When it comes to the ever-changing saga of love and marriage, Edythe Denkin, Ph.D., believes in fairy tales.
In fact, so strongly is that belief adhered to that the Connecticut-based therapist has written a book titled Relationship Magic: The Secret to Happily Ever After.
Beginning on Page 1, Denkin writes, "Once upon a time in the faraway kingdom of Lavonia, there lived a young prince named James." However, the fairy tale was interrupted when the king and queen, "once the happiest of lovers, had begun to grow apart not long after young James was born," and were often at each other's throats.
While young James did not escape his father's wrath, one day luck stepped in, and he met the delightful Cinda. It was love at first sight. "The couple married without realizing they had embarked on a difficult and perilous journey that all soul mates must undertake if they wish to find one another and grow together," Denkin writes.
Denkin says while most fairy tales end with "happily ever after," it is not so in the real world. It did not happen for James and Cinda, either. Because of that, this therapist explains, she saw the need to write a book, based on Imago Relationship Therapy, which teaches clients about the importance of empathy by mirroring your partner's words and replaying the messages you hear.
"This therapy uses a simple step-by-step process to teach you new behavior and communication patterns. My book illustrates how to do this by moving the reader through a series of awareness-raising questions with Prince James and Princess Cinda," explains Denkin.
Written in parable form so that readers can easily apply each lesson to their own lives, Relationship Magic begins a few years after Cinda married "the most handsome prince in the kingdom," moved to a "magnificent castle," and took part ownership of "more money than they'll ever need" -- unless the beautiful princess signed a pre-nup, that is.
If It Works for Kids ...
Denkin says she also came up with the idea of using a fairy tale to get her points across because she knew that storytelling works with kids and would also work with adults in ways to teach them new principles without appearing threatening.
"My main goal was to help couples realize that long-term marital bliss does not 'just happen' and that 'happily ever after' is possible only when couples learn to treat each other with respect, honor and trust."
Her book shows how Cinda and James -- and everyday couples who live in their own magical kingdoms -- struggle with communication. She insists of their relationship, "He doesn't get what she's saying, and she doesn't get what he's saying, both thinking about themselves rather than how the other one feels."
Conversation, she adds, often leads to defensiveness and anger, not exactly what we want to achieve in a loving relationship, says the therapist who has practiced what she preaches, enjoying a long-term and happy marriage, and more than two decades of practical experience.
Using a set of tools couples can handle to improve communication skills, Denkin teaches people how to stop negative thinking based on childhood patterns of experience and express their expectations to their partners in a way that will be heard.
Outlining some of the most-important paths to a rewarding relationship, Denkin advises readers the following:
"First, listen, really listen, to what your partner is saying. Second, when your partner is talking to you, don't be thinking of a response. After he or she is finished talking, mirror back what was actually said, instead of trying to think of a response."
Also, try putting yourself in your partner's shoes. That may be difficult, but the book explains how to do it and gives examples. To the list add doing one thing at a time when trying to handle difficult situations.
And, last but not least, Denkin recommends "making a decision to stop reviewing past history and concentrate on what's happening today."