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Book Review of: How to Avoid Marrying A Jerk

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Review of How to Avoid Marrying A Jerk, by John Van Epp, PhD  (Hardcover, 2006)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This is one of those books people wish they would have read, but didn't. In my case, I probably could have saved my ex-wife a lot of grief if I'd had this book to give her so many years ago....

Many books provide a list of "10 foolproof steps" at the one extreme (simplistic) or an exhausting checklist at the other. Van Epp takes a different approach. He identifies six general techniques you can use to identify a jerk before you make the mistake of marrying this person. He also provides a tool, called the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM), which has proven itself over many years of application. In fact, the RAM forms the central concept behind applying the six techniques.

One of the problems with self-help books for singles seeking a mate is you have to remain objective to be able to apply the tools, tips, and techniques suggested in the book. Once a relationship is underway, doing that is difficult or impossible. We either filter out negative information and later think, "I shoulda seen that coming" or we ruin the relationship by constantly judging and appraising the other person.

Epps takes these issues head on. First, the RAM allows you to pace the progression of a relationship. Without going into much detail, I'll just say Epps makes a compelling case for the sequence of know, trust, rely, commit, touch that the RAM is based on. And rather than leave us with a simplistic model, he explores its application for all stages of a dating relationship.

Second, Epps provides several case histories on the rose-colored glasses problem that occurs when we proceed too rapidly with our feelings. He identifies why this happens, and provides specific guidelines on how to handle it. I like this much better than the standard approach, which assumes this won't happen if only you will keep your wits about you and stay objective. Most of the self-help dating books fall short of being useful, simply because they don't address reality--in particular, this problem.

Third, Epps addresses the other extreme. I've been a victim of negative assumption, myself. I've said something from which the woman has mistakenly assumed something negative that just isn't true. Epps gives a very good example in a case history that perfectly illustrates how this can happen and how off base the conclusions can be. Epps doesn't say whether men or women are more prone to this kind of assuming.

Will this book assure you of finding the perfect mate? No, and the author doesn't say it will. Will it help you avoid wasting time in a relationship you shouldn't be in? Yes. And it will also help you avoid carrying that relationship to a level it should not go to.

Here's another thought on this book. It isn't something the author decided to do on a whim, and then cranked out so he could sell books at his seminars. It took form over many years. In fact, if not for his wife's prodding (in a non-jerk manner, of course), he might still be working on it.

If you're single, this book can help you prevent grief and heartache. If you're married and having problems, it can help you get back on track.

A final note. Form is important, as it dictates readability. Unfortunately, this book has plenty of grammar gaffes, misused words, and composition errors. So sometimes, the reader has to work at understanding what the author means. In some cases, the author's actual words state something entirely different from what the context would indicate. Still, this book is worth the occasional struggle through such gaffes. I hope a properly edited future edition is in the works. The wisdom, insight, and practical advice in this book are too important to be lost due to these problems.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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