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

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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.

The Road to Reconciliation: Calibrate your Compass

120px-compass_rose_browns_00Take a perfectly functional compass and put it in a room with an electromagnet and it will forget which way is north. It’ll point to the magnet because the magnet is exerting a force that it cannot ignore, far more powerful than that exercised by the distant, measly north pole.

When a problem enters a relationship it exerts a force every bit as compelling as that magnet. You can do nothing without taking a look in its direction. It will alter your attitude, change your course, and make you forget yourself and your values. You can do nothing without checking with the problem first.

You must get free of that interference and recalibrate your compass.

If you’ve ever recalibrated a compass, you’ll know that, for a minute or two, the needle will spin around aimlessly until it finds magnetic north. You’ll be lost if you try to use it then and confused if you rely on it for direction.

When people free themselves of the effects of the problem, for a minute they feel similarly lost and confused. When they discern the problem, starve it, get help, create illness-free zones, take care of themselves, get help, and take steps to their own growth, they feel as though they have lost their bearings. They don’t know what’s important anymore because they’ve been separated from their values for so long. Many go back to having their lives dictated by the problem. It is more familiar and comfortable.

To remain free, it’s important to stay with the process long enough to get your bearings straight. Reconnect with your values as you might find them in your religious faith, spiritual practices, the story of your life, the way you find meaning and purpose, or the things you told yourself you would never do.

The process my cell phone goes through to calibrate its compass gives us hints as to what this is like. Your cell phone compass probably works the same way as mine. In order for it to be correct, you have to tilt it this way and that. As you do this, a graphic in the phone helps you cover each direction completely. You fill up a circle as you tilt it every which way.

The process you will go through as you recalibrate your own internal compass is similar. You have to tilt briefly in every direction. Take a look around before you charge forward or go back. Take stock. Take inventory, first, before you move on.

The Road to Reconciliation: Renounce Revenge

Now that you’ve gotten in touch with your feelings and values, you realize that you are hurt. The next step, if you chose to take the path towards healing, is to renounce revenge.

Revenge comes in a variety of colors and flavors, all of them dark and bitter. There’s the kind, practiced by mafia chieftains who cannot afford to appear soft, where you hunt down and punish the offender, with extreme prejudice. There’s the Hatfield and McCoy, Montague and Capulet, Israeli and Palestinian type of vendetta that never seems to end. There’s the tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye variety, practiced by couples who commit adultery in response to the other sleeping around. Subtile digs, where you never let your partner forget anything, are popular. So’s passive aggression, where your partner may not even know what you’re doing to get even. Revenge is codified and legitimized by courts in systems of retributive justice. Punish the offender enough, it is thought, and they will have paid the price of crime.

Revenge is said to feel good, but I have my doubts. I remember when Osama Bin Laden met his end. There was some satisfaction to see that happen, but did it really help us forget 9/11? Does revenge really work? Does it insure that crimes will not be repeated? Does it deter misbehavior, right wrongs, or enforce order? When you bring someone to justice, is justice created, or is injustice given a new lease on life?

I have my opinion on these questions and you may have yours. Social scientists have conclusions they have reached on the basis of rigorous scientific analysis; as rigorous as social science ever gets. They don’t, by and large, favor retribution. But the urge to commit revenge can be very strong and it’s hard to believe that it does not have any evolutionary justification. Besides, it’s one thing to preach love and forgiveness in church, a hippie commune, or an academic conference, it’s quite another to do so in the ghetto or Iraq, where the questions come up most frequently.

If, after listening to your feelings and re-engaging with your values, you believe revenge is the way to go, then, I suppose, there’s nothing I can do to convince you, otherwise. I think it’s strange to practice revenge on the people closest to you, to insist on a pound of flesh from your own flesh and blood; but I’m not you, I guess. I wouldn’t want to be either a Hatfield or a McCoy. It might be cool to be a mafia chieftain and order my enemies killed while dining on veal saltimbocca, but it would be a bummer to be interrupted by a guy with a violin case before dessert arrived.

I will say that, if you are serious about reconciliation, or even personal peace, you’re not going to get to it by going through revenge. You can’t get there from there. You will have to renounce revenge if you’re going to get anywhere down the path to reconciliation. The reason why may be more clear as we go on, but for now I think you will agree that spending your time plotting revenge is incompatible with putting the injury behind you.

Does renouncing revenge mean that you can’t ask anything of the offender before you can reconcile? Absolutely not. You can achieve personal peace without getting the offender involved, but to be reconciled, she has to do something, too. It’ll be hard for her. She’ll have to hear you speak about your hurt and its effects. She’ll have to take responsibility, make restitution, and change her ways. You’ll have to insist on it. That’s your revenge.

I’ve worked with many criminals over the years: thieves, murderers, rapists, and child molesters, to name a few. Almost all of them would much rather do jail time than look their victims in the eye and acknowledge what they’ve done. Most would chose solitary confinement before accepting responsibility. Some might even elect the electric chair over meaningful change. You’re not letting them off easy by offering reconciliation.

So, renounce revenge, if only because it’ll make you a better person than the one who hurt you. Like someone said once, living a good life is the best revenge.

The Shrink’s Links: 75 Ways To Add Variety

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Many couples say that, after a few years, it’s easy to get in a rut with your partner, sex-wise. You think you know each other, backwards and forwards, and have tried everything. Chances are, you’re wrong. There’s something you haven’t thought of.

Or, maybe you have thought of something new, but don’t know how to broach the subject. You’re afraid of what your partner will think of you if you mention it.

This page can help. 75 Ways To Add Variety to Your Sex Life, from the website, Passionate Wife. It lists 75 sexual activities. For many, there are helpful links for specific instructions.
Print out 2 copies. Give one to your partner. Both of you mark, “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe”. And let the fun begin.

Click here to go to the page.