Review: Fixing Family Friction

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Author: David and Claudia Arp & John and Margaret Bell
Reviewed by Donald L. Hughes

Lots of books have been written on family life, but few have focused on the extended family. Fixing Family Friction takes extended family issues head-on, and this approach is likely to be helpful to readers whose in-laws have become outlaws, or who face myriad other challenges with children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

The subtitle of this book gives away its true intentions. It is “Promoting Relative Peace.” More than just a play on words, that phrase signals the reader that the book will bring a measure of wholeness to extended families, but it is not an illusionary cure-all which so many seek. Often, relative peace is the most that you can expect from your relatives.

This book is not broken down into chapters, but, like life itself, it is divided into “challenges.” The various challenges were selected by the authors based on their research. What was the best aspect of extended families according to their survey? Support and encouragement. What causes major tensions? Boundary issues and power struggles with in-laws.

This book deals with all the major issues that people face— from mothers-in-law who are compulsively clean, to brothers-in-law who want to borrow money—right down to topics like dealing with the disruption that a homosexual child brings to an extended families. Even though the authors offer sage advice on all these matters, this book does not dwell on cookie-cutter solutions. Instead the authors provide insight into the essential skill needed for family harmony. And what is that skill? Effective communication. The authors understand that harmony comes to extended families when communication is good.

The authors say the essentials of good communication include being, “civil, calm and clear.” Civility seems to be a loss concept in this present age, and is the likely reason that we have so much social discord. The authors have reintroduced the idea, along with practical examples about how it can be implemented to mend fractured families and bring them closer together.

The authors say, “Never assume anything – ask, clarify, and clarify some more so that true communication may occur.”

A hidden value of this book is the way the authors collaborated on it. It is almost intergenerational in nature. Claudia and David Arp have been married for over 40 years, have been there and done that, and bring a wealth of experience from their own lives. Margaret and John Bell had been married 24 years and are of an age where they are presently facing the types of challenges they are writing about. There is also balance in the perspectives of the writers—David Arp has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and is co-founder with his wife of Marriage Alive International. John Bell is a seasoned Colorado pastor and his wife, Margaret, has extensive a keen understanding of youth based on her skills working with the Olympic Development Program.

This book is going to help many extended families. Buy it for a family member you love, but be sure to read it yourself before you pass it along.

Fixing Family Friction: Promoting Relative Peace
by David and Claudia Arp & John and Margaret Bell
Tyndale House Publishers
$13.99, 226 pages, pb
Copyright 2003
ISBN-13 978-1-58997-477-7

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