Fairy Tales

Fairy tales and kid’s stories help children learn the difference between fact and fantasy.  Still, as much as children adore the fable of Santa Claus, they let go – some earlier than others.

But there’s one fantasy that seems to persist into adulthood: The idea of “A Knight in Shining Armor.”
Dresden-Zwinger-Armoury-Armor_02  This fantasy perpetuates the feeling in women that we need/want to be taken care of. That feeling wreaks havoc with our growing sense of self-worth and our need to be independent. Many of us conduct wars within ourselves on a daily, if not moment-by-moment, basis.

And then there’s how we, as women, view our men. And the kind of men we have relationships with, or marry. According to many women, our men are either wusses or control freaks. They push us around (not physically, I hope) or we resent that they let us push them around.

It was somewhere around the time that I truly recognized this external battle (between men and women, and about what women want and expect of the men in their lives) and internal battle (within myself, wanting to be cared for and simultaneously independent) that I stopped blaming my husband Nate and started looking at him, observing him.

 “Drool Cool”

Nate definitely isn’t  the vibrant, vital, virile man from the Dos XX (beer) ad. That guy is so cool, he’s “drool cool.”

Well, actually, if we dressed Nathan and coiffed him “perfectly,” he COULD look  like the Dos XX man in a picture – but not in a video. Though he can sometimes look cool, he rarely ACTS it.  Instead, he either acts gruff, loving, disinterested,  caring, thoughtless, thoughtful… A lot of things – a bunch of them very lovable – but not one of them necessarily “cool.”

Hey, what am I asking of my man? After all, even the Dos XX man gets body odor, and farts. A fart (the louder the better) is the true evidence of a happy, self-satisfied living man – definitely not one of the fantasy qualities of a knight in shining armor.

 John Gray

 In real life, most men DO try their darnedest to make their women happy.

 Yes, I believe that.

 It’s true, men are awkward, misinformed, and clumsy.

 And we women are sometimes picky and mean in our demands. We want men’s armor polished to a high shine. We want them perfect.

 It’s not just that men are not perfect (neither are we, ladies), it’s that men are men – an entirely different species. (Well, not really… But it can seem like they are.)

 Men are Martians; not knights. That’s why John Gray, PhD,  wrote “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”

 Mimi Donaldson
mimi_d  Another person I learned about these differences from is Mimi Donaldson 

I heard Mimi speak  a couple of times, more than 15 years ago. She had a different last name then. She’s the first speaker that I ever bought an”information product” from – tapes (yes, cassette tapes) of her speeches, which she was selling from the back of the presentation room.

 Mimi talks about how men and women behave differently in the workplace. When I heard her speak, the truer her words were, the funnier she was, and she was hilarious. She took stuff I knew and reorganized it into new information. Her information is more than hilarious, it’s very helpful. Hire her as a speaker, buy her information products, listen to her speak… get her information any way that you can.

 Defending the Caveman

 One other person that’s had a great impact on my understanding and being able to talk about the differences between men and women is Rob Becker in his comedy show “Defending the Caveman” (He’s appearing in Las Vegas right now.)

Rob’s show had Nathan and I rolling on the floor – partially from embarrassment, because we saw ourselves in his stories.

Although I suspect that Rob considers himself an actor and not a comedian, he gave me the idea to pay attention to comedians as a source of information about relationships. I don’t agree with everything comics say, of course, and I probably wouldn’t repeat a great deal that most comedians say on the subject, but many times they get it right on. Watching comedians is definitely a fun way to do research on relationships.

 Merle at the Improv

In fact, if you haven’t already done so, check out my own attempt at stand-up comedy at the Hollywood Improv. You can find it in the comedy section on YouTube, titled  Merle at the Improv   I highly recommend it. I’m funny – mostly.


 It took me a while, but I learned that Nate has never been stupid or mean, as I was absolutely sure he must be. (Well, I still have to check that out from time to time…) He’s always just been male.

 And we are living happily ever after, but definitely not perfectly.  Ahhh….

 How do you handle the male/female differences in YOUR relationship? Let me know your thoughts.

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Yes-Yes, In an Established Relationship, Testing is a No-No.

It was Wednesday. Nate asked me where I was going? I didn’t want to tell him. Ever get like “Do I have to account for every second of my life just cause I’m married.” Well, actually it wasn’t like that. I don’t get those feelings anymore-but I used to.

I didn’t want to tell him because I was going to the hairdresser and I wanted to see if he would notice when I got home. If I tell him of course he will be alerted. He asked so directly that I couldn’t obfuscate or change the subject, so I told him. He took it in. In fact, he said something to the effect that “I’ll be sure to notice your hair when you get home.”

I went to Loehmann’s afterwards to extend the time to see if he would still remember. Well, I also wanted a couple of tops. I haven’t bought any clothes this year. That can start to wear on a lady’s psyche after a while.

(Caption:Yellow is not good next to my sallow complexion, but I fell in love with the color and pattern.)

Even so, when I got home, he remembered to oooh and ahhh. Note, I said remembered, because I know he remembered; I not sure that he noticed. Let’s face it, when I’m in the middle of a style, a trip to the hairdresser freshens it up, it doesn’t make an extreme difference. Even my friends don’t notice; they just complement me on how great I look in general. I can see they haven’t figured out why. Hey, I’m not complaining.

So, here’s the imperfect spouse part. It was me—-this time. What was I doing testing him—he wouldn’t notice my hair if I didn’t tell where I’m going? What kind of stupid stuff is that, even if I wasn’t really serious about it?  I really don’t get angry when he doesn’t notice, and if it’s important to me that he make me feel good about how I look, I say to him, “Nathan notice that my hair is done and tell me how wonderful it looks. And he does; that works so great. I think sometimes I act classically female by default and it’s nothing to brag about. It’s not fair to set traps. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to set a trap that a caring, loving, but not that tuned in to our wavelength man will fall into. But every trap we set, injures the man we trap. Is that really what we want? No; shame on me.

I spend half my time thinking about was yoyos men are and the rest thinking about what insecure meanies (true I was thinking of the plural of a 5 letter word, but this works) we are.
When I was younger, I honestly thought that men and women were exactly the same except for men’s extra appendage — which gave them a leg up on us women (I simply could not resist the humor. — Yes, that’s humor. If men and women are alike, then men truly are flunking out. And that makes woman flunking out, too. But we are not alike, although we do share an amazing amount of thoughts and values. Nathan said that what he admired about me when we met, was my values; I didn’t even know they were showing.
Anyway, men and women are different. Next blog, I’ll talk about who I learned that from. There are about 3 people that got the differences through my thick skull. Stay tuned.

Let me know your thoughts.  And stay tuned for contest next month.

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I Improved My Marriage Quality of Life

Since when did you become Queen of the House? he asked..

Oooooo! He was cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

Since I was born, I said as I brushed up against him provocatively and gently delivered the lightest kiss. Our quality of life has definitely improved since I made the choice to not get angry at things that would have pushed my buttons in the past.

Wow. Things have changed. It all started this way. I was doing some work on the back porch. Nate came out to say that he was going to buy some wire and did I want anything. I said “no thanks.” I added, “It’s getting hot out here; I think I’ll go inside.”

What I see working--laptop and all--in my back yard.

What I see working--laptop and all--in my back yard.

He told me that it was getting warm inside as well, and that I will have to put on the air conditioner. I said. “Put it on? I didn’t turn it off. I always say turn it up, not off.” (Implying that he shouldn’t have turned it off and that it was his fault for it getting too warm in the house and that he should take care of it, since obviously he was the one who messed with it.)

Previously, he would have gotten defensive—kind of contracting. By now, he’s learned to be a bit humorously snotty—kind of expanding.

And that’s when he said “Since when did you become Queen of the House?” It was cute. He wanted to be cute, disfuse things without apologizing for his behavior/being himself.

It worked. We women don’t want to beat you men down; we just want to yell at you periodically when you’re not perfect—by whose definition you ask? By ours, duhhhhh.

He left on his errands. I moved my stuff inside and went upstairs to fix the thermostat. Guess what, last night he did it correctly; he hadn’t turned off the air conditioner.
What do you do when start to get annoyed or angry?
Let me know—on the blog, on Facebook or Twitter. Say something, please. I’m interested in your comments, questions, thoughts, reactions, feelings—what have I missed? Let me know.
Meanwhile, have a great weekend.
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An Enduring Loving Relationship. It Can Be Done.

It was 6 of us. We met at Campanile Restaurant. Two couples took out the 3rd couple as a wedding present. By now they have been married 8 months. A really good match of good people. They both were married before. She had a bad experience before. He is sweet and gentle, and we all are so happy that good people have gotten together.

But that’s not the big news. The big news that the two other couples have been married almost 40 years and 42 years. You may think dottering; but we’re hot ladies and aren’t stepford wives.

Folks, it can be done. People are doing it as we speak—learning to live in a relationship, a warm, loving relationship with room for arguments and mistakes.
It can be done.

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Monday was a busy, if not hectic, day, It was 3:15pm before we got around to helping each other make the bed. Our conversation follows:

I said “Forty-one dang years to get where we are.”

Nate said “Yeh, well I like where I am.  You know how you always embarrass me when you say what good a person I am. Well, YOU are a TREASURE.”

That says everything.

I had to include a picture of us imperfect spouses with such a sweet statement.

Infidelity in our Politicians is a Lesson for Us All

Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina went to Argentina to cheat on his wife.  
When spouses cheat on their spouses, it’s often about something that the spouses haven’t worked out in their relationship. It can have a lot to do with feelings and needs that they are afraid to express to their partners, and, therefore, don’t get met. 
They are afraid of rejection or disappointment or other negative responses. It’s easier to stuff those feelings and find someone new that can admire you.  And certainly, many people in politics, like Mark Sanford, have a need to be admired.
It’s about levels of intimacy
It’s about levels of intimacy and scary feelings of vulnerability.  Many of us use our directory of friends to separate and spread our personal information.  We talk to one about sports, one about feelings, one about work, and that’s healthy within limits.  But just like having a gatekeeper physician that is the hub of your medical information, when a spouse is a hub of our total gamut of feelings and thoughts, it makes for a powerful relationship. It keeps us honest rather than spreading half truths or out-of-context facts amongst our friends and deluding ourselves about our current issue.
‘Stranger on the subway’ syndrome
However, rather than risk sharing so much with one person, it’s easier to start (have an affair) with someone new. It’s the ‘stranger on the subway’ syndrome. When you have feelings festering inside, it’s easier to share it with a stranger ‘on the subway’ than risk disappointing or angering the one you love. Haven’t you even hesitated to mention something to your spouse that you easily talk about to your friend. 
It takes so much courage to reveal yet another imperfection to someone we love and is in a position to ‘judge’ us. 
“United we stand; divided we fall” theory backwards
Subconsciously, we are acting on the “United we stand; divided we fall” theory and using it backward.  If no one has all the information about us – our strengths and frailties – they will have no ultimate power over us. And that’s true, but you risk the value of coordinated medical treatment without a functioning gatekeeper physician. Also, you risk the value of  nurturing the spiritual and emotional depth of a complete relationship without an intimate partner that you’ve bared your soul (not just your body) to. Nothing risked; nothing gained; therefore everything lost—including the respect of your children who need you more than you realize and everyone else in your world.
An affair is the easy way out–out of the life that you value. Don’t take the easy way out; take the difficult route in–into deeper trust and love than you’ve ever known.
Or maybe you have a different idea.  I invite your ideas. And don’t forget to follow me on























































A New Pet in an Established Relationship–Yes or No?

My cousin, Alfred, is married (second) to a wonderful woman, Meg—beautiful, charming, and full of integrity and heart. They live together in a lovely house that she has impeccably, yet comfortably decorated.  During the holiday, her son and grandchildren gifted her a cat – from the pound, hours away from being euthanized. (Notice how I build in the drama.)
Alfred is grousing; Meg desperately wants the cat. She asked me, could she keep the cat? Well, it’s sure okay with me, but I’m not exactly the one she should ask.  Or should she ask anyone?  It’s true that decisions affecting both people should be discussed with both people. But it is also true many men (and, I’m sure, some women) never want anything to change. It’s too much work for them to adjust to something different in their life.  But life is filled with change. Maybe it’s a good idea to practice adjusting to change, especially small ones, and good ones. 
My husband groused at every pet we ever got and he became the most attached to each one.
I finally realized that his grousing was obligatory—as if that’s how men were supposed to act.  I stopped focusing on his claims of discontent and started noticing his enjoyable interaction with our 2 cats.

My cousin, Meg, is so smart and capable and strong, that seeing her insecure and defensive was surprising.  What I noticed is that Meg really has her own misgivings about having a pet.  Her house is beautiful.  Her home location is not conducive to having an outdoor cat.  Where will she put the litter box?  Will it scratch her furniture?  These are her questions, but she can’t air them with her husband because he will use those uncertainties against her. 
My charming husband suggested to Alfred that he throw the cat out the window. This is how guys talk to each other. Unbelievable. They are one step away from cave men – okay, you’re right, half a step.  Well, this isn’t a story about my hubby; I know his bark is worse than his bite.  The telling part of the story is my cousin’s answer.  He said, “I can’t do that. There’s someone else involved, and she would throw me out the window. That tells me that he knows how important this is to her.  He’s just wired so he can’t go down without having a fight.

Meg doesn’t understand how much power she has in her relationship, and Alfred doesn’t realize his power either.   She sees his complaining as the power to take her cat away. He sees his complaining as his desperate, last, overtime attempt at a touchdown—could win, but probably won’t.
The truth is that pets are a pain in the neck. They are an interruption. They wake you at 4am. They miss the litter box. They scratch something. They also love you, make you laugh, keep you company, make you laugh, give you responsibility, but not too much, and of course, make you laugh.
Also, I still think it’s good to practice adjusting to changes in your life. It’s like emotional calisthenics.

Suggestion #1: Don’t buy pets and art for someone else.
Suggestion #2: Don’t prejudge what should happen.  Give each of you time and space to figure out how you feel. 

In Meg and Alfred’s case, Meg decided she didn’t want the cat in her house even though she loved the cat.  It didn’t fit into her lifestyle.  She just didn’t want to hurt her grandkid’s feelings.  Meg was smart enough to give herself time to think it through. When she subtracted out the emotion, she and her hubby were in agreement. They simply have spent too much time and energy in making their nest their masterpiece to welcome another being into it for longer than the length of a successful party.

Does that make sense to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

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Split Second Timing to Relationship Success

 Did you ever notice that there is a split second before you respond to request or question —- from anyone, but I’m talking about being an imperfect spouse.

This is when I notice this split second:
1. When Nathan comes into my office and I’m deep in something — writing mostly.
2. When he comes into my office while I’m on the phone and sits down to wait to get my attention  interrupting my privacy— though there’s really nothing “private”.
3. Or he justs asks a question or makes a simple request.

There’s that moment when I decide whether to be annoyed or not. That sounds so rediculous and mean, but it’s true.  Earlier on in our marriage, I most often decided to be annoyed.  It’s so easy to be annoyed; men usually haven’t mastered the nuances of social behavior. At that time, I thought it was just my husband.  Since then, I have learned that that’s how men are. We women are so good at nuanced communication, that it is easy to be superior and smug.

Me being nasty, who would believe it today?  And really I’ve never been down right nasty–moe or less.  I’ve been angry to/at someone else. Somewhere I got the idea that my partner was supposed to weather all my moods–especially the bad ones.

Being nasty or incredibly ill-tempered, at least reminds of a story. It was in the time or our relationship that in any difference of opinion with Nathan, I knew I was always right. The story is very funny — now, but it wasn’t at the time.  We were driving from the east coast to the west coast. We were as far as Utah.  I was being grouchy and Nathan said, “You’re just hungry.”  I went ballistic.  I ranted about it was he was grouchy when hungry, not me and on and on blah blah blah. Oh my, how self-righteous I could be.  Well, Nathan didn’t answer me.  He was silent, but he was on a mission to find the closest open restaurant.  He found a diner.  We said little as we were seated, but there was this tension that was palpable.

Just picture the lions in the zoo, right before feeding time —pacing, circling, glaring.

Then we were served. I ate, and boom, bingo. The difference in my mood was so extreme that even I couldn’t miss it.  I was exactly like the lions after they devoured their meal—quiet, content, peaceful.

I guess I had to get used to him being right once in a while–only begrudgingly at first.  But now, I’ve settled in and I’m no longer surprised at how often he is right, but I am grateful, cause he still the stubbornest man I know — except for our sons (no surprise).

So back to the present.  I still feel this split second before I respond.  Now I’m a bit smarter.  Most of the time, I use that second to bring my niceness to the fore — I mean my respect for him, my love for him in my tone and attitude. My words are regular words, but my regard for him is clear. Honestly, it’s not always easy, but it’s definitely getting easier.

What’s amazing is the response from him. It took a while for it to surface as if he wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke. Nothing said, but the gentleness, the sweetness, the gratefulness, and happiness that he exhibits is impressive and it’s directed to me–and everyone in his life.  It has freed a courage in him. 

Dang, If I had known sooner that being right is not the goal.  It is about honoring myself, not defending myself and honoring him, not ‘teaching’  or ‘dissing’ (disrepecting) him.

Does that make sense to you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

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Laugh your way to a Great Relationship

We had just finished dinner.  We were cleaning up.  Nathan was cutting the individual chocolate, chocolate chip, chocolate-icing bundt cakes in quarters for his whenever-he-feels-like-it snacks. They come in a clear, plastic, lidded container for 4.  It looked so nice and neat in the container that I said “You could leave in the the plastic container instead of putting it in the plastic bag where the remainder of his left overs lay lifeless and chocolate-smeared.” Even frozen in the freezer the bag gets pretty smeary. 

Here is Nathan’s response.  “Yes, they think they can marry you and then change you.” 

I burst out laughing.  Like I could change anything about that man. He is so much stronger-willed than I.  Without any effort at all, he is single mindedly who and what he wants to be at all times.  After forty-one years of marriage and mostly a great relationship, I speak with authority.  I certainly have done my best to “fix” him, not that he wasn’t a wonderful man already. But who’s the man that couldn’t benefit from just a little bit of tweaking. 

It was somewhere around year 20-25 that I just gave up.  I had tried everything, yelling, screaming, crying, ignoring, pleading, sneering.  All I got was frustration.

Giving up was really my salvation.  I started ignoring what I didn’t like and emphasizing — and praising — was I did like. And Voila’, we were both happier — and happier with each other. 

So by now, when he gives me the “She wants to change me” routine, I always laugh. Cause it really is a big joke.  But I also notice that this must be something that is important to him.  It doesn’t make sense that it is, but it doesn’t have to make sense to me as long as it does to him.  So I luagh at the joke and move on. I don’t eat those things anyway.

Does that mirror your experience or do you have a different experience? Let me know your secret to a great relationship.

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I have to defend myself. Do I?

 I was advising a woman about the difficulties that she was having in her relationship, and she said that she gets into an argument with he boyfriend and then ‘she has to defend herself.’

Hey, I have an idea. Don’t defend yourself.  Really.  If he says that your are being emotional.

Say, “Yes, I’m being emotional.  That doesn’t change the fact that ………” 

There is no reason to defend yourself. Why feel guilty about being yourself? Just work at being your best self. 

When I stopped defending myself; our arguments really got to be less and less. Nathan would say I was very concerned about how we looked when we went out.  I finally got smart and said, “Yes, you are right.”  That’s the end of the argument.  He either honored that part of me or he didn’t– sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t.

The other side of that is he says, “Well, I don’t think about about how I look sometimes.”  He didn’t defend himself. So I either honor that that is the way he is or I don’t __ sometimes I do  and sometimes I don’t.

It’s not a perfect world, but the tension about our being perfect and honoring the other’s wishes perfectly is gone. We are who we are.  We do our best and laugh about the rest.


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