The author A. Vincent Vasquez – or as most refer to him, Vince – is my husband. So, you may judge me as biased in writing this foreword, and you would be correct. I do believe Vince is one of the most brilliant, insightful, and talented men I have ever known. He is also surely one of the most understanding and patient men I’ve known to put up with the spicy personality of his wife, as well as our two rather highly intelligent boys, who can both put forth shockingly effective arguments. However, as his wife, I can also provide the best insight and testimony into the usefulness of this book in the author’s own life. In addition, I can offer a professional opinion as a licensed psychologist, myself.
Vince and I met online, during a time when meeting online was not as socially accepted or typical as it is now. I had just signed up for one of those online dating services that collect your data through a questionnaire about you and your preferences, as well as a personality test (much like the Myers-Briggs). Then according to the test results and your questionnaire responses, every few days they send you several best-fit matches, versus enabling you to search the site yourself for your ideal mate. This method was attractive to me being a psychologist myself who is trained in and uses personality testing in my own professional practice. Well, luckily for me, this particular online dating service must have been doing something right, because Vince was in my first set of matches.
Over the years, Vince has asked for my opinions and input as he authored this book. Though, to be clear, this book is entirely his baby, and I do not intend to take any authorship credit for it. As you read, you will no doubt see that the author uses a more masculine approach, which allows the male reader to feel as though a buddy is giving him advice. There is lots of “locker room talk,” which may be somewhat shocking for the female reader, but I believe that it also provides the female reader with insight into how men think, and how they talk to one another.
It was apparent when we started dating that Vince had material in his manuscript in mind when he was figuring out whether he thought we were a good match for one another. Though chemistry (Chapter 4) was clear from the beginning, Vince seemed to be discerning whether or not we had the same dating intentions (Chapter 5), if we were emotionally available (Chapter 6), if we were well aligned in what was important to us in life (Chapter 7), etc. Luckily for me, he found us to be a good match.
Over the years, Vince and I have both used the tools offered by the book in our own relationship. There is always plenty to complain about in life, and yes, things can always be better, bigger and brighter. It is easy to focus on what you do not have, and take for granted what you do have at your fingertips. Remembering to be grateful AND showing that gratitude to your partner is important in a partnership. In Chapter 8, the author effectively intertwines this virtue of gratitude with the concept of kindness. Though I like to think of myself as a “kind” person, I can unconsciously take my over-the-top kind and generous husband for granted, and not acknowledge all that he does to keep our boat moving, keep it comfortable, keep it shiny, and keep it joyful. And, by “boat,” I mean the metaphorical huge and beautiful yacht of a family-life, home-life, faith-life, marriage-life, work-life, and community/social-life that we have built together. I am the first to admit that our two-income, family of four, Silicon Valley household can spin so quickly that I can react and respond forgetting myself, forgetting to slow down and acknowledge, slow down and explain, slow down and use a pleasant tone, slow down and just be patient. I can testify to the fact that during times when I need reminding, I can see Vince actively using his energy to remain patient and understanding as he remains aware of his communication style, and keeps his triggers in check (Chapter 12). No, Vince is not perfect, and forgets himself too. Strong partners are not perfect individuals, they are partners who continue to strive to use their strengths and the tools that they have acquired to improve their weaknesses in relationship with one another, and not quit simply because things are not perfect all of the time (Chapter 15).
I also believe that this book provides parents with a framework, along with important points of reference and tools, to help them give advice to their boys and girls about dating, and how to think about finding a life partner. As an example, at the time of this writing, our oldest son is beginning middle school, and I see Vince already sharing material with him from the book, laying a foundation for how to be strong partner. Just the other day, for instance, Vince was discussing with him about the validity of different points of view as introduced in chapter 12.
On a more professional and clinical note, I have used material from Relationship Workout with my own therapy patients. As a psychodynamic therapist, I do believe in the value of finding the links between how our past (mostly, but not limited to, our childhood) can affect us today, and how there often is much to uncover and work through there to have current healing and growth. However, ideally there comes a time when the patient is ready for very practical tools to use in their current relationships or dating life, and Relationship Workout offers tools to assist with that work. There are also a great number of patients who specifically enter therapy for such tools. For example, many patients have not heard of the concept of emotional availability, let alone have considered how emotionally available they, or their dating partners, are (Chapter 6).
As another example, many people do not always openly share their dating intentions, or even actively think about, or admit them to themselves (Chapter 5). In this regard, the author provides a nonjudgmental way to think about dating intentions. In other words, it is okay to simply be looking for companionship for now, and not be ready to find a life-long partner. Chapter 5 can help with thinking through – What are you ready for? What do you want your dating partner to be ready for?
For established couples entering couple’s therapy, the book can assist with identification of the couple’s weakest areas in the relationship, such as trust (Chapter 9) or communication and conflict resolution (Chapter 12), and then provide some tools to work on those weaknesses.
I can go on and on with many more examples, but I hope that this passage has shown you a glimpse of how Relationship Workout for Men has been immensely useful to me as a woman, as a wife married to a man who understands the material and as a licensed psychologist. And I fully anticipate it will become even more useful to me as a mother of two very inquisitive sons.
Brenda Hart, PhD