How to Love Someone Without Losing Your Mind

Forget the Fairy Tale and Get Real

About the Book

A sanity-saving guide that cuts through the sky-high expectations of modern love and helps you build healthier and more fulfilling relationships, from the creator of viral Instagram account YourDiagnonsense

“Witty, practical, fun, and deeply honest.”—Terrence Real, New York Times bestselling author of Us

You’re not crazy. You’re human.

Modern love is a mess and life is (spoiler alert!) very hard. Whether you’re in a committed relationship or on the apps, buckle up, there’s a lot to unlearn.

How to Love Someone Without Losing Your Mind is your guide to sanity in a culture gone mad. Psychotherapist and sex therapist Todd Baratz blends sharp humor with raw insight as he challenges us to break every rule about love. It’s time to move beyond the relentless pursuit of the perfect partner, to challenge the stigma against neediness, and to rethink our obsession with diagnosing common challenges as disorders.

Instead, he offers an empowering new perspective: Embrace challenges, feel deeply, make mistakes, learn, and grow. Drawing from his extensive experience as both a therapist and a patient, Baratz shares stories of navigating his personal traumas and guiding others through theirs.

This book is an invitation to understand your life as part of a larger cultural narrative. It encourages you to delve into your history, cultivate self-awareness, and take responsibility in your relationships. By doing so, you can move beyond the fairy tale and transform your approach to love.
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Praise for How to Love Someone Without Losing Your Mind

“Todd Baratz will help you love and live sanely. This smart, surprising, and compassionate book is for anyone who ever fell for someone, felt hurt, wondered why, and longed for a better way.”—Wednesday Martin, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Primates of Park Avenue

“Witty, practical, fun, and deeply honest . . . Baratz’s insights liberate us from the ubiquitous nonsense about relationships that only make us feel worse about ourselves. You might just walk away with a changed life.”—Terrence Real, New York Times bestselling author of Us

“Embark on a journey of self-discovery with Baratz’s insightful exploration of love. In this accessible book, he skillfully demystifies the intricacies of fostering a relationship with oneself while navigating the challenges of being in love. It is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of relationships and personal well-being.”—Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW, therapist, New York Times bestselling author of Drama Free

“As a psychotherapist, Todd Baratz distinguishes himself as a triple threat: keenly observant, deeply empathic, and remarkably wise. His debut book is all that and more: personal, authentic, and laugh-out-loud funny—an essential read, regardless of your gender or orientation, whether you’re in a relationship or looking for one.”—Ian Kerner, PhD, LMFT, New York Times bestselling author of She Comes First

“The anti-self-help book you didn’t know you needed . . . It brings a refreshing twist to the genre that’s both engaging and genuinely funny. Whether you’re single, tangled in the ‘it’s complicated’ web, or simply mulling over your love life, this is the reality check you’ve been waiting for.”—Jeff Guenther, LPC, creator of TherapyJeff

“If you are looking for a roadmap to aid in navigating the complexities of love today and cultivating clarity, understanding, and connection in your relationship to yourself and others, this book is for you.”—Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD, faculty at Northwestern University, bestselling author of Love Every Day, and host of the podcast, Reimagining Love

“Todd Baratz writes the truth about relationship dynamics that we all need to hear. Finally a therapist who tells it like it is and cuts through all the pop psychology dogma that’s permeating the internet. This is a must read for everyone.”—Jillian Turecki

“With wisdom, empathy and humor, Todd Baratz will help you uplevel your relationships, by first understanding the relationship with yourself. If you're ready to ditch the patterns that no longer serve you so you can have the sex life and relationships you desire, How to Love Someone Without Losing Your Mind is the book you've been waiting for.”—Emily Morse, host of the Sex with Emily podcast, doctor of human sexuality and author of Smart Sex: How to Boost Your Sex IQ and Own Your Pleasure
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Excerpt

How to Love Someone Without Losing Your Mind

1

Emotional Ghosts


Until we uncover the actual triggering event in our family history, we can relive fears and feelings that don’t belong to us—­unconscious fragments of a trauma—­and we will think they’re ours. —Mark Wolynn, It Didn’t Start with You


For over a decade, I’ve been working with individuals and couples, assisting them in exploring the narratives they create about love and life. Every challenge presented can be traced back to a sense of loss and an accompanying deep longing for love and acceptance.

Our experiences, including our emotions, desires, and challenges, are often felt as unique and isolated, seemingly disconnected from anything beyond ourselves, but we are not the starting point; instead, our lives are chapters within an older story that predates us. Therefore, a crucial aspect of the therapeutic process involves establishing a connection to this intergenerational narrative.

After a session with a client, it struck me that I possessed a greater understanding of my clients’ parents’ personal histories than I did about my own parents. This prompted me to have the same kind of in-­depth conversations with my parents. If the option is available, I encourage you to conduct a similar interview with your parents. Read on for my mother’s story, and in reading her interview, take note of the conversational style. At the end of this section, I share a number of questions to help you initiate your own interview with your parents.


Inherited Pain: My Parents’ Story


“I just wanted to be loved.”

That’s what my mom said when I asked her why she chose to marry my father. She didn’t say, “He fulfilled my needs” or “He validated my emotions.” No mention of red flags or toxic behaviors (even though there were plenty). No discussion about similarities, differences, chemistry, soulmates, or theirs being the “right” match. None of the ways in which my clients and I talk about relationships. She just wanted love.

But what does love even mean? Of course, being a therapist, I wanted to know more. I continued. “What did love mean to you, Mom? What were you looking for in a partner before you met Dad?”

“Back then, love meant being admired,” she said. “I wanted a guy who had a strong sense of family values, someone to take care of me and keep me safe.”

No top-­ten lists, no love languages, no attachment styles, criteria, or analysis required. Only admiration, family values, commitment, and caretaking.

“Is this what you learned from Nana?” I wanted to learn more about the context that informed my mother’s ideas about love.

“I got married at twenty-­two, and even then, my mother thought I was gay. They wanted you to marry at eighteen, twenty. And if you didn’t, you were either gay, stupid, or ugly. I also wanted to escape my family, so this was the only way out I saw. I was taught that love meant finding someone who would marry you and have kids.”

“Escape your family? What were you escaping?” I asked. I knew the basics of the story, but it felt like maybe she’d been holding back.

“Your father took me away from that home. From my stepfather. He would throw his food against the wall. It wasn’t pleasant.”

“So, he was abusive and violent?”

“You could say that. Yeah, he was abusive. Always angry. I hated when he would come home. I was scared of him. And then my mother would sit me down and tell me things she shouldn’t have, because she had no one else to talk to. She would tell me about his flings. And she thought telling me would teach me a lesson about love and what to avoid.”

I began to tear up. I’d known her stepfather was cold, but I hadn’t known he was abusive. My father had also been abusive, and I was scared of him. My mother would often cry to me, telling me things she shouldn’t have.

After the interview, I cried. I cried for her. I cried for myself. I cried for my clients. And I cried for you.

Your parents’ stories are your stories. And if you’re looking to build self-­awareness, you may not get far without knowing more about the people who raised you. What’s often so challenging is that most families don’t talk about these things. They may even take it one step further and deny a history of trauma, or focus only on overly positive or idealistic memories. This brand of denial is common among trauma survivors. They use denial to protect themselves and their children from the horrors they were subjected to. Uncovering your family’s hidden narratives is vital, as you might be unknowingly re-­enacting them in your own life.

Before it’s too late, make sure to take the time to ask the people who raised you about their life story. And if you have children, make sure you share yours with them. Not only is it a bonding experience, but I would even go as far to say that it’s necessary in order to heal your childhood wounds. It’s often too simple to objectify and evaluate our parents based on our experience of being parented by them. However, it’s essential to humanize and recognize them as complete individuals with stories of their own, much like ours. Knowing more about my mother’s life gave me a powerful new perspective. I now understand why she did what she did. I understand how I inherited not just her brown eyes and thick hair but also her trauma. My father’s story was just as full of upsetting patterns. When I interviewed him, he was much older and had developed early onset dementia. It was unclear which of his stories I could actually believe, but when I asked my mom, she confirmed that all were true.

My father’s parents were born in the late 1890s, in a small town in Russian-­controlled Ukraine before they fled and immigrated to the United States. (They were lucky to escape; many of their relatives were killed.) In the States, they struggled to make ends meet. They lived in South Boston and, after my father was born, Chelsea, Massachusetts. Both places were anti-­Semitic, and my father was often targeted by neighborhood children; others drew swastikas on their front porch, or left broken glass in their driveway. My grandfather died when my father was eleven, and my grandmother tried to commit suicide right after. Tasked with taking care of his mother in her grief, my father was never able to fully express or experience his own. Abandonment doesn’t begin to describe his experience of being a child. Once recovered, his mother had to work 24/7, but without childcare, she would leave him alone at the local movie theater for hours. He was just a kid. I was also often left alone as a child. And I was my mother’s emotional caretaker.

Unfortunately, neither of my parents was able to recover from their childhood, and in adulthood, they would each unknowingly re-­enact their unresolved issues. They grew up in a time when emotions, trauma, and violence weren’t acknowledged. They weren’t given the opportunity to heal, they didn’t have anyone to talk to, and memes satirizing mental health certainly didn’t yet exist.

In my family tree, after losing so many relatives due to war and the Holocaust, independence was discouraged to maintain the unity of the family structure; survival was the priority, not relational satisfaction or overall mental well-­being. Further, being alone was associated with death, and as a result, everyone stayed in relationships despite them being abusive. I had interviewed my parents around the time I was contemplating the end of my relationship with Alex. I was ambivalent, paralyzed with fear in the face of ending a relationship with someone I dearly loved and being alone. Without knowing it, I was working through the intergenerational story that my father, mother, her mother, and prior generations had never been able to. 

When you’re preparing to interview your parents, it’s crucial not only to arm yourself with productive questions (see the sample questions that follow) but also to approach the conversation with sensitivity and without judgment.

Often, the depth and vulnerability of some questions might lead us into unfamiliar territory, making the process uncomfortable. I’ve heard this sentiment from my clients; many of them express feelings of anxiety and confusion over initiating such conversations with family members. 

But there’s meaning in such discomfort. That unease often points toward a relationship dynamic built around avoidance and denial. One of the most profound acts we can do in our quest for personal growth is to disrupt these intergenerational patterns of silence.

So, how do you kick off these chats? Just start. The words you use to break the ice are yours. Maybe they’ll be: “I recently came across this amazing book (lol) that prompted me to explore family histories.” Or perhaps they’ll be: “I found myself reminiscing about Nana the other day, and I realized I know so little about our family lineage and Nana’s journey to America. Would you share their story with me?” Whether it’s a crafted narrative or an organic inquiry, the key is to set the ball rolling.

About the Author

Todd Baratz, LMHC
Todd Baratz is a renowned psychotherapist and sex therapist whose innovative approach to mental health and relationships has established him as a leading figure in his field. In addition to his clinical practice, Baratz is a prolific writer and speaker. His insights are regularly featured in various media outlets, where he discusses topics ranging from romantic relationships to individual mental wellness. He lives in New York City and Los Angeles. More by Todd Baratz, LMHC
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