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A Woman's Corner . Home Page

This PRELUDE is Dedicated to the Memory and work of MERLE SHAIN

(1935 - 1989)

"A Woman's Corner"

The following passages are excerpts from When Lover's Are Friends [WLAF]

By: Merle Shain

Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others [SMAMPTO]

By: Merle Shain

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"Loving can cost a lot, but not loving always costs more; and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life." --Merle Shain "People who are loving toward each other set-up their marriages so that it is possible for both partners to get what they need from life and so that no one is expected to give-up his needs to meet those of his spouse. And when their partner meets one of their needs they accept it as a gift, instead of viewing each unmet one as if it were a betrayal." --Merle Shain


"Much of women's resentment toward men at the moment is related to their notion that men, since they are supposed to be superior should meet all of their needs, and that is a pretty heavy trip to lay on anyone; and generally leaves men feeling like they've been charged with the national debt." --Merle Shain "It is not possible for one person to meet all of another's needs, and marriage partners who expect this soon find each other wanting." "Loving someone means helping them to be more themselves, which can be different from being what you'd like them to be, although often they turn out to be the same." --Merle Shain


"Loneliness is something you do to yourself. There seems to be three main streams to life -- the emotional, the sensual, and the rational -- and all of us are made up of these three, although in differing amounts. There are artists whose lives are lived solely through their emotions and their senses; and accountants and scholars who rein their bodies and feelings with their minds. And, there are people whose only sensuality is their self-flagellation, and those who don't know what they feel, only what they think. I don't know how we become lopsided or what causes one skein in the braid to become thinker than the rest -- whether we back away from what we are afraid of, or go with the part of us that functions best. I only know that most people grow more in one way than in others, and the side of them which is the most developed determines their life. And because this is the case, the side of them which is the most developed also dictates the kind of friend they make." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.82)


"There is a difference between loneliness, aloneness, and lonesomeness; and loneliness is something that you do to yourself. And those who pack loneliness in their luggage carry it around with them wherever they go. We have only so much emotional currency, it isn't an unlimited supply, so you've got to invest it wisely if you want to make it grow." --Merle Shane (WLAF p.98)


"I once had a boyfriend who exited from my house once evening shouting back at me, "Your are more loving than I, more generous, and more forgiving!" Then he slammed the door, never to return. I remember yelling after him, "Have you got any other complaints?" but he taught me a lot. Nobody will thank you for pointing out to them that they aren't as giving as you, or even as giving as they wish they were. So you have to be very careful when you give to others that you don't tell them how great you are rather than how much you value them." -- Merle Shain (WLAF p.78)


"When you look at the world in a narrow way, how narrow it seems! When you look at it in a mean way, how mean it is! When you look at it selfishly, how selfish it is! But when you look at it in a broad, generous, friendly spirit, what wonderful people you find in it." -- Horace Rutledge "Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits." --Fulton J. Sheen


"I'm not sure there can be loving without commitment, although commitment takes all kinds and and forms, and there can be commitment for the moment as well as commitment for all time. The kind that is essential for loving marriages -- and love affairs, as well -- is a commitment to preserving the essential quality of your partner's soul, adding to them rather than taking away." -- Merle Shain


"When I was a little girl our class helped a family every Christmas, and sometimes they were grateful and sometimes they were not. Then one year when we reached our destination with our presents and found another grade had arrived before us, a boy in our class asked why we should help a family anyway. "What have they ever done for you?" And the teacher asked each of us to describe how we felt when we were gathering up clothes and food to take to them, and when he had a collection of "greats" and "helpfuls" and "kinds" he said, "that's what the family did for you. You gave them turkey and they gave you those warm feelings back." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.37)


"There are many who believe that fulfillment is to be found by finding one person and sharing your life with them, but I do not think that is how it works, because so many of the people who believe in that are looking for the perfect person still while other sources of fulfillment pass them by." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.24)


"It is very difficult to accept the fact that there are no guarantees in life, no guarantees that life will progress as it should or that the people you care about will love you back, or even that they will treat you right. But trust in life does not mean trusting that life will always be good or that it will be free of grief and pain. It means trusting that somewhere inside yourself you can find the strength to go forth and meet what comes and, even if you meet betrayal and disappointment along the way, go forth again the very next day." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.15)


"Once a man I knew was in an accident and got burned from head to foot, and I remembered going to the hospital, steeling myself for an unpleasant sight -- bringing flowers with me and sympathy, if very little else. And when I was there, another girl came to see him -- one who knew him longer than I -- and she asked how long he intended to lie around feeling sorry for himself and why he wasn't working, and if he didn't have anything useful that he could do? I remember thinking her incredibly cruel until I noticed that he was sitting up when she left though he had been lying down for me, and shortly after, he was actually working, muttering to himself, "I'll show her. She'll see, Wait till she sees this." So I concluded that she loved him better than I did, because by making it necessary for him to show her she made it possible for him to show himself." --Merel Shain (SMAMPTO p.66)


"The answer doesn't lie in learning how to protect ourselves from life -- it lies in learning how to become strong enough to let a bit more of it in." -- Merle Shain (WLAF p ...)


"Women who look to men to define them are defined by their man's limitations as much as by his strengths. If you let a man tell you what you believe, you never really know it for yourself, and if what he believes isn't right, what you believe is wrong as well. And when he fails to perceive the things you love best about yourself, you have less in yourself to love. Nobody should let one person define him -- man, woman, or dog. Marriage doesn't work when it cuts us off from finding who we are and defining ourselves for ourselves." --Merle Shain (SMAMPTO p.56)


"I knew a man sometime back who liked to send presents to the ladies he fancied. Right after he met them he would send them long-stemmed roses. Then if they accepted his invitation to lunch he would send them a little memento of the afternoon. As the relationship progressed, more and more presents would arrive -- silver bracelets, crystal decanters, negligees with marabou trim. Usually by the time he asked for something in return, the girl he'd been courting was so indebted she couln't possibly say no. So he got what he wanted, although occasionally one of the balked, and when she did he would always complain that there was no gratitude anymore." --Merle Shane (WLAF p.49) "When giving is used as a way of controlling others, the giver is really asking for something for himself. A lot of people thought it was sex this man was after, but that's too simple. It was power he wanted; because if he had only wanted sex he wouldn't have put a price on it." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.50))


"A colleague of mine once described a man we both knew as being "a very proud man who had lost his opinion of himself and had hence to slink away", and it still makes me smile to think of how well he put the problem tryiing to be something that you are not creates. It is too bad so many people make the mistake of thinking prided will win them the respect they want, when it's humility they really need." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.57)


Some of our defenses are more primitive than others ... There is a sixth-centtury Indian legend about a scorpion and a tortoise who were facing a swollen river, and the scorpion begged the tortoise to carry him across. "I can't take you on my back," the tortoise replied. "You'd sting me". "Why would I do that?" the scorpion wanted to know. "You'd be my life raft. If I stung you we'd both drown." "Well," said the tortoise, "since you put it that way, I guess it'll be all right. Hop on." So the scorpion climbed on the tortoise's back and they set out across the river and when they were almost to the shore, the scorpion stug the tortoise, and as they were both going down, the tortoise turned to the scorpion and asked, "Just tell me this, before we drown. Why did you do it? I have to know." And the scorpion replied, looking perhaps a little regretful, "what can I tell you? I couldn't help myself. It's my nature." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.42)


" It is easy to spend your life looking for an elusive something, always holding out for what you don't quite know, and many of us do it without recognizing that we are looking for ourselves. The search for the perfect other is always a search for what we sense we lack. And, the reason that we never find them is because the search goes on as long as we feel inadequate ourselves." --Merle Shain ((WLAF p.33)


"Some people listen willingly, but in responding always seem to appear above it all somehow, as if the situation they are hearing about could never have happened to them." "Perhaps it is that they have led too orderly a life, or maybe they offer sympathy when it is empathy that is needed. There is a difference between sympathy and empathy, and the difference is that sympathy always has an edge, a hit that the person offering it feels superior and smug, while when you are empathetic, the person you are responding to know you feel for them, and that you understand that you could but for the grace of God go there as well." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.75)


"The older I get the less store I put by what is thought, and the more I try to listen for whis written on the wind. I don't know why we often think the rationalis all we need. It is best a stratification of what we know intuitively, and then we often get it wrong trying to fit what we just learned to what we learned last weekk." --Merle Shain (MLAF p.72)


Caring can cost a lot, but not caring always costs more ... I had a confidant once, a friend who was older and wiser and knew much more about life, and through a long and awful year I poured my heart out to her and she gave me her advice. I told her of the man I loved, and of how he was deceiving me, and she listened to my stories and told me what to do. And after I had lost him, and after she had been divorced, I came to learn the man who'd been my love had been her lover too, and when I turned on her with shock, she told me that I'd seduced her with my tales of love, and that it was because of me she'd left her marriage bed. It's been many years since this happened, and years since either of us had any hope of being loved by him, but I still hear her words and ak myself if she was right. And while I know most would say she stole my man from me and took advantage of my trust and that the sin was hers, not mine. Still part of me know you can be guilty even while you're innocent, and that I am as much to blame. I don't know what prompted me to tell this story now after so many years have passed, but I suspect it is because it seems to say, better than any other way I know, that lives that touch, touch many ways, and relationships are very complex things with many currents in the tide. And though I know one never mens to hurt, I know as well that all those who love both laugh and weep." --Merle Shain (WLAF p.11 & p.12)


"We live ringed around by sugar-plum fairies, dancing at us from every page and every screen, and real life when we meet it never seems somehow as good. We are encouraged to expect perfection, and perfection doesn't exist, so we are always a little disappointed and hold back again hoping the next round will really be it. It's nice to have choices, and flexibility makes life more interesting, it's true, but you can get lost on the sea of infinite possibilities, and there is nothing liberating about that. And people who are always trying to make the perfect choice, rejecting what they have for what they hope to find, bet the present on the future and end up missing both." Merle Shain (WLAF p.30)


"I knew a girl once with blond hair and opalescent skin who was from an upper-class family and who was married to a man who thought those things more important than they were ever meant to be. His own background was very different and he was not as proud of it, so having her beside him made him feel better than he really was. She admired his intelligence and his ambition, two things she felt she lacked, and hoped by having him to talk for her she wouldn't have to speak as often for herself." --Merel Shain (SMAMPTO p.55) "He loved her for being what he hated himself for not being, so he spent a lot of time putting her down to show himself he was better still, and she found that having him protect her didn't make her feel much safer because she still needed protecting -- but from him." -- Merle Shain (SMAMPTO p.56)


"If I were to marry again tomorrow, I wouldn't give up one friend. I'd take them all with me as a sort of dowry and tell my new husband that he was getting a righ wife." --Merel Shain (WLAF p ...)


"Good marriages seem to function something like a buddy system, the people in them swim in their own waters -- but keep a protective eye on each other. And, should the whistle blow turn-up quickly to hold each other's hand. It's more important today than ever before to know what your priorities are because life links us with more people than our hearts can hold. So men who know what they will go to the wall for, as well as for whom -- are the ones whom it is nicest to be married to -- presuming you're the one they have at the top of their list." -- Merle Shain


"Divorce is very expensive, both economically and psychologically as well, but it probably isn't any more so than living with someone who isn't really on your side." "Nobody really wants to spend life with someone who has no other choice, and children who have been raised by a mother who gave-up her life for them almost always spend years on an analyst's couch learning to spit in her eye." --Merle Shain


"She gave up her career in order to help her husband with his, and took up parenting for the first time to mother the young daughters he brought with him. She cooked gourmet dinners every night, and even looked after his sick aunt. And then one day, almost as if she'd been thinking about it for a long while, she took a lover and began diverting much of her energy over to him. "I suddenly realized," she told me, with eyes that didn't smile, "that I didn't have anything in my ife that wasn't Jim's. His kids were my kids, his family too, even the career I worked at was his, not mine. And I knew if I ever lost him I'd have nothing left at all, nothing that wouldn't walk out the door with him!" --Merle Shain (WLAF p.20)


In a full heart there is room for everything ... Some people feel angry when they think of moments when they've had to stand alone, and question the value they once put upon friends who weren't there when they needed them. But I think the thing to remember is this -- you don't get from friends what you give to them, you get what they have to give, and that is the thing you must not forget. People can only give you what they have to give." --Merle Shane (WLAF p.99 & p.100)

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