Books: Settling for More

Two Honolulu-based authors are teaching readers how to take responsibility for their love lives.
Settle for More, by Tom Merrill, Ph.D., and Bobbie Sandoz-Merrill, MSW, SelectBooks Inc., $21.95. Sandoz-Merrill and Merrill are available for consultations. They split their time between the Mainland and Honolulu, and will conduct workshops when they are in town.
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Two Honolulu authors are changing relationships—and lives—across the country "one living room at a time." Tom Merrill and Bobbie Sandoz-Merrill published Settle for More in September 2005. The first printing sold out three months later, and they are well into the second run. "It’s turned into a mission for us," they said en route from Los Angles to Arizona, where they conducted workshops and offered counseling for several weeks before returning home to the Islands.

Perhaps even more intriguing than the nationwide success of their book is the couple’s personal story. Merrill had a crush on Sandoz-Merrill in the eighth grade, but they went their separate ways. Nearly five decades later, they ran into each other—spilling coffee in the minor collision. Merrill had endured two unsuccessful marriages, and Sandoz-Merrill had divorced after a 40-year marriage. Sparks flew. They married in 2001, both of them 60 at the time.

"The book really came out of the failures in our own relationships," he says. "We didn’t want it to happen again."

Merrill, a clinical psychologist, and Sandoz-Merrill, a therapist and author of several books, developed their own method for keeping their relationship full of the passion, love and respect that permeated their courtship. For several years before writing the book, they used the technique in their own lives, with their clients and in a national newspaper column carried by The New York Times/Cox News Service list.

Many messages fill the easy-to-read pages, which should be digested sequentially. Both admit that the concept is continually evolving and expanding. But there is one central focus to which the authors keep returning: "I really am in total control of [my relationship] working," notes Merrill. "It’s about holding my own feet to the fire, not my partner’s. It doesn’t really matter what Bobbie’s doing."

The end result is that people stop trying to "improve" loved ones and instead alter their own behavior, enhancing their personal fulfillment along the way.

"We shift people’s perceptions about what relationships are all about," says Sandoz-Merrill. "It’s a new lens."