Tell Me the Truth About Love

13 Tales from Couple Therapy

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Pub Date 26 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2023

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'Brilliant and touching' Maggie O'Farrell

'A must-read for everyone wanting to understand more about what makes us fall in - and out - of love' Philippa Perry

'A charming, useful, kind book about the pains and hopes of relationships' Alain de Botton

Drawing on over 30 years of therapeutic encounters with people facing hurdles in their love lives, former Chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council Susanna Abse takes us deep inside one of the most fascinating realms there is: other people's relationships.

Candid and captivating, each chapter is inspired by a classic, timeless story. Parents blow their straw house down; Rapunzel yearns for companionship but remains trapped in her castle. Couples strive to navigate the fall from Eden, the bitter taste of the poison apple and strangers in their beds.

From dealing with infidelity to navigating our changing role within a single relationship over the course of a lifetime, Tell Me the Truth About Love sheds vivid light on the human heart, and its struggle to both embrace life's greatest gift and protect itself from pain. Inside, you will find solace, wisdom and unparalleled insight into how, and why, we love.

'Brilliant and touching' Maggie O'Farrell

'A must-read for everyone wanting to understand more about what makes us fall in - and out - of love' Philippa Perry

'A charming, useful, kind book about the...

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ISBN 9781529107357
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Featured Reviews

The author is a psychoanalytic therapist with over 30 years of experience in helping couples to navigate the complexities of loving relationships. She draws on this experience with kindness and compassion to give the reader thirteen stories highlighting different issues and their process. An insightful and helpful book for anyone interested in the workings of the human heart

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Thank you Susanna Abse and NetGalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who has a lot of interest in couples therapy and working in mental health, I was immediately drawn to the book and ended up reading it in one sitting,

I enjoyed reading the fictional stories based on a collection of real life stories as it gave me more insight into how the process itself works but also having the inner perspective of how the therapist was feeling was very interesting. I also liked that there were little pieces of research evidence which made me go and research further.

I also really enjoyed the authors/therapist honesty and how their own perceptions have changed over years of experience.

Highly recommend it.

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As both a counsellor and a human being I learnt a lot from this generous collection of vignettes on love. I particularly appreciated the difference in behaviours in clients when they are on Zoom instead of in the therapist's office. The lack of an embodied experience made it easier for the couples to act out. I also loved the discussions around projection and projective identification. Susanna, the author, is so honest and fully present in all the encounters without any of the grandiosity that you find in Irving Yalom's case studies. I feel this accessible collection transcends the genre it is written in.

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Other people’s stories, aligned with myth and fairy tale, interpreted 4.5 rating, raised

I love listening to people’s family stories, perceiving the patterns we weave in our lives, and also, the deep resonance in childhood myths and fairytale.

So I was bound to leap at the chance to request this one, and be delighted by it.

Susanna Abse is a psychotherapist, who specialises in couple therapy.

These are recounting of disguised and conglomerate cases, so confidentiality is protected this way. What she has done, in connecting the type of myth or childhood story which is being presented in specific cases she dealt with, is to be able to merge and slightly change detail which might otherwise give a client a horrid shock, if they should by chance read a case they could clearly identify as their own.

As Abse points out, at the heart of fairy tales, transformations are often key.Transformation is often also what brings people to therapy and analysis – suffering and blocks which we need to move through or beyond

“The longing for transformation is at the heart of what brings people to therapy. Just as it is as the heart of the fairy tale, where a happy outcome is achieved only after the central character overcomes huge obstacles and adversity”

Obviously, psychotherapy, unlike fairy tale, cannot guarantee ‘happy outcome’, but accommodation and self-realisation, the freeing from the shackles of unaddressed repetition, may be enough

Abse writes most clearly and engagingly. Like my favourite writer in this genre, Irvin Yalom, Abse reveals the authenticity of her encounters, and picks into the rigorous SELF analysis a practitioner must bring to their work.

I’m always fascinated by how the observer affects outcomes – and indeed is part of the outcomes.

This is a far cry from therapeutic encounters which seem to view ‘the patient’ as someone to be clinically dissected. Instead, Abse is warmly engaged with the difficult journeys her clients are on. Inevitably, some journeys are more happily travelled by the therapist than others, sometimes these clients, and this therapist easier travelling companions than others.

A fascinating and engaging read, thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me access to this as a digital ARC

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— 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 —

𝐓𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞: Tell Me The Truth About Love
𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬: N/A
𝐀𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫(𝐬): Susanna Abse
𝐆𝐞𝐧𝐫𝐞: Nonfiction
𝐃𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐝: 19th May 2022
𝐑𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠: 4.25/5

”Neither of you are going to be able to meet each other’s desires completely but the relationship exists in the trying.”

Well, I enjoyed this immensely.

For some context: I am training to be a mental health nurse and as this collection of short informal essays is centered around psychoanalytic therapy, my interest is highly piqued. This fundamental interest helped me enjoy the insight into the world of couple therapy so much more.

I found that the narration was gentle and exploratory, yet it did not shy away from the ugly experiences of being in a couple. Which is identical to the therapy sessions within the book. It was full of reflections, insight and of course, analysis. I enjoyed many of the theories explored including projective identification, the theory of why we choose certain partners for ourselves, why people have affairs. I thought that although this book was educational, it didn’t feel like a lecture, nor was it an info-dump. It was intelligently written with a wealth of experience that cannot be ignored.

Of course, this book focuses on the psychological aspects to relationships, and as a student nurse, I was taught to look at a person ‘holistically’. So whilst this was an incredibly fascinating insight, I found that childhood trauma was focused on really intently and it felt like the biological and social influences that can impact a couple were being dismissed in search of a greater and deeper meaning.

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Insightful. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about this book. Delving into her 30 years+ of experience as a couple’s therapist, Abse presents thirteen cases/essays that highlight common relationship issues. Or at least that’s what I think she’s chosen to do, the stories could just be random/her favourite ones.

Through these thirteen essays, Abse demonstrates how complicated relationships can be and shares the highs and lows of her career. This isn’t a self-help book, it will not give you advice or tasks to work through, but I still think you can learn so much from this book that can benefit a relationship. Luckily you get to learn it in an armchair, rather than experiencing it.

Each chapter focuses on a different couple that has come into Abse’s room and we find out about these couples, their lives and their issues. Abse has a way of letting you get to know these couples without it feeling intrusive and without you feeling like one person is to blame. Instead, it almost feels like you are studying these people with Abse’s guidance you begin to see how their past wounds/experiences led them to this very moment and to these sessions. Of course, being removed from a situation you’re able to see things differently from those involved. But reading about how Abse navigates their issues with them, and how she feels about it is fascinating. Especially when Abse highlights how common a particular problem is with studies or other anecdotes.

I think through Abse’s suggestions to her clients this book becomes helpful, by hearing about others and their relationships you can perhaps identify where someone in your life might be feeling/has felt like this, and see why they may have behaved in a particular way. Each chapter allows you to experience how nuanced love and life can be, and for that, it is incredibly insightful and expansive.

Another insight we benefit from is what it’s like being a therapist, for me in particular I liked finding out about the ebb and flow of clients and how therapists feel when they aren’t able to fully help clients. Not a lot of these stories end up with the typical and then they lived happily ever after, some of the clients are clearly very frustrating and some just stop coming so even Abse herself doesn’t know if the couple ever resolved their issue.

One negative aspect of this book is Abse’s comment on two of her patients. She says “both of them were fat. Not nicely rounded in a way that suggested just one too many trips to the fridge but so overweight that it seemed to suggest a sustained refusal to care for themselves. Was something desperate and destructive being expressed through their bodies, which was echoed in the anger that they vented on each other?”
I thought okay, a bit harsh, but clearly, this leads into part of their story and something she explores with them. But no it doesn’t, right after that paragraph, she goes on to talk about how she likes parenting consultations and talks about that for a few pages before getting back to that couple, only to talk about a completely different issue they had. In this book, it had absolutely no relevance other than to highlight that these were big people. I don’t expect therapists to reserve judgement completely, but it seems incredibly critical and mean to add this into the book when it had no relevance to their issues or the story she was telling.

Overall an informative read but that bit above did have me side-eyeing her.

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I love books by and about therapists so was very interested to read Susanna Abse’s account of her work as a psychoanalytic therapist. Abse amalgamates issues she has dealt with during sessions with various clients throughout her career to present us with 13 case studies, primarily couples. The reader gets a real insight into how she works in her sessions and the issues clients present with. I also found that the case studies helped me to reflect on issues in my own relationship.
I really enjoyed the insights into psychoanalysis, how this works and how it differs from other therapeutic models.
Highly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in therapy, how people relate and their own relationships.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this digital ARC.

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Tell Me the Truth About Love is a collection of thirteen cast studies that illustrate the complexities of relationships. Susanna Abse uses her over thirty years of experience helping couples navigate their relationships. This is a fascinating book whether you're in the psychology field or just have an interest in people. Highly recommended! Be sure to check out Tell Me the Truth About Love today.

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Beautiful. Poignant. Phenomenal.
This was a beautiful read and I learnt so much. I cried and I smiled and there was nothing more that I wanted from this book. Truly a gem.

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Looking forward to have this book in its physical format. The book has it's depth as a psychoanalytic professional goes through the lives and relationships of her clients and through this, it becomes quite a meditative work of literature. Absolutely human and contemplative in nature. This book is a must have.

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This was a great read. Fascinating stories about her clients and the problems they have with their relationships. Very interesting and gripping read.

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I loved reading this book that I got the physical one so I could keep it on standby as a re read. Thank you so much

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Susanna Abse is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. These are stories about people she has counselled over the years. While the title suggests that this is a book about love it is really about relationships and human interactions. That actually includes the therapist herself who reflects on the impact her clients have on her.

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

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I really enjoyed this book. Linking the couples talked about in this book to fairytales really helps the reader to understand the problems and dilemmas the couples were faced with. You might be wanting a clear, solid ending for each couple but that's not how life works. Many people finish the therpay without actually confronting the issues they came with and no self-realisation is done.

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Great book and so bingeable, the author really grabs your interest with the couple's stories. I did find myself wondering how different she had made the stories (for anonymity) and what was real and what wasn't, but it didn't distract too much from the message of the couples' issues and how they approached difficulties.

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Really enjoyed seeing the world of couples therapy through the eyes of the author.She shares with us her patients there different issues and her way of listening to them suggesting how to deal with their issues problems and hopefully heal and come together.#netgalley #eburypublishing

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The types of conflict covered in this book range over misunderstandings, mismatches, arguments, affairs and decisions. Abse’s thesis is that our romantic relationships are modelled on our early family relationships, unconsciously of course, and that this is what can scupper or promote healthy relationships. A lot of her work involves unpicking this and helping people to be more aware, and then to alter their behaviours if they have to / want to. There’s fascinating detail about transference and other psychotherapeutic concepts; there is very little jargon and it’s all explained very well.

I also appreciated the insights into the therapist’s work itself, both with couples and with her own peers and internal work. She is honest about how when she was a new, young therapist she wanted to sort out the whole world, and about how she reacts to people and has to sometimes fight to remain fair and impartial. She shares her mistakes and frustrations. This extends to sections written about the lockdown, when she first caught Covid and then had to adjust to working remotely via Zoom, sharing interesting details about how it was harder to stop warring couples fight when everyone was on a screen.

An honest and open, and also fascinating, read – push on past the worry these are “fairy tales” and inauthentic to see that she uses some metaphors and fairy tale chapter titles to explore real people and feelings. You might find something useful in here, too – I know I did.

My full review here:

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This was a complete shake up for me and something completely different . My partners mum is a couples therapist so I loved the opportunity to have a glimpse into this world.
This is a beautiful curated book of essays, each essay being based around a couples individual issue or concerns and how/ if it was resolved. Some couples did not have resolutions and some changed their view point and were able to take away a lot of new ideas.
I loved the way the author used the idea of fairy tales as an alternative way of describing the problem the couples faced .
It was so unique and I can’t really think of anything to compare this book to. I think whether you are single, in a new couple or have been with you partner for decades there is something for everyone to take away from this book.
It teaches in an informal , relaxed way that doesn’t feel like a lecture but more like a friendly conversation and shows you not only why we fall in love but how important it is to take a step back and look at relationships in a whole new light.
The only thing I didn’t particularly like is that the story’s didn’t show a lot of emotional connection to the people and it felt a little detached at times. I think this is due to the fact that the author/ therapist had to be detached to a degree during the sessions and that had transferred into the writing a little bit.

Thank you very much @netgalley and @eburybooks for the opportunity to read this book 😍

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An insight to 30 years of couple counselling. As well as factual cases, it offers her opinion and advice. Suitable for anyone who is nosey like me.

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4.5/ 5.0 – rounded up for this delightful read!

Susanna Abse is a psychoanalytic therapist with extensive experience in couple therapy and mental health, and her book, Tell Me the Truth About Love, illustrates 13 stories in her consulting room. I absolutely love most of the stories in this book, and it provides a “completed cycle” of every relationship, from being in love to deciding to have a family. The book is well-written with not just Susanna’s experiences in the field, but also her opinions and occasional knowledge share. This book reminds me the other book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” but with a focus in love and relationship. I enjoyed the story a lot, especially the ones with projection (Kristof keeps kissing the frog) and consulting through Zoom during the pandemic (Gabrielle and Johannes Blow the Straw House Down and Then Do Some Rebuilding). The book also presents the personal growth of Susanna over the years, from a trainee to a well-known name in the field. Overall, if you like good stories (who doesn’t), this book is for you.

Highly recommend this one to non-fiction lovers, and it probably would prevent some couples from going through couple therapy.

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A fascinating insight into peoples lives and how they react when it all starts breaking down. There was a real sadness in these stories of couples who didn’t know how to manage their problems and needed the help of a complete stranger to keep them on the right road and help them see what was wrong in their lives.
I found myself touched by these stories and can see what satisfaction the must be gained, when the psychoanalyst is able to reach out and have a positive impact on such negative feelings.
This book is most definitely worth reading. It’s actually quite an eye opener to when relationships fail and how to get help.

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A really interesting non-fiction book by Susanna Abse, psychoanalyst. She bases the book around cases she has gathered, observed and counselled during her career as a therapist.
I found the inside look at couples' lives really fascinating - athough sometimes I wished she could have spilled more of the 'gory' details! I loved the story about Julian and Kristoff and thought that this really exemplifies how we, as humans, carry childhood trauma along with us to adults.
I recognised some patterns in my own communication style and hope that this awareness might benefit the relationships I have with my partner and children.
If everyone can't have a therapist, maybe they should read this book, which may point them to a bit more self-awareness on how our actions in relationships have hugely extending ripple effects.
Overall the book was really interesting - a couple of places I wasn't sure the 'reflections on life' connected particularly to the stories they prefaced but maybe that is an English teacher's pickiness!

Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for an advanced release copy in exchange for an honest review.

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In "Tell Me the Truth About Love," Susanna Abse provides the reader with the opportunity to delve into other people's relationship challenges and to read about how the psychoanalyst thinks and feels as she does her best to help them. Using composite case studies Abse shows how relationships find a sense of equilibrium, with each person taking a certain role within them, and how this can become stuck, roles can become unwanted or other factors can alter this careful balance and cause profound distress. Abse also shows how, despite being a well respected expert, the psychoanalyst can also have doubts and uncertainties as they try to listen and help the couple to explore what has brought them to the therapy room.

I really enjoyed this book. Abse comes across as warm, compassionate, and as aware of her failings as she is of the couple's she sees. The case studies include people in all sorts of different types of relationships and in different stages of the life cycle. Not everyone is able to overcome their difficulties, or wishes to pursue long-term psychotherapy, and Abse is human in showing how she sometimes wonders how these people have got on. The case studies are well written and form short stories in themselves (although I wasn't sure the fairy tale theme was needed).

All in all, I think this novel will appeal to therapists, couples and those with a love for programmes such as Married at First Sight, where the experts perception of the relationships is as interesting as the drama! I have already recommended it to one such person!

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A psychoanalyst presents a series of case studies, based on many years of being a therapist who counsels couples having relationship difficulties.

There are stories of infidelity, conflict over child care and, of course, a dive into how the childhoods and backgrounds of those seeking help deeply influence how they respond to issues as an adult, even though they may feel unscathed by events from their childhoods.

An interesting book which I'd recommend to anyone who likes to understand how the past can influence the present and how relationship issues can be resolved with patience and understanding. .

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This was such an interesting and thought provoking book. It was so compelling to read the stories laid out in the book and see the struggles that the people had to overcome and how they went about it. I really enjoyed it.

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Free courtesy of Netgalley

I really found this book fascinating, especially as i have started studying psychology.

Listening to stories about people who go to couples therapy and why, was an insight into people's relationships that you can resonate with.

Even though there is no "happy ending" as mostly Susanna doesn't know what happens to the families when they finish therapy. It was still a delightful book to read.

I would definitely recommend this book to read

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