The Crush Letter No 97

The Crush Letter No 97

. 12 min read

I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about life, love, and culture for those 40+.  Because midlife and beyond is so much cooler than they said it would be.  Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.

Hello Crush,

Lori Gottlieb, psychotherapist and author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone routinely offers insightful answers to questions in her meaty "Dear Therapist" column in The Atlantic. Her latest was a tour de force, though. In Dear Therapist: My Husband Doesn't Want Another Kid, So I'm Considering Divorce, "Anonymous" writes that she truly loves her husband, but if he doesn't agree to another child "I don't know that I would ever be able to forgive him for taking this away from me."

Gottlieb's approach to working through the issue is so profoundly relevant to all of the entrenched relationship issues we face that appear to be intractably either/or. (Have you noticed with maturity that there are far fewer truly black-and-white scenarios in long-term relationships than you had once thought? Oh, and that ultimatum's rarely work?) "The biggest challenge here isn't the decision itself – though it's clearly a hard one --but the way you've set up the situation," writes Gottlieb. She goes on to encourage Anonymous to reconsider her assumptions – by working through a few scenarios intended to broaden her perspective – and to suggest ways each partner can get more curious about what's driving the other's position.

It's a powerful approach that is executed to such perfection in this column that we can all apply it – I learned so much, particularly about the destructive and dishonest (but seemingly truthful) way we sometimes frame issues. I hope you read it. (The Atlantic allows non-subscribers four free articles per month.)

And then come back to us, because Gottlieb's piece made me think about some of our best work on long-term love. I'm republishing many of those below. Here's to long, happy relationships! Enjoy.

If you're new here (welcome!), I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies. For more about me and why we're here go here.

In This Letter: Re-sharing Our Best Work on Long-term Love.   +Field Trip: What Five Married Couples Learn on One Powerful Weekend Away With A Renowned Sex Therapist. By Dish Stanley. I would say that the common driver — or descriptor — is that we are all committed to personal growth.  And to our marriages.   +Movie Magic. By Amy Ferris He said and I'm quoting: "I'll call ya."   +A Book That Could Unf*ck Your Relationship: I Want This To Work By Elizabeth Earnshaw. Reviewed by Angela Kempf. I Want This to Work offers a holistic look at relationships—starting by assessing and evaluating your relationship with yourself, then your partner's relationship to themself, and eventually, your relationship together.   +Extended Encounters. By Lisa Ellex For the first seven years, Nadya thought of Bohdan as “just one of the guys” and they enjoyed a relationship as close friends. Then came the night of the Halloween party.   +Our Song of the Week I’m a flower, you’re the bee

Field Trip: What Five Married Couples Learn on One Powerful Weekend Away With A Renowned Sex Therapist. By Dish Stanley.

For their 20th wedding anniversary, one couple organized a (pre-COVID) retreat with a leading marital and sex therapist.  In this candid Q&A with the woman who organized it, we learn why they went and what they brought back.

Tell Us About Yourself

I am an ICU doctor in the Midwest. My husband is also a doctor (we met in medical school), and we have two children, one in college (MIT, we’re so proud) and one still in high school.  I was raised in Mexico and my husband is from Vietnam.  On top of the joys and difficulties every other long-term married couple experiences, we’ve also combined cultures. We’ve been together for 26 festive years.

Why’d You Organize This Trip?

I am a medical doctor by training and practice and I see wellness in a holistic way, including emotional, relational, and sexual wellness.  To be healthy encompasses all those areas.  It was our 20th wedding anniversary and my husband and I wanted to honor and celebrate that — but also to connect in new ways.  I am not saying “reconnect” because that’s not the right description; we wanted (and want) to continue to connect, to grow in new ways.  A sort of commitment to relational wellness and continual learning, really.

Tell Us About the Couples Who Went

First off, both my husband and I were raised in what I would describe as fairly conservative cultures.  All five of the couples on the journey live in the Midwest.  All are hetero-normative, monogamous, long-term couples — in the scheme of things we are a fairly traditional group.  This wasn’t organized for couples in distress.  It was a wellness trip.  It was about discovery and growth.  I would say that the common driver — or descriptor — is that we are all committed to personal growth.  And to our marriages.

And How’d You Pick the Sex Therapist?

I did quite a lot of research before reaching out to Dr. Jess, a sex and relationship expert based in Toronto.  I saw that she had experience leading couples’ workshops on sexual wellness, and had done a lot with people in midlife and longer-term relationships and she had terrific reviews.  She was absolutely excellent.

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Movie Magic. By Amy Ferris

One writer beautifully recalls meeting her cameraman husband on her film “Mr. Wonderful,” creating a lifelong love story—on the set of a love story.

He was the cameraman.
I was the girl screenwriter.

Mr. Wonderful. Mary Louise-Parker, Annabella Sciorra, James Gandolfini and William Hurt. A studio movie. A Hollywood movie. And the very best part, Anthony Minghella was directing. Truly, Madly, Deeply became an international hit and Anthony chose this script - a script I co-wrote - to be his very first Hollywood film.

It was September, the beginning of Labor Day weekend, September 4th -7th, 1992.

We met on the movie.

It was, you know, movie magic, and he said those three little magic words after we shared a few hours and a couple of drinks at a dive bar on Amsterdam Avenue with a great jukebox that played Van Morrison and k.d. lang and Lou Reed and Marvin Gaye. He said and I'm quoting: "I'll call ya."


And yes, I waited by the phone because back then we didn't have little itsy-bitsy cellphones or texting or instant messaging. We had massive phone machines the size of a shoebox; phone machines with remotes the size of a shoe so you could actually stand in a phone booth for hours on end retrieving and replaying your voice messages.

As always, I digress.

I was Velcro-ed to my landline during the long, long Labor Day weekend. I refused to leave my apartment. In my mind, my oh-so-fucking-vivid-imagination, he was partying and drinking and carousing and having tons of sex with unnamed women with long legs and short names who he was picking up at bars. For that one weekend, I was playing a duet—Vicki Carr and Ray Milland, Oh dear God it must be him—while nursing White Russians (the drink, not men).

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A Book That Could Unf*ck Your Relationship: I Want This To Work By Elizabeth Earnshaw. Reviewed by Angela Kempf.

When we think about romantic relationships—and especially their beginnings—we think about the fun stuff. The electricity. The chemistry. The banter. The mystery and the surprise.

What’s less romantic to think about are the patterns in those relationships. It takes some of the stars out of your eyes when you realize that relationships are typically a series of habits so predictable that you could graph them if you wanted to. The first point is where you are attracted to the same type of person as always. The subsequent point is where you are captivated by their scent, humor, and how much your dogs love them. The next point is when you make a series of sacrifices for them that you may or may not be entirely comfortable with. The next point is resentment.

Your graph will undoubtedly vary from the example above. But chances are, if you’ve had a series of long-term relationships, your graphs would look similar no matter who you’re dating. That’s because it’s difficult to avoid developing a series of habits inside relationships. And I Want This to Work by Elizabeth Earnshaw guides you through taking an in-depth look at whether those habits are serving you.

In the March 4, 2021, Crush Letter, we told you that Earnshaw’s Instagram was one of the best social media accounts to follow for practical advice that can transform your relationship. So, it’s no surprise that her book is a compendium of helpfulness, a resource you’ll return to again and again for intimate tune-ups. Elizabeth Earnshaw is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and she uses her real-world experience to provide readers with example problems and, more importantly, solutions. The advice she gives is practical and goes beyond common sense—plus, you can use it whether you’re on your first date or your 30th anniversary.

I Want This to Work offers a holistic look at relationships—starting by assessing and evaluating your relationship with yourself, then your partner's relationship to themself, and eventually, your relationship together. Some of us tend to lose sight of ourselves and get swallowed up inside our romantic entanglements, while others are so independent that it can make intimacy impossible. Earnshaw understands how a lack of self-care and self-awareness is linked to relationship struggles. Our treatment of ourselves will eventually become our treatment of others.

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“Nadya and Bohdan."  By Lisa Ellex

Our author's one-night stand lasted three-decades-long  – but we want to hear
YOURS. In her column, Extended Encounters, Lisa Ellex talks to couples who have been together for upwards of thirty years. If you and your partner are among the fortunate few whose relationship has been witness to seven presidential elections, 19 wars, a global pandemic, and Keith Richards falling out of a coconut tree then Lisa would love to hear from you .

“I want to spend time with him.”

In reflecting on my life partner's choices of myself and many of my friends, I have formulated my very own social theory. I refer to it as “The Pancake Theory”. Next time you make pancakes, notice how the first one doesn’t turn out quite as well as the ones to follow. This is a fact of my own scientific research.

There are, however, a fortunate few whose first pancake turned out fine. In fact, it turned out extremely fine. It’s worth finding out how. So I asked Nadya and Bohdan. She teaches yoga and meditation, he is an electrical engineer. Each morning before her husband’s commute, Nadya wakes at 4 a.m. so that she and Bohdan can “chat, laugh, and sip coffee together” until she sees him off to the 4:30 a.m. bus and readies for her own work day. When I marveled at her sacrificing sleep for this selfless act of love, Nadya responded, “I want to spend time with him.”

They first met 42 years ago in a youth group of a Ukrainian church. For the first seven years, Nadya thought of Bohdan as “just one of the guys” and they enjoyed a relationship as close friends. Then came the night of the Halloween party. Bohdan attended with a blind date. Nadya showed up solo.

“Bohdan’s date was not having me at all. After some time she asked, ‘Are you going to be here for the rest of the night?’ I said, ‘We’re all friends here,’ and with that, I turned to Bohdan and said, ‘I'm going down to the ladies' room. Those stairs are dangerous for someone who's had a few drinks.’ Without missing a beat, he asked, ‘Would you like me to walk you?’ So we went downstairs and, like a gentleman, he waited for me. When I exited the ladies’ room, he smoothly backed me into the wall. I started talking, babbling, out of nerves. He put his hand over my mouth, not touching it, and said, ‘Shhh. There is no need for words,’ and planted our first kiss.

After college, I embarked on my career in television and it was really taking off. Suddenly, Bohdan saw this ‘girl’ from the youth group in a whole different light and it was a lot for him to handle. One night we were on the phone and he asked, ‘Why do you want to date me? Your life is so exciting and you know all these people.’ I said, ‘Because you’re nice.’ Bohdan manifested at a time in my life when I was surrounded by people who didn’t know who they were. I thought I would live a single life but when he came along with his kind and authentic heart, he broke through.”

Of Nadya, Bohdan says, “She’s the most dynamic woman I have ever met. As we were dating and becoming more (emotionally) intimate, I realized there were a lot more facets to Nadya than just the obvious. And it helped that we had a deeper connection by meeting through the youth group. When I was going through personal struggles in my academic life, she saw me through the stresses of it. But I really knew it would work when I discovered she liked fishing. Though we spent most of our dates fishing, it wasn’t about fishing. It was about being together and spending time in a natural setting. I felt a shift happen.”

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Song of the Week

Real Love Baby By Father John Misty
Live at the City Folk Festival in Ottawa, Canada - September 16, 2017

I've never seen Joshua Michael Tillman, aka Father John Misty, in concert, but I'd love to. Real Love Baby so beautifully captures our desire to have a love that's fundamental, and this is a terrific live version. By the way, does anyone know why he calls himself, rather John Misty? I don't. I've read that he was raised in an evangelical Christian family, and I wonder if that's why.

There are a couple of things I'd love to know.

If you read my piece on Sylvie from Emily In Paris 'Merci’!' to Emily In Paris for One of the Most Compelling Women in Pop Culture. Sylvie., then you know I'm looking to hear what characters in pop culture depict women of a certain age that you love.

Favorite Characters Over 50+

And last week I started our new Ask Dish: Stray Questions column. Hit me up with your question here.

Ask Dish Poll

I hope you have a happy week.

Dish Stanley X-oh!-X,

You Won't Want to Miss A Thing. Here Are Links to Some Favorites.

Ask Dish: Answers to Your Stray Questions
From the sublime to the ridiculous, I get a lot of random questions. I answer some of them here. Got a stray question? Submit it using the link below.
AMPLIFY! The 12 Sex With Emily Podcast Episodes CRUSH Readers Should Get On Top Of. By Dish Stanley
This series highlights the best episodes from our favorite podcasts. One of them is Sex With Emily hosted by Sex Expert Dr. Emily Morse. We’ve listened to her exciting repertoire and have picked out the episodes we think CRUSH Readers shouldn’t miss.
The Solo Issue: The Secrets That We Keep. By Lisa Ellex
In a series of in-depth conversations with midlife women and men, this authorasked volunteers from the PrimeCrush community to share the things they’rehesitant to say out loud to even their closest coupled-up friends. The Secrets That We Keep: Brutally Honest Conversations About Being Solo. ByL…
How to Talk to a Midlife Solo. By Dish Stanley
Want to be more sensitive and compassionate? (Of course, you do!) Here are some easy tips to try.
Sylvie Grateau of Emily In Paris is a riveting stick of dynamite.
Yes, we’ve seen other compelling women of a certain age in major shows. But in Season 3 of Emily In Paris, Sylvie becomes a multi-faceted stick of dynamite, and one of the most riveting women in pop culture.


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