This is an entertaining self-help book that mixes anecdotes from the author’s experiences as a divorce lawyer with marriage advice he draws from those experiences. Awhile back I read some entertaining medical memoirs and wished the same was available from the legal profession, which it generally isn’t; books by lawyers about their work tend to be grim or outraged or both. Sexton is neither, and his anecdotes are entertaining and sometimes even funny, though relatively brief. (And the outrage might sometimes be on the reader’s end, like when Sexton insists that because he was once hired by a drug-dealing, abusive pimp for a child support case, he was somehow ethically compelled to represent the guy in every case he ever had thereafter, including to get custody of his young daughter. Yeah, right.) Whether because Sexton isn’t a journalist or because the anecdotes are here to illustrate the advice, they don’t have a lot of depth to them, but there is a lot of humorously-recounted drama, so there’s that.
As far as the relationship advice, it ranges from the thought-provoking to the somewhat questionable, as in probably any self-help book, with much of it being fairly banal. That said, people have been writing about relationships for hundreds of years if not longer, so perhaps it’s not fair to expect this author to have a lot of strikingly new insights. Writing about how to sustain a marriage based on a lot of stories of failed marriages at times leads the author into pessimism (he’s unconvinced marriage counseling helps anyone, a phenomenon perhaps explained by the title of his book) and speculation. For instance, many of his clients, and the author himself, have found that having their children for limited, set times makes them focus more on the kids while they’re together rather than taking them for granted as they did before, so he suggests intact couples also try taking turns “having the kids,” without any evidence from anyone who’s ever actually tried this. Still an interesting idea though. And in general, Sexton seems to take a pretty realistic and grounded view of relationships, without descending into sweeping gender stereotypes as a lot of authors on the subject seem to do.
So, not particularly earth-shattering, but interesting nonetheless. Worth a read if you’re in the market for this sort of thing.