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Book Review: Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love by Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald, LCSW-C

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Love. We devote songs to it, lose sleep over it, and, sometimes, we spend our entire lifetimes searching for it. Growing up, we’re taught that one day, we’ll magically find our special someone—without a clue as to how to make it all happen. It’s not like “Love 101” is taught in school (or, at least it wasn’t at my all-girls preparatory high school). Sure, we might glean a few questionable love how-tos from Cosmopolitan or from the stories our buddies spill over a few beers, but is this really the best way to navigate our love lives? It’s no wonder that, as adults, we make colossal messes of our relationships—and end up very jaded about love indeed. There’s a user manual for just about everything these days. Where’s the user manual for love?

That’s the goal of an inspiring new book by spiritual scholar Cyndi Dale and psychotherapist Andrew Wald, called Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love (2012, $16.95). This duo certainly has the credentials to write about relationships: together, they have over 35 years of professional experience and have held more than 80,000 client sessions with singles and couples alike.

Stop and think about those stats for a minute. Just what could a person learn from 80,000 client sessions? (I can only assume that the majority of these sessions were about the four-letter “L” word.) Thanks to Dale and Wald, the answers have been condensed for you in one compact book.

The tone of Togetherness is very much like a deep conversation you’d have with good friends over dinner. Dale brings a spiritual perspective to matters of the heart, while Wald balances the equation by pulling from the worlds of academia and psychotherapy. This blended viewpoint shines through brilliantly in the authors’ combined definition of “togetherness.” On one hand, togetherness is the physical and emotional closeness we share with a partner. But it’s also a way to describe the emotional depth and heart-to-heart connections we seek out in other relationships—not just our intimate ones.

By describing togetherness in this way, Dale and Wald plant a seed: Is being happy and fulfilled in a relationship about the relationship itself? Or, is it about the relationships you have with your friends, your partner, yourself, and the world at large? It’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks statement you’ll revisit again and again.

The book tackles four main topics: exploring where you’ve been emotionally, how to open your heart to intimacy, how to nourish and sustain the love you already have, and how to deepen the bonds of faith and spirit. While this sounds like some heavy mental lifting, Dale and Wald keep it light and fresh with a blend of interviews, stories, and personal practices that will help you to stop, reflect on what you’ve read, and take it all in.

Much of the authors’ advice jumps right off the page, simply because it rings so true and is easy to implement. For example, take the suggestion to start using the phrase, “You are not me, and we are both right.” Sounds easy to do, right? These nine little words create a blame-free zone where both people feel heard, which makes it easier to wave a white flag and work on a solution instead. Try it. It works.

Other counterintuitive advice—for example, saying “no” will actually make your relationship better—makes this book worth every penny. No matter what your relationship status may be, Togetherness offers new insights that will help you reassess your connection with other people—and make your life better all the way around.

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About Carolyn Rodi