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Only complaints in this self-help book

“Relationships for the Intimately Challenged,” by Clint Stonebraker. Meek Publishing, Roswell, Ga. 154pp. $14.95.By Cindy Murphy
For the Salisbury Post
As a culture we seem to be obsessed with surrounding ourselves with the right people.
Whether it’s finding a soulmate or the right group of friends, we have many people in our lives. We are constantly surrounded by others, but do we really know any of them?
According to Clint Stonebraker, the answer is a resounding “No!”
The premise of Stonebraker’s “Relationships for the Intimately Challenged” is an interesting one. According to him, intimately challenged people struggle with relationships and fail to find true joy in their lives.
Here’s the really interesting part: We’re all intimately challenged. (Please get your mind out of the gutter. Stonebraker defines intimacy as “closeness and familiarity.”) According to Stonebraker, we all fail to open up to those around us. Consequently, we don’t really know anybody. We “end up trudging through life, missing out on countless joyful experiences.”
In some ways, Stonebraker’s idea isn’t too far off base. In our busy world we don’t always take time to get to know everyone around us. How many of us actually know something important about all of our co-workers? The answer would be “no” for many of us. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone is as miserable as Stonebraker repeatedly implies. He paints a very dark picture of the world.
Part of the problem with this book lies in its tone. As I’ve already mentioned, the initial concept is interesting. The argument for intimacy falls apart as the book continues.
Stonebraker frequently implies that he has great relationships because he is so emotionally available, while the rest of us simply muddle through our so-called relationships. In fact, most of us are so intimately challenged that we don’t even know that we have a problem. This logic (or lack thereof) may work for some people, but I prefer to see evidence. Unfortunately, Stonebraker never offers any solid evidence to prove his theory.
Stonebraker provides examples of intimately challenged people sporadically throughout the book. However, his examples are mere anecdotes, not evidence. In most cases, the examples focus on excuses for why people don’t change. In fact, Stonebraker spends a disproportionate amount of time recounting excuses for people’s failure to change. He devotes two-thirds of the book to his laundry list of excuses.
The last third of the book offers the most compelling idea: You have to be excited and passionate about your life. If you care about your life, then others will be drawn to you. Basically, you choose to be happy and emotionally available. This doesn’t sound like a new concept. It sounds like a combination of “The Secret,” Dr. Phil, and my parents’ advice.
Stonebraker fails to offer solutions in this section. Instead, he repeatedly points out that you can make different choices to find happiness.
“Relationships for the Intimately Challenged is a quick read,” but that does not mean it is worth the time. It does not offer any new ideas or particularly helpful advice. Like many self-help books, it simply recycles ideas from earlier bestsellers.
Here’s my totally unqualified and intimately challenged advice: Skip this book and go do something fun. After all, you can choose to be happy.
Cindy Murphy reads all kinds of books.

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