Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Merle Shain

Canadian Journalist and Author

"One often learns more from ten days of agony than ten years of contentment."

"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."

"You can employ men and hire hands to work for you, but you must win their hearts to have them work with you."

"Friends are like windows through which you see out into the world and back into yourself... If you don't have friends you see much less than you otherwise might."

"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."

"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 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."

"The people in your life are like the pillars on your porch. Sometimes they hold you up, and sometimes they lean on you. Sometimes it's enough to know they are standing by."

"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."

"The act is unjustifiable that either begs for a blessing, or, having succeeded gives no thanksgiving."

"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."

"Until you divest yourself of the notion that you are a collection of needs, an empty vessel that someone else must fill up, there will be no safe place to harbor yourself, no safe shore to reach. As long as you think mostly of getting, you will have nothing real to give."

"It is better to light candles than to curse the darkness. It is better to plant seeds than to accuse the earth. The world needs all of our power and love and energy, and each of us has something that we can give. The trick is to find it and use it, to find it and give it away. So there will always be more. We can be lights for each other, and through each other's illumination we will see the way. Each of us is a seed, a silent promise, and it is always spring."

"But who would rush at a benighted man, and give him two black eyes for being blind?"

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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?""

"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."

"It has been said that a lot of women of our generation grew up to be the men they always wanted to marry"

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"Most women would rather have someone whisper their name at optimum moments than rocket with contractions to the moon"

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"Through tattered clothes, small vices do appear. Robes and furred gowns hide all."

"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."

"Whether the melon falls on the knife or the knife falls on the melon, it's the melon that suffers. And so it would appear to me"

"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 can, after all, produce an orgasm yourself if that's what you want, so we must go to bed for something more."