cross my heart and hope to die

In ALL, DATING & MATING, INTROSPECTION by Stephanie Klein28 Comments

My Book About Me. It’s the title of the book I was handed when I was still begging my parents to take me to "Toys Is Us." Back when I was promising to be a good big sister, to feed the baby milk, and change diapers, all for "only one dollar." I filled out the book in pencil because at that age, you didn’t use pen, not even an Erasermate. I walked to school, and checked the appropriate box beside the illustration of shoes. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Dwyer. My hair, unfortunately, was orange. Then I grew up, and things stopped being so simple.

All About Us. It’s the title of the book I began to fill out with the Wasband on February 12, 2000, just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s a book designed to bring people closer, to feel more connected, to really air it all, so you feel there’s nothing that stands between you. It’s red and makes for a thoughtful, whimsical, gift. For the new couple, the engaged couple, the couple who’ve become parents and forgotten they were even a couple, for your parents, even. For anyone in a relationship.  Since the introduction is only a page, I for once didn’t skip it. "This book, through its many questions–some playful, some serious–attempts to break this mysterious code as it draws us into a deeper understanding of who we are and how we love." The "mysterious code" being that illusive component in relationships: what’s unspoken, the unconscious and what draws us to others. Why do we come together, why specifically, and why do we stay together? What would break us apart? Where exactly are our Do Not Cross lines?

"It will be fun," I reasoned, bouncing onto the bed, ready with two pens, cozying up to my fiance. Women feel closer when we do things like this, whereas men feel closer when you’re having fun (sex) together. I was sure it would be fun for us both. It didn’t take much coaxing. I’d already gone ahead and purchased the book for us, so really, what’s the harm?

To begin, we filled out the "warm-up" section. "Which of the seven choices best describes your reason for going through this book?
You communicate in silence
It’s your anniversary
You are drunk
You are curious
You are suspicious
Whatever happened to sex?
Don’t ask

The Wasband ticked of the "You are curious" option, while I made an X beside "Don’t ask." You know where this is going. The night ended in silence, both our arms crossed, our mouths tight, eyebrows pinched. He was angry that I’d revealed that I believed it was possible to romantically love two people, equally, at the same time. He was upset that I responded "yes" to the statement, "Sometimes you worry that you are missing out on something by staying in this relationship." Don’t we all wonder that at some point? We don’t ever really know how good–and far more disturbing, how bad–we have it when we’re knee-deep in a relationship.We both disagreed with the statement, "Your partner is the more interesting person," thinking quite highly of ourselves, yet we weren’t interesting, or brave, enough to get through the whole book. I didn’t want to know the most expensive gift he ever gave to an ex. In fact, the whole "before us" section was something I wanted to skip outright. But what really upset me were my own answers. Yes, I take verbal and emotional abuse from my partner once a week. It got to the point where when answering "If you had a garage sale, what item of your partner’s would you hope to sell first?" I responded "HIM!"

We were married three months later. Hence, I strongly recommend this book to anyone in a relationship, not only for what you’ll learn of your partner but what you’ll learn about yourself. Does what we know make us stronger, or is ignorance really bliss?


  1. I think books like these are a recipe for disaster. I have a few partially started in the "stuff from the exes" box. Not only are the answers inaccurate now, they were inaccurate days after I filled them out. Maybe I'm too emotionally impulsive and changeable for such things, but I think these are like photos on a bad hair day.

  2. I think the most telling part about the Wasband in this tale is:
    He was upset that I responded "yes" to the statement, "Sometimes you worry that you are missing out on something by staying in this relationship."

    Had you said no, would he have freaked out thinking that you were only existing for him? That he was your entire life? Wouldn't that then allow him to say you're too clingy and that you're suffocating him?

    With the wrong guy isn't it true that no answer is the right one?

    FROM STEPHANIE: I think a person's response is very telling, moreso, than their actual answer. I think it's ironic that he was mad with me for believing one could love more than one person…

  3. We just finished our Pre-Cana classes. It was somewhat informative and other things we felt were obvious. I think certain questions need to be asked, do you want kids, would you leave if someone had an affair, will love conquer all?

    No one wants to answer these questions, but they are important. They are good segues if you are avoiding certain topics. I know so many people who avoid asking questions because they are afraid of the answer. I think it says something about the relationship.

    I'm not saying you will get a divorce if you don't know these things before hand. I do however think avoiding questions, is really avoiding finding out things you already know/fear.

  4. How on earth do those kind of questions strengthen your relationship? Such as the "what's the most expensive gift you bought your ex" question. All you end up doing is comparing that old relationship to the one you're in now. Is that really fair?

    Though I have to admit, I would love to do a "marriage exercise" book with my husband. Unfortunately, he really isn't the type to go along with it.

    FROM STEPHANIE: You can always say "going through this is what I'd like for Valentine's Day." As for the "before us" section of the book, I think it's designed so we learn what our own hot spots are, and what sets off our partner, giving way for discussion about why they think it's so tough for them. "How do you feel when you hear your partner talking to an ex?" is another question. You mind, you don't mind, you pretend that you don't mind. Asking those "no good can come from that" questions opens you up to learning about what really rubs you the wrong way, and what he's able to laugh off that you aren't, and vice versa.

  5. Oo, good idea with the "this is what I like for Valentines." Definitely going to play that card.

    And you're absolutely right. Those types of questions can really show you where your hot spots are, and what your significant other's spots may be. Good explanation, thank you.

  6. I tried both books a few times. After reading my answers from years ago, I wanted to tear it up and throw it away. I rationalized that because it existed doesn't mean that I am still that person. It is nice to see the growth and feel better about the adult that I am becoming and the decisions that I am making.
    I am kind of thrilled that I don't have anyone to fill out the Us book with this Valentine's Day. It's like doing the book everytime I go on a date with a new guy. Good enough for me :)

  7. I didn't get the irony of that right away because, in your book, I didn't really get the feeling that he loved the other woman, I felt that he loved the life she let him lead. The circumstances of their relationship were what I felt he loved, the particular woman was of little consequence.

    But I wasn't there and no one would know better than you what his feelings were or at least how they were portrayed to you.

  8. You have got be kidding me. If you need a book like this to find out these things about the other person, it is probably doomed from the start. Ugh. Gag me with a silver spoon.

  9. Given how things turned out, I think it is hilarious that he was mad at you for believing "it was possible to romantically love two people, equally, at the same time," and that you answered yes to "Sometimes you worry that you are missing out on something by staying in this relationship."

  10. That is always the question, I think sometimes ignorance is worth the bliss depending on the situation. But there is not growth in ignorance…even though there may be happiness?….it's a tough one. I say what you know makes you stronger.

  11. I'm reading this and thinking-I met my husband in 7th grade and we've only ever been with each other, and married for almost 35 years. The "before you met" and "Exes" questions wouldn't even apply in our case. Even so, if we were to take this quiz, we'd probably be surprised at some of the answers, because we think we know everything there is to know about one another, but maybe we don't. Hmmmmm……..

  12. If you were to respond to the statement "Your partner is the more interesting person," with regards to your relationship with Phil, what would your response be?

    I am just curious if one can still consider themselves the more interesting link but also maintain a mutual, loving, respectful relationship.

  13. Sounds like that tv show premiere last night, "Moment of Truth".

    The book sounds interesting. Neither my husband nor I have any issue with talking honestly about past relationships, and we really have no secrets- or at least speaking for me, I don't have any. We were friends first so we told each other things we might ordinarily not tell someone you're dating- at least right away. So, for us, the book might be kind of useless. But, I'd pick it up out of curiousity.

  14. Who's to say? Even if we know something, we are fully able to override it. Like you going through that book and marrying anyway. I've been a few relationships, where now looking back on it, I knew long before it ended that it wasn't right. But I decided to be ignorant and continue the relationship, convincing myself that it was right.

  15. My copy of "My Book About Me" is on my daughter's book shelf. She loves reading it and gets such a kick out of seeing the way I filled it out when I was about 6 yrs old.

    Regarding "All About Us", it sounds like it could be asking for trouble. Speaking of which, did anyone see that new show last night "The Moment Of Truth"?

  16. That last line looks like it got pulled right out of a SATC episode (written by Bradshaw herself).

    And the All About Us book, I like that idea.

  17. I've seen this book countless times in bookstores and always assumed it was silly, or lame. I went and bought it today though after reading your entry and the examples of questions. It is kind of fun and interesting to go through. My fiance and I were each other's firsts of many things so some of the questions don't apply, and many of the things we already knew about each other- but nonetheless it is still kind of fun and important to take the time to go through them all over again, get to know each other again out of the day to day routines you get in. And the timing is also right since we are planning our wedding.

  18. Eek. I think that any product that itself suggests the only reason you bought it is that you were drunk is questionable at best, but anyway….
    I've never done one of these so I don't really know, but my first reaction is that it could drive a wedge between even a completely happy, functional couple. It puts doubt into the relationship without anyone even having done anything wrong. For example, you can look at someone's answer about being able to love two people at the same time, and in the back of your mind start worrying about them being faithful, whether or not cheating is the last thing on earth they would ever actually do. People's hypothetical answers to questions can be completely opposite to their actual behavior (as is pretty obvious when the reverse occurs). That seed of doubt could change the way you see you partner as a whole, and acted yourself. (I'm not suggesting this happened with you, it's just a hypothetical). I don't think I mean to say that "ignorance is bliss," but in unturning stones without cause to can I think create problems that wouldn't have otherwise existed.
    Chacon a son gout, I guess.

  19. I tend to agree with the 'recipe for disaster' remarks here. I once filled out an online quiz with my first serious boyfriend. When we got to a multiple choice question 'in which of the following places have you had sex before?' he hesitated, turned to me and said 'you may not want to see this'. He started ticking answers, and when I did manage to spot some, I found out that his sex life before me was way more kinky than the one he had with me… And the 'am-I-good-enough-to-be-with-him' worries started. Even now that I have a few of my own, I still don't like being compared to exes. So I don't ask since I know I don't want to know.

    For the other stuff in there:
    The good points have probably been mentioned before, during romantic dinners over some wine.
    The sore points come up during arguments anyway. Arguments will be had no matter what, with or without a book. And that's not bad, it's useful.

    So I wouldn't get the relationship book. But a book detailing my 6 year old self, I would love to have that!

  20. I had completely forgotten about that book. I bought it and tried to get my live in boyfriend of almost two years to do it. He said he was all for it but when I realized I was completing it on my own that should have been a sign. He ended it a couple months later and that book went in the garbage with '100 nights of great sex' and the Dr. Phil relationship book. I love books that make us more self aware and include filling things out, but for me they're a sign of relationshop doom now.

  21. I'm glad to hear you recommend this book. My fiance got it for me for Christmas (after I sent it to him from Amazon). He agreed to do it with me, we just haven't started it yet. I think it's a good thing for us to do before we're married. We'll see…V-day is a good idea though!

  22. Well, it looks like your feeds are sort of back up … except they sometimes cutoff and there's no formatting, but it's a ton easier for me to read them. I'll understand if you take the functionality away, I guess. I mean, I won't to the extent that I don't see how removing an rss feed makes it harder to copy and past your work, as I think I could make an entire copy of your blog and put it on my hard drive if I wanted to, but I'll understand that you felt you needed to.

  23. If you used this book and you still ended up getting married after it, did the book really teach you anything or was it something else?

    From sk: what we can see and what we allow ourselves to see aren't the same. I had esteem issues and I am not sure anything he could have shared, however horrible, would have made me not want to marry him.

  24. My fiance and I did this book over the course of a year. Every once in a while we would sit down and answer a few pages– we had so much fun. We promised each other it wouldn't cause a fight, and we stuck to it. I think we became closer; it is all about your relationship, and what you make of the book together. I totally recommend it.

  25. Right. So, I guess that leaves me with the same thought. This book, or any method of self-help, is only really good at delivering the message if and when you are ready to receive it. I am sure you learned a good amount from it, but I would think you only ever learned it down the road, once you were ready.

    It's all like planting a seed – sometimes it blossoms, and sometimes it just sits there, laying dormant.

  26. I just figured out what bothered me about this post:

    "We were married three months later. Hence, I strongly recommend this book to anyone in a relationship, not only for what you'll learn of your partner but what you'll learn about yourself."

    I just feel like it's completely counterintuitive. To me it's like saying, "I bought one and it totally didn't work for me, go pick yourself up one today." I know that is not what you meant, but I feel like it left out a step. For example, "At the time, I just could not see what the book was trying to say, but after the relationship ended…." Something. For me, it was just a large leap of logic that my brain was not prepared for.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Makes sense. I should have included the next step. Saying something like, "I didn't want to see what the book was showing me. And in avoiding the painfully honest, I got my fair share of it later on, when I then had no choice but divorce. In recommending this book, I hope you're willing to see what it might bring to your attention."

  27. Yes, I think that would have been perfect.

    Sorry for all the comments. I don't think I knew where I was coming from until that last one.

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