This intriguing book was sent to me by a friend, who thought (correctly) that I’d enjoy it.
My friend caveated the recommendation with the view that the book should have been called ‘MY truth’ rather than ‘THE truth’, and I’d agree with that. But it was interesting all the same.
The subtitle is ‘An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships’, and it’s by the guy who wrote The Game, which wasn’t a book I’d heard of until I started reading this one but which sounds frankly disgusting. The Game was about how to get women, basically: a sleazeball’s go-to guide.
The Truth is the flipside of the coin: Strauss’ own experience of actually falling in love with a real live woman, whom he therefore realised he wanted to treat like a human being, rather than a piece of ass.
So, having realised he had some kind of problem, and that he needed to do something pretty drastic if he wanted to have any chance of saving his relationship, he booked himself into a rehab clinic for sex addicts.
The Truth is what he learned during his time there, and his reflections on how his attitudes towards relationships changed.
It’s a searingly honest book, one in which the author presents himself as the bad guy and owns up to all the darker parts of his past – both those he was responsible for, and some of the dark parts of his childhood that later affected his adult life. (And where do we draw the line between those things, anyway? Who knows?)
“They say that when you meet someone and feel like it’s love at first sight, [you should] run in the other direction. All that’s happened is that your dysfunction has meshed with their dysfunction. Your wounded inner child has recognised their wounded inner child, both hoping to be healed by the same fire that burned them.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this book is only relevant to people who have had the worst kinds of childhoods: abuse, neglect, etc. But actually, there’s something in everyone’s life that’s made them feel vulnerable, made them feel wanting. And sometimes it’s these things that drive us to make bad decisions about relationships. That’s one of the things this book does: demonstrates how Strauss’ own realisations about his childhood helped him to build better, healthier bridges with other people.
It’s interesting to see a book about the powers of rehab written from the perspective of a cynic, as well. Strauss didn’t go in expecting anything much, and he often battled against the techniques that were being used in his therapy. But, in the end, it helped. Even if not all of it made sense, even if some of the therapists were crap – there were still things that could be taken and applied.
I think that’s an important lesson about… well, almost anything, actually.
You might not 100% buy in to something. You might think it’s a load of bollocks. But if there’s something in it that you can find useful, that can help mould your life into something better… well, then what’s the harm in seeing it through? So many things in life are a mixed bag. Personally, I’m all for picking and choosing.
One of the things I particularly liked about The Truth was seeing the emotional growth throughout. Having started out from a jokey, blokey perspective, he comes to a few realisations that feel more… well, adult.
“Only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together.”
I’m pretty sure the guy who wrote The Game would be horrified by that sentence. He’d see it as being a pussy, rather than chasing one, or something.
And it’s important not to minimise how much courage it must have taken to write a book like this. Because the expectation of “traditional” masculinity in today’s society is a real problem, and one that negatively impacts men in ways that are detrimental to their health.
In 2014 in the UK, the rate of suicide for men was 16.8 per 100,000 people. For women, it was 5.2 per 100,000. (source) There are many contributing factors to this disparity I’m sure, but one of the main ones is undoubtedly the way we expect men to be somehow emotionless. How we might take the piss out of a woman crying at her desk (which is an awful thing to do in the first place, of course), but we somehow aren’t surprised. But if a man breaks down and cries in the office… well, that’s another story.
Why? Why do we think men are somehow not human enough to cry?
So Strauss’ book, which includes several instances of him breaking down completely whilst dealing with his past and present life, is an act of courage that shouldn’t be underestimated. Especially since The Game was popular enough for him to sometimes be recognised in the street.
It was fascinating, as a woman who is frequently fucked off with watching the objectification of my gender, and experiencing creeps on a far too regular basis, to read a male perspective on this whole phenomenon. And to watch it changing.
At one point, Strauss meets a woman called Shama Helena, who is a proponent of the polyamoury movement. The writer of The Game would no doubt have dismissed her as ridiculous and not worth his time, or as an exciting conquest. The writer of The Truth thinks more deeply about it, however.
“Centuries ago, a woman like Shama Helena would probably have been burned at the stake… because women who were overtly sexual were thought to be witches in league with the devil. We’ve come a long way as a culture in five hundred years. Now, instead of calling them witches and killing them, we call them sluts and kill their reputations.”
It’s refreshing to see a man – especially the kind of man who’d write The Game – starting to come to these realisations.
One final quote, which probably sums up the reason I liked the book so much:
“I realise that before trauma healing, I always wanted more – more women, more success, more money, more space, more experience, more possessions. Not once did I stop and say, as I do now, “I have enough.””
You can buy The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss on Amazon.
This is an affiliate link, which means that if you buy the book after clicking on it, I will receive a percentage of the sale price. The book will be the same price whether you buy it through my link or by searching on Amazon. I did not receive a review copy of this book; it was sent to me by a friend. All opinions are my own.