March 1, 2012 at 10:00 am , by Lauren Piro
Marlene, 44, and Roy, 49, had a grass-is-always-greener problem with their marriage. Both divorced, they’d experienced bossy and distant spouses before, and were ready for a smoother, more romantic ride the second time around—and they got it. But before long, togetherness turned clingy (for Marlene) and concern turned critical (for Roy), and both wondered if they were actually better off before they remarried. Read on to find out how they reconnected, or find the full story here.
Marlene’s turn: On their honeymoon, Marlene couldn’t believe much she loved Roy. They wandered the streets of Paris hand-in-hand, and she couldn’t imagine a life apart from him again. That is, until the honeymoon was over (literally), and all she wanted was some quiet time for herself after a long day at work as a litigation attorney. Instead, Roy follows her around the house, craving her attention. That is, when he’s not leaving a mess in the kitchen, half-finishing chores, or missing important appointments. Plus, their sex life is just not good—Roy gets too nervous, and they’ve tried everything make it easier. Lingerie, videos, Viagra … everything. Marlene loves that Roy has become a father figure for her son Carl, but that seems to be the only item in her “pro” column. Should she have just stuck with her single, yet peaceful life?
Roy’s turn: Roy is terrified that Marlene is going to leave him, but he doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong. So what if he leaves a spices out on the counter? He’s made his wife a delicious gourmet meal! Big deal if he’s not a handyman. He’ll gladly pay to have someone come work on their house! And why does Marlene avoid him when he tries to start a conversation? Husbands and wives are supposed to talk! Their sex life is just the icing on the cake. Roy feels horrible about not being able to please Marlene, but the more pressure-packed the situation becomes, the harder a time he has.
The counselor’s turn: When asked to rank their biggest marital complaints, Marlene and Roy laughed to see that they’d listed the same problems—but from opposing viewpoints. Marlene yearned for alone time, but Roy felt like she never wanted together time. Marlene hated that Roy never cleaned up after himself, but Roy felt like she was overreacting and didn’t appreciate the nice meals he made for their family. And finally, Marlene didn’t understand why Roy couldn’t do some household chores, but Roy preferred to pay someone else to play handyman. Out loud, this all seemed pretty trivial, so the counselor urged them to remember to pick their battles, and promise to make compromises. Soon enough, Marlene and Roy were able to enjoy married life again—outside and inside the bedroom.
February 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm , by Lauren Piro
Have you picked up the all-new Ladies’ Home Journal? We’ve made some pretty big (and pretty wonderful!) changes, including a few tweaks to our famous “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” column. Don’t worry—you’ll still get your “he-said-she-said” fix each month, just with a more conversational tone. And of course, we’ve still got a counselor in place ready with a final ruling and advice for each couple. The first new iteration of the column is on newsstands now! Here’s a taste, but you can also read the full story here.
Meg’s turn: The short version of Meg’s lament? She makes the money, and John spends it. All of it. Even more than they have, actually, racking up $17,000 in credit card debt. She grew up learning to stretch a dollar and live within her means, but John’s just the opposite, always splurging on pricey high-end wine, clothes, furniture, you name it—and not always telling Meg about his purchases! Plus, her job as a powerful PR manager is soul-sucking, and she’s ready for a break. But how can she pull back at work when her husband can’t leave the house without opening his wallet?
John’s turn: Meg’s overreacting. John’s got a job, too, and he’s saving more than enough for retirement and their kids’ education, and—little by little—pays down his credit card debt each month. When they got married, John and Meg decided to keep their finances separate, so John doesn’t think Meg’s grievances have legs to stand on. She can’t change the rules now just because she doesn’t like their results. Plus, John’s the one who takes care of the house and kids when Meg’s stuck at work. He loves her, but he feels like an afterthought these days. If she really wanted a new job (and more time with her family), wouldn’t she have started looking for one by now?
The counselor’s turn: The couple’s childhoods really influenced who they had become as adults: John had a father who showered his family with gifts, so he’d learned to turn to expensive things to make him feel good. Meg’s mother was often critical and cold, so she sought praise and self-esteem through working super hard. Combined, these issues fed themselves. When Meg neglecting their marriage at work, John would turn to shopping, which in turn left Meg feeling chained to her job. The counselor suggested that the couple talk to a financial planner to help them crunch the numbers, and lo and behold, John had been right all along. The family could afford to live well on his salary alone, and if Meg could separate her job from her emotional satisfaction (and maybe focus some of that energy back onto her marriage), they’d be fine if she quit. In the end, Meg decided to go with the best of both worlds–a part-time job at her firm that leaves her home-life and her work-life satisfyingly in balance.
February 17, 2012 at 11:35 am , by Lauren Piro
Today’s post is by Neely Kennedy of Reading Group Choices, a leading online resource for book club tips and discussible selections.
In the LHJ book club pick, Vaclav & Lena, author Haley Tanner tells the story of a young Russian immigrant boy’s obsession with becoming a great magician. While Vaclav studies and practices his magic, his best friend, love interest and assistant, Lena, hides behind the illusions of her horrific home life. It’s a delight to read how Tanner skillfully marries the literal theme of magic with a deeper metaphor and exploration of illusions.
When discussing the book with your club, ask members to identify examples of the use of illusions. What are the tricks behind them? How might we be using illusions in our own lives to hide or protect ourselves? What magic in life is worthwhile? Here are some brief excerpts from the book that illuminate the theme to get your conversation going.
When Vaclav and Lena are reunited as teenagers, they both reveal more self-awareness in trying to control the unmanageable parts of their lives.
“’Same thing’, he says, meaning same thing as when you left, meaning still magic, still trying to take care of you with my mind, still trying to control events using supernatural powers.”
When Lena finally settles into a relatively normal life with her new mother, she has a hard time maintaining the mirage of happiness, as she is haunted by her past.
“This is especially difficult when she must lead a meeting of the student council or the art club, or rally her teammates at soccer practice, but she gets through it, one minute at a time, by pretending.”
During a moment of introspection and clarity while escaping to a bathroom stall in her school, Lena realizes how she uses the illusion of different personas as a coping mechanism.
“She decides that the spots are keys to living a life as a complete person, not as a disjointed puzzle person made up of many different people trying to masquerade as one person.”
This leads Lena to another observation. She’s not the only one masquerading—everyone around her is projecting an ideal self-image to hide behind, an illusion to mask their perceived inadequacies.
“Everyone wants to go about as if they were a fantastic superhero, born into the world complete; no one wants to acknowledge that they are self-consciously creating themselves, but everyone is. Everyone is, Lena thinks.”
February 16, 2012 at 10:14 am , by Lauren Piro
Thanks to the LHJ Book Club (have you checked out our March pick, Vaclav & Lena? It’s a must-read!), we’ve been talking about our favorite characters, plot lines and themes for weeks around our office—we can’t stop! With book club on the brain, we’re itching to hear about other clubs around the country, and will be featuring one each month right here on our blog.
Our first club is from Surprise, AZ (doesn’t that sound like a fun place to live?), and they are one bonded bunch. “We’re coming up on our fourth anniversary as a club and were talking about everything that has changed in our lives since we first met,” says member Tina Mollica. “Two new babies, graduations, children entering the military, retirement, the loss of parents and jobs, and some major changes at our church. We started as eight strangers and became 11 life long friends.”
Here’s what some of the other members have to say about their beloved group:
Do you have a name for your book club?
“We often refer to ourselves as The Greatest Book Club Ever! I don’t know if it’s an official name, but it shows how we feel about each other.” – Krystal Ford
Is there anything special you do for each meeting?
“Different gals volunteer to host our meetings, but we don’t adhere to a strict rotation. When one of our books has been made into a movie, then we have a movie night and try to all attend it together. But we all agree that movie night does not replace book club meeting for that month—it’s just too important!” – Colleen Kolb
February 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm , by Lauren Piro
Last month, we pored over kooky characters, relished dark humor, and were shocked by a surprise ending (you’ll flip for it!) reading The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady. We hope you got the chance to spend time with Elizabeth Stuckey-French’s addicting novel, and if you haven’t picked it up, we know her letter to readers will whet your appetite. And then, since we’re sure your book club will want to adopt it as your next pick, we’ve got discussion questions and an exclusive Q&A with the author as well.
But now, with the beautiful new LHJ on newsstands everywhere, it’s time to introduce our next pick! This month we’ll be digging into Vaclav & Lena, by debut novelist Haley Tanner. It’s love story–you’ll swoon over every page–that has quite the magical theme. We’re also happy to announce a terrific giveaway! Throughout the month, you can enter to win one of five LHJ Book Club libraries—all of our picks so far, signed by the authors! Visit our book club page to enter, and to learn more about Vaclav & Lena! And, as always, stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on our blog to join the conversation as we chat about the book all month long.
February 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm , by Lauren Piro
A few weeks ago, I came across this cartoon and laughed out loud. See that second box? The one with the person excited about an evening at home, anything but barhopping or book club? That person is so me. And, like many introverts, I’ve felt bad about it more than once in my life. Like I was weird for retreating to the bathroom at parties when I just needed a break from all that merriment or too low-profile to be class president or newspaper editor because I wasn’t a “leader.” Author Susan Cain often felt like that, too, but she always suspected that it was the rest of the world—not her—that was getting it wrong. Now, her New York Times bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking shines a light on introverts (whether we like it or not) and makes the case that we, too, have an important role in a world that reveres extroverts.
Recently, I chatted with Cain about the untapped power she champions in Quiet.
You think of yourself as an introvert. What has that meant in your life?
When I started practicing law, I thought my nature was going to be a disadvantage for me. But eventually, I realized I have a whole constellation of other qualities serving me well—like listening skills and preparing carefully. I wasn’t one to take over a meeting, but I was good at creating one-on-one alliances with people behind the scenes. And these skills can be very powerful. Also, at first I assumed that my personality was a function of gender—that the things I did were things a woman would do. But, then I started to look around and saw that plenty of women had different styles from me, just as plenty of men were more like me.
Are women often assumed to be introverted?
In some ways, yes, traditionally women have been expected to be quieter and more passive. So for these reasons, historically it’s been easier for a woman to be an introvert than a man. I think that’s changing now. I consider myself a strong feminist, but I do think that feminism can make things harder for female introverts, because of this model that says that you should be very bold and take the world by the horns. An introverted form of power has a very different style to it.
February 13, 2012 at 11:06 am , by Lauren Piro
On his new duet album, Tuskegee, Richie reinvents some of his greatest hits with the help of Nashville’s megastars. We asked him what it was like to collaborate with these A-list country crooners.
He’s a gentle giant, but when he opens his mouth, he sings like he’s trying to reach the back of the barn. His vocals on “You Are” were great except for one thing: When was I supposed to come in? He just owned the song.
Before Tuskegee, Shania hadn’t recorded or performed live in seven years. She was in paralysis—she was sure she’d never sing again. But she sang “Endless Love” with me and blew it away. I was so happy for her.
She can hold a note for about six and a half weeks, so I really had to rise to the occasion for our “Hello” duet. Literally, Lionel Richie had to put on his helmet and go into combat on that vocal.
I couldn’t get him to sing any other song but “My Love,” and he knew it better than I did! That was the big compliment to me while recording this album. I’d give each one of the singers lyrics, and they’d ask “Why are you giving me these? I know the song by heart.”