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ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer

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Through the best-selling ScreamFree Parenting, Hal Runkel showed thousands of parents how keeping their cool can revolutionize their family life. In his groundbreaking new book, ScreamFree Marriage, Runkel now shows couples how learning to stay calm, in the face of common marital conflicts, is the key to creating and enjoying a deep, lifelong connection.   Every committed co Through the best-selling ScreamFree Parenting, Hal Runkel showed thousands of parents how keeping their cool can revolutionize their family life. In his groundbreaking new book, ScreamFree Marriage, Runkel now shows couples how learning to stay calm, in the face of common marital conflicts, is the key to creating and enjoying a deep, lifelong connection.   Every committed couple strives to hold on to the marriage they envisioned back when they first said "I do"--before the end of the honeymoon phase, before kids, mortgages, health crises, and all life's inescapable issues. But the truth is this: conflict is unavoidable--it's impossible for two people to see every single thing, face every issue, and experience every situation in exactly the same way. What results are couples "screaming" at each other--sometimes literally yelling out loud, sometimes shutting themselves down and shutting their partners out, and sometimes avoiding the issue altogether--none of which leads to the passionate, intimate connection we all crave.   In ScreamFree Marriage, Hal introduces some radical new concepts about marriage, teaching couples how to embrace this inevitable conflict as a profound vehicle for strengthening a marriage. Rather than just a source of pain and disagreement, these "Fires of Commitment," as Hal describes them, can actually be the exact experience needed to grow couples into new levels of maturity and intimacy. By simply learning the ScreamFree formula of Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer, you too can cross through these fires and end up with a closer and more passionate marriage than ever before.  Using accessible anecdotes and the disarming humor that readers have come to love, Runkel disproves prevailing marital wisdom, puts couples on a path to "intimate independence" and reveals a whole new, fresh approach to marriage.


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Through the best-selling ScreamFree Parenting, Hal Runkel showed thousands of parents how keeping their cool can revolutionize their family life. In his groundbreaking new book, ScreamFree Marriage, Runkel now shows couples how learning to stay calm, in the face of common marital conflicts, is the key to creating and enjoying a deep, lifelong connection.   Every committed co Through the best-selling ScreamFree Parenting, Hal Runkel showed thousands of parents how keeping their cool can revolutionize their family life. In his groundbreaking new book, ScreamFree Marriage, Runkel now shows couples how learning to stay calm, in the face of common marital conflicts, is the key to creating and enjoying a deep, lifelong connection.   Every committed couple strives to hold on to the marriage they envisioned back when they first said "I do"--before the end of the honeymoon phase, before kids, mortgages, health crises, and all life's inescapable issues. But the truth is this: conflict is unavoidable--it's impossible for two people to see every single thing, face every issue, and experience every situation in exactly the same way. What results are couples "screaming" at each other--sometimes literally yelling out loud, sometimes shutting themselves down and shutting their partners out, and sometimes avoiding the issue altogether--none of which leads to the passionate, intimate connection we all crave.   In ScreamFree Marriage, Hal introduces some radical new concepts about marriage, teaching couples how to embrace this inevitable conflict as a profound vehicle for strengthening a marriage. Rather than just a source of pain and disagreement, these "Fires of Commitment," as Hal describes them, can actually be the exact experience needed to grow couples into new levels of maturity and intimacy. By simply learning the ScreamFree formula of Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer, you too can cross through these fires and end up with a closer and more passionate marriage than ever before.  Using accessible anecdotes and the disarming humor that readers have come to love, Runkel disproves prevailing marital wisdom, puts couples on a path to "intimate independence" and reveals a whole new, fresh approach to marriage.

30 review for ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Finally, a marriage book that: 1. Doesn't treat me like a child! (And expects me not to treat my spouse like one either.) 2. Doesn't make generalizations about my spouse or about me. THANK YOU! 3. Doesn't talk about sex as if one of us needs it and one of us owes it and that is all there is. And doesn't pretend to know it all or be able to answer it all in one chapter. 4. Doesn't try to make me feel good by telling about all sorts of horrible marriage decisions "other people" make but instead empowe Finally, a marriage book that: 1. Doesn't treat me like a child! (And expects me not to treat my spouse like one either.) 2. Doesn't make generalizations about my spouse or about me. THANK YOU! 3. Doesn't talk about sex as if one of us needs it and one of us owes it and that is all there is. And doesn't pretend to know it all or be able to answer it all in one chapter. 4. Doesn't try to make me feel good by telling about all sorts of horrible marriage decisions "other people" make but instead empowers me to repair any poor patterns in my own marriage. A beautiful book that champions marriage for what it really is and what it really can be. I could go on and on. But really, it would make more sense for you to just get your hands on this book and take in what it has to offer. Yes, you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Ricker

    I went back and forth on 3 or 4 stars for this book. The concrete suggestions are invaluable, but the repetitive fluff surrounding them was incredibly frustrating. Ultimately, though, it was well worth the read (albeit at high speed during the irrelevant parts), and I've recommended it to several other couples I know, which is some proof of its merit. Once you can get past the endless string of "this book is going to change your life," "it's unlike anything you've ever read," "it might be so rev I went back and forth on 3 or 4 stars for this book. The concrete suggestions are invaluable, but the repetitive fluff surrounding them was incredibly frustrating. Ultimately, though, it was well worth the read (albeit at high speed during the irrelevant parts), and I've recommended it to several other couples I know, which is some proof of its merit. Once you can get past the endless string of "this book is going to change your life," "it's unlike anything you've ever read," "it might be so revolutionary that it's hard for you to accept," the concepts outlined in the book are gold. Skim it for the good stuff about controlling your own reactions (since they're the only ones you CAN control) and reshaping your role in the patterns of your marriage.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie Johnson

    Great book. Just like the title says, it's about growing up and handling conflicts like an adult. Which is really difficult in marriage, actually. Nice to read some fresh ideas on the subject. Great book. Just like the title says, it's about growing up and handling conflicts like an adult. Which is really difficult in marriage, actually. Nice to read some fresh ideas on the subject.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    This is a great book outlining how to authentically represent yourself in marriage. I thought the examples and chapters were helpful and my one complaint is I wish there were a few more examples of real-life situations and maybe a slightly more detailed discussion on how to authentically represent yourself i.e. language to use. All in all though, this gave me some great tools to apply to my own marriage.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    The first thing you need to do is get over the title of this book. Not having read Runkel's previous book, Screamfree Parenting, I thought this title didn't make sense and was mostly piggybacking on his catchphrase. That being said, this book has terrific advice on marriage that I wish I had known years ago. Here are some traditionally-held ideas about marriage which he refutes: 1. Spouses are supposed to meet each other's needs. (What he says; spouses do not, and should not, need each other. They The first thing you need to do is get over the title of this book. Not having read Runkel's previous book, Screamfree Parenting, I thought this title didn't make sense and was mostly piggybacking on his catchphrase. That being said, this book has terrific advice on marriage that I wish I had known years ago. Here are some traditionally-held ideas about marriage which he refutes: 1. Spouses are supposed to meet each other's needs. (What he says; spouses do not, and should not, need each other. They should be grown-ups and take responsibility for their own needs so they can choose to want each other.) 2. Trust and safety are the most important qualities in an intimate marriage. (What he says: no, these are the highest qualities in a bus driver. Every step toward your spouse is a huge risk on your part. If you can't express your true self and desires without knowing beforehand how your spouse will respond, you are just keeping it safe, which = boring, which = lowered closeness and satisfaction with the marriage.) 3. Oneness means sameness. (What he says: oneness should be built on a platform of togetherness and separateness.) 4. When a man gets married, his time now belongs to his wife. (What he says: you are accountable to another person for your time choices, but you are the one who makes these choices. Be honest about what you want.) 5. When you get married, you marry each other's families. (What he says: to cleave, you have to leave -- your parents, that is -- and relate to them as an adult, not a child.) 6. Housework should be divided based on who does what better, or by who has more time, or by whoever is more responsible. (What he says: wives, stop passively-aggressively asking your husbands for help. Instead, tell him what your expectations are. You are not a boss handing out assignments. Husbands, stop acting like you're a guest in your wife's house, expecting applause when you do something.) 7. Trust is the number one requirement to gaining and maintaining a healthy sex life. (What he says: this leads to a game of chicken. Scream-filled sex requires that you reveal yourself even at the risk of being rejected.) 8. Accept the other person as he/she is. (What he says: really? Even if you're lazy, drink too much, etc? You need to respect yourself enough to actively improve yourself. Your spouse can't respect you until you do.) The problem with this book is that although I agreed with all of it, it took having my marriage fail to understand these ideas. I'm not sure that reading this before the failure would have had the same meaning.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Vegter

    This book was very thought-provoking and inspiring. Simple concepts, dramatic possibilities for change. I actually got this because I had read Scream-free parenting, which appealed to me because I am a bit of a yell-er. :( Not in my marriage, but I remembered the main concept of SFP was being calm and controlling your own emotions to help teach your children that THEY don't rule your emotions, YOU do. (Good book, BTW). So, again, not much "screaming" in my marriage, but his point is that we all This book was very thought-provoking and inspiring. Simple concepts, dramatic possibilities for change. I actually got this because I had read Scream-free parenting, which appealed to me because I am a bit of a yell-er. :( Not in my marriage, but I remembered the main concept of SFP was being calm and controlling your own emotions to help teach your children that THEY don't rule your emotions, YOU do. (Good book, BTW). So, again, not much "screaming" in my marriage, but his point is that we all have different ways we "scream" or allow our emotional reactivity to take over in confrontations with our spouse. The book works at recognizing that, working on maintaining calm and how this can lead to greater intimacy by taking more risks (i.e., being more genuine, hence vulnerable) with your spouse. Very good stuff!!!!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shali

    This book isn't that groundbreaking. There are pockets of good insights. Some how it seemed pretty basic: stop manipulating and being narcissistic, and be proactively authentic. In other words, really BE as you wish to seem- and realize when that isn't possible and own up to the honesty of it all. It's good advice no matter how it's presented. I like this author/therapist; he's revitalizing some necessary basic principles in life, but his writing style isn't my favorite. This book isn't that groundbreaking. There are pockets of good insights. Some how it seemed pretty basic: stop manipulating and being narcissistic, and be proactively authentic. In other words, really BE as you wish to seem- and realize when that isn't possible and own up to the honesty of it all. It's good advice no matter how it's presented. I like this author/therapist; he's revitalizing some necessary basic principles in life, but his writing style isn't my favorite.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I love the premise of this book. The overall message is that when you control yourself, that will impress upon others. Next up, screen free parenting

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Colbert

    best marriage book Ive read - and Ive read many - lol

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nakuma Palczewski

    Great marriage book. The only marriage book I have read that speaks about looking inward to change the marriage. Highly recommend

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    -Great preface! -Marriage isn't becoming less if yourself, it's becoming more. -Being able to authentically present yourself is the root if true progression. Integrity. -Self absorption is getting others to focus on you. In contrast, focusing on self (not self-absorption) makes you available for others. -Inform the other how you feel, don't tell them what to do or attack them. -Self-validation: "I don't expect you to agree with me. You weren't put upon the face of this earth to validate and reinforce -Great preface! -Marriage isn't becoming less if yourself, it's becoming more. -Being able to authentically present yourself is the root if true progression. Integrity. -Self absorption is getting others to focus on you. In contrast, focusing on self (not self-absorption) makes you available for others. -Inform the other how you feel, don't tell them what to do or attack them. -Self-validation: "I don't expect you to agree with me. You weren't put upon the face of this earth to validate and reinforce me, but I want you to love me and you can't really do that if you don't know me. I don't want your rejection but I must face that possibility if I'm ever to feel accepted or secure with you. It's time to show myself to you and confront my separateness and mortality. One day when we are no longer on this earth I want to know that you knew me." -Pause and go to to the "balcony"- see things from a new perspective. Seek to understand. Is the conflict really about something else? -We must show our authentic selves to each other. -Problems are usually patterns, not isolated incidents. -You are both responsible for the patterns in your marriage. It is not one sided. Reacting back will make the problem worse. -Don't just 'yes dear' to smooth things over. -Stepping on the scale- really looking at yourself to honestly see how you're doing. It is painful and takes work. All good things do. Entering all your finances takes work and reflection, break down things in yourself and examine them. Maybe there are deeper fears or past experiences effecting us. Why does an issue really bother you. Try to identify and articulate that. -Ask: What do I want most? Clearly define success and failure. -Failure- "Neglecting what we want most for what we want now." Poptarts now vs health later, anger now vs a healthy relationship later. -Lay down your hand and show your cards. Make yourself vulnerable and authentic. Share what you want most. We fear this but want and expect our spouse to know this without sharing it with them. Do this for yourself, not to force or manipulate yourself into change. -Address things directly. Authentically articulate your desires. -Welcome and invite what you'd like to have happen, don't expect or force others to change. I've discovered this many times over the years. Share what matters to you, don't share to change another, but to represent yourself. This is key in teaching, share yourself. It opens others up to share themselves. People respect this. -If you try to make sure everyone is happy, you will make sure no one is. You can't make others happy. -seemingly trivial things do matter, resolve them- Dale Carnegie's tree example: little things build up over time. A tree had been hit by lightning 14 times and withstood each blast. Its fall came because of beetles. Little things lead to big- little household chores disputes corode a marriage and can lead to it's fall- adultery, abuse, screaming, etc -In a a family people can't just be removed, you can't fire them, it's more like a surgery. -Connection is absent if one spouse is treated like a child. Treat each other as competent adults. -Self fulfilling prophecies- lazy husband won't help- you just called him lazy. Nagging wife won't stop- continued nagging. -Using always statements shows that we would rather complain about the lie rather than change according to truth. -Asking for help is the wrong way to ask, it's saying it's yours and they're assisting you. Work together instead. We take better care if that which we own rather than that which we rent. -Represent yourself without expectation of return. Making bed example- she said "when you don't make the bed it makes me less excited to be in it with you later." Let them know how you feel and why. -Be calm, connected, and direct. -Adam and Eve insights, he knew her, they were naked and unashamed, deepest level of human connection comes from sex in marriage. -If you don't ask you'll never know or get what you need or want. If we never represent ourselves we will never be as fulfilled in life or relationships as we could be. -There is as story of abuse, both partners play a role. During counseling the woman learned to calm herself, when violence was about to occur, she stopped walked toward him and said, "I just realized I don't need you anymore, but I still want you. The real you." It brought him intense sorrow at first, then joy. It was courageous on both parts. -Jackie Robinson story- 1st black to play professional baseball. At first he was a hothead, very reactive. He was told that in order to be on the team he could not react. Jackie said something like, you want me to be so weak that I do nothing? The reply was, no I want you to be so strong that you don't react. He did it. There was great opposition even from his own team. At one point a of fierce opposition a teammate came and calmly stood by him. The people calmed down. Being calm and representing yourself is so much more effective than fighting back.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rin

    This book was recommended by my couple's therapist. I liked this book. It had really practical advice on how to deal with very common problems. Refreshing take form what I hear twenty and thirty-something people who haven't actually experienced these situations, or dealt with them healthfully came up with. I liked the personal anecdotes and the stories of patients and how they ended up dealing with their issues. There are things I plan to add implement in all kinds of relationships I am in. It's This book was recommended by my couple's therapist. I liked this book. It had really practical advice on how to deal with very common problems. Refreshing take form what I hear twenty and thirty-something people who haven't actually experienced these situations, or dealt with them healthfully came up with. I liked the personal anecdotes and the stories of patients and how they ended up dealing with their issues. There are things I plan to add implement in all kinds of relationships I am in. It's really rare I pick one of these up and don't find some sexist takes on things. There were no "man's needs" and "woman's needs" in this book. And somehow the author was still able to tackle common issues married and unmarried couples alike face.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heidi J

    I read this as a follow up to Scream free parenting. In theory it should be good enough to make a change in your responses to start seeing a change in the marriage. I feel like I am trying to do too much at once. I have backed off and focused on the parenting book and tabled the practices in my marriage. I am a work in progress. This makes a ton of sense and I wish I had read this a long time ago.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecka

    I enjoyed this book's focus on the self rather than on the spouse. Emotional reactivity is something that the author wants to empower folks to understand. Rather than reacting to a situation, better to respond in a calm way that accurately represents your true self to your spouse. Very useful ideas, I think. I enjoyed this book's focus on the self rather than on the spouse. Emotional reactivity is something that the author wants to empower folks to understand. Rather than reacting to a situation, better to respond in a calm way that accurately represents your true self to your spouse. Very useful ideas, I think.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    So many marriage books are about "techniques" that require participation and or cooperation from your spouse. That isn't always possible. We can look at ourselves first. Own our own stuff and act better and be more mature. It isn't easy but it does help you respect yourself more, and act more in line with your own higher principles. So many marriage books are about "techniques" that require participation and or cooperation from your spouse. That isn't always possible. We can look at ourselves first. Own our own stuff and act better and be more mature. It isn't easy but it does help you respect yourself more, and act more in line with your own higher principles.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Sanzone

    This book brought up numerous great points that I opened my mind to my marriage with my wife, soon to be ex. Just kidding! I've already applied some of the tips and have gotten closer with my wife. My marriage is in a good place and this book help strengthen it. That being said any couple, married or not, could benefit from this read. This book brought up numerous great points that I opened my mind to my marriage with my wife, soon to be ex. Just kidding! I've already applied some of the tips and have gotten closer with my wife. My marriage is in a good place and this book help strengthen it. That being said any couple, married or not, could benefit from this read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Parks

    It was available on my library's app and everything else wasn't, so I went for it. And, it blew me away! This is perhaps the best book about marriage I've read to date, and I've read my share! Will recommend this one often! I *love* it! It was available on my library's app and everything else wasn't, so I went for it. And, it blew me away! This is perhaps the best book about marriage I've read to date, and I've read my share! Will recommend this one often! I *love* it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Excellent. I am a licensed marriage therapist and loved this book. Well written. I recommend it to clients frequently. One of the few easy to understand books I have found that focus on Bowen's concept of differentiation and healthy boundaries within relationships. Highly recommended. Excellent. I am a licensed marriage therapist and loved this book. Well written. I recommend it to clients frequently. One of the few easy to understand books I have found that focus on Bowen's concept of differentiation and healthy boundaries within relationships. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    AMAZING. Must read for anyone who is in or wants to be in a relationship.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Kline

    One of the best marriage books I have ever read! It helped me tremendously in my marriage.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ross Flynn

    One of the best marriage books I have ever read. Puts Family Systems theory into updated language. As a marriage and family therapist, I will be happy to invite my clients to read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I think a better title for this book would be Scream Free Relationships. Take ownership of yourself first: Calm down, grow up, get closer. Reading this book would benefit everyone.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fatima

    it's all about this : you wanna make it better? just focus on yourself and act like an adult.. it's all about this : you wanna make it better? just focus on yourself and act like an adult..

  24. 5 out of 5

    İlknur

    Overall it was a good book. It'd be better if the writer would stop asking "are you still with me?" at one point. Overall it was a good book. It'd be better if the writer would stop asking "are you still with me?" at one point.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pamela S. Brown

    It was not good for me:(

  26. 5 out of 5

    TT

    Found this book to be very helpful. Great tools for Tuning into what you’re to be responsible for without animosity or passive aggressiveness from resentments.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Hayes

    Best book I have read on marriage. I wish i had heard this 20 years ago.

  28. 4 out of 5

    C

    Friend said it was great - sent pages and pages of notes - read through and decided to check out the book as well. "Screaming" is his catch all phrase for any emotional reactivity. Not, literally, screaming. If you want to skip most of the book, the Appendix's in the back cover most of it in short form. The book itself has some great points, though there's extra text thrown in there to pad out what would otherwise be a book half the size. He repeats his points a lot - which would work out fine in Friend said it was great - sent pages and pages of notes - read through and decided to check out the book as well. "Screaming" is his catch all phrase for any emotional reactivity. Not, literally, screaming. If you want to skip most of the book, the Appendix's in the back cover most of it in short form. The book itself has some great points, though there's extra text thrown in there to pad out what would otherwise be a book half the size. He repeats his points a lot - which would work out fine in an audiobook with a good narrator, since (I don't know about others) my mind tends to wander from time to time and it doesn't hurt to revisit something a couple times. The book is designed to coach folks through their emotional reactivity in conflict. I feel this applies to not just marriages but all relationships - if there's a sensitive issue, it is best to take a step back, think it over, calm down, look for a birds eye view of the situation, then try to find the pertinent information and communicate it calmly. He poses that reactivity is created by anxiety and to seek out that source of anxiety. His counsel, wisely, is to also focus on yourself and your reactions, vs. fixating on your partner's. Much of it is common sense, but sometimes we need reminding of the very basic common sense things - or need to hear it from someone else to really get it. So there's some good insight in there. I would also say: don't feel guilty for skimming some of the examples, either. His Honeymoon fiasco was pretty much worth the check-out, alone, though. :)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zach Gray

    There's good advice to be gained if you can get past the corny, motivational-speechy writing. Basically, Runkel says that the best way to approach conflict resolution is to stay calm and work on yourself instead of focusing on your spouse's problems. If you're upset, Runkel urges you to take a step back and figure out what you truly want out of the situation and then go about working toward that by changing the only thing that you can control - yourself. He also places importance on being open a There's good advice to be gained if you can get past the corny, motivational-speechy writing. Basically, Runkel says that the best way to approach conflict resolution is to stay calm and work on yourself instead of focusing on your spouse's problems. If you're upset, Runkel urges you to take a step back and figure out what you truly want out of the situation and then go about working toward that by changing the only thing that you can control - yourself. He also places importance on being open and honest as the only way to achieve intimacy. Some parts were a bit strange to me, like his praising Elizabeth Gilbert's relationship. Others were just laughable - saying that you only truly love someone if (A) you want only the best for them, including the best possible spouse and (B) you believe you are the best spouse for them. I seriously doubt I'm the best possible spouse for my fiancée (or any person, for that matter), but I have every intention and hope of being good to and for her and I respect her ability to properly choose a mate. According to Runkel, I must not actually love her.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Lee-Tammeus

    Ergh. I am glad I finally trudged through this book and finished it. This was recommended by my mental health counselor supervisor, along with the other book in the series, Screamfree Parenting. I have to say the same thing here as I did for that particular review. There is nothing new here. All that happens here is the theories of old are put in layman's terms and then dumbed down even further. I appreciate what this guy and his institute are doing and I respect him for his experience and obvio Ergh. I am glad I finally trudged through this book and finished it. This was recommended by my mental health counselor supervisor, along with the other book in the series, Screamfree Parenting. I have to say the same thing here as I did for that particular review. There is nothing new here. All that happens here is the theories of old are put in layman's terms and then dumbed down even further. I appreciate what this guy and his institute are doing and I respect him for his experience and obvious know how when it comes to relationships. But, it is a one trick pony. This could be written in a pamphlet. The repetition is beyond excruciating. My husband, who never even opened the book said, "Let me guess, he advises you take a step back, breathe, and work on yourself." I had to laugh. If he had only written that down, expanded it by using a bunch of other people's ideas and marketed it, we could be making the money instead. Runkel makes fun of pop psychology in his book but I don't think he realizes he is part of that crowd too. Does it work? Heck yeah. Is it new? Definitely not.

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