Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Welcome Back, Lisabet Sarai

The True Test of Love
By Lisabet Sarai

As authors of romance, we know that every love must be tested. When our hero and heroine fall for one another, we can't let them have it too easy. There needs to be some challenge, some obstacle to their perfect connection. It might be an evil ex hanging around, trying to lure the heroine back into his arms. It might be a near-fatal disease, or a plane crash, or an attack by hostile natives. Or the conflict might be internal, the characters fighting demons from their own pasts, trying to surmount the barriers to trust.

Readers know that, whatever the nature of their trials and tribulations, the protagonists will eventually pass the test and receive their reward: each other. That's the comforting aspect of romance. In the real world, though, things are a bit more iffy. We face the same sorts of trials, but there's no guarantee that our love will survive them.

To help Ginger celebrate Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share my experiences with what might be the ultimate test of a relationship. I've been married for nearly 28 years. They've been happy and fulfilling years, but practically every day my husband and I deal with a uniquely difficult challenge.

It's not, thank heaven, a health challenge. It's not the specter of the numerous other relationships we both enjoyed prior to our marriage. It's not a natural disaster. No, it's far more extreme...

My husband and I work together.

We're both software engineers. We share an office. We have a software product that we've developed and we also act as consultants for other companies. We are together almost twenty four hours a day, working as well as playing. And we don't always see things the same way.

He's the inspired one, the one who has flashes of insight and who likes to experiment. Hardly a day goes by that he doesn't propose some new project that just might make us rich. I'm the disciplined one, who prefers to plan, to limit the risks, to keep things simple and stick to the familiar. I like to think that I'm the practical one, though that's probably not fair.

He's a multi-tasker, keeping twenty windows simultaneously open on his monitor. I'm lucky if I can keep track of two. At the same time, he's very sensitive to being interrupted. If I ask him a question while he's thinking, he'll growl and complain about my bothering him. Yet he thinks nothing of querying me about some entry in the checkbook when I'm deeply involved in debugging some software routine. Fortunately I don't find that nearly as disruptive as he would.

Other couples argue about money or sex or who left the toilet seat up. We argue about programming languages, software architecture and new technologies. We do a lot of design work together, and our sessions can get pretty heated―each of us completely convinced that our way is best.

Sometimes things get out of hand. He will accuse me of being patronizing or of not listening. I might feel the same way about him. Once in a very great while, one of us may even stomp off in a huff.

Fortunately, we have managed to survive this test. When things get tense, I remind myself how smart he is and how much I respect him―even when I don't agree with him at all. The fact is, our disparate approaches produce better results than either of us could create alone. We balance and complement each other. Our work, at its best, incorporates our individual strengths while limiting the impact of our weaknesses.

We almost always find our way past the areas of disagreement. The key, sometimes, is to deliberately adopt the other person's point of view. And to listen. We're both passionate about our work. When I feel that I have a solution, it's easy to become blind to other options. So I force myself to ask him questions, to get him to explain his position, and then to evaluate it objectively.

We've had colleagues tell us that we should write a book about “our secret”. “How do you manage it? My wife and I would tear each other to shreds if we had to work together,” they say. We smile and pretend that it's easy. But of course it's not.

The bottom line is that both of us view our relationship as more important than any bone of contention. Spirited disagreement is fine, but when we feel ourselves stepping over the line, saying things that might damage that relationship, we almost always recognize this and pull back.

It's the true test of love, but so far we've passed with flying colors. This Valentine's I'm celebrating the fact that my lover and husband is also my valued colleague and collaborator.

Note from Ginger: I always love when Lisabet visits. I learn something from her every time. I'm just now reading one of her "very erotic" offerings, Fire: Short Stories, and despite my prudish self, I'm discovering her stories have a deeper meaning beyond the steam and passion. She certainly titled this collection aptly.

LISABET SARAI has been writing, editing and publishing erotica since 1999 and has six novels, two short story collections, and three anthologies to her credit. Her stories have appeared in more than two dozen print collections. Recently she ventured into epublishing erotic romance with Total-E-Bound, Eternal Press and Phaze. Lisabet also reviews erotica for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association and Erotica Revealed. Visit her website at


Margaret Tanner said...

Wow Lisabet,
You and your hubby both deserve medals. Working, living and loving together 24 hours a day, that is some match you have there.


Gianna Bruno said...

I can relate to what you are saying, Lisabet. I've been married for slmost twenty years. I was previously divorced, so understanding how awful the coming apart can be has gotten me through some of the rough spots.

Our heros and heroines face terrible trials. That is one reason people read our books-they're metaphors for what people must endure in their real lives. I think that is what Ginger is noticing when she discerns the deeper message in your work. I know that is what I strive for when I write as well.

I've often been asked which of my characters I would like to be. NONE!

My husband and I battle the real life issues which drive us apart-not enough time for each other, taking care of kids and aging parents, work. We've so far dodged the bullet on major health issues, but the real fear of that always lingers.

But it's so nice to know I'll go to sleep and wake up next to him everyday. We don't even have to acknowlege in words how good it feels that, at least for a little while, we're alone (if you don't count the cat), it's quiet, it's dark and the shades are pulled down over the windows and the world.

Lise said...

Incredible true story! Don't you just love it when romance wins? Sounds like you've made your love affair a success through hard work and understanding. And what better recipe for a tremendous romance novel than that? Congrats on the 28 year success! Keep laughing, keep loving.

Phyllis Campbell said...

I bow to you, woman! I love my hubby, but I would hate to be around him 24/7. (gags) You're a trooper!!


Cate Masters said...

Great post, Lisabet! It's wonderful how you balance each other out. I don't know that I could work with my husband though. I hope you get a girl's night out sometimes!

Ginger Simpson said...

My husband I never did anything more challenging that cohabit a big rig together for 45 days, but I have to tell you, if you've developed a method that keeps your from murder or tearing out your own hair, you're a better woman than I am. *lol* Maybe it had something to do with road rage!!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, all!

Thank you for reading and commenting!

Ginger, thanks for having me as a guest once again. And double thanks for your comments about FIRE.

Working with my DH is probably easier than it sounds because we really are very compatible, despite our different cognitive styles. We view each other as equals, so there's not much in the way of power games going on. And he's very self-confident, unlike some other men,so he's not intimidated by a smart woman.


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