A review of Finding Love by Carolyn Martinez

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 10.06.43 amReviewed by Magdalena Ball

Finding Love:
7 Things You Must Know Before You Date Again
Friendship, perspective and practical guidance for newly singles 30 – 90+
By Carolyn Martinez
Hawkeye Publishing

Carolyn Martinez has a knack for taking sensitive painful subjects and, through a combination of exceptionally clear writing and good journalism, making them seem both natural and surmountable. Her previous book, Inspiring IVF Stories was a clear eyed and anecdotally rich resource for people wanting to navigate around the often complex world of IVF.   Martinez’ new book, Finding Love Again, is another book full of stories about people who have attempted to develop another relationship after at least one long-term one has ended.   Though the stories are presented without too much editorial interruption, Martinez provides a kind of cumulative wisdom as the book progresses, building up to practical tips to go along with such a wealth of anecdotal advice that it’s hard not to feel like it’s entirely possible to find true love, at any age, no matter how badly a previous relationship has failed.

The book explores both positive and negative relationships, uncovering pitfalls, common errors, and reasons why relationships do and don’t work in order to uncover what it takes to build a relationship that has harmony and longevity. Though the majority of the book is built around stories, the case studies are bolstered by an opening interview with relationship educator Robyn Donnelly, and Martinez’ own extensive research. It’s quite interesting to see the connection between real-life behavior/patterns and theory. Each story ends with a discussion and set of dot points by Martinez, teasing out the key learning from the story, along with a final summary of what works, and what doesn’t in terms of longevity and happiness.

There are twenty-one stories in all – each completely different. Some involve a very smooth transition from one relationship to the next, with relatively little pain, while others involve tremendous difficulties—some tragic, some involving multiple unhappy relationships, breakups, losses and bad dates. Ages vary too, spanning a range from thirty something to seventy something. The stories are sometimes told from both partners’ points of view – as was the case with Inspiring IVF Stories, which also adds to the depth and sense of perspective. All of the stories are told with sympathy and a great deal of honesty, in the storyteller’s own voice, and with a lot of analysis of the mistakes they made. Not all of the stories are happy ones. Some end up unresolved, but with perhaps a newfound sense of self and perspective.

Though I didn’t warm to every interviewee, many stories are quite moving. I was particularly moved by Andrea’s story. In a follow-up letter nine months after her initial interview, Andrea remarks on Martinez’ mode of narrative: “but to hold it in this sacred space of empathy, understanding and kindness, and then to tell it…” This is what Martinez does throughout the book. Finding Love Again is a valuable manual on how to ensure that a second relationship is sustainable, but it is also a series of stories told with empathy. Even if you aren’t looking for love, there are lessons to be learned here.  The book finishes with seven self-reflection exercises, tips for combating loneliness, and a toolkit for assessing your own personal values – a common theme throughout the book.

As for me, while it’s true that I’m now going into the twenty-sixth year of my first marriage, there are still lessons to be learned in Finding Love Again about give-and-take, about maintaining a sense of newness and care in the face of the daily grind, and about paying attention to the other person in the face of all of life’s distractions, especially if you’re juggling family, work and all-encompassing hobbies, as we all are.

Finding Love Again, is a well-written, sensitive and very easy to read book full of stories, ideas, and advice on how to find love, and more importantly I think, how to keep love strong for the duration.