100 best lines from ‘The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships’

Mary Good Books
11 min readJul 17, 2023

People are made to need each other. But they haven’t learned how to live with each other. — Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Book Cover

Authored by Neil Strauss in 2015, this book is an attempt to figure out where so many people go wrong, again and again, when it comes to relationships and marriage — and if there’s a better way to live, love, and make love.

It is a painfully honest account of a life crisis that was forced on me as a consequence of my own behaviour. — Neil Strauss

The following are 100 best lines I collected from reading the book:

1. You can’t fix most problems with rules, any more than you can with laws. They’re too inflexible. They break. Common sense is flexible.

2. Guilt is just about your behavior. Shame is about who you are.

3. Nothing’s going to change until you take deliberate and committed action to change it

4. Sex must never be secretive, abusive, a way to alter feelings, or empty of a committed intimate relationship.

5. Trauma comes from any abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Think of it this way: Every time a child has a need and it’s not adequately met, that causes what we define as trauma.

6. I suppose we’re all broken in some way, whether or not we choose to admit it to others — or to ourselves.

7. Most people think of trauma as the result of a serious assault, disaster, or tragedy. But a small trauma, like a parent criticizing you day in and day out, can be just as damaging because it’s happening on a regular basis.

8. To survive painful beliefs and feelings, we often mask them with anger. That way, we don’t have to feel the shame behind it.

9. Being over controlled as a child sets you up to lie as an adult.

10. The theory of sex addiction is that when you feel out of control or disempowered, you sneak around and act out sexually to re-establish control and regain your sense of self.

11. If you had true intimacy in your relationships, you wouldn’t be seeking sex outside your relationships.

12. Intimacy is sharing your reality with someone else and knowing you’re safe, and them being able to share their reality with you and also be safe

13. They say here that if you tell them what kind of relationship you had with your opposite-sex parent as a child, they can tell you what kind of romantic relationship you’re going to have as an adult.

14. They say here that there are three ways of raising children. The first is functional bonding, in which the parents or primary caregivers love, nurture, affirm, set healthy limits with, and take care of the needs of the child.

15. Instead of taking care of a child’s needs, the enmeshing parent tries to get his or her own needs met through the child.

16. In the process, enmeshed children lose their sense of self. As adults, they usually avoid letting anyone get too close and suck the life out of them again

17. A rule of thumb to use is that when a parent’s abuse disempowers a child, that’s neglect; when it’s falsely empowering, that’s enmeshment.

18. The sins of the parents are the destinies of their children. Unless the children wake up and do something about it.

19. Remember that humor is a wall. It’s a form of denial, just the same as repression, rationalization, globalization, and minimization.

20. Any invasive medical procedure — even something as commonplace as a circumcision or getting stiches — may register the exact same as physical abuse if you experience it in your first few years of life.

21. But if you can detach from yourself a little bit, you’ll notice that the things you do and think don’t just come out of nowhere

22. One way to recognize when you’re stuck in your own story is whenever you feel less than or better than others.

23. It isn’t until we start developing an honest, compassionate, and functional relationship with ourselves that we can begin to experience a healthy, loving relationship with others.

24. Intimacy problems come from a lack of self-love. Someone who fears intimacy thinks, unconsciously, ‘If you knew who I actually was, you’d leave me’.

25. The avoidant is very good at seducing, in the sense that he has an uncanny ability to find out what his partner needs and give it to her. Because he was usually enmeshed, he gets his worth and value from taking care of needy people.

26. What happens in either case is that we choose partners who are at our age of emotional development and maturity, and whose issues are complementary to ours

27. A healthy relationship is when two individuated adults decide to have a relationship and that becomes a third entity. They nurture the relationship and the relationship nurtures them. But they’re not overly dependent or independent: They are interdependent.

28. Only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together.

29. Life’s not worth living if you’re living someone else’s life.

30. I’d like you to know that there are married men who are not only faithful, but don’t even think of cheating.

31. Real intelligence is when your mind and your heart connect. That’s when you see the truth so clearly and unmistakably that you don’t have to think about it.

32. To the brain, the difference between reality and imagination can be minor.

33. There’s no guarantee we’ll be here tomorrow. So let’s just love each other in this moment and appreciate each other in this moment. We can deal with the future when we get there.

34. Continuously complying with someone else’s priorities at the expense of my own is called pathological accommodation.

35. No matter what your point of view may be, you can always find someone with a Ph.D to support it.

36. Anything that doesn’t bring you alive is too small for you.

37. Make a full commitment to stay in your relationship if you judge it to be good for you.

38. Separate the insatiable needs of the inner child from the realistic intimacy needs of the adult. Regrettably, all the developmental needs lost to the incestuous relationship will not be met fully in any one partnership.

39. Turn judgment into compassion and acceptance.

40. Transform shame into reassurance.

41. Change criticism to appreciation.

42. Replace blame with understanding.

43. Once fear of loss is taken away, you get past jealousy

44. One of the unfortunate axioms of human behavior is that what others shame people for the most is usually what they’re doing in secret themselves.

45. One of the many hazards of breaking up is that it takes years not just to find love again but to discover if it’s real, stable, and sustainable.

46. In life, whoever has the strongest reality wins. Lose your moral certainty and lose the ground you stand on.

47. Even if someone is your perfect match, it’s unlikely to work if your core values are different.

48. Whatever we are looking for, we will find — if it doesn’t find us first. However, the result will not be what we’re consciously looking for, but what we’re unconsciously seeking.

49. I used to think that a good relationship meant always getting along. But the secret, I realize, is that when one person shuts down or throws a fit, the other needs to stay in the adult ego state.

50. When someone is enmeshed with a parent of the same sex, this can make it difficult for them to form intimate friendships of the same gender.

51. What I’ve learned about relationships is that the most important thing is talking.

52. Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments.

53. For me, the best way to understand what actually transpired in any given situation is to write about it until the truth emerges.

54. What being a woman is: to become my own mother.

55. Fear of loss: It has motivated many weak people to make commitments they shouldn’t have.

56. You can’t force a relationship to happen,” he finally understood. “You just have to make a space in your heart for one, then let go of all expectations, agendas, and control.

57. The frame we have is that we’re both adults and we trust each other’s judgment, otherwise we wouldn’t be together.

58. There’s nothing good that comes of jealousy. If someone’s going to leave you, they’re going to do it whether or not you’re jealous. In fact, they’re much more likely to do it if you are jealous.

59. The problem many people have is that the exact quality that originally attracted them to their partner becomes a threat once a serious relationship begins.

60. If you’re in pain of the heart, enter into the pain and try to find its source rather than letting the pain drive you, or trying to escape from it or overcome it.

61. A man needs five basic things from his wife: sexual fulfilment, recreational companionship, physical attractiveness, domestic support, and admiration.

62. A woman’s five basic needs are affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment.

63. Psychologist Esther Perel advises that the way to keep romance and sex hot in a relationship is through separation, unpredictability, and fear of loss.

64. Life is a test and you pass if you can be true to yourself. To get the first question correct, all you have to know is who you are.

65. Sex is easy to find — whether through game, money, chance, social proof, or charm. So are affairs, orgies, adventures, and three-month relationships — if you know where to look and are willing to go there. But love is rare.

66. It takes more than advice, books, meetings, therapy, and rehab to change. It takes more than even a powerful, unwavering, full-bodied desire to do so. It takes humility.

67. The underlying cause of most unfulfilled lives is that we are simply too close to ourselves to see clearly enough to get out of our own way.

68. So, generally, good parenting will promote better oxytocin and vasopressin systems in the long run, and these are linked with more closely bonding individuals when it comes to romantic relationships.

69. If you have a healthy bond with your parents, you’ll have a healthy pair-bond with others as an adult.

70. I believe that functional parenting is the secret to world peace. And the only way to make functional parents is to heal psychological wounds with the same urgency that we heal physical wounds.

71. Even when we see the truth, trauma still prevents us from reaching it, like a rockslide blocking the road to our future.

72. The only way to fix a tower with a faulty base is to knock it down and rebuild it over a stronger foundation.

73. All the things you’ve been trying to get from these relationships — freedom, understanding, fairness, acceptance — are exactly the things that you never got from your parent. So every time you load all that unfinished business onto your partner, you’re setting yourself up for another disappointment. Because as an adult, the only person who can give you those things is you.

74. if you become the hero in an enmeshed family as an adult, accepting that role will occupy the space your heart has available for a relationship.

75. Love is something about a person, some connection with them, that makes you willing to change.

76. Only after you’ve learned how to be alone without loneliness will you be ready for a relationship.

77. You’re going to get very raw and uncomfortable before you get better.

78. Instead of trying to find other people to complete me, I am finally completing myself.

79. That is love. It’s when two (or more) hearts build a safe emotional, mental, and spiritual home that will stand strong no matter how much anyone changes on the inside or the outside. It demands only one thing and expects only one thing: that each person be his or her own true self.

80. It turns out that leaving all my options open has kept me too busy juggling them to really live. Studies on choice even affirm that having too many options leads to less happiness and satisfaction.

81. You have your own internal therapist that is far wiser than any external therapist you could consult. You just need to find that voice and listen to it.

82. The inner child is very real. It is our past. And the only way to escape the past is to embrace it.

83. Each day, I try to take care of the six core needs Lorraine told me about: physical, by surfing and eating healthily; emotional, by allowing myself to experience and express feelings without being either hyper controlling or out of control with them; social, by spending time with Adam, Calvin, Rick, and other growth-minded friends; intellectual, by reading literature, listening to lectures, starting a film discussion group, and, most importantly, simply listening more; and, most alien of all for me, spiritual, through transcendental meditation.

84. How you do anything is how you do everything.

85. No matter what the situation may be, the right course of action is always compassion and love.

86. As long as at least one partner is in the adult functional at any given time, most — if not all — arguments can be avoided.

87. Recognize when you are backsliding into a childish or adolescent behavior. Then pinpoint what old story is being triggered and tell yourself the truth of the situation. Let go of the lie.

88. Instead of saying “I’m never going to cheat again, ” say, “Today, I’m not going to do that thing that makes me feel weak and shameful about myself again.”

89. You can’t have a relationship with someone hoping they’ll change. You have to be willing to commit to them as they are, with no expectations. And if they happen to choose to change at some point along the way, then that’s just a bonus.

90. They say that love is blind, but it’s trauma that’s blind. Love sees what is.

91. Communicate and maintain healthy boundaries. This means finding the proper balance of filtering and protecting your self, thoughts, feelings, time, and behaviors without either closing off behind walls, or becoming overwhelmed or overwhelming.

92. Ask yourself throughout the day, “What do I need to do in this moment to take care of myself?” If you can be aware of what legitimate needs and wants you’re not attending to, and then take actions to meet them on your own — or ask your partner for help if you can’t — that is the road to happiness.

93. No one can make you feel anything and you don’t make anyone feel a certain way. So don’t take on responsibility for your partner’s feelings and don’t blame your partner for yours. The most caring thing to do when they’re upset is simply to ask if they want you to listen, to give advice, to give them space, or to give them loving touch.

94. It took the pain of the last year to realize that I needed to stop being a half trying to find my other half, but to be a whole on my own. I had to learn how to love myself. I had to learn to value myself. And I had to learn that I mattered.

95. Love, it turns out, is not something to be learned. It’s something we already have, and we must unlearn in order to access it.

96. Love is not about finding the right person. It’s about becoming the right person.

97. It takes hard, conscious, diligent work to genuinely change.

98. I still get tempted, but I just decide to wait a little while before opening any doors or doing anything stupid. Soon the temptation goes away.

99. The best thing we can do for our relationships with others is to render our relationship.

100. The greatest gift to others is our own best selves.

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