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Book details
  • SubGenre:Interpersonal Relations
  • Language:English
  • Pages:215
  • eBook ISBN:9781483592152

Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Relationships

by Ronald W. Richardson

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Really? Jane Austen? A woman who died in 1817? What can she tell us about relationships today? Our world is so different from hers. Her characters speak in what almost seems like a foreign language. And the romantic relations between partners back then were so restricted . . . how can their problems be relevant to us? Yet the men and women in her novels struggle with the same passions we have, and they ask the same questions: Is this person the one? What is love anyway? Do I want to spend my life with him (or her)? How can I nurture a satisfying relationship? A significant amount of our happiness in life depends on how good our relationships are. Just as in Jane Austen’s time, learning to love and be loved and having truly close and committed partners are major goals in life, regardless of our material station. Austen had a keen insight into the ways we can create and maintain good relationships. In her books, she shows that to have good relationships, people need to have good character arising out of emotional maturity and a strong sense of themselves. In this book, Ronald Richardson draws on his experience as a marital counselor to unpack this knowledge for us, using examples from Jane Austen’s stories to reveal how you can make your own relationships better.

The approach in this book for understanding relationships is based on Bowen family systems theory. Dr. Bowen was a psychiatric professor at Georgetown University. In this book, I briefly introduce the theory and the relevant parts of it for reading Jane Austen's novels. I based practically all of my psychotherapy practice on this approach. My wife and I have used its insights for our own relationships. I talk about this in the autobiographical parts of the book. Bowen's approach is not about what to do to others to change them to improve a relationship, but it is about how to be with others in order to bring about change. When clients implemented these ideas in their own relationships change did occur for the better.

Of course, Jane Austen did not know about Bowen theory. However, Bowen's approach was based on how people actually function in relationships and how they can be different. Austen also observed how people function in relationships and how change happened. Change does not depend on some inner psychological understanding of peoples' motivations and inner desires. The same is true with Austen. While she makes use of her own psychological insights to some extent, change really comes about through changed behavior of the protagonists.

Bowen theory is the guide for this book, but Jane Austen gives the examples. In a previous book on Austen and Bowen theory (Becoming Your Best), I included clinical material from my practice, along with examples from Austen, to demonstrates some aspects of what can help bring about change in relationships.

About the author

Ronald W. Richardson, an accredited marriage and family therapist, was the executive director of a large counseling agency in Vancouver, Canada. Now retired, he is the author of many books on the application of family systems theory to how we live our lives today, including Family Ties That Bind, Becoming Your Best, and Birth Order and You. You can visit his website at

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