Med School prof speaks out on relationships

Book by Scott Haltzman '82 MD '85 garners media attention

By
Monday, February 27, 2006

On Valentine’s Day, New York Times Op-Ed page readers may have been surprised to find columnist John Tierney’s piece rich with relationship advice. “Tell your wife you adore her. Suggest an activity that’s fun,” Tierney wrote. First-time author Dr. Scott Haltzman ’82 MD ’85, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, was the source of Tierney’s newly acquired relationship wisdom.

Haltzman’s book, “The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways To Win Your Wife’s Heart Forever,” has received rave reviews and landed him spots on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” and National Public Radio’s “Here and Now.” Written for real people in real relationships, Haltzman said the book is based on his own experience as a practicing psychiatrist and draws on six years of focused research.

“I really think that the book is going to have an impact on the world,” said Haltzman, who has already heard from couples that read the book aloud to each other every night and use it as a model in their relationship.

Weary of the traditional model of couples therapy, Haltzman believes men and women have innate differences: men are goal-oriented and do not have a natural tendency to talk about their emotions like women do, he said.

“It seemed that what I had learned theoretically and what worked practically were worlds apart, so my goal was to push away the theory a little and describe what really works,” he said.

Haltzman advises men to “make marriage your job” – a notion that he says is unromantic but easy to relate to for all men, many of whom are more successful in their workplaces than in their marriages.

“Most women recognize their man has a lot more relationship potential than Homer Simpson, and they want to know how to tap that potential,” he added.

After Tierney’s op-ed piece, “The Secrets of Happily Married Men” skyrocketed to Amazon.com’s list of top 100 sellers in books. Haltzman said he thinks the book’s popularity will increase as more people finish reading it and integrate its advice into their relationships.

He noted that although women buy 80 to 90 percent of all relationship books, according to his own estimates, his book has a unique appeal to male buyers. “If I can get 50 percent of all buyers to be men, that would be incredible,” he said.

In a culture where men are often seen as “relationship buffoons,” Haltzman said that “just by buying this book, your wife is already going to be happy with you.”

Haltzman said his own wife at first felt “threatened” by the book and its “secrets,” but she enjoyed reading it – the most meaningful praise for Haltzman and a strong sign to him that the book speaks to women as well as men.

“Even if John Tierney liked it, if women didn’t like this book, guys wouldn’t be buying it,” he said.

Though the book rests on Haltzman’s academic research, it is written for a broader commercial audience. He said that finding a balance between “maintaining some academic credibility and writing a book that the public will appreciate” was difficult at times.

Haltzman was particularly reminded of this during a Fox News interview in which he was asked for an opinion on butt implants. “It’s a challenge to keep a serious dialogue, but also to keep it engaging,” he said.

So, is Haltzman’s book only for married men, or could it be of use to a Brown student? While some of the book’s advice is particularly suited for married couples, it contains some general relationship advice “anyone could use,” Haltzman said. It emphasizes that “men shouldn’t have to feel like they have to be feminized” to have a successful relationship, something college-aged men can appreciate, he said.

However, casual daters need not be too concerned. “With dating, women are more willing to accept a man’s stupid guy stuff,” Haltzman said.