Tina B. Tessina, PhD – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You’re Far Apart (Adams Media, June 2008) ISBN # 1-59869-432-4

It speaks directly to the more than 4 million U.S. couples juggling the unique struggles only long-distance marriages face. As society becomes more mobile and as jobs move or involve travel more than ever, couples must create ways to stay connected while physically separated— for days, weeks, months, or years. Even working different shifts or managing long commutes may mean couples living in the same house never see each other during waking hours. Keeping a connection—both physically and mentally—is no easy feat.

Spending time apart is both a blessing and a problem. When you have time apart, it can freshen your relationship and remind you what you love most about your partner. On the other hand, if you begin to resent the separation, and don’t communicate well while you’re apart, your marriage has the potential to quickly unravel.

With a specific program including exercises and case histories designed to help couples, my book helps readers through everyday situations, such as:
• Managing two homes, financially and physically
• Raising kids when one parent is distant
• Holiday and visiting schedules
• Overcoming jealousy and suspicions
• Maintaining a healthy sex life
• Reintegrating when two homes become one again

Whether the decision to commute is voluntary or mandatory, the book will help couples keep their marriages intact and make them stronger.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including:

It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page);

How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page);

The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and

The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.)

My newest books, from Adams Press in 2008 are Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage and The Commuter Marriage. I publish the “Happiness Tips from Tina” e-mail newsletter, the “Dr. Romance Blog” http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/. Online, I’m known as “Dr. Romance” with columns at Divorce360.com, CougarCandyStore.com, and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert. I guest frequently on radio, and such TV shows as Oprah, Larry King Live and ABC news. You can follow me on http://www.twitter.com/tinatessina


What inspired you to write this book?

As society is getting more mobile, I realized that more and more couples were asking me about commuter marriage issues. Eventually, I had worked with enough couples to have enough material for a new book.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

I wrote a proposal, my agent repped it, and Adams Media made me the best offer.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

There may be some standard process other writers follow to get published, but for me it was accidental. Publishing was a very different business in 1980, when my first book was published. Small publishers thrived, and an unknown had a chance.

Boy, was I unknown: In 1975, divorced, bereft, and despairing, I took the psychotherapy training that became the basis for restructuring my life, and met Riley K. Smith, who became a lifelong friend, colleague and co-author. We both joined in a cooperative living situation with seven others. We wanted consensus, not majority vote, so Riley and I developed a way to solve problems cooperatively and reach consensus. This led to teaching a class at Los Angeles Community College, called “How to be a Couple and Still be Free.” Hundreds of people showed up for those classes. We had to get bigger rooms. We needed a workbook, but every relationship book on the market in 1975 recommended sacrifice (compromise), and not cooperation. So, we cobbled together a primitive, typed manual.

Then Riley ran into Al Saunders, whose bookstore he had frequented. “I own Newcastle publishing company,” said Al, “I publish New Age and self-help books.” Riley replied “I’m writing a sort of self-help book,” and our first book was born.

In those pre-computer days, we wrote it on typewriters, and cut and pasted with scissors and tape. It was a mess! The book took five years from beginning to publication in 1980. How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free became Newcastle’s best-selling book.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

Doing PR for the finished book. Writing is the easy part. Promoting is never enough, never finished.

How do you do research for your books?

There’s a synergy between my counseling practice and writing. I never know what clients are going to present to me in a session, so I have to be creative to come up with ideas and exercises to help them solve the problems and deal with the issues and feelings that come up. When I’ve worked with enough clients on the same subject, a book begins to take shape in my head.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

I always learn from writing my books. In this one, I realized as I wrote that there are certain dynamics common to most commuter relationships, and fairly simple ways to solve the problems.

What are you reading now?

The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I like fantasy fiction for an escape from all the heavy reality I deal with in counseling. My favorite fantasy author is Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife. I don’t like violence or negativity. I like books where the characters learn and grow.

I also read books about new research and ideas in psychology, because it informs my therapy practice and writing.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m working on a proposal, but it’s top secret.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Keep writing, keep learning, keep up, take advantage of every opportunity. Publishing is changing quickly.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

Everything I can. I’m blogging, doing guest blogs, radio shows, and writing articles all over the Internet.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

At http://www.tinatessina.com, readers can ask me questions, browse my books, and read articles — all for free.

At the “Dr. Romance Blog”, they can read my answers to people’s relationship questions, and comment.

On Twitter http://www.twitter.com/tinatessina and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/tinatessina , my pages are updated daily. There’s also a Dr. Romance Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/?sk=messages#!/pages/Dr-Romance-Create-the-Relationship-You-Want/281407028545?ref=ts