“First Comes Us” is a new relationship self-help book by couples therapist, Anita Chlipala. I have the book and my opinion is that it great not only for couples on the brink of divorce, but for couples who need help reconnecting and opening up the lines of communication, and even happy couples who want to stay connected! Check out my Love Essentially column below, which includes my interview with Chlipala and a sneak peak at the book!
Will An Exercise A Day Keep The Divorce Away? by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press
“We used to be best friends.”
“We don’t really talk anymore.”
“We argue all the time.”
These are some of the most common complaints that couples therapist Anita Chlipala hears from clients. These and other grievances of unhappy couples are what led the Chicago-based licensed marital and family therapist to write her newly released relationship self-help book, “First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide To Lasting Love.”
“I was tired of seeing couples going through unnecessary divorces and breakups; couples who didn’t have dealbreaker problems, but who had gotten to a place where they felt disconnected,” said Chlipala, who has been in practice for over a decade. “A simplified explanation of divorce is money or lack of sex or cheating, but that misses the bigger picture, which is that somewhere along the line the couple lost their connection. This book is meant to help fix or prevent that disconnection.”
According to Chlipala, the main reasons couples can become disconnected are because they don’t spend enough quality time together and/or they fail to prioritize the relationship.
“When you first start dating, there is this whole world of things to talk about and discover about each other,” she said. “After familiarity sets in and time goes by and the couple might have children, the focus becomes on day-to-day conversation and logistics and schedules, and the couple might forget about the importance of connecting on a deeper level. If the couple doesn’t make spending quality time together a priority, that’s when the negativity comes in, perhaps the lack of sex and an increase in arguments.”
Chlipala said “First Comes Us” is not meant to be a quick fix for relationship problems or a substitute for couples therapy, but rather a tool to help couples get into the habit of connecting every single day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
Focusing on the relationship areas of friendship, positivity, conflict resolution, love, emotional management, fidelity, novelty and self, the book consists of 365 exercises. Couples are encouraged to do one exercise together per day for a year. The exercises are designed to spark conversation, expose vulnerability – often scary for both men and women – and ignite or reignite passion and closeness.
“I looked at other books on the market and there are a lot out there for married, Christian, heterosexual couples but that’s not the only clientele I serve.” Chilipala said. “How about couples who are dating, living together or same-sex couples? Other books require a lot more time than my book. My book is about taking action and doing things to foster healing and connecting.”
“First Comes Us” is available on Amazon.com, and in my opinion is a great book not just for couples who might be in trouble, but for new parents, those in a relationship after divorce, or even young, newly engaged couples!
Said Chlipala: “I’m not just offering super positive cheesy tips. That’s not enough.” Some of the exercises will make you uncomfortable, with discussions coming up about infidelity and preventing affairs. My book is about practical, realistic conversations and actions that couples can take to maintain a healthy, happy relationship.”
A sneak peak at some of the exercises in “First Comes Us:”
• Day 16: Cheating can happen in 3 ways: emotionally, sexually and a combination of the two. People often assume monogamy without clearly defining what it is. What do you both consider to be cheating? Discuss concrete examples.
• Day 19: Contempt is a predictor of divorce. Forms of contempt include: rolling your eyes, name-calling, hostile humor, mockery and sarcasm. Pay attention to when you use these behaviors toward your partner and eliminate them.
• Day 61: A key ingredient to a happy sex life is the ability to talk about sex. Without becoming reactive (watch so you don’t take things personally,) what does sex mean to you? How important is it? When do you feel the most connected to each other? What can make your sex life better?
Like this article? Check out my post, “11 Things People Say To Justify Staying In A Bad Marriage.”