Written by Danny Silk
Reviewed by Elizabeth H. Cottrell
I was expecting this to be a sweet, feel-good book about love and kindness. It was, instead, a bold, hard-hitting, brutally honest book about what constitutes a healthy relationship (marriage or otherwise) and how it will spiral downward in an environment of anxiety, manipulation, control, and conflict. Keep Your Love On! is a call to step up with courage and love to meet the pain and fear we sometimes encounter in our close relationships. “Fear and love have opposite agendas and opposite strategies for achieving them. They cannot coexist in a person, relationship, or culture.”
Principles taught by Christ
Told from a Christian perspective, the author believes Christ has set the standard for mature love, love that can withstand anything, love that stays “on” regardless of the circumstances or threats. He maintains that to keep your love on, you have to learn to be powerful enough to step out in love, hold your ground, and create a space in the relationships where it is safe to love and be loved.
While I resonated strongly with the Christian perspective and the supportive concepts taken from Holy Scripture, I regret there will be those who won’t read the book because they think they will be preached to. This would be their loss, because there is a great deal of valuable wisdom and practical advice here that goes far beyond religious ideology.
The premise sounds good, but the strength of the book lies in the many examples and stories from clients and individuals under the author’s pastoral care. He builds the argument by talking first about connection—the things that build it and the things that erode it. I recognized myself in the stories, as well as loved ones with whom I have occasionally felt conflict. I appreciated his stating something we often forget: “…if all our relationships are based solely on our natural impulse to return liking for liking, then we’re going to have problems. Liking is a conditional state—it changes.” To maintain a healthy relationship, we make a decision to love, and it has nothing to do with emotions.
How to communicate in the midst of conflict
The section on communication was particularly solid in its insistence on telling truth in love and teaching the reader how to communicate in the midst of conflict. “When you commit to becoming the best communicator you could possibly be, you commit to connection, and to being a truly powerful person.” I was struck with one very simple thing to remember in a contentious conversation: it’s my job to tell you how I feel and your job to tell me how you feel. And it’s both our jobs to listen to the other. There’s no place for judgment in true communication.
The last section covered the importance of boundaries and why they are necessary, even in a loving relationship. He provides guidelines for setting boundaries and examples of what happens when they are absent.
“Powerful people do not try to control other people”
Perhaps the book can be summed up in this quote: “Powerful people do not try to control other people. They know it doesn’t work, and that it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves.”
“A powerful person’s choice to love will stand, no matter what the other person does or says. When powerful people say, “I love you,” there’s nothing that can stop them. Their love is not dependent on being loved in return. It is dependent on their powerful ability to say, “Yes” and carry out that decision. This protects their love from external forces, or from being managed by other people.”
Keep Your Love On! Connection, Communication & Boundaries by Danny Silk is one of those rare books I will keep, read again, and recommend to others. What he proposes may be the hardest thing we ever do, but the health of relationships we value is so worth it.
Have you learned ways to “keep your love on” when faced with antagonism and conflict? Please share in the comments below.