Despite increasing affluence, educational and employment prospects, social mobility and so forth, Government and Opposition political parties remain deeply concerned with the Family as the basic social unit. Tax breaks, better housing and moral exhortation are not enough, it seems, to persuade couples to remain together. Worry persists, over the human, as well as the social and health costs of family breakdown, to the nation and to future generations. This book is not a sociological treatise or a political tract. But it goes a long way to address the reasons why people part, and by what means many may be enabled to remain together. The author, a couple therapist with 30 years experience, aims to converse with (as opposed to talk down to) the reader, about how couple difficulties arise and why these difficulties are frequently maintained often unconsciously by pairs of otherwise loving and reasonable adults. Our earliest couple relationship is forced upon us out of our first separation from our mother’s body. What was one is now two. How this couple’s relationship then develops, including the way in which father (or a father figure) is admitted into the twosome, will profoundly affect adult partner choice later on. The book clearly demonstrates by means of real people’s stories, how internal and external experiences throughout development from birth to adolescence, affect the style, quality and progress of a committed pair bond. Partners may carry many deep (but not necessarily abnormal) needs and emotional wounds, of which they are scarcely (if at all) aware. Both sets of past experience come into play, often dangerous play, when two people live in intimate proximity. It is vital these antecedents are lovingly understood rather than used as weapons, and that difference in personalities are respected and accepted as much as the comforting similarities. Illustrative material from therapy sessions admits the reader to the pain and joy occurring in every stage of coupledom, from the selection – conscious and unconscious – of one’s other half, to the agony and ecstasy of the early years, right through to old age and the facing of a partner s death. The pair bond itself (a third party in the couple’s relationship) inevitably evolves through stages, redolent of childhood’s ‘milestones’. Some milestones in our childhood are easily achieved while others may never be reached, but we learn satisfactory defence mechanisms to cover up any insufficiencies. Yet each partner, no matter how apparently well adjusted, will at different times find old personal struggles reawakened by the vicissitudes of intimate cohabitation. Many imagine a shared life to be a refuge or cure for emotional pain. In fact mature loving is hard work, but when achieved, perhaps years later, the rewards are great and lasting. In this book, we meet people of all ages in enormous distress, on the edge of splitting up, enduring illness, affairs, drink problems, children or in-law issues, redundancy or competing life styles; or suffering unutterable loneliness within the relationship, unable to understand the loss of former closeness. Making sense of what has been, and is, happening beneath the surface, often needs a third party to unravel unspoken issues which have previously been oblivious to the couple. Wyn Bramley provides no simple solutions to disharmony or impending break-up, but she does offer a clear model for understanding how couple partnerships operate, thus creating opportunities for change. Without blame or judgement, she sets out to help you discover the truth of why you and your partner are really together at all, and what unacknowledged forces keep you together, or threaten to tear you apart.