Book Review: Sex, Talk, Honesty

I met Daphne de Marneffe over twenty years ago, waiting for our children to finish their day at preschool. Standing on a foggy sidewalk in San Francisco, bundled against the chill, we gravitated together. Daphne was funny, irreverent, lightning-smart and (most importantly) entirely unfazed by my tendency to curse as soon as the kids moved out of earshot. We spoke about our ongoing parenting questions, about the unresolvable balance between parenthood and career. We talked about the fun and the grit, the triumphs and the crashes. She was one of the most honest people I’d ever met.

Now, more than two decades later, Daphne has written a stunningly honest book — The Rough Patch.

In the zillions of books available about sex, communication and relationships — most of them fifty shades of annoying — I loved The Rough Patch. We’re primed to think that if a relationship entails hard work, something is wrong. Daphne, with her signature honesty, disagrees. Even the strongest couples navigate inevitable rough patches. According to Daphne, hard work and healthy relationship aren’t antonyms; they’re realities.

The Rough Patch does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions. The book does not tell you how you should feel, what you should do, whether you should remain a couple or break up. Instead, Daphne presents several paths that readers can choose, to match their personal styles. She offers diverse strategies for effective communication, addresses the wide range of sexual practices, acknowledges that rough patches can have many meanings.

The ideas in The Rough Patch are relevant to adults of all ages, both in relationships and single. First and last, we’re in relationships with ourselves. We wake up with ourselves every morning, and sleep with ourselves every night. I found Daphne’s perspective evocative and insightful for all stages of relationships, and for individuals as well.

People are complicated, and two of those intricate beings, navigating a life, create layers of complexity that defy mathematical limits. In the course of long-term relationships, individuals grow and change. Healthy relationships are dynamic, not static, and the ground always will be shifting. Daphne invites readers to explore and discover with her, with their partners, and within themselves.

Daphne writes that over time, we’ve seen our life-partners as beautifully, starkly, heartrendingly human — just as they’ve seen us. The intensity of that level of intimacy is uplifting, terrifying, exhilarating, baffling, burdensome, liberating. In our unfailing humanness, we sometimes soar to uncharted heights, and sometimes fall with a resounding thud.

So how do we get through the rough patches when our love includes deep vulnerability? How can we fight productively when we know each other so well that we can draw blood with every hit? How can we reconnect verbally and sexually as we struggle? How can we trust each other when we’re hurt and angry?

Ask Daphne. She’s got your back. Honestly.

The Rough Patch

Daphne de Marneffe


Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black and her friends through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including the resistance, gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.


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Filed under book review, Couples, Intimacy, Marriage, relationships, Uncategorized

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