Our friends at InterVarsity Press thought our readers would be interested in Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s new book. True Companions: A Book for Everyone About the Relationships That Will See Us Through. We thought so, too.
We have two copies of this resource to give away this month! If you’re interested in being entered in the drawing for a hardcover copy of True Companions, click here before midnight (EST) on Sunday, June 13th to send us your name and mailing address. We’ll draw two names, and drop a copy of True Companions to each.
Want to know more about the book? Here’s a description:
When we quit sabotaging intimacy in our relationships by demanding unconditional love, we discover something much greater―the deeply satisfying, transformational love that is companionship.Psychologist Kelly Flanagan shows how each of us has within ourselves, exactly the way we are, the gifts that are needed to cultivate the life-long relationships we are longing for, whether it is within marriage or friendship. He shows us how self-knowledge leads the way to growing in love for both God and others. He shows us how understanding our own loneliness can help us relieve the pressure on our companions. And he shows us how understanding our own psychological and emotional defenses can help us to make the choice to love more vulnerably. More than a marriage book, this is a companionship book. Anyone―from single young adults to elderly married couples, from the divorced to the widowed, from siblings to friends―can benefit from the wisdom it uncovers about what it means to be human and to be true companions.
Kelly Flanagan graduated with his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Penn State University and is the founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. In 2012, he began his now popular blog at drkellyflanagan.com, where he writes regularly about all things redemptive. His writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest and on The Huffington Post, and he has appeared on the TODAY Show.
Kelly was kind enough to answer a few questions about True Companions just for us:
Q. What prompted you to write this book?
In my first book, Loveable, I wrote about the process of finding belonging, by discovering our true self, revealing it in our relationships, and waiting to see who celebrates that revelation. True Companions builds upon that by exploring what it takes to grow the belonging we’ve found into something that can endure through all the joys and sorrows of being human. I wanted to distill everything I’ve learned throughout my career as a relationship researcher and therapist to its very essence. So, True Companions illustrates how the three ordinary human experiences which most plague our relationships—loneliness, defensiveness, and distractibility—can be transformed into the fertile ground for enduring, lifelong relationships.
Q. In comparing True Companions to other relationship books, what makes yours different?
Most relationship books focus exclusively on our relationships—makes sense! However, after decades as a couples therapist, I’ve noticed how we focus on our relationship work so we don’t have to do our own inner work. For instance, marriages don’t fail because marriage partners failed to work on the marriage; marriages fail because partners fail to work on themselves. So, I wanted to write a book about relationships that places the responsibility for their improvement squarely on our own inner growth. In other words, if you really want to level-up your relationships, you need to learn how to show up in them first. True Companions shows you how.
Q. Why did you feel it was so important to talk about loneliness and protections in the context of relationships?
Our loneliness is the problem we’re trying to solve in our relationships, and our protections are the barrier to communicating about it productively. I wanted to give people a new language for talking about loneliness, so that instead of blaming each other for its continued existence, we can connect with each other more deeply by sharing our experience of it. However, the reality is, each one of us has a split personality: we have a part of us that wants to be connected and a part of us that wants to protect us from the risks of connection. In True Companions, I wanted to equip people to observe their protective self so they can show up with their connective self instead, thus paving the way for these meaningful conversations.
Q. What are some of the most important characteristics of true companionship? What are some milestones along the journey?
The three most important characteristics of true companionship are mutuality, grit, and grace. With regard to mutuality, true companions mutually agree to take personal responsibility for their own inner world—the rewarding milestone is a deep trust that everyone is investing in the relationship by committing to their own growth. With regard to grit, true companions commit to walking through the hardest parts of life and figuring it out together as they go—eventually, anxiety about what might go wrong is replaced by a gritty, resilient sense that whatever goes wrong you can walk through it together. Finally, with regard to grace, true companions accept their human imperfections and everyone in the relationship knows they are complicated to love—therefore, because no one feels ashamed about their flaws and foibles, true companionship is increasingly marked by vulnerability about them.
Q. Who have been some of the truest companions in your own life and how have those relationships shaped you?
In the final chapter of True Companions, I describe an “inner reunion” of the companions who have accompanied me on my journey, and they range from grandparents to immediate family members, to friends I knew for only a short while and friends who are woven throughout my life currently. However, as I note in the book, my truest companion is my wife. We had difficult years, when I didn’t know if our relationship would survive. However, we’ve both worked hard on ourselves, as an expression of our love for each other, and twenty years in we’re becoming best friends. I feel grateful every day for the relationship we are building.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We’re wired to take our true companions for granted. It’s a phenomenon called habituation. If our nervous system determines something to be constant and safe, our brain withdraws attention from it, saving our energy for more threatening things. So, our tendency to get distracted from our most important relationships is the greatest compliment we could give them—it means they feel generally safe! However, some day, we will wish we’d shown up to our people with our full attention and best energy. True Companions shares the one perspective that guarantees we will prioritize our most important people while we still have time. I hope folks will check