Review by Leena St Martin, Clinical Psychologist, Te Whatu Ora for the NZ Psychologists Bulletin

‘Make Love Work’ is amazing – buy it, take time to allow yourself to engage deeply with the learnings, share with your partner, or better still buy them their own copy!   Let it also be your reflective guide as to whether embarking on providing couples therapy is for you as a psychologist.

Why have I therefore struggled to produce this review?   I first need to name a few disclosures and inhibiting factors:   Nic Beets, and his lifelong partner Verity, are two people I have huge admiration and respect for as colleagues, mentors, and friends.   Nic is an Auckland-trained clinical psychologist and family therapist.  I have been part of the Australasian Sex Therapy Interest Group (Sting), founded by Nic and Verity since its inception in the early 2000s.   Our paths have continued to cross professionally via training events, and I have consulted with both Nic and Verity on clinical cases over the years.   I admired their adherence to the couples therapy approach offered by their late mentor, Dr David Schnarch.   Nic and Verity have left no stone unturned in their pursuit of seeking advanced training abroad, and via regular intensive supervision of their couples work.   In recent years I have learned more about their current mentors, Drs Elyn Bader and Pete Pearson, and how they have arrived at the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy which informs their clinical practice as well as the training they offer locally.  Readers will be familiar with their New Zealand Herald column “Intimacy, Actually” in which they address questions from the public as well as other frequent media appearances regarding relationships and sexuality.

To review “Make Love Work” is therefore a daunting prospect, made more so by the fact I found it impossible to not engage in the book at a deeply personal  level.  Perhaps the book should  be prefaced with a trigger warning  that self-confrontation is unavoidable!     I would describe this as a therapy workbook on how to understand self and become a psychologically healthier human being, regardless of relationship status.  If in a relationship, then it is a perfect opportunity for both parties to engage in the process.    Nic offers guidance on how to journey through the dense content of this book.  He suggests that you use a highlighter pen to mark the content which speaks to you in some way, take action suggested in the practical exercises rather than merely reading them through, and bring to life your learnings by  discussing with a partner if possible, or another willing participant if no partner is available.   On that note,  Nic  states that as most of his clinical clientele have tended to be cis-gendered, seeking monogamy, and  often hetereosexual ,though he has worked with many same sex couples, these are the types of relationship scenarios referred to in the book.    He takes care not to claim to represent the experiences of other group who may find themselves excluded within these pages.

This book is not a guide for would-be relationship therapists on how to do couples therapy.   Ideally anyone considering branching into couples therapy would engage with ‘Make Love Work’ early in their career, given its emphasis on the development of self-capacity as an essential step.  In doing so, they would realise just what a complex and powerful area couples therapy is and seek training immediately; or maintain safe boundaries by referring on appropriately.    Nic certainly emphasises the importance of engaging an experienced and suitably trained couples therapist if progressing to this level of intervention seems necessary during one’s reading of the book.

I appreciated Nic’s advice to read the first few chapters of the book first since they set the theoretical foundation.    Nic has woven together his personal and professional experience, incorporating neurobiology with developmental stages and attachment theory.  He states early on that relationships are meant to challenge and change us.    Readers may be familiar with the concept of defining intimacy as “into me see”.    Some earlier models of relationship improvement  have perhaps conflated  intimacy with  closeness, suggesting that all will be healed  when our significant other has indicated their acceptance  of our  innermost reveal and given us a sense of validation.  Nic is clear that the work of intimacy requires uncomfortable self-confrontation and risk-taking by revealing one’s unformed edges to one’s partner in the process.  The benefit of such work is that a sense of self is fostered which is capable of tolerating difference and even conflict with a partner which Nic normalises as a healthy part of relationship experience.  It is reassuring that Nic acknowledges that some readers may not be in a safe enough relationship to engage in this work and suggests going straight to chapter 4 for ‘urgent care’ or chapter 19 if safety is critical.     He also introduces the ‘Time Out’ concept, acknowledging that many of us will need a breather as we engage in this challenging work.

A difference with many self-therapy books is that Nic shares examples from his personal life in an incredibly humble and high integrity way.   Nic identifies five stages that form the process of building a successful long term relationship which he is clearly living out: bonding, differentiating, exploration, reconnection, and synergy.   There is never any sense of being preached to, or that Nic has not already ‘walked the talk’.     Another unique difference is that Nic raises usually off-limits topics such as  power differentials in relationships,  including those due to colonisation.  I was impressed with the section on “love and colonialism” including a case study of internalised racism, sexism, and privilege.   Not something I’ve seen often in such literature.

Part Two explains more about the approaches which inform the Developmental Model and Part Three is focussed on practical strategies for self, as well as self and partner.    Nic introduces the concept of ‘relationship fitness’ and the physiological foundation and skills required to optimally respond, rather than react out of amygdala-driven self-protectiveness.    I appreciated the emphasis on bodily self-care, breathing patterns, exercise habits, nutritional choices, and use of alcohol and other substances as these factors inform our neurobiological status and are often  overlooked in self-help literature.      Readers familiar with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy  (DBT) or David Schnarch’s Crucible approach will resonate with this emphasis on taking responsibility for one’s own homeostasis via addressing unhelpful lifestyle habits, and practising skills such as self-soothing.    Part Four looks at common areas of difference in relationships such as boundaries, how time is spent,  financial inequities, sexual expression, and parenting.  The final section contains chapters about major relationship crises such as infidelity,  recognising and acting on abuse, and impact of severe loss.

How do I bring this review to a close?  If ‘Make Love Work’ is Nic’s therapy on a page, I  hope I won’t ever “finish” the therapy  offered by the context of a long term committed relationship since the self-confrontation process is continuous, as is the sharing and shaping process within that relationship.     Unlike many similar texts, ‘Make Love Work’ is refreshingly nuanced to living in Aotearoa at the present time and Nic’s socio-political awareness is evident throughout, including impressive reference lists.    I am obviously not an impartial reviewer and hope I have situated myself adequately so that readers will make up their own minds.  However , I would like to suggest that ‘Make Love Work’ could become  the go-to guide for understanding self and  being  a better partner in an intimate relationship.


Review by Niccy Fraser in “Counselling Today/Nga Korero Awhina” (a monthly publication of the NZ Association of Counsellors)

Nic Beet’s new book “Make Love work: A practical guide to relationship success” is an excellent source of professional development for practitioners, both personally and professionally.

It is written for the public, mainly oriented to hetero sexual couples in  long term, committed relationships. This book is refreshing in our short attention span, quick fix, throw-away-age. An absolute treasure. Nic Beets is an experienced couples therapist, intent on providing  accurate  information and guidance  to enhance couple connection, closeness and good quality sexual relationships. In essence, how  to  maintain and grow respectful, flourishing, couple relationships.

This book is brave and sensible, a revolt against the dominant, unhelpful information about love, relationships and sex we are so regularly exposed to in our culture. Hence the choice of title; Making our relationships work, which requires work, much effort and  risking  being vulnerable. Nic’s voice is clear, warm and  compassionate  with dry humor. His practice ethics  shine steadily through out his writing.

Acknowledging the expense of couples therapy and limited  therapists available in Aotearoa, Nic has provided an accessible, in depth “do it yourself “ guide for couples. I believe he has certainly delivered; providing  foundational theory and up to 60 different  exercises for readers to practice new behaviours.

The beginning chapters  on neurobiology, differentiation and attachment surprised me with  such  detailed explanations  but as the book progresses, everything rests on these frameworks. I imagine for the public, this explanation could be a mix of  empowerment  and over whelm. Once understood and digested, there is potential for better  understanding of  why it takes such effort to change long held, automatic, individual and partnered ways of relating.

Nic draws on various spheres of knowledge; his  own lived experience of being in a long term, committed relationship,  three decades of specialist couples practice with his partner Verity Thom, learnings from  couple  clients, mentors, supervisors, research and above mentioned theoretical frameworks.

Make Love work: A practical guide to relationship success is a challenging book to read as it is so jampacked. For those who dare to complete some of the exercises, you may discover things about yourself that you didn’t know and are not comfortable with. Beware of how much better you may become in your relationships!

If curiosity takes  you  direct to chapter 15: Sex, passion, eroticism and intimacy, start there and then read backwards. If you are time pressed,  do a quick read by selecting relevant chapters  or absorb the illuminating couple case study and information summaries at end of each chapter. If you have time and the head space I  would recommend  a slow close read, than a reread with one’s partner and discussion.

 I  fully appreciated this book, which  has grown me, my own partnership and  my counselling practice. I will be  referring this resource to my counselling clients.

This book is very well written and  strongly researched. I highly recommend Make love work: A guide to relationship success which will benefit  the public, counsellors and therapists.

If you want to buy a signed copy, or to know more, then click HERE


We welcome you to contact us for more information.