Change Your Life, Not Your Wife Book Summary


Change Your Life Not Your Wife

“Chains do not hold a marriage together.  It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.” — Simone Signoret

One of the books I’m reading now is, Change Your Life, Not Your Wife: Marriage Saving Advice for Success Driven People, by Dr. Tony Ferretti and Dr. Peter Weiss.

It’s an empowering book I think you’ll enjoy, no matter your relationship status.

Change Yourself with Skill to Have Better Relationships

Change Your Life, Not Your Wife is a book about how to have the marriage you want, achieve balance in your life, and be at ease in relationships.  It’s very fundamentally a book about how to change yourself with skill to have more effective relationships.  It’s written from the context that divorce is everywhere, especially among high-achieving, success-driven professionals, who may leave a trail of broken relationships in their wake.

Dr. Tony Ferretti is a licensed psychologist who helps clients deal with issues around power, control, and success.  He’s been on Dr. Phil and he’s hosted his own radio show, “Talk to Tony.  Dr. Peter Weiss is a physician and healthcare executive with a passion for helping others to health and wellness.  Together, Drs. Tony and Peter write about how the same character traits that drive career success can destroy families, using true-to-life examples, and drawing from their collective experience.

Chapters at a Glance

Here are the chapters in Change Your Life, Not Your Wife at a glance:

  • Chapter 1 — Steve and Mary’s Crisis
  • Chapter 2 — Marriage Essentials
  • Chapter 3 — The Hostile Environment
  • Chapter 4 — Relationship-Killing Traits
  • Chapter 5 — Controlling Others
  • Chapter 6 — How You Got Your Personality “Issues”
  • Chapter 7 — A Special Note for Those “At the Top”
  • Chapter 8 — Creating Your Ideal Marriage
  • Chapter 9 — Steve and Mary Come Together
  • Chapter 10 — It’s Your Life
  • Appendix – Steve Leaves – An Alternate Ending

What’s in it For You

Here’s what in it for you:

  • Discover common personality traits behind the succeed-at-work/fail-at-home syndrome.
  • Understand how your current behavior in relationships has been shaped by your childhood.
  • Learn the essentials for a strong marriage.
  • Learn proven practices to heal, nurture, and grow your marriage.
  • Learn how to forgive and let go of the past.
  • Learn what the key trust-building behaviors are.and how to build trust.
  • Learn to build and rebuild intimacy.
  • Learn how to resolve conflict.

Key Features

I like the book design.  Here are some of the key features:

  • Attitudes and Actions.  The authors distilled the most critical relationship wisdom into short “attitudes and actions,” and highlighted them in side boxes throughout the book.
  • Bottom Lines.  Every chapter ends with a summary of the key points as a bottom line.
  • Fast and fun.   The book is fast paced and fun.  It doesn’t get bogged down in details.  While the authors dive deep, they help you glide through the book with simple examples, sticky phrases, catchy ideas, and insightful bottom lines.
  • Self-Assessments.   Change Your Life, Not Your Wife has several self-assessments that you can easily do at your own pace, whenever you like.
  • Stories, personal experience, and true-to-life examples.  The authors use the story of Steve and Mary to help illustrate common problems and solutions, and to help relate the information in an empathetic way.


Change Your Life, Not Your Wife includes several self-assessments through the book:

  • Marriage Essentials Self-Assessment
  • Attending to Relationships Self-Assessment
  • Connecting or Disconnecting Self-Assessment
  • Emotional Intelligence Self-Assessment
  • Hyper-Achievement Drive Self-Assessment
  • Perfectionism Self-Assessment
  • Understanding the Harm of Control Self-Assessment
  • Am I Controlling? Self-Assessment
  • Loss Self-Assessment
  • Emotional Abuse Self-Assessment
  • Conditional Love Self-Assessment

Timeless Wisdom

Here is a sampling of some of the insight throughout the book:

  • Avoid creating conflict.  Resolve it when it happens.
  • Anger and resentment follow unresolved frustration
  • Deeper, not more.
  • Time is your most valuable gift.
  • Counter-cultural choices are necessary for healthy relationships.
  • Speak it to solve it.
  • Getting over the past is a choice.
  • Materialism is a strong predictor of unhappiness.

The Six Main Relationship Killers

Change Your Life, Not Your Wife is full of insightful data and bottom lines.  For example, the authors have distilled the key patterns of relationship killers down to the following six issues:

  1. Emotional unawareness
  2. Overly strong achievement drive
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Criticism
  5. Attempting to control your partner
  6. Allowing your partner to control you

Success is About People

The authors remind us what life is all about.  Dr. Tony and Dr. Peter write:

”True success, the kind that will make you happy and fulfilled, isn’t about money, fame, or power.  It’s about people and relationships.  Healthy relationships are truly the keys to happiness, good health, and success.”

Take Your Own Oxygen First

The authors remind us that our individual growth and nurturing needs to come first, and that we need to be spiritually and emotionally strong, if we want to have strong relationships.   Dr. Tony and Dr. Peter write:

“Ideally, we feel that your marriage should be more important than your work, family, and even your children.  However, your marriage should not be more important than everything else.  In our lives, each of us tries to keep our spiritual health the number one priority followed by our own emotional and physical health.

Let us explain.  At first this may sound selfish or like we have it backwards, but marriage works best when the participants are spiritually and emotionally well people.  As flight attendants teach in the case of an in-flight airplane decompression, you must ‘take your own oxygen first’ before trying to assist others.  We are not talking about putting superficial wants ahead of your marriage, rather asserting that your own nurturing and growth as an individual must come first.  Marriage is not meant to stifle or suppress you as an individual.”

Blame Prevents Change

Rather than blame others, point the finger back to you and ask yourself what you can do about it.  Dr. Tony and Dr. Peter write:

“Ultimately, your life is about what you choose to do.  You can’t control others actions or inactions.  Blaming others takes your focus off your own choices and abilities.  So you can get stuck waiting for others to change, because ‘it’s their fault.’ Drop the blame, focus on what you can do, and make it happen.”

Changing Others is a Way to Avoid Changing Ourselves

The fastest way to change is change yourself.  Dr. Tony and Dr. Peter write:

“’He needs to change.’ ‘She needs to work on herself.’  We’ve all been there — focusing on the other person’s issues.  Maybe we’re even right, that’s not the point.  What is the point?  Two things: One, focusing on others is mainly a way to divert your focus from yourself, and two, you can’t change anyone else anyway.  Focus on what you can control — yourself.  Change yourself, and see how others respond.”

Empower Yourself Through Forgiveness

One of the key messages in the book is that you’re the one that loses if you hold on to things.  Forgiveness is your friend and it’s a healthy habit.  Dr. Tony and Dr. Peter write:

“Forgiveness is a choice. … You can choose to forgive anyone or anything.  Or you can choose to hold on to your anger, hurt, and resentment.  Forgiveness doesn’t’ excuse bad behavior.  It doesn’t mean that there may not be consequences for the forgiven, but it allows the forgiver to heal and move on with their life.  Forgiveness empowers the forgiver, enabling him/her to release the pain.”

Wherever you are in the journey of life, may the little tiny threads you sew keep you together with the ones you care about the most.

Get the Book

Change Your Life, Not Your Wife is available on Amazon:

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  1. @ Farouk — It’s actually a fast and fun read. The writing style is similar to Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations (which are also great books.)

  2. What an excellent review, JD. A book like this is really, really needed in our times. These are my two favorite takeaways:

    “Counter-cultural choices are necessary for healthy relationships.”

    “Materialism is a strong predictor of unhappiness.”

    I find the second one very intriguing in particular! If only people realized that early on instead of learning it the hard way.

  3. @ Sandra — It’s truly a treasure trove.

    I like that the authors write in a confident way from the balcony view. They packed a lot of their experience into the guide, and did a great job distilling it into one-liner reminders.

    I especially like how they made information more meaningful. It’s one thing to say that things won’t make you happy, but it’s another to say that materialism is a predictor of unhappiness. It makes the point cut deeper.

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