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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Be Careful Who You Marry! - A Cautionary Tale

My gifted, now deceased dentist, loved to make jokes and was one of the two authentic geniuses I met in my life. The other was a multi-lingual Columbia University professor whose advice oddly sticks in my mind: that to learn Mandarin well one needs a Mandarin speaking grandmother. But to return to my story. My dentist discovered a new antibiotic while a teenager, was rejected by medical schools because he was Jewish (it was that time in America) and became a dentist. After graduation he was offered admission to medical schools but refused, having opened a Manhattan practice that prospered. Decades after his marriage to an enormously wealthy foreign heiress, their photo was on the cover of a national magazine, its accompanying article lauding "Manhattan's power couple" blissfully approaching retirement. A year later, after their divorce, the dentist told me his ex-wife said the most hurtful thing she could: "I never thought your jokes were funny!"

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The Economics of Marriage

As a psychologist I hear of all relationship parameters. Some couples share expenses with each being responsible for particular bills while others pool their earnings with one person handling payments. Poor communication, reflective of unspoken marital issues, is usually the basic problem not money. Being a parent, of which the mother is the primary emotional caretaker in most families, is a full-time job when considering the need to get kids to medical appointments and activities, deal with their illnesses and maybe that of a pet too, food shopping, cooking and more, in addition to the demands of a job. Some keep three calendars: one for their job meetings, one for their kids' activities, and one for husband-wife events. I'm floored at the energy needed to successfully accomplish all and won't dispute those who regard women as the stronger sex.

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On Achieving A Happy Marriage

As a psychologist, I have known of world-class devastating marriages and divorces, experiences too improbable for a novel, lived by people who felt that personality doesn't matter in a relationship if there is attraction to each other. Emotional immaturity and impulsivity are key warning signs, as are a history of abusive relationships and lacking independence from parents.

But it can take time to know someone too. In 1930s Vienna, before an unmarried American psychiatrist departed after completing his training analysis, Freud said he hoped the doctor had the good fortune to achieve a happy marriage. "Does one need luck with all your psychological knowledge?" the doctor asked, and Freud replied, "Of course, for only after living with someone for a long time does one really know them." 

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Coping With Work or Marriage Conflict Through Triangulation

Triangulation is the commonly occurring reduction of anxiety in a problematic relationship by introducing a third element into the situation. At work this can be a person or corporate directive depicted as "crazy" and in a marriage a child being termed "impossible." Though reducing anxiety, this unconscious maneuver is destructive since it doesn't resolve the problem. To accomplish this a third party, a management consultant or a psychotherapist, must reframe communication so the real issues are confronted. But here triangulation can also occur if the consultant identifies with the worker or the psychotherapist with the patient(s). As I never tire of repeating, the unconscious is very powerful and one must respect its power.

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Two Enjoyable Non-Fiction Books About Women Becoming Independent

I recently enjoyed two non-fiction books about women becoming independent: The Barbizon by Paulina Bren, and The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson. The first is a history of the famed single woman's NYC residence; the second describes England's first marriage introduction service, opened during the 1930s by two, single twenty-four-year-old women.


More than merely the history of a building, The Barbizon movingly describes the era before a woman was permitted an independent life, fearing to be "left on the shelf" and unmarried even while teenagers. Stories of its famed residents which included Grace Kelly whose romantic, dreamy, movie look reflected myopia) and Sylvia Plath (who endured numerous electric shock treatments without anesthesia) are included.


The Marriage Bureau describes the early lives of its founders and how, seeking financially comfortable lives when the only path seemed marriage, they blindly forged ahead and became successful, helping many find joy in an increasingly frightening world. Good reading for our troubled time.

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After a Relationship Ends

People instinctively know, despite how they might then feel, that their life is not over when a relationship ends: that the abused wife can move on, and the battered teenager can find a better home.

Or two sisters may relate pathologically, being hatefully tied to each other with their love being overlain by envy or  Read More 
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