Special Guest: Nancy Perpall

You can find Nancy on the web at:



[Jon Dabach] 00:00
Today on the relationship survival show we’re talking to [Nancy Perpall]. Nancy began her career as a critical care nurse, and then entered law school in her early 30s. She practiced family law for over 32 years, and has turned to writing about relationships to share what she learned about what makes them work and what makes them fail. Her novel around which all things bend is based on realizing that you shouldn’t settle when choosing a life partner and our upcoming book, The malnourished marriage five essential emotional nutrients for a healthy relationship is a how to book for those who want to know how to get the love and connection they once felt with their partner back, you’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with [Jon Dabach], also known as Mr. Spirituality.

[Jon Dabach] 00:43
That’s me. I’m your host giving you insights and guidance from over 10 years in the field of this amazing journey we call romance on this show, I go over everything you need to know about how to get into a relationship, how to get the most out of a relationship, and sometimes even how to gracefully end a relationship without pulling your hair out and going crazy. And occasionally, I’m even joined by new and old friends. We’re also relationship experts to bring you guidance and wisdom with new perspectives. Thanks for stopping by. Nancy. Perpall thank you so much for being here.

[Nancy Perpall] 01:17
Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I’m thrilled. Yeah, I

[Jon Dabach] 01:22
Love your background. You know you started or I don’t know if you started but you were a critical care nurse. And then you were a family law attorney. And I guess you’re still a nurse, and you’re still an attorney. And you’re focusing now mostly on writing. I take it correct. Yes.

[Jon Dabach] 01:37
So you know, those are both incredibly demanding fields. And what did you find before we get into your book, you know, what did you find in terms of having those kinds of careers as a woman how that affected your relationships?

[Nancy Perpall] 01:57
You know, that’s a very insightful question. I have to tell you, you know, I, when I graduated from high school, in 1965, I had two options. You became a teacher or a nurse. That was it. I wanted to become a doctor. But there were seven kids in my family. And my father said, he had boys to educate, I was going to get married and never work so I can become a nurse. So I became a nurse.

[Jon Dabach] 02:21
I love how I love how being a nurse is never working.

[Nancy Perpall] 02:26
Well, he mentioned I got married to whoever I married. You know, I have to work. But in any event, I, I went to a very good nursing school in Baltimore, St. Agnes. And we had exceptional training. So when I graduated, they put me in the intensive care in the emergency room, depending upon what the census was.

[Nancy Perpall] 02:52
Because I’ve had very good skills. And I what happened was, I wrote a textbook from with some people from University of Pennsylvania, I was practicing at a hospital in Pennsylvania at the time, advanced concepts and Clinical Nursing by JB lipid cot adopted by many nursing schools, hospitals, in terms of protocols for better patient outcomes. But the hospital that I was working at, wouldn’t adopt any of my recommendations, because I was a nurse, right? Right wasn’t a doctor. Sure. And this is a 1974.

[Nancy Perpall] 03:27
Now, just for your audience, 1974. As a woman, I could not get a credit card without a male signature. I couldn’t buy a car without a male signature. I couldn’t rent an apartment without a male signature. I couldn’t get a bank loan without nail signature. And I certainly couldn’t make recommendations for better patient outcome in a hospital as a woman as a nurse. So anyway. Well, I’ll net it all out.

[Nancy Perpall] 03:59
Someone was hired by our hospital to do exactly what I was trying to do. She had been a nurse and she went to law school and became an attorney. So I approached her and I said, you know, how can I get them to listen to me? And she said, go to law school, we’ll have power. So I always intended to go back into administration after I graduated from law school. I got this very good offer to do defense malpractice.

[Nancy Perpall] 04:25
And my first day on the job to do defense malpractice. Again, because I was a woman, the only woman in the firm, I got 75 files piled on my desk, which were divorced files. When I went to the senior partner and I said, you know, I wasn’t hired to do divorce. I’m going through a divorce myself. This isn’t what I was hired for. He leaned across his big mahogany desk, put his finger an inch from my nose and told me I wasn’t going to make it there.

[Jon Dabach] 04:53
So that was the first thing that was the first day.

[Nancy Perpall] 04:55
That was the first day. Wow. When you tell me I can’t do something and that’s when I hunkered down. So anyway, I was working my 75 files, which grew and grew doing malpractice. And when the firm lost the contract represent the physicians, I left with all of those clients and established my own law firm, and I had it for like, 32 years.

[Jon Dabach] 05:16
Wow. So when you were diving into divorce cases, what did you find?

[Nancy Perpall] 05:25
I found that because of my nursing background, and because of the empathy that I think most nurses have, uh, huh. I mean, it’s a generalization, generalization. But certainly, I was taught to have a great deal of empathy for people, because we didn’t have the modalities you have. Now, we have to help people, it was more or less hands on, you know, you just helped people.

[Nancy Perpall] 05:54
And I really was interested in my patients. And I mean, my clients not just to turn a file, but really, I wanted to try to help them get on with their lives. And what I learned was that there were two ways you could go, and this is my own life. When you have the breakup of a marriage or relationship, you can either become better, or you can become better. And those are your choices, you become bitter or better. And how you decide to do that is how I tried to help people see which way was going to be best for them.

[Jon Dabach] 06:31
So you’re saying it’s a conscious choice that you make?

[Nancy Perpall] 06:35
I believe that it is, I believe that you have to develop a mindset and override all the negativity in your mind. And you’re called Mr. Spirituality. And there’s a great deal of spirituality. When you’re when you’re fearful, you’re hurting, and you’re anxious. Yeah. And you can hear all the monkey brain to all the monkeys in your brain telling you all of these things, and you just have to override it.

[Nancy Perpall] 07:03
You have to consciously decide you’re going to override it, you consciously have to decide, yes, you might have been at some fault in the breakdown of the relationship. But you’re going to be better, you’re going to try to figure out how to fix it, or do it better the next time. Because we all know, second marriages have a 60% rate of failure. Third marriages have a 70% rate of failure.

[Jon Dabach] 07:30
Yeah, I don’t know if we all know that. But we should all know that. When I tell my clients when they’re thinking of their first divorce, they go really. But yeah, I think anyone who has been married three times knows that.

[Nancy Perpall] 07:46
Well, I personally, after my second divorce, I went into therapy for a year and a half, because I really figured I’m obviously not doing something right. And I actually was just picking the wrong people. I was just, and I really, truly believe, recently on a podcast, the host asked, what is the number one reason for divorce and your vast experience? In your own experience? What’s the number reason? I said it’s not infidelity? It’s not sex. It’s not money. It’s misaligning. With the person that you’re partnering up with to begin with?

[Jon Dabach] 08:22
Yeah, I could see that, for sure.

[Nancy Perpall] 08:24
I mean, I’m absolutely convinced to that. That was my mistake twice. I didn’t make it the first time. And I’ve been married for 18 years and incredibly happy. You know, we have a blended family. So you know, that is always a challenge. But we’ve caught you know, we have compromises. And it’s completely different than my first few marriages. Totally different.

[Jon Dabach] 08:47
Is it also the longest one you’ve had?

[Nancy Perpall] 08:51
It first one was 17 years, my third? My first 17 or 18 years? Second? 20 years? And this one is? Yeah, at 75 years old. Well, you

[Jon Dabach] 09:01
Well, you can’t blame you for not putting in some good effort. I mean, you’re almost 20 years on each one so far. So that’s, that’s a heck of a lot of you gave it a good college try. I could tell I can tell you that it’s not it’s very clear that it wasn’t, you know, a whim or something like that. Talk to me about your book, the one that’s upcoming the malnourished marriage.

[Nancy Perpall] 09:23
Marriage. We all learn concepts through metaphor, you know, an idea is like a food. You know, a book we digest, right? A thought we regurgitate you know, we all food metaphors have been used for centuries. Shakespeare, peppers, his place with food metaphors.

[Nancy Perpall] 09:48
And in order to communicate and be on the same page in a relationship, you have to use the same words. And the reality is and I’ve done a great deal of research. I think, probably the best researcher on this, the difference between men and women, and then linguistics was Deborah Tannen, the PhD. And I’ve really studied her work. And that of her, you know, other linguists, there really is a difference between the way men speak and women speak. And when we use different words, we’re in different worlds.

[Nancy Perpall] 10:25
And so the malnourished marriage is a concept of using the food metaphor, to try to get a joint language and words, if you will, to bring those worlds closer together, I use communication equals water, you can’t live without water, and you can’t live in a relationship. Without communication. Water can crash or it can flow. Right words can either what or what they can either crash or they can flow.

[Nancy Perpall] 11:00
And then I go, I go through five essential emotional nutrients, which protein is the building block of the body, and sex is the building block of a relationship. And sex is vital, and sex doesn’t have to be. Sex can take many forms. Sex can be an intimate emotional thing. That not necessarily physical at certain ages. But you still need to have that you need to communicate a desire for the other person.

[Nancy Perpall] 11:33
The other thing that you need in a marriage, just like carbohydrate is humor, you have to have humor in a marriage. If you don’t have humor, to break those awkward moments, tension, you know, it wears down, wears down the ability of the couple, to really withstand, frankly, the monotony them the boredom, you know, the regular day to day things you have to have, you have to have humor.

[Nancy Perpall] 12:04
The next thing you really need is you need patience. And you need the big C compromise, right. And that’s like a healthy fat, healthy fats, protect the organs, okay? Patients and compromise protect the relationship, you have to have patience and compromise. And the way to get that is not to argue your point. Because, as I said a minute ago, men communicate from a position of power.

[Nancy Perpall] 12:38
And boys, boys are not born genetically, to feel as if they have to be powerful. They’re socialized to feel as if they shouldn’t be pushed around, they should be in control. Nobody should tell them what to do. And unfortunately, it’s less and less now. But especially a woman, especially a woman, and women, we get connection, and we get love through trying to compromise. And communication is a negotiation for connection.

[Nancy Perpall] 13:15
And so what I tried to explain to the last essential element is trust. Trust is like a multivitamin. a multivitamin is what you take when you’re lacking something, and trust what you’ve really got to work on. If your relationship is struggling, there’s something wrong with the trust factor. If you’re not trusting your partner, you’re struggling.

[Jon Dabach] 13:42
So what way because trust is, so it’s such a big part of every relationship that I dive into. And there’s, there’s different you know, obviously, there’s the trust that they won’t have a bout of infidelity. But I feel like trust goes much further beyond that. So I dive into that a little bit for me.

[Nancy Perpall] 14:01
Well, I mean, again, you’re very insightful. I mean, trust is every single cell of a relationship. You’ve got to trust the person that you’ve decided that you’re going to partner up with for the rest of your life. And it has so many levels. That you know, it’s again, because it’s an abstract trust is an abstract idea. Love is an abstract idea.

[Jon Dabach] 14:33
Yeah. I think all emotions, I think all emotions are all

[Nancy Perpall] 14:37
Abstract ideas. Patients and compromise are abstract. So you can’t really you know, like I struggle and struggle to try to explain it. I best way to explain trust, is that when you feel as if you’re it’s lacking in your relationship. You know, it’s like taking a multivitamin to boost you up. You’ve got to think about what was the positive thing that this person brought to me that I wanted in my life, what was it? And that you have to focus on that?

[Jon Dabach] 15:11
Yeah, I always look at trust and try and it’s, you’re right, it’s much easier to define it in terms of what it’s not or what it feels like when it’s missing, because it is so abstract. But one thing that I find a lot of people struggle with, and this is related to infidelity is the trust that your partner won’t leave you, or that the relationship is stable. Oftentimes, when people fight when you have those crashing communications, what I find and tell me if you agree with this or not, I’m curious either way, is that a lot of those crashes are kind of a knee jerk reaction to a fear that this fight will end the relationship.

[Nancy Perpall] 15:55
You’re absolutely right. And very often, it’s you say, well, let’s get a divorce. Because you want to be the first to the door. You don’t want to be the one who’s going to be left. Yeah. And so many times those words are not meant. They’re said as a power play again, right? I said a few minutes ago that women try to get love and connection through compromise. But don’t misunderstand.

[Nancy Perpall] 16:24
When they get angry. No. Rage hath no fury. And you know, they often you know, women often say to exert what they feel is, you know, your powerlessness to say that they want a divorce. I hate you. You know, I can’t stand you. They don’t mean it. It’s their way of verbalizing it. So if we could give Brene Brown who I absolutely adore, and I’m sure you know, if you have haven’t heard of Brene.

[Nancy Perpall] 16:55
Brown, you might have been living in a cave. She’s been around for a while. Yeah, she’s been around. And she’s really quite brilliant. And she talks very frequently about using a different lexicon using a different word. You know, if it’s if the word you’re using with your spouse, or your partner is not working, find a different word. Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, for me trust is, you know, we need a multivitamin here, you know, I’m feeling this way or that way.

[Nancy Perpall] 17:27
But you’ve really got to two people are not going to make a relationship work. Each person has to decide themselves that they’re going to make the relationship work. And it’s that decision that each of the people make, in concert, or one may be slapped behind. But they decide, yes, they’re going to make it if one person changes in a relationship, the relationship changes.

[Jon Dabach] 17:53
Yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly.

[Nancy Perpall] 17:55
I’ve seen it over and over again. And it was you know, I’ve experienced it in my own relationships. Now, I didn’t want to change them. But I’ve, I’ve met more Metamorpho in my third, but, you know, relationships. We’re all looking for love and connection. We’re looking for acceptance. We’re looking to be important to somebody enough so that, as you said a few minutes ago, they’re not going to leave us.

[Nancy Perpall] 18:31
They’re going to have your back thick or thin. They’re going to have your back. And, you know, my own personal relationship now with my third husband, when I married him, you know, he’s six foot 2/3 degree black belt. He was a hardhat diver in the Navy.

[Jon Dabach] 18:55
Base, basically a pansy is what you’re trying to

[Nancy Perpall] 19:00
Engineer, MBA from Duke, you know, PhD, and

[Jon Dabach] 19:06
Your old mold of what a man was.

[Nancy Perpall] 19:09
When I when they said, you know, sickness in in house. I was thinking a flu or cold. Right. Well, he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. And he’s, you know, he is definitely on the decline. But when you are in concert with somebody, as I am with him, that diagnosis is to given to the couple.

[Nancy Perpall] 19:34
Do you understand what I mean? Absolutely. It’s not just him. Yeah. It’s my diagnosis to absolutely. And that may seem cheesy or cliche. But if you are really committed to the person that you’re saying, I’m going to have your back through thick or thin. You may at some point looking at cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s. Yeah, I mean, you know, who knows?

[Jon Dabach] 20:04
I mean, there was, yeah, definitely I, my wife got upset once in a while we have four kids, but I used to say, well, we’re pregnant. And you know that that phrase resonates with the husbands. Sometimes my wife would turn and go, excuse me, we’re pregnant.

[Jon Dabach] 20:20
And I said, Well, I mean, you know, I’m, and I’m painting the room. I don’t know what else to tell. I had a small and, you know, little small part to play. But yeah, you know, it’s there is that assumption that we’re going through all these things together. That is, is huge, that’s part of the trust is that the highs are going to be shared and the lows are going to be soften, because we’re together.

[Nancy Perpall] 20:45
I think that’s a brilliant point, that is part of the trust, the trust is, and I’m going to be there. I’m not going to abandon you. And as you pointed out earlier, you know, the threat of being left. Now, I have represented many people who were left when they were ill, by their spouses.

[Nancy Perpall] 21:11
And I’ve represented the left DEA and the left door. And you know, you really can’t judge your clients, and you have to represent them. Yeah. But it always bothered me, when someone would bugger out when the other person got sick. Sure. And just didn’t want to take them to chemo didn’t want to put up with a mastectomy, didn’t put up with the scarring. You know, that’s, that’s not love. Yeah. Yeah. So you wonder, would they really as aligned as they should have been?

[Jon Dabach] 21:45
Sure. Sure. That’s a fair question. I want to touch I mean, I don’t want to end our interview on something so somber. You touched on humor? And well, two things. One, it’s great to hear as someone who’s been married three times. And as someone who’s in their 70s, that humor still plays a part in your relationship, because that’s one of my favorite things.

[Jon Dabach] 22:09
And secondly, I you know, I feel like not enough people. I don’t talk about it a lot, for sure. It just doesn’t come up. But it’s nice that it’s one of those core elements that you bring up, because I’ll tell you about a conversation I had with my wife just about three, four weeks ago, I was talking to him, we were goofing around. And I said, you know, I, I don’t know if you ever left me because in terms of a divorce, that’s the only way I see it happening. I was like, have you ever just picked up and walked out?

[Jon Dabach] 22:37
I think the thing I’d missed the most is that I could be like a dumb five year old goofball with you. And I don’t know I could, who I could do that with again, it’s like, there’s been so much time our sense of humor has been developed together over you know, over a decade. And so the idea of starting that process over again, was scary, because it is such an integral part of how we cope, of how we communicate, you know, we I can have the worst day of my life. And if my wife cracks a little look at me, like everything just kind of goes away.

[Nancy Perpall] 23:11
Well, I think you said it. Well, I think humor is absolutely essential. I mean, you know, as I said, you know, my husband has his has his children, I have my children. My children pretty much accepted him. His children, his girls did not aren’t necessarily wild.

[Nancy Perpall] 23:31
And there was a time when you know, we were having some discussion about that. So I ordered on Amazon, you know, those, you know, those glasses with the, with the fury eyebrows and the Groucho Marx clients. Groucho Marx, yeah. So I ordered a pair. And one time we’re discussing it and sort of getting a little upset. I said, Excuse me one second, I have to have to go to the restroom. I went and got the glasses. I came back and I sit down.

[Nancy Perpall] 23:56
Now what were you say? To laugh so hard. It was just it just, I mean, little things like that. I mean, you know, I mean, you were a funny hat. You, right? You need that humor to break those awkward moments. And, you know, I do want to mention, the nonfiction book is going to be out probably next fall. We’ll see, you know, so he’s delayed, but I also wrote a novel around which all things bend which is on Amazon, and it’s about the consequences of settling and marrying the wrong person.

[Nancy Perpall] 24:37
Yeah. So that is, you know, something if you’re, you know, if you’re on absolutely. Look at, I mean, it’s getting very good reviews on Amazon. It hasn’t been out that long and I’m really very, very happy with the feedback I’m getting. Again, it’s around which all things band and it’s on Amazon and Barnes and Noble or wherever you can get books.

[Jon Dabach] 24:58
Yeah, I’ve seen firsthand what When people come for premarital counseling, and I try and stretch it out like, I don’t you know, guys, I don’t know, and the ones who go forward anyway, have some struggles. You know, it’s like if you’re, I wish more people will go to premarital counseling because they would see before they entangle their lives together completely what those nonnegotiable things are, like those are those aren’t going away just because you’re in that honeymoon phase.

[Jon Dabach] 25:28
So it’s I yeah, I think it’s definitely a message that more people should look into before they’re married, and even sometimes when they’re married, because you have to really ask yourself, did I marry the wrong person?

[Nancy Perpall] 25:42
Oh, for sure. I mean, absolutely. I can’t even tell you how many times people would come into my office. And I think that’s why I’m absolutely committed to the theory that the difficulty in marriages is not necessarily the infidelity. All of those other things are caused by the fact that you’re misaligned. Yeah, you’ve married the wrong person. And they come in and you take a history and they say, Well, I knew this wasn’t right, but we were too far into it. Right now. The invitations were said the venue was paid for. Yeah, you know, the gifts were coming in and I just can’t I couldn’t I couldn’t get out of it. But I really knew Oh, my God, I’ve got my gut, you know, week before the wedding that I shouldn’t do it.

[Jon Dabach] 26:32
Right. Right. Well, Nancy, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate all your wisdom and keep on writing. I’d love to I’d love to see more books from you. If you’re interested in learning how to get the absolute most out of your romantic relationships then you’re in luck because I have put together a free workshop or masterclass if you will, about three secrets that people in happy relationships have discovered. You can view the workshop and mister spirituality.com/three secrets again, it’s completely free. Just go there and watch. It’ll help you on your journey. Give you some wisdom. Some things to think about. The website again is mrspirituality.com/three secrets. That’s mrspirituality.com/the Number three, the word secrets. It’s all yours. Enjoy.


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