Hear more about Sbarra's book in this brief animated video.
University of Arizona psychologist David Sbarra has spent most of his career studying love and relationships. He shares some of his insights in a new e-book, titled "Love, Loss and the Space Between: The Relationship Expert Essays."
A collection of 37 essays that cull from scientific research and Sbarra's personal experiences, the book explores not only romantic partnerships but also other close relationships, including friendships, work relationships and even people's relationship with technology.
"Our interactions and thoughts about the people in our lives — from our parents and siblings to our acquaintances and friends, and all the way to our most intimate romantic partners — are the stage on which almost all human dramas unfold," Sbarra, a clinical psychologist and UA psychology professor, writes in the book's preface.
"In the end, my goal for this e-book is simple: I want to make a noticeable difference in your relationships."
The essays in the book are written for a general audience and were first published online between 2011 and 2014 on the health and wellness website YouBeauty.com, which approached Sbarra to contribute columns as the site's relationships expert.
In an effort to revive the content and prevent it from "rotting on an electronic vine," Sbarra decided to self-publish an e-book, now available on Amazon for $3.20. He says he settled on that price after paying the same amount for a cup of coffee and thinking it was too much for coffee, but just right for his book.
The book is divided into two parts: "Everyday Relationships" and "Your Love Life Under the Microscope."
In his essays, Sbarra tackles a variety of relatable topics, including sex, divorce, the benefits of forgiveness, how to deal with needy friends, the challenges of interacting with "energy vampires," the pros and cons of online grieving, what to do about workplace bullies, why it is sometimes hard to appreciate a romantic partner, and when and why to end a relationship.
"It's really designed for anyone that's interested in thinking about their relationships — men and women alike," Sbarra said. "I think people from their early 20s to their 70s will find something of interest."
A major underlying theme of the book: Relationships take work.
"It looks at how to talk about things in a way that moves conversations forward, and how to talk about things that are hard," Sbarra said.
All of Sbarra's essays reference research — either his own or that of his colleagues in the field — written about in a way that's geared toward the general public.
"There's great science out there that I think is applicable to people's lives, so why not try to make it as accessible as possible?" he said.
Many of the essays also include real-life and personal examples. In the piece "Let Go of Your Grudges," for example, Sbarra reflects on his own serious grudge against a college friend and how he overcame it years later.
Sbarra has worked at the UA since 2004 and also maintains a clinical practice in Tucson. In addition to his appointment as professor in the Department of Psychology, he also serves as the department's director of clinical training and director of the Laboratory for Social Connectedness and Health and as an associate professor in the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute and in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.
His research at the UA focuses on how people's psychological and physical health is tied to their close relationships, as well as the consequences of ending relationships and how people cope with breakups and divorce.