The Beauty and the Beast

You’ve seen Disney’s version of the Beauty and the Beast. If you’ve had a toddler, you’ve seen it a thousand times. Did you know that you may be acting it out in your own life? Do you realize it might be ruining everything?

You know the story: a charming young woman falls in love with a beastly man and, through her love, he is transformed into a prince. The ancient Greeks had elements of the plot in their myths of Eros and Psyche and Hades and Persephone. In fairy tales, you have ladies kissing frogs. Then there’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and, in our own time, a variation was developed in the Phantom of the Opera. The hope it offers is intoxicating. The picture of marriage seems true to life. Continue reading

The Madonna and the Whore

For centuries, men have been putting women, and women have been putting themselves, into two categories, the Madonnas and the Whores. Consequently, they either get sex without love, or love without sex.

The Madonna is serious, pure, virginal, loving, forgiving, safe, and supportive. She washes the man’s socks. She raises his children. He can leave and she will still be there when he returns. She is his mother.

The Whore is fun, slutty, degraded, aggressive, hard, and wanton. She goes away when he’s done. He doesn’t have to wake up with her. He’s thrilled by her. She is his toy. Continue reading

Research on How to Make an Effective Apology

I didn’t see this research until after I completed my book, The Road to Reconciliation, so I couldn’t include it; but I’m happy to report that the findings support what I said about how to make and screw up an apology. Most people screw them up.

In Apologies of the Rich and Famous: Cultural, Cognitive, and Social Explanations of Why We Care and Why We Forgive, sociologists Karen Cerulo and Janet Ruane, analyzed and studied the effectiveness of 183 celebrity apologies that occurred between October 2000 and October 2012.

They categorized each apology as utilizing denial, evasion, reduction, corrective action, and mortification. They identified seven sequences. Some, for instance, start out by focusing on the offender; some on the victim; others on the context. Once they categorized each apology, the researchers measured the apology’s effectiveness as indicated by opinion polls conducted shortly thereafter. An effective apology was defined as one that resulted in an improved opinion of the apologizer. In other words, Cerulo and Ruane only studied changes in public opinion, not the transformation of the character of the apologizer.

Less than a third of the apologies they looked at were effective with the public. In other words, at least two-thirds of apologies resulted in the apologizer digging a deeper hole for himself and becoming more contemptible. Cerulo and Ruane are able to say what works in making an apology.

  • Don’t wait, make an apology right away.
  • The first words in an apology matter. Don’t start by talking about how your life has been made more difficult since you got in trouble. Start by showing empathy for the victim.
  • Don’t apologize for what people think; apologize for what you did. Don’t say, “I’m sorry you misunderstood me.” Say, “I’m sorry I touched you without permission.”
  • No one wants to hear why you did it because it sounds like you’re making excuses.
  • Express regret and remorse.
  • If you express regret and remorse, actually feel regret and remorse. People can tell when you’re faking it.
  • Say what you’re doing to make restitution, but don’t say you’re going to rehab to make restitution. Rehab is not restitution. Rehab helps you, not the victim. Say what you’re doing to help the victim if you are able to make direct amends, or people like your victim, if you are not.
  • End your apology the same way you started it. The last words matter, too. End by showing empathy for the victim.
  • If you have already made your apology, but botched it, somehow; make a better one. You can still improve another’s opinion of you.

Like I said, Cerulo and Ruane only studied changes in public opinion, but, had they studied whether the apologizer repeated the offense after apologizing, in my experience I think they would have gotten the same results. I am eagerly awaiting the results of such a study.

Announcement: The Road to Reconciliation is Available

After at least two-and-a-half years since I started it, my book, The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad, is available in paperback and on Kindle. Now comes the part I hate: pitching it and talking about it at a time when I am ready to go on to other things.

It’s like that phase of a marriage when the initial excitement and wonder has passed and you’re left with a disordered house full of crying kids, a spouse with morning breath, and a hot colleague at work who seems like a better option.  It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself until you realize that you wanted this.

In other words, when I conceived this book, I wanted this: to have written something that can help many people find peace and reconciliation. The thing is, writing it helps no one if it doesn’t get in the hands of those who need it.

If you need this book, go here to get it. If you know someone who needs it, please get it for them, or at least tell them it exists. Christmas is coming, you know. What’s a better Christmas present than the Road to Reconciliation?

How The Art of War Can Help Your Marriage

Bringing you the best of mental health

The Art of War, that classic work of Chinese literature, written in from the 5th century BC and attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is packed with good advice on marriage, although marriage is never once mentioned.

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the cost of carrying it out.

Before you go to war with your spouse over a trivial thing, you should thoroughly consider the cost of doing so. Sun Tzu makes it very clear that war, even if successful, is costly.

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

Maintaining bitterness and bad blood, holding grudges and grievances are like long sieges that deplete your resources. Even if you do win, what you win is no longer worth having.

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Taking whole keeps as much intact as possible. It gives you something worth having. Destruction only leaves devastation, not only for the defeated, but also for the conqueror.

Authentic victory is victory over aggression, a victory that respects the enemy and makes further conflict unnecessary.

Therefore, one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Subduing the other’s military without battle is the most skillful.

The sage spouse doesn’t attain victory by defeating her partner, but by creating the conditions that make further conflict unnecessary.

Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. If it accords with advantage, then employ troops. If it does not, then stop. A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

A marriage destroyed can be brought back into being, but it’s hard. Love that has died can be brought back to life, but it seldom happens. Therefore, don’t put your marriage at risk just because you are angry or annoyed. Feelings will pass. But, if you have something worth fighting about and fighting will solve the problem; then fight only to the extent that it’s advantageous.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.

If your partner loses her shit, don’t lose yours.

Use order to await chaos. Use stillness to await clamor. This is ordering the heart-mind.

Instead, keep your wits about you and she will regain hers.

A leader leads by example, not by force.

Fighting does not end fighting. Fighting is ended by making up. Show an example of making up.

Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.

When you attack your partner, she will dig in and defend herself at all costs. Then you’ll have a battle.

Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.

Give your partner an opportunity to stop fighting.

Above all, says Sun Tzu, know yourself and know the other.

Knowing the other and knowing oneself, in one hundred battles no danger. Not knowing the other and knowing oneself, one victory for one loss. Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself, in every battle certain defeat.

Click here to read the Art of War.