Fully Half Committed

22 September 2020

Fully Half Committed: Conversation Starters for Romantic Relationships
by Barbara Morrison and Ed Risling
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078167

If you’ve been single and searching for a healthy new connection over the last decade or so, you’ll know that the dating and relationship landscape has changed significantly, in large part due to the popularity of online dating. With a few key strokes, finding “another fish” at the first sign of conflict or boredom is a mighty temptation for some, and short-term relationships are the new norm. Tragically, our throw-away society’s come to include people. But what about actually working on a relationship and allowing it to evolve? And why are people less likely to commit, fully and completely, today?

Professional couples’ therapists Barbara Morrison and Ed Risling address these topics and examine relationship issues like communication, curiosity, awareness, and libido differences in their book Fully Half Committed: Conversation Starters for Romantic Relationships. With sixty years of combined counselling experience, the pair – who met as students – have collaborated on “writing a book about the reoccurring themes” they see in their practices, and each short chapter addresses an issue. There are also numerous examples of how couples’ experience challenges, then progress. The oxymoronic titles refers to being “all-in – but only up to a certain point”.

The Saskatoon co-authors cite a major shift in romantic partnerships: “personal happiness now trumps relational longevity,” they write. They practice “an anxiety-tolerance approach,” rather than an “anxiety-reduction approach,” to therapy, as “tolerating anxiety is necessary for personal and relational growth”.

So why has this paradigm shift occurred? The 1960s had much to do with it, with “the wave of legal reforms” that ushered in no-fault divorces, and more financial autonomy for women. Morrison and Risling also reference the burgeoning self-help industry; the rise of syndicated TV talk shows (ie: Phil Donahue and Oprah), which shifted the focus “away from glamourous musicians and movie stars to ordinary people with everyday issues;” and our contemporary “happiness culture,” that’s reinforced by statements and beliefs like “‘I only live once’”.

Low times occur in every relationship, and this book offers readers strategies to overcome these periods. It aims to “encourage readers to decide what they want from a relationship and to consider the work they need to do, and the sacrifices they need to make, in order to achieve their goal”. Each chapter includes a tip or question readers might ask of themselves or their partners, ie: “Do I have a habit of reacting instead of reflecting?”

The writers are proponents of building fun into a relationship, and I love the idea of creating “treasure hunts, playful questionnaires, and day trips” for a partner. Another great idea was rewriting traditional – and “fundamentally impractical” – marriage vows for today’s realities, ie: “I will commit to nurturing my imagination so our life together can be interesting, alive, and have a strong heartbeat”.

The bottomline is that relationships require “constant effort” from both partners, but being intentional and doing the work “can pay huge dividends in happiness and emotional security”. Fully Half Committed covers several bases, and it’s bound to make you think.


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