This post is cross-posted on my personal blog. Coaching is a young profession, and there are an ever-expanding number of books available should you want to read them. As a professional coach, I am always reading new books for my practice.
Some of these books read like textbooks, and are boring and dull. They're also pretty unhelpful, because coaching isn't about what you do, or how you do it - it's about how you're being. Are you scared with a client? That's a problem - it's going to cause you to get on court with them and avoid asking them the question that might simultaneously get you fired but also move your client forward into a whole new realm of possibility.
Some books have great information, but the writing lags and is difficult to slog through. Sometimes it feels like the author is really belabouring their point without actually building on anything. These books could probably be produced as pamphlets and have a greater impact (who doesn't love a pamphlet?).
And sometimes, the author just nails it. Undefended Love is one such book. Bay and I have taught marriage preparation courses together, seen a counselor together for over five years (it doesn't mean you're broken!) and worked on our own relationship issues since we first began dating over ten years ago. I am no stranger to relationship books.
In general, I actually like relationship books. I enjoyed Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, even if it was a little simplistic. It was a book designed to appeal to the greatest number of people, and I think that the core idea of understanding that, whether due to socialization or genetics, men and women operate differently, is extremely helpful. That's the kind of concept that I can apply to every relationship in my life - not just the one I have with Bay.
Undefended Love nails it.
I can always tell how good a book like this is by the edge-test. See, years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a tin of these little things for my birthday:
She said that maybe I could put them into some of my legal books and they would look lawyerly. Little did she know she was pointing me down the path to full-blown obsession. These days I can't read a good book without a tin nearby.
These things are just so damn elegant, and I love the way my books look after I've finished reading them.
The edge-test involves me picking up a book and looking at the edge, opposite the spine. The more of these little darts I can see in the pages, the more I got out of the book.
Undefended Love weighs a few pounds heavier because of the number of darts I put in it. You can see at the top of this post how well it scored.
So far I've spent a lot of time talking about what I don't like about a lot of books, and how I rate books. Pretty terrible book review. Let me improve that a little bit.
Undefended Love strikes such a chord with me because it starts and ends at the only place that matters: you. More specifically, your heart, but if that concept causes you to recoil up into your mind (as it used to, me) then stick with the more general "you".
Undefended Love doesn't so much posit ways to better understand our partner, but rather, ways to better understand ourselves. Many of the relationship books I've read simply fail by virtue of the fact that they are focused almost entirely on how better to understand your partner. While this isn't without merit (in fact it's pretty important), we spend most of our time ignoring the fact that we are entirely responsible for generating our own experience. If things are sour and our partner doesn't seem willing to open up to us with getting in to a fight, the most important place to look is within.
"How am I being that is creating this pattern?"
Undefended Love provides strategies and approaches to take, certainly, but it's the underlying assumption guiding this book's wisdom that really makes a difference. That was summed up for me in this one sentence:
"The distance from your pain is the distance from your partner".
That sentence hit me softly and powerfully. I invite you to take a moment and just sit with that statement. It is significant.
I read a little further before turning around and coming back and sitting with it myself. So often we want true vulnerability from our partner (or even from our friends), but find it eludes us. The farther away we push our own pain, the more difficult it is to open up and allow our partners in. If we are unable to be with our own pain, imagine how it is going to go when our partners, lovingly and with all good intentions, inadvertently say or do something that triggers that pain?
Beautifully, Undefended Love asserts that our intimate relationships can serve as the training ground for our own growth. When we can allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable with our partners, we gain access to all of ourselves and can create shifts that would not be possible on our own.
Undefended Love is, at its core, a coaching book, because it turns the focus inwards. We are 100% responsible for our experience. If your partner does something that really irritates you, look inward and see what that is triggering in you. What previously invisible pain is that touching on? What is the gift in that experience?
I wholeheartedly recommend this book, to both coaches and people that want more out of their relationships. It is easy to read and significant in its content, and above all else, it passes the edge-test.