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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


I was out raking my yard one day in May 1984. By this time my divorce was old news, and I’d been away that year teaching in London. I looked up at the approach of a friend and colleague walking home from the university. He stopped and said, “Hi John. Want to meet a woman?” “Sure,” I said.

So I went to his house on the weekend of Mother’s Day and was introduced to Jane. Walking up the drive I’d noticed a bumper sticker on her car for a congressional candidate in Georgia. Well, I thought, we’re politically compatible anyway. 

She herself had more than political appeal, with a brilliant smile and a PhD in counseling psychology from University of Georgia. These were only enhanced by my discovery, playing singles tennis on our first date, that she had a killer forehand.

Having both of us learned already that marriage causes divorce, we agreed never to repeat that mistake. We still celebrate that weekend in May as our anniversary.

It was when we decided to move in together that we began the work of establishing a partnership. We’ve since written the book on healthy relationships: Loving Well [available on Amazon].

Among our discoveries: we choose partners for qualities that we ourselves lack; but there’s an impulse to moralize differences; such moralizing interferes with affection; and loss of affection destroys intimacy.

“Moralizing” happens when I describe others’ behavior as “bad” or “wrong.” One of the things Jane found attractive in me is that my sense of time is quite elastic: I’m not inclined to be punctual, in sharp contrast to her preference always to be at least 15 minutes early. I score well to the left on the Myers-Briggs “P” scale.

But what begins as charming flexibility is likely later to be labeled “careless,” “insensitive,” or “never on time.” Resentment builds. Affection is lost. Children, of course, are acutely aware of these qualities in their parents and in their lives.

Reversing the consequences of moralizing is not easy, but the method is a simple one. Certainly, as Jane once observed, the simplest things are often the most difficult, Yet few things more worthwhile than restoring affection and increasing intimacy.


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