles, but with a strong support system and healthy relationships with the ones you care about, you can get through them easily.
|↑1||Lookatch, S. J. Wimberly, A. S., & McKay, J. R. (2019). Effects of Social Support and 12-Step Involvement on Recovery among People in Continuing Care for Cocaine Dependence. Substance use misuse 54 (13), 2144-2155. https://doi.org/10.1080/10826084.2019.1638406|
|↑2||Ozbay, F.Johnson, D. C. Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C. A., Charney, D. Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry 4 (5), 35–40. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/|
|↑3||Russo, M., Ollier-Malaterre, A. Kossek, E. E., & Ohana, M. (2018). Boundary Management Permeability and Relationship Satisfaction in Dual-Earner Couples: The Asymmetrical Gender Effect.Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1723.https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01723|
|↑4||Conklin, L. R. Cassiello-Robbins, C. Brake, C. A., Sauer-Zavala, S. Farchione, T. J., Ciraulo, D. A. Barlow, D. H. (2015). Relationships among adaptive and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies and psychopathology during the treatment of comorbid anxiety and alcohol use disorders. Behaviour research and therapy, 73, 124–130.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2015.08.001|
|↑5||Geranmayepour, Shiva., Besharat, Mohammad Ali. (2010). Perfectionism and Mental Health. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 5, 643-647. ISSN 1877-0428.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.158|