Friday 29 April 2011

Sharyn Wolf's divorce: a heart surgeon can have a heart attack

It's an old riddle, "I always lie, I never tell the truth", and it makes for some amusing moments thinking about how to deal with such a statement. Wikipedia's article "Liar's paradox" shows the origins of this idea date back before Christ, over 2,500 years ago. A lot of people have reflected on this logical conundrum over the years with several funny variations which say basically the same thing. I always lie. But if I always lie, saying I lied is a lie so I've just told the truth. Ad infinitum.

Sharyn Wolf is a marriage counsellor and psychotherapist practicing in New York City listing herself as a LCSW, licensed clinical social worker. As an author, she has penned five self-help books including This Old Spouse: Tips and Tools for Keeping that Honeymoon Glow, How to Stay Lovers for Life: Discover a Marriage Counselor’s Tricks of the Trade, Guerrilla Dating Tactics: Strategies, Tips and Secrets for Finding Romance, 50 Ways to Find a Lover and So You Want to Get Married: Guerrilla Tactics for Turning a Date into a Mate. She has been a guest on various television programs including Oprah (8 times!), Katie Couric, 48 Hours, and CNN. Her work has been quoted in newspapers and magazines including, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, and The New York Times as well as magazines such as Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men’s Health, and Self.

Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce
On May 3, 2011, Ms. Wolf's latest book Love Shrinks comes out detailing her failed third marriage. The publisher's synopsis:

For twenty years, Sharyn Wolf, a practicing psychotherapist and "relationship expert," has helped revitalize the marriages of countless couples. But while she was being interviewed on Oprah and 48 hours to talk about her nationally bestselling books that instructed millions on how to flirt, find mates, and "stay lovers for life," she was going home every night to a dark secret: a totally failed marriage of her own to a good man she just couldn't leave.

In Love Shrinks, Sharyn tells the mindbending—and yet deeply relatable—story of her (third!) marriage. In anecdotes that range from poignant to horrifying to side-splittingly funny to heart-rending, she explains how it is possible for two good people to make each other totally miserable and yet still be unable to leave. In fifteen years of marriage, she and her husband had sex twice. Despite the fact that Sharyn was a national bestselling self-help author, her husband couldn't bring himself to read a single one of her books. Communication between them had failed so utterly that the simple domestic activity of buying a couch together escalated to disastrous proportions. Yet through it all, they stay together—even though neither one knows why. Sharyn ends each chapter with a touching story of why she could never bear to leave this man who made her so unhappy.

Painted against the backdrop of her psycotherapy practice, real-life illustrative cases of her patients, and the wacky story of career trajectory, Sharyn turns her analytical eye on herself and her husband and deftly depicts a marriage on its long last legs. The result is this beautiful and sad tapestry of a hidden and omnipresent human condition. You will not be able to put her book down.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do
In this March 16, 2011 article published in the Huffington Post, Ms. Wolf announces to the world what's happened. She writes briefly about her marriage, her failed attempts to correct it, and her decision to file for divorce. The article concludes with:

This story wouldn't be complete without telling you how I am now, and that's complicated. At my best, I feel elated. I no longer feel like I'm hiding a shameful secret. I'm lighter. My pants fit better. At my worst, I feel empty. I miss the husband I never shared a meal with and rarely saw. Yet, even in my lowest moments, telling the truth is a huge relief, even if it means I'm the marriage counselor who couldn't keep her own marriage intact. I've learned from my mistakes, and that knowledge lets me feel that I can survive the emptiness and make room in my life now for whatever comes next.

10-minute interview: Sharyn Wolf
The Toronto Star published this interview on April 14, 2011.

... Despite telling Oprah viewers she was in a happy marriage, Wolf's marriage (her fourth) was a mess. She and her husband didn't have sex for 13 years and they wouldn't speak for weeks. In Love Shrinks, a Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce, Wolf details her unusual marriage and tumultuous and at times tragic life. She was sexually abused by a friend of her father's as a child; she was committed to a psychiatric facility after her second marriage failed for the first time (she married him twice); when she discovered her most recent husband's bills for phone sex, she slit her wrists.
Q: Has anyone expressed outrage that you were offering advice when your own marriage was troubled?
A: Some were outraged—even saying I was a sham. But you can be a heart surgeon and have a heart attack. I have a professional and a personal life and they are separate. With the divorce rate at 50 per cent, it doesn't seem possible to me that all marriage therapists have great marriages.
Q: What have you heard from Oprah or her minions about your book?
A: Nothing and I don't think I will. I didn't lie to Oprah, I was lying to myself.
Q: Do you think your Oprah show advice was helpful to anyone?
A: Yes, I have had the chance recently to play back a tape of myself on Oprah that is on YouTube. The advice is the same I'd give today, so many years later, because it is sound.
Q: It seems as though you didn't have high standards for what you wanted in a husband. Why was that?
A: I had a very troubled childhood. I had no idea of how to take care of myself, let alone how to choose a partner for myself.
Q: How common is that among women?
A: I think it is quite common for women to undervalue ourselves and be unclear about what can make love work.

No Stone Unturned by Michel Weiner-Davis
Ms. Weiner-Davis wrote this article about Sharyn Wolf and her article "Do as I Say, Not As I Do" in the Huffington Post: I read her wonderfully written account about what she tried and what didn’t work with her husband, the psychotic optimist in me (I didn’t write the book, Divorce Busting randomly) couldn’t help but notice that perhaps Sharon left several stones unturned when trying to mend her failing relationship.

* Marriage-saving Tip # 1- Don’t be complacent about a ho-hum sex life
...what happens to marriages where one spouse is yearning for more physical contact... Resentful spouses generally don’t have much empathy or desire to please.

* Marriage-Saving Tip # 2- Spend time together
By Sharon’s admission, her focus on work and the resulting success takes time and energy. Could it be that her ex felt like a second fiddle to her career and resented his not being a priority?

* Marriage-Saving Tip #3- If all else fails, do nothing my practice, I’ve noticed that sometimes one spouse is doing ALL the work while the other spouse does NOTHING. Relationships are like see saws. The more one person does, the less the other person has to do.

Uploaded by FoxNewsInsider on Apr 12, 2011
Oprah Show Relationship Expert Admits She Lied About Her Marriage
Sharyn Wolf, author of "Love Shrink" and former relationship expert on the Oprah Winfrey show, tells Alisyn Camerota why she lied on the show about her own failing marriage ... and whether or not she believes Oprah will forgive her.

Final Word
Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. Years ago in another life I told a girlfriend I had to work late on Friday evening and couldn't see her, but if she was available on Saturday, we could get together; "Let me know if you're free". I never heard from her so when I finally phoned her on Saturday around 5pm, she had already gone out - I don't know where - and I never got to see her.

Afterwards, in dissecting our lost weekend, it came out that I went out with the guys on Friday and she went out with the girls on Saturday. However as we debated this back and forth, she got angry with me because I had lied as I had said I had to work late when I really went out with the guys. When I pointed out she didn't phone me and went out with the girls on Saturday night, she said she hadn't lied to me, she had never phoned me therefore she had never said anything. Okay, she was mad at me because I had lied about going out with the guys on Friday night. But in turn, she never said anything to me about Saturday night so that wasn't a lie and if I sat around doing nothing on Saturday night, that wasn't her fault. White lie versus white silence?

It has been years since this took place, but I still scratch my head about it. And I scratch my head even more when I realise that neither one of us really figured out why we couldn't be 100% truthful with each other. Did I lie because I wanted to spare her feelings? Or did I do it because I wanted to avoid a potential argument? Did she not phone me because she didn't want to be obliged in some way or was she ticked that I wasn't available on Friday and she wanted to get even?

On Sharyn Wolf's web site, under the section "Press" which gives some reviews of her book Love Shrinks, I read:

"A relentlessly honest portrayal of a marriage – Love Shrinks is for anyone who has stayed in a relationship too long for all the wrong—and yes, sometimes right—reasons. You’ll cheer when Wolf finally breaks out. And just maybe it will remind you of someone you know."
—Susan Richards, bestselling author of Chosen by a Horse.

I haven't read Ms. Wolf's book, but I have a lot of questions about it. The above review makes her seem like a heroine and some of the things quoted from her book vilify her husband. What's his side of the story? She and her husband didn't have sex for 13 years and they wouldn't speak for weeks... when she discovered her most recent husband's bills for phone sex, she slit her wrists. (Toronto Star)

What's his side of the story? Maybe nobody cares. Was it a sham when she was counselling people, appearing on TV, and writing books about relationships while living in this odd marriage? Sex twice in fifteen years? What? I've heard people criticize criminals who do their time, then get out, write a book, and become the darling of the talk show circuit. Is this the same thing? Screw things up royally, write a book about it, and then turn into a heroine? Is there always redemption at the end of the tunnel if you've got a book?

I must come back to the article "No Stone Unturned" by Michel Weiner-Davis in which the author says about Sharyn Wolf's book:

I am not surprised by her confession that one’s marriage-saving wisdom isn’t always easy to implement in one’s own marriage. Some of the most prominent and well-respected marriage experts in the field are on their second and subsequent marriages.

If the supposed experts can't get it right, what chance do the rest of us have?


Soho Press: Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce
About the Author: Sharyn Wolf is a New York State–licensed psychotherapist who has worked with couples for twenty years.  She has been a frequent media commentator on celebrity marriage and divorce and has written five self-help books including This Old Spouse: Tips and Tools for Keeping that Honeymoon Glow, How to Stay Lovers for Life, Guerrilla Dating Tactics, 50 Ways to Find a Lover and So You Want to Get Married.  She has been a guest on Oprah eight times.  A jazz, big band and R&B vocalist for seventeen years, she has opened for B.B. King, David Brenner and Victor Borge.

official web site: Sharyn Wolf

LCSW = Licensed clinical social worker

Huffington Post - Mar 16/2011
Do As I Say, Not As I Do by Sharyn Wolf
What Oprah, the audience, or anyone in my life didn't know then was that I had a secret. While launching a career as a "relationship expert," I was going home every night to a failed marriage of my own. My husband and I didn't sleep in the same bed. We only had sex three times in fifteen years. We rarely shared a meal. Nonetheless, we were deeply attached to each other, would take a bullet for each other, and in some cockeyed way, still loved each other deeply.

Wikipedia: Liar's paradox
In philosophy and logic, the liar paradox or liar's paradox (pseudomenon in Ancient Greek), is the statement "This sentence is false." Trying to assign to this statement a classical binary truth value leads to a contradiction. If "This sentence is false" is true, then it is false, which would in turn mean that it is actually true, but this would mean that it is false, and so on ad infinitum. Similarly, if "This sentence is false" is false, then it is true, which would in turn mean that it is actually false, but this would mean that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.

I'm certain I'm going to get some flak about this, but there's something about this story which rubs me the wrong way. Having a bad marriage and getting out at the five year mark is laudatory. Waiting for 15 years is nuts. Watching her on Oprah talking about how to have a good marriage and keep love alive then saying, "I'm in a long happy marriage and I have those feelings about my husband." is so dishonest. She's lying!

I just read a comment about this book: "I love how honest you are". What? Am I missing something? This woman has been lying to Oprah, her audience, and herself for fifteen years, but she writes a tell-all about this and now she's honest, she's off the hook, she's gotten a get out of jail free card. Does anybody remember A Million Little Pieces by James Fry?

In the above clip from Fox News, the newscaster says, "You said, 'I've been in a long happy marriage'" and Wolf replies "I did say that but I was fooling myself. I thought it was the truth." I can't help thinking of the memorable character of George Costanza on the TV show Seinfeld who said, "It's not a lie if you believe it."


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