When we quit sabotaging intimacy in our relationships by demanding unconditional love, we discover something much greater—the deeply satisfying, transformational love that is companionship.
In these pages psychologist Kelly Flanagan shows how each of us has within ourselves, exactly the way we are, the gifts that are needed to cultivate the life-long relationships we are longing for, whether it is within marriage or friendship. He shows us how self-knowledge leads the way to growing in love for both God and others. He shows us how understanding our own loneliness can help us relieve the pressure on our companions. And he shows us how understanding our own psychological and emotional defenses can help us to make the choice to love more vulnerably.
More than a marriage book, this is a companionship book. Anyone—from single young adults to elderly married couples, from the divorced to the widowed, from siblings to friends—can benefit from the wisdom it uncovers about what it means to be human and to be true companions.
Groups, couples, and individuals can use the companion study guide for five sessions on how to show up in your most important relationships.
"Though we often do whatever it takes to avoid feelings of loneliness, in these pages Dr. Kelly Flanagan invites readers to do something else—make friends with our loneliness, attend to it, and even welcome loneliness as a gift. Flanagan is a guide for the isolated soul, showing us that our agonizing longings for deep companionship are actually graces—signposts pointing us toward deeper connection, love, and holiness. And along the way, we discover this gentlest of miracles: we are, none of us, truly alone."
"In True Companions, Kelly Flanagan grapples with the joys and risks of genuine connection. With sincerity, wisdom, and deft storytelling, Flanagan dares readers to become more human. In an increasingly inhumane world, his is a dare worth taking."
"I know this book will touch many lives. Kelly Flanagan has harvested the rich rewards of true companionship from the everyday struggles of doing real life together—a gift to every couple and every kind of companion everywhere."
"What a brave, beautiful, and bountiful book that sings with quiet wisdom on the power of loneliness and the sanctity of companionship. . . . Flanagan looks directly into the center of what it means to be human and helps us hold our gaze there, too, so we may see ourselves and each other more clearly with a searing and soaring grace."
"What Kelly does for all of us in this deep dive into being-in-relation is help us unearth those deeply buried conditions we've been loading onto what we think we've been asking for or offering as 'unconditional love.' Then, therapist that he is, Dr. Flanagan invites us to put down the mallet and befriend our loneliness, shame, and abandonment. . . . Kelly charts a path of waking up so we can show up as our best selves in our most important relationships. . . . I'm so glad to commend True Companions to you."
"Loneliness is part of marriage. Rather than avoid or ignore that reality, Flanagan provides a much-needed resource on the necessary journey of creating space for loneliness in the context of relationship. With unflinching honesty and clinical insight, Flanagan takes a fresh look at how to sit with the discomfort of unmet expectations in marriage. He shares about his own marriage in a way that impacts both intellectually and emotionally. Flanagan wisely suggests that our most intimate relationships benefit from learning to embrace curiosity rather than certainty, and that a deeper intimacy is found in sharing loneliness rather than expecting our partner to eliminate it."
"He had me at the table of contents. I went there first to decide if I was going to read the book. Weary of reading marriage books that seemed too lofty or talked about having a date night, I long ago moved on to books of poetry and novels, which have actually helped my marriage. But when I felt a tug at my heart just by reading the descriptions of the chapters in True Companions, I knew this book would be different. If you want a wise, honest, and true friend to take a walk with you, Kelly is that friend. And on that walk, he will open your heart to new truths and new questions, and gently lead you down an unexpected path toward change in yourself and your relationship with the one you love. Please take this journey with him. Kelly is a trustworthy guide."
Foreword by Ian Morgan Cron
What You Need to Know
Part 1: Grow Quiet—Befriending Your Loneliness
A Letter to My Wife—Before We Belong to Each Other, I Must First Belong to Myself
1. Abandonment Is Not Loneliness
2. Neither Is Shame
3. Nor Is Isolation
4. A Cautionary Note About the Digital Crowd
5. You Are a Great and Precious Thing
6. So Learn How to Be Alone
7. Maybe Even Find God in It
8. And Let Someone Stand with You for a While
A Letter to My Wife—You Are My Destination
Part 2: Grow Strong—Embracing Your Struggle
A Letter to My Wife—Love Goes the Long Way
9. Observe Your Protections
18. And Excitement
A Letter to My Wife—Thank You for the Moments Between the Magic
Part 3: Grow Old—Cherishing Your Time
A Letter to My Wife—The Whole Thing Is Inconceivable
19. Time Isn’t Money, It’s Mortality
20. And Remember, Bodies Matter
21. So Go Elderly Slow
22. Fear (Not) Missing Out
23. Laugh Out Loud
24. Let Your Memories Gather
25. Rust into Something Beautiful
26. And Trade Your Strength with Each Other
27. Until Death Do You Part
A Letter to My Wife—A Timeless Reunion