Love Her or Lose Her is a contemporary romance between a married couple on the verge of divorce. Dominic and Rosie started dating in middle school and are now married adults. They have no kids or pets. Dominic finished a military deployment overseas and is working in construction. Rosie works at a department store and dreams of opening her own restaurant. Frustrated by Dominic’s failure to communicate anything to her other than lust (every Tuesday night), Rosie moves out, but Dominic will do anything to win her back, even attend marriage counseling with a hippie therapist.
This book succeeds because of the warmth and empathy it extends to its characters. Armie, the therapist, is both funny and perceptive. Dominic is a type of character I don’t often read about in a romantic context, one who struggles with toxic masculinity but also has positive traits and wants to do right by his wife. He was raised by a quiet man who demonstrated that the way to show love for one’s family is to provide, so Dominic focuses on providing at the cost of communicating with Rosie or spending meaningful time with her. In the military, Dominic’s view of the world expanded, but he also learned not to complain or demonstrate weakness and he extends this to not showing vulnerability to his wife. Meanwhile Rosie’s frustration at feeling ignored and trapped is palpable.
The book relies a lot on the concept of “love languages,” the idea that people express and receive love in different ways. As Armin explains:
“Each of us has a preferred way of expressing love. And having love expressed to us. Dominic expresses love through deeds. But you need to receive love through words.”
“So…that’s it?” Dominic asked. “Ten minutes and we already have a solution?”
“You would love that, wouldn’t you?” Armie laughed, eyes twinkling.
“No. You have an answer. The solution requires a lot more work. And practice.”
I admired this book because it made me empathize with two people with whom I don’t have much in common, and it made me respect their relationship even though I would not want to be in a relationship with the dynamics that theirs has (when it’s working). I liked it that the characters are blue collar as opposed to billionaires or dukes. I liked the roles that ethnicity, family history and social class played in the story. I LOVED the friendship dynamics between Rosie and her friends and Dominic and his friends. The dialogue in the book sparkles, and I’m always happy to see therapy portrayed in a positive way.
However, I would have been much happier with this book had Rosie and Dominic indicated that they would be continuing some form of therapy going forward past the end of the book. They leave an awful lot of questions unanswered. They indicate that they want children – what’s their timeline? How does that fit into Rosie running a restaurant, which is a much more than 40 hour per week job? Dominic learns that he has to “share” Rosie, which is great, but his possessiveness of her in the first place is a huge scary red flag that I never felt was adequately addressed. Dominic and Rosie never do talk about his deployment in any detail and that worries me as well. I figure in five to ten years they will start having kids, and with the first pregnancy their relationship will be in turmoil again.
This book made me want to root for Rosie and Dominic, but I see trouble ahead for them. Too many elephants are left in the room – Dominic’s deployment experience and low self-esteem, his possessiveness, Rosie’s desire for a new life and new experiences, the fact that neither of them has ever dated anyone else, the realities of running a restaurant in terms of hours – I don’t think this couple’s problems are over. I’m rooting for them, but not sold on their HEA. Fingers crossed for these two and I hope they don’t lose the therapist’s number.