Merle Shain

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Merle Shain (19351989) was a Canadian journalist and author. She worked as a feature writer for the 'Toronto Telegram,' as associate editor of 'Chatelaine' [magazine], and as a columnist for the 'Toronto Sun'. She was a host of the CTV Network program, 'W5', and served for four years as a member of the board of the National Film Board of Canada. Her books include Some men are more perfect than others, (1973), When lovers are friends (1978), Hearts That We Broke Long Ago (1983) and Courage my love (1988).

Some Men are More Perfect Than Others (1973)[edit]

  • 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.
  • You can, after all, produce an orgasm yourself if that's what you want, so we must go to bed for something more.
  • Men don't come to see other women to help take out the garbage and if they wanted to put up the screens they would have stayed home. So mistresses tend to get a steady diet of whipped cream, but no meat and potatoes, and wives often get the reverse, when both would like a bit of each.
  • But women often find their husbands don't love them for the things they value in themselves, and part of the charm of an affair is you can give what you want, and need only give if you choose.
  • Marriages should be as diverse as the people in them are, which means that some will be one of a kind, and some totally different still. And those who don't want to love, honor and obey, should be able to promise each other anything they choose, without having to ask anyone what they think of that, particularly themselves.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It's in the fight, in the striving, in the mountains unclimbed that fulfillment lies, so if you have nothing to strive for, you have nothing to make you happy. When it comes to "for better" or "for worse," "for better" is often harder on a marriage.
  • 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 the same.
  • 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.
  • It's impossible for men and women who love each other not to hurt each other now and then, but most women would settle happily for a man who tried not to cause the same hurt twice.
  • It's very important to decode your own messages, like saying "I feel angry" instead of kicking the cat, and people who learn to do this find they are misunderstood less often and, as a fringe benefit, are clawed by fewer cats.
  • The best men are those who put their cards on the table when something is bothering them, and if possible do it quietly, not blaming anyone, and if they're faced with a hysterical partner, who is not herself, identify with what she feels even when they can't make head or tail out of what she says.
  • 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 their needs, and that is a pretty heavy trip to lay one anyone and generally leaves men feeling they've been charged with the national debt.
  • I have been furious with men who have expected me to be faithful, and I have been even more furious with those who did not, and once I screamed at a man whom I loved more than I'd intended to, "If I'm faithful to you, what bloody business is it of yours?"
  • I'm not sure there can be loving without commitment, although commitment takes all kinds 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.
  • If I had to choose between having someone physically faithful to me or having him committed to my preservation, I would opt for the latter because there is no doubt in my mind when I see couples at parties selling each other out which is the worst offense. Physical fidelity is a lovely thing if someone feels that way about you willingly, but relatively meaningless of you exact it for a price. And while it is easy enough to be faithful for the first five or ten years, it is more difficult by twice each year after that, so women as well as men are finding it hard to do.
  • There are problems connected with infidelity and problems connected with being faithful at any cost, and I am for letting those concerned choose the problems they'd prefer. There need not be one rule for all. Infidelity is enlarging and fragmenting and very very dangerous, but it has been known to retrieve people as well as marriages, so it can't be only bad. And while a lot of women would probably consider it better to have the man they care about rip-off other women if he must but hurry home again, I think I'd rather he be concerned about the survival of the people he sleeps with, even those who are not me. Men who take advantage of one woman take advantage of them all, and if he's going to have an experience in which I can't share, then I'd rather it be a good one, so if there are any benefits to trickle down the spout they'll be the kind I'd want.
  • We tend to think in terms of fixing blame, of establishing adultery and making clear who did what to whom, when what is most important is not what was done but that no one be hurt. It's not that we care that much if our mate rubs off a few cells of epidermis in friction with someone else, it's that we are all afraid if he does, he'll stop loving us. And men who've always had affairs, considering it good for their morale, find that they are fearful just like their wives when the shoe is on the other foot. Any new ethic, if it's to work, will have to find ways of reconciling growth with commitment, change with loyalty, and freedom with alienation, because a world in which new loyalties constantly replace old ones will make neurotics of us all.
  • I've learned not to ask for everything, just to make sure that I get what I must have. It doesn't matter who else gets what-- it only matters if you're deprived. Really splendid men understand that and find ways to manage their lives to they never give away anything that is their wife's. And if there are times when they need more than one woman in their life, they give back what they get to both. Being faithful means not costing people you love more than they can afford to pay. The best men are committed to their partners as much as to themselves.
  • 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.
  • While single women may not have a man they can count on or call at four in the night, they do have the knowledge that when a man comes to see them he wants to be with them. And while he may come less often, he will really be there when he does.
  • You tend to have far more real, intense friendships when you are single, perhaps because you can be more honest when you do not have the marriage or someone else's feelings to protect.
  • If one of the problems of marriage is that safety can lead to complacency, then one of the advantages of being single is that one is never safe enough to grow complacent, and constantly having to prove oneself often leads to growth.
  • There were women in the golden age of Greece, called hetaerae, who were celebrated by Socrates and philosophers of his time. Although they existed solely for their own pleasure and that of men, they were respected for their independence of mind and spirit and thought of highly by the Greeks. Single women in today's world can function like hetaerae, learning from many and giving back to whom they will, and for the woman who enjoys such a life, it can be a good one, and one both she and society can be the better for.

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