What the pros are saying...

Dr. John Lund, noted interpersonal relationships and communications researcher: "Alan and Renita Cassidy have truly looked behind the mask of a smiling face... Behind the Smiling Faces has only one objective. It is to help you and your loved ones become your highest and best selves."

Paul Brandt, author of Alone But Not Lonely: "Behind the Smiling Faces is a book that is long overdue. Such candor and insight can be a vital transfusion to those who face the challenges of sustaining or ending intimate, committed partnerships. Buy it. Read it. And most importantly, live it!"

Matt Townsend, relationship expert and coach: "A book that needed to be written. For the first time, Church members tell their stories from the inside -- it's powerful stuff."

A Look in the Book...

We have this idealized image that everyone has the perfect marriage except us, but every married couple is dealing with some issue. [Dr. Brent Barlow, chapter 8]

My biggest regret is taking the wrong path. If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t take Justin for granted...I didn’t realize how fragile he was, that he had a breaking point. [Stephanie, 28, divorced, section II]

We like difference. Then we marry the opposite and we’re stupid enough to want to spend our life fixing them to be like us, which would make us and them miserable. [Dr. Taylor Hartman, chapter 1]

Now that the kids are gone and the nest is empty, it is really empty. Enrico doesn’t seem to fill the void that I thought he would. [Maria, married, chapter 21]

Many couples don’t understand the temple marriage commitment. They get caught up in the day-to-day living and this culture that glorifies individual needs and wants and desires and immediate gratification. [Dr. Tom Holman, chapter 2]

The abuse began within a month of getting married. He dragged me out of the apartment by my hair. He locked the door and said, "You can come back in when you stop crying." It was humiliating. [Barbara, former beauty queen, divorced, chapter 29]

A lot of marriages fall apart because there are severe financial problems. I am appalled at the lack of preparation, the lack of thought about what it takes to provide a house, transportation, schooling, food, clothing, for not only themselves, but for their children. [Randy Hudson, chapter 10]

Church can be really painful when you’re first divorced. I used to go to the church where we all went as a family. I used to teach Sunday School there with Renee; it’s where I baptized my children. So it’s all the same except that all your children march in with a new guy and you’re sitting there thinking, There’s something wrong with this picture. [George, divorced, chapter 22]

If women knew the emotional and physical damage caused simply by living in the same home where abuse occurs, they would leave for the same reason they have stayed: for their children’s sake. [Betty McMaster, chapter 7]

Every Sunday I put on my smiley face and we walked into church looking like the perfect family. No one knew the truth. [Gwen, divorced, section II]

They have to control you. Usually, a narcissist in a severe form only has two speeds: control or destroy. [Dr. Suzanne Dastrup, chapter 6]

My mission president used to say that the people who will make it to the terrestrial kingdom are the people who follow all the rules, and the people who will make it to the celestial kingdom are the people who learn to embrace the rules for the love of Christ. [Gary, happily married, chapter 12]

All frustration comes from unmet expectations. Everybody thinks that their expectations are reasonable and realistic and that somebody else has the problem. It's a blind spot for most of us. [Dr. John Lund, chapter 11]

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Moving Hand of Time

My dear mother passed away August 1, 2009 at age 93. She was an incredible lady, full of energy, compassion, curiosity and accomplishment. She spent nearly 50 years in radio in Conn., but I'll remember her mainly for one characteristic...she loved and cared for people. This translated first and foremost to her marriage of 64 years to my late father.

My daughters never forgot as little girls, peeking through the floor vent in my dad's office to the kitchen below where they watched their ageless grandparents waltzing to music. They truly loved and served each other. A primary ingredient: they both shared a wonderful sense of humor. Our home was fun. They were the funniest (and funnest) people I've ever known.

I will always be indebted to the example they set for me: of love and service. My daughter said in her eulogy, "I learned from them, why have a good marriage when you can have a great one?"


Tuesday, July 28, 2009


"The happiness of married life depends upon making small sacrifices with readiness and cheerfullness."
John Seldon (1584-1654)

Monday, July 20, 2009


It would be extremely helpful to us -- but moreso to our readers -- to hear from you. Feedback to our blog is vital -- your ideas -- thoughts -- marriage advice or experience you'd be willing to share. And it doesn't have to directly relate to our book. You'd help us...and our audience.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Onions in the Butter Tub

Looking forward to the breakfast in front of me, I sipped at my protein drink and took a bite of honey wheat English muffin. Ugh, what's that taste? Garlic? Yech. I downed it anyway then forgot about it. Until the next morning. I buttered the toasty muffin... What's that chunk? I lean closer. I sniff. Onion. I sniff the tub. Oh great, the whole darn thing is contaminated. Slightly annoyed, Renita the Detective (a personality test actually labeled me a detective) takes action. I sleuth my way to the only other person in the house... Alan. Sure enough, it happened the other evening ... when he was making dinner ... for me. Still annoyed? Not so much.

My son came to mind. Micah loved peanut butter. I mean, he LOVED peanut butter. At Micah's funeral his friend talked about the roommates finding peanut butter in everything. Jam. Mayo. Ice cream. Knowing chuckles could be heard around the chapel. I don't know if peanut butter contamination was ever an annoyance, but it had now become a tender memory.

We all have our pet peeves. Petty peeves, perhaps? Marriage can be full of them. It's not so much that they're there, but how we react to them. Do you find yourself adding yet another to a long list of grievances? Does your blood pressure spike as you seethe in silence? Do you fly into a rage? If you answered yes to any of the above, you can bet the peeves are only symptoms of something much bigger. It might be time to invest in a marriage counselor.

Or maybe it's time to remember that you love this person you're going to spend eternity with. And remember that he's not perfect. And neither are you.

Maybe someday onions in the butter tub will become a tender memory. But for now, I've stashed a fresh tub in a safe place and labeled it "contamination-free zone."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Settled wisdom

"Those marriages generally abound most with love and constancy that are preceded by a long courtship." Joseph Addison

Included in that long courtship should be the airing of concerns discussed in our book, both by the experts and the regular folk, the answers to which will play out during marriage --understanding each other's core values, expectations, strengths and weaknesses -- seeing each other in less-than-perfect situations -- spiritual congruence -- future in-laws -- humor...all of which are vitally important. A long courtship ensures the necessary time and thought to put everything on the table without pressure. If ignored or subverted, too often they find oxygen later on in the marriage to the potential detriment of the relationship. Communication, as we hear infinitum, is crucial, before and during marriage.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wise Counsel

This is a well-known quote with relevance beyond marriage...BUT it sure applies to the relationship you have with your spouse:

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to perceive." Sir Walter Scott

One of the interviewees in our book has said simply: "Never lie to your wife." Good advice...of course it also applies to the husband. There's nothing that complicates a relationship better than lying.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Color of Character

The first chapter in our book is entitled "The Color of Marriage", an interview with Dr. Taylor Hartman who defines the unique personalities we are each born with -- the four types are given colors (white, red, yellow, blue). Dr. Hartman's purpose in his book, The Color Code, is to help us better understand ourselves and others.

While we are each born with our personalities, it is predominantly character which determines the quality of our lives. He says, "Character is essentially anything we learn to think, feel, or do that is initially unnatural and requires effort to develop." He goes on to list several components essential for character development: free will, selecting positive influences in our lives, and identifying positive life principles.

Continuing, he adds that developing character is a way we can balance our personalties. (Each of the four color types has negative aspects.) "Unless we build character, we remain unfulfilled and limited. Character allows us to most fully enjoy an exciting and productive life."

There may be no greater challenge or opportunity to develop character than within the institution of marriage.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Dragonfly

One recent evening while Renita and I were watching the news on television, we heard a "bump" at the nearby window. We reacted, but saw nothing. A few seconds later, another bump. This time we recognized a dragonfly, not seeing the glass, but continuing to fly into it. The insect was nothing if not persistent. Half a dozen times he hit the window, retreated and tried again, impervious to reality. He saw past the window, but not the glass.

Maybe in my old age I see so many lessons in the mundane. I couldn't help but see the metaphor in the clueless dragonfly's fruitless attempts to fly forward in the face of possible death or injury, unable to see in front of his (many) eyes.

How often -- especially in marriage -- do we fly in the face of reality. Maybe we don't see what's ahead, but blindly go forward into the danger, blinded by our short-sightedness, our weaknesses, and our expectations. Being able to see, truly see ourselves, our spouses, and reality, can save so many heartaches and problems. Even with our eyes open, we are often blind.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Key to Happiness

Forgiveness is the key to your own happiness. Forgiving someone else takes moral courage. It ends the illusion of separation, and its power can change misery into happiness in an instant. Foregiveness means choosing to let go, move on, and favor the positive.

"You know you have forgiven someone when he or she has harmless passage through your mind."
Rev. Karyl Huntley

Monday, June 8, 2009

More Reader Comments

My daughter bought your book on Amazon and said it has been a great help to her and her husband. You don't know what that means to this Dad! --R.

I recently finished reading Behind the Smiling Faces. It has been for sale in the office where I work for the past several months. I hadn't even picked it up to see what it was about, but a couple of weeks ago I read a couple of pages in it. My daughter recently married a man much older than her. It is a second marriage for both. They are having some difficulty and I haven't known how to help. I felt the book might be a way to share some insights without treading on any toes but thought I should read it before I recommended it. It was very good. There are things that are pertinent to any situation where relationships are involved - single, divorced or married. I enjoyed the diversity of professionals and those with personal life experiences. I particularly enjoyed the quotes from church leaders. It established an ideal but recognized the reality is, the ideal doesn't happen without a lot of hard work. People are imperfect and there are always 2 sides and it takes 2 people committed to working it out. Thank you Alan and Renita. --I.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Critical Mass

A few years ago when I was living in L.A., I listened on the radio as a UCLA professor of Marriage & Family Therapy responded to a caller's question that went something like this: "I understand it's not healthy to criticize your spouse, but what if that spouse deserves it, can't you do it in a friendly way?"

The simple answer from the professor was brutally direct: "Never, never criticize your spouse."
We all make mistakes. We all do things which may be stupid or wrong-headed. But criticism is dangerous and too often hurtful.

Which leads us into another question: when your spouse says something which offends you, there are two responses...(1) you stuff it (you just swallow the hurt and say nothing) -- which can go in two directions: it may be healthier to let it go, believing it's not important OR becoming silent without airing the hurt which may not be healthy, although it avoids confrontation. Or (2) you do as one of the healthier couples in our book suggests at such a time, say something like, "Honey, I know you love me, but what you said was hurtful, so can we talk about it?"

I know this has to be a challenge for all marriages. Say nothing and let it go because it's not worth it; say nothing when it's important to you which can fester bad feelings, or bring it out in the open, hopefully to be aired with love and listening and understanding. All of us who are married must deal with this. It's something to think about...or better, talk to your spouse about BEFORE the need arises. Stuffing happens other than at Thanksgiving -- and it's not very tasty if ignored.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Meridian Magazine Book Review

Dear Readers,

Catherine K. Arveseth of Meridian Magazine has written a thoughtful review of Behind the Smiling Faces. We hope you will click on the link below to read her review in full.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here's Looking at You

There's an exercise used in acting by the late master teacher, Sanford Meisner -- basically it's repetition of a simple line of dialog between two actors. An example: one actor says, "I really love you." The other repeats, "I really love you." It is deliberately monotonous, but after doing it enough times you begin to say and hear and see the phrase differently. You may eventually find the truth in what the phrase means -- for an actor it is the basis for what becomes emotional dialog. Doing so many times and ways, helps you form a point of view.

Now, how to extrapolate this to marriage: we see our spouses every day, usually in the same way. If married long, we can take our mate for granted -- the habits, pecadilloes, personality...everything eventually becomes routine. Same ol' same ol'. That may lead to apathy. (If it gets to distain, this could be trouble.)

My point here is to see your spouse differently. What are you missing, not seeing, not identifying, not realizing? If you're lucky (or smart) -- in the sleepy recesses of your mind -- you may sit up and say to yourself: "My goodness, my husband/wive is amazing -- so talented, smart, attractive...and he/she loves ME? Aren't I blessed? Lucky? Now...I will never take him/her for granted. I'm the luckiest person on the planet."

Just remember: "A fish never knows it's wet."

Just a thought...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Said Marriage is Fun?

Marie Osmond said something to the effect that "with time, tragedy turns into a good story" (or something funny). After living a few years I realize this to be true. When making a documentary on rodeos several years ago, I mistakenly got in the way of a 1,200 lb. Brahma bull who -- as they say in the rodeo biz -- "freight-trained" me. Ripped my pants, busted my Nagra tape recorder, and tore off a thumb nail. But soon thereafter it was funny -- the rodeo clowns took me to a western bar and poured hydrogen peroxide on it over a sink and basically told me to get over it. Compared to ruptured spleens and broken collarbones, it was a flesh wound. I saved my ripped pants for years...for my "museum". Lots a' luck, Al.

There's nothing funny about divorce, although -- if you look hard enough -- there are exceptions. As our book details in sometimes lofty, painful, and sad stories, marriage is the most difficult relationship in life. It can be so complicated, so frustrating...at the same time there is nothing more joyful than a good marriage...and it is absolutely possible. Shake out selfishness, add plentiful love and attention and compromise and sacrifice...and it can work.

I was raised in a family of wonderful humor (thanks to my parents) -- it became a coping mechanism (like the painful, rhythmic blues of the south) -- it was a view of life, a way to look at ourselves and others. I didn't have to try with my children. Today I have breakfast with them and the conversation is a hoot -- each funny in his/her own way -- they make me laugh and, in turn, I leave them with my endorphins popping and my capillaries wide open. Humor is medicinal. They are not shallow, nor silly. They have heart, spirit, and humor.

You can't make someone "see life funny" if it's not there, I suppose. But I believe it to be essential in a marriage and -- if I may share something personal -- in your most intimate moments, it is an absolute ice-breaker. Especially when each is vulnerable and tender. Except for the temple, I see humor as one of the most vital ingredients in life and therefore marriage.

Don't take yourself so seriously. Get over yourself. Have fun. If marriage isn't fun...what are you doing wrong? You think it's supposed to be all seriousness, gloom and doom? You'll live longer and your marriage will be happier if you find "funny" in this most-important relationship. I'd love to hear how humor in your marriage has worked...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Men, Women, and Funnybones

Alan thinks women have no sense of humor. I think men laugh at the dumbest, non-funny stuff. The supposed lack of a female funnybone is a bone of contention between men and women everywhere. Turns out there may be a reason why we laugh at different things. When researchers at Stanford University in California compared MRI scans of people looking at cartoons, they found that men's and women's brains process jokes differently. Eiman Abdel-Azim, doctoral candidate at Harvard Medical School in Boston explains, "The region of the brain that's associated with analytical thinking and language decoding was activated more for women than it was for men." Caroline Hwang, author of the article "Why He Doesn't Laugh at Your Jokes" (Ladies' Home Journal, March 2006) suggests that a "woman's sense of humor is more analytical than a man's and may explain earlier findings that show men tend to laugh at slapstick and physical gags, while women appreciate verbal, narrative humor." Oh yeah. So while our hubbies are howling their way through a Three Stooges oldie, we can just, well...think about it.