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Archive for January, 2012

How To Get Your Needs Met In Marriage

Dr.Fran Cohen Praver, Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Analyst


“I’m so angry with Sam. He still doesn’t think about my needs, only his.” Laurie’s fists clenched and tears welled up in her eyes.

I asked, “What happened?”

“He went to his womanizing cousin’s wake and left me here alone all day with my sick mother. I’ve been her care-taker day and night for the last month and I needed a break. I would have liked to go out for a bit.” Laura pouted.

“What did you say to Sam?” I asked.

Raising her voice, Laura explained, “After he got home, I yelled at him and told him he’s never thought about my needs in the past and he never will. That he doesn’t get it at all and it’s pointless.”

“I know he was a married bachelor, left you home alone with the kids, and neglected you emotionally and sexually. ” I commented.

Tears streamed down her cheeks, as she said, “I realize the wake wasn’t a bachelor’s night out, but it brought back all the pain of the past.”

“I can understand the association and your pain. But I wonder why you didn’t assert yourself and communicate that you needed the break before he left?” I asked.

Looking down, Laura said, “I was afraid he’d get angry.”

“And if he did?”

“It doesn’t make sense.” Laura said.

“With your childhood history it does make sense. You feared your father as did your mother. He was an abusive alcoholic, and both of you learned to avoid him. It seems this passive-avoidance response was adaptive then, and it has continued autonomously, even though it is not working now,” I interpreted.

Looking up, Laura smiled slightly. “Yes, as I’ve told you, Sam is remorseful, feels guilty about the past and is trying to do anything to make it up to me.”

“But he’s not a mind reader.” I reminded her.

Like Laura, many women do not know how to get their needs met in a marriage. Instead of asserting themselves before the fact, they passively look the other way and attack after the fact. Laura does not assert herself in a timely manner in order for Sam to hear her. That’s only one scenario of numerous marital issues.

Another common reason that marital partners don’t get their needs met is that they do not listen to each other. Henning Mankell’s recent New York Times article, “The Art of Listening,” comes to mind here. He aptly writes that we have two ears and only one mouth so we should listen at least twice as much as we speak. But how many of us do that?

In our fast paced society, with both partners working, we barely have time to talk, let alone listen to each other’s stories. I see couples in such a hurry to respond, they don’t listen to everything their partners have to say. Instead they are in their heads planning their response. As a result, they have information but no knowledge of their partners. Mankell writes that people confuse information with knowledge. Knowledge means that you listen and interpret the information your partner conveys.

Unlike animals, we have the ability to listen to and understand our partner’s dreams, fears, joy, trauma, intentions, failures, and successes and our partners have the ability to listen to and understand ours. That innate connection is explained by mirror neurons, the newest, most exciting discovery.

Mirror neurons are miniscule brain cells located behind the eye sockets that connect intimate partners at an internal level. Each partner mirrors the other partner’s actions and feelings of attraction, romance, love, lust, moods, erotic desire, memories, and intentions. And that’s what humanity, intimacy, and love is all about.

Here then are some tips on how to get your needs met and enhance the intimacy and love in your marriage.

1) Always use “I” statements, so that you express your needs without complaining about your spouse. In this way you enlist your spouse’s cooperation. Instead of, “You never have time for me. I come last on the totem pole” try “I feel lonely and need a hug.”

2) Stay focused on the issues. Don’t digress and drag in the old dirty laundry. “I need your help, darling” is a better way to get your needs met than, “You never helped me in the past and it’s about time you did. ” Then again, if you do it yourself and complain afterwards, you are ensuring distance rather than closeness.

3) Suggest a time for alone-talk that is mutually convenient. Again, this brings your spouse into the mix and shows respect.

3) Remember timing is everything. If you’re feeling angry, take a breather, and strike when the iron’s cool.

4) Do not try to prove you’re right. What’s more important, being right or getting along? That’s a no brainer, but even brainy people are out to prove themselves right.

5) Take responsibility for your role in problems instead of blaming your spouse. Blaming your partner may feel powerful, but it’s not so. When you blame your spouse, you are trying to change him or her. Then you are at your spouse’s mercy and are rendered powerless. You can’t change anyone; the only one you can change is you.

6) A wish to control the other, often, underlies marital problems. Not only is the partner who dominates responsible, but the one who submits is too. Martyrs are bad for marriage. So if you feel your spouse is the domineering actor and you are the submissive passive reactor, you can change the dynamic. A good fight for equality is an active choice, and not a passive more-of-the-same position.

7) Become a role model for your spouse. It is up to you to lead the way, to act rather than react. Listen to your spouse’s side of things, and try to understand where he or she is coming from. When your spouse feels empathy from you, he or she may reciprocate with empathy for you. It is a case of good communication skills

Here then are some of these communication skills that you and your spouse can practice to get your needs met.

A. Listen to what your spouse says without interrupting or defending yourself.

B. When your spouse has finished, paraphrase what he or she has said. Then ask if that is what he or she meant.

C. If you did not understand, let your partner explain it further. Do not defend or attack him or her, simply listen.

D. Paraphrase once more to be sure you got your spouse. When he or she agrees, it’s your turn to respond.

E. Go back to the first step, but now it is your turn to express yourself, your feelings, and your emotional needs. Your spouse may not interrupt or defend himself or herself. He or she will listen and paraphrase till he or she gets it right.

Marital partners need mutuality, reciprocity, and equality. We want love and passion, security and excitement, commitment, and joy. We want it all and if we learn how to communicate our needs, we can have it all.

Dr. Fran Cohen Praver,  Clinical psychologist and relationship analyst
For more information on getting your needs met in marriage check out Dr. Praver’s latest book, The New Science of Love.

Guys’ One Minute Guide To Love

2012-January 27
Guys’ one-minute guide to love
By Dave Singleton

Times are ‘a changin.’ Guys are now giving dating advice on the frequent,
Are guys suddenly more open to getting — and giving — dating advice? It seems so! For whatever reasons, more men are weighing in with real advice for their fellow men.

In my article titled “Dating advice books for men,” I scoured the self-help and nonfiction bestseller lists and found a plethora of dating advice books written specifically for women. But I found only a handful for the guys, which I found troubling. Given the men I’ve spoken with recently, it seems that the male point of view on romance is rather underrepresented. So I took to the streets to interview real men, aged 18 to 66, to get their best dating tips.

We’ve come a long way from the days when men were silent on matters of the heart. Some of my interviews took only a minute or so, but as Long Islander Eddie, 32, told me: “Sometimes the best advice is the quickest advice, you know? It doesn’t have to be a soliloquy if it makes sense. Guys might actually prefer hearing quick tips — especially if they’re straight from the heart, from [another] guy who’s been there.”

So without further ado, here is my guys’ one-minute guide to love, including 10 top tips from men who share the one crucial piece of advice they believe other men need to know:

1. Don’t settle, but don’t commit halfheartedly, either. “My one piece of advice is this: Don’t settle, but don’t commit half-heartedly, either,” says Los Angeles native Larry, 45. “If you’re in, be all in. It’s easy to look around and think there’s something better to the point that it stops you from making a real commitment. But that’s immature; real men grow out of that.”

2. Don’t take love for granted when you find it. “Realize what you have when you have it,” says New Yorker Ethan, 32. “That’s really the key. So many guys just play with love and at love, not realizing sometimes when they have it in the palms of their hands and letting it slip away. They are either careless or disloyal. You have to hold on tight to a good thing — not too tight, but tight enough to keep it in your grasp.”

3. Life’s too short to fight constantly with your partner. “Limit the fighting,” Says Marylander Walter, 66. “My first marriage ended because we fought all the time, over mostly little things. Over some big things, too, but I’ve learned that life’s too short. I was a guy who was told to always win a fight. But the truth is that men also know how to be good losers with a mate. Being right doesn’t always get you what you want. You can win the fight, but lose the war.”

4. It’s up to you to make dating more exciting. “Keep it exciting,” says San Franciscan Matt, 18. “It’s up to you to not get bored. Don’t be a bore, either; plan stuff, keep your dates surprising, and have an occasional ‘wow’ factor — something over-the-top special.”

5. You don’t have to understand a woman in order to love her. “Loving her doesn’t mean you have to understand her,” says North Carolinian Al, 51. “Whoever told us we needed to understand our partner? I’ve learned that you can talk a problem to death and never solve it. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. Sometimes, [just] listening is enough. Acknowledging that you heard [what she said] doesn’t mean having to say you understand.”

6. Know what you want. “Know what you want,” says Washingtonian Mike, 39. “It takes a while to figure out what you want, but that’s what you have to do on your own. Figure it out! Only you know what will make you happy. You learn what your basic type is, who can make you happy — and also, you learn who you can make happy. That’s important, too.”

7. In relationships, having a space that works really matters. “Create a space that works for you and your wife or girlfriend,” says Florida resident Andrew, 35. “My dad told me the secret to his marriage of 40 years was [having] separate bathrooms. And now, after being married for five years, I agree with him. You have to create space where you both are really comfortable. Shared space is good, but you need your separate space, too. You want to know where size really does matter in a relationship? When it comes to where you live!”

8. Make sure you really know a woman before making a commitment. “Before you commit, make sure you really know her,” says New Yorker Frank, 44. “Make sure you see her during all moods, times of year, occasions, and with different people, your friends and family and hers. Because you never really know each other until that happens. Go slow, despite your wanting to have it all right away. It takes time to see each other in every light.”

9. Just be yourself. “Be yourself,” says Washingtonian Adam, 32. “It’s simple, but it’s true. Guys spend too much time trying to act the part and being comfortable when their dates act the part, too. It’s important to just be honest. If you want to date casually, say it upfront. Don’t hedge on important stuff like that. Let her know who you really are so she can make an informed decision for herself. Believe me — it’ll work out best for you in the long run if you do.”

10. Know when to walk away if things get bad. “When it’s bad, know when to walk away,” says 37-year-old Ken from Los Angeles, CA. “If it’s not right for you, don’t pretend that it’s OK. If your gut says something is off, pay attention to it. If you need to address something, address it. And if you give it your best shot and it’s not working, don’t beat your head against the wall. Don’t stay with a partner out of guilt or because you’re trying to be a nice guy. In the end, it never, ever works. You do no favors for the other person — or yourself.”

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at


2012-January 26

I love you Mrs. Gabrielle Giffords. Each time I see you on the telly, tears of joy sprout upon my face as I see a real miracle before my eyes. Every so often God gives us glimpses of his presence in a modern day “burning bush” and I see God every time I see you Mrs.Giffords-Kelly! I commend you and your husband Mr. Mark Kelly for all of your contributions to our great country. I love you both. My utmost in the highest to the both of you. May you continue your remarkable recovery as I will be praying for you both.

‘Help! I Hate My Husband!’

2012-January 25
Iris Krasnow Author, ‘The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes To Stay Married’

“Help! I hate my husband.”

This is how a letter starts in my Inbox today. It’s from a 41-year-old woman named Cindy in Dallas who has been married for 12 years. I get hate mail like this using slightly different language several times a week. Substitute the word “hate” for “loathe”, “despise”, “can’t stand” and occasionally, “wanna kill”.

I always tell these women the same thing: You are definitely not alone. Plenty of wives feel this way. Plenty of wives think about divorce at least once a month, if not more, and manage to stay married for decades. My conclusions about the see-saw between hate and love come not as a psychologist or as a minister who counsels her flock. I am an author of five relationship books, including The Secret Lives of Wives, to whom women tend to tell all, about joy and sorrow and cheating and lying, about hot sex and no sex – and lots of dish in between.

Any woman married for longer than six months, if she is honest, knows the eggshell thin line that separates loving from loathing The deeper the love, the deeper the potential to hate. Any wife who is honest knows the compulsion to throw things, to hiss, to swear, to sit in the driveway in your bathrobe, engine running, sobbing.

What wife among you hasn’t occasionally sucked down too much wine to numb the pain of grinding against the same person, in the same house, every day, for weeks, months, years?

Yet we stay married because the love out-muscles the hate in our relationships. On those days we are socked under a gray malaise, we are suddenly lifted into the light as we walk by an old photo of the family, arms looped, heads pressed together, as if we are one big animal. And so it goes; happy some moments, miserable some moments, yet grounded in this flux of emotions by a fundamental commitment to each other, to the children, to forge onward.

I know from my own 24-year marriage and from the resilient women in The Secret Lives of Wives who have stuck it out for up to 60 years that marriage is ever-changing. Their own survival stories prove that periodic explosions can open up the channels to richer and stronger relationships.

I ended up having an hour-long email conversation with Cindy from Texas. She hit my heart. I felt her pain. I’ve been there, and persevered. Hopefully these snippets from our exchange will help you swing through the moods of hating toward loving, or at least toward liking him a lot, again.

From Cindy:

“At some point every week I feel like leaving him. When we got married I imagined this great life we would have together and instead we seem to always be fighting, about the kids, about the fact that he is so remote, about the stupidest things.”

From me:

“Are you still attracted to him?”

From Cindy:

“Sex is still, good, yes. But we don’t have it very often. I find myself lusting after other men.”

From me:

“Have sex more often with your husband. Keep the lusting in your imagination unless you want a torn up heart and buckets of guilt. Fantasy can be way better than reality; take it from one married woman who told me how she took a hubba-hubba office mate to a nearby hotel. Once he took off his shirt she saw a back that was so hairy she couldn’t even kiss him: As she put it: ‘He was gorgeous in his suit and I should have left it at that.’

“Sorry if this offends because your husband has a hairy back. I’m sure he’s adorable, but it wasn’t this woman’s taste.

From Cindy:

“No hairy back – don’t like them either. I know I’m lucky to be married to someone sexy. Some of my friends don’t go near their husbands. But this hate I feel, it simmers and I wonder if it’s a sign that there could be a better partner out there for me. Little things grate on me every day. My husband chews his food loudly. I hate his father. I hate our domestic hum-drum. This can’t be love!”

From me:

“Does he beat you? Is he gambling away all your money? Is he verbally abusive to you? Does he whack your children? Is he a philanderer?”

From Cindy:

“No, he’s a gentle man and a hands-on father. I have never been suspicious of him being with other women. He makes a good living, and that has enabled me to stay home with the kids.

“My hate comes from this feeling that I’m missing out on something else.”

From me:

“Here’s what you are missing out on, according to some wives who write to me. How about the agony of finding out your husband is sleeping with your best girlfriend? Or, getting daily critiques from your husband that you are repulsive to look at and lazy? One woman shared with me how her husband grew so frustrated with their autistic five-year-old he tossed him across the room.”

From Cindy:

“Yikes! Okay I admit I don’t have any really big problems. So what about this sense of just feeling bored?”

Last one from me:

“In the early years of marriage, during my 30s and into my early-40s, I often longed for a different life. In my 50s, I am grateful for a predictable routine with the same husband who has helped me raise four interesting sons. We loathe and we love and we carry on. When boredom hits, I go drinking with my girlfriends.

“Could my life be better with someone new? Perhaps, until the new becomes old, which it inevitably does. Does my head get turned by chiseled men in well-cut suits? Yes. Then I remember that I don’t want to necessarily see what’s under those threads. Acting on lust often turns out not to be true love but to be true disappointment. It takes grit and prolonged intimacy to love deeply and hate deeply and thus is the rhythm of family relationships. Ever tell a sibling or a parent, ‘I hate you’? Then, an hour later, you are hugging and wetting each other’s faces with tears.

“It takes a lot of love to hate.”

This blogger’s book, The Secret Lives of Wives can be found here, and she can be found on:

Singer, Etta James Succumbs to Leukemia

2012-January 20 –


Blues singer Etta James, who is most famous for the hit song “At Last,” has died from complications of leukemia, her manager confirmed to the Associated Press. She had been diagnosed with chronic leukemia in January 2011.

Court records show the 73-year-old entertainer also suffered from dementia and kidney failure. She had been under the 24-hour care of Dr. Elaine James, who is unrelated.

James was born in Los Angeles to a 14-year-old mother and an unknown father. She was brought up by a series of caregivers and began taking vocal lessons at the age of five through her local Baptist church.

James became a gospel prodigy and began singing with two other girls in a doo-wop trio called The Peaches in San Francisco. At 14, James met bandleader Johnny Otis, known today as the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues.” Otis produced James’ first hit with The Peaches, called “Roll With Me, Henry” (which was later renamed “The Wallflower”). The song was released in 1955 and soon reached No. 1 on the R&B charts.

Following the success of “Roll With Me, Henry,” James left The Peaches and toured with singer Little Richard and guitarist and singer Johnny Watson. Her first major solo hit, “All I Could Do is Cry,” reached No. 2 on the Billboard R&B Chart in 1960.

In 1960, James signed with Chess Records and recorded “At Last” a year later. In 1968, she released the album “Tell Mama,” which included the song “I’d Rather Go Blind.” It became an instant hit, as did the album’s title track. In 1962, James recorded the hit song “Something’s Got A Hold of Me,” sections of which were used this year in rapper Flo Rida’s song “Good Feeling.”

The singer battled a heroin addiction in the 1960’s and 1970’s. James had several legal problems relating to her addiction, including being accused of heroin possession, cashing bad checks and forgery. In 1974, after being in and out of rehab for over a decade, James was sentenced to drug treatment instead of serving time in prison and spent 17 months in the hospital. In 1988, at the age of 50, James returned to treatment at the Betty Ford Center in California.

James’ career made a comeback in 1989 with the album “Seven Year Itch.” Four years later, she released “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday” as a tribute to her idol. James was awarded her first Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, for that album in 1994.

Throughout her career, James has released 30 albums and 58 singles. She has explored the musical genres of gospel, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.

“In concert, Etta James is a sassy, no-holds-barred performer whose suggestive stage antics sometimes border on the obscene,” wrote All Music Guide’s Bill Dahl.

James was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and 2008. In 2003, James received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She was awarded six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards, and was named No. 22 on Rolling Stones’ 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Beyonce Knowles played James in the 2008 movie Cadillac Records. After Knowles sang “At Last” for President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball in 2009, James said Knowles was going to “get her ass whooped” for singing her song. Her son Donto attributed James’ comments to dementia.

James is survived by her husband, Artis Mills, and their two sons, Donto and Sametto.


How to deal with mean people
Editor’s note: CNN contributor Amanda Enayati ponders the theme of seeking serenity: the quest for well-being and life balance in stressful times.

Not that long ago I was crossing the street with my daughter when a speeding car almost plowed us down.

“Hey! This is a crosswalk!” I yelled through the passing car’s open window.

“I don’t care!” The driver shot back.

Mean people, like vermin, have been around forever. But for some reason – maybe it’s the economic trials of these past few years – there seem to be more of them than there used to be. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: A 2010 National Civility Survey found that two out of three Americans believe civility is a major issue, and three in four believe the negative tenor in our country has grown worse over the past few years.

“When we talk about civility and good manners, we are not talking about which forks to use for salad – that’s etiquette,” says Dr. Pier Forni, director of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins and author of “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.”

“Civility is about how we treat one another in everyday life and is closely related to ethics. The principle of respect for the person holds that we ought to treat others as an end in themselves, rather than as a means for the satisfaction of our own immediate needs and desires.”

I find myself nodding in agreement with Dr. Forni, but then I try to imagine repeating his words to the dude who almost ran us down in the crosswalk. I’m thinking that guy may not be convinced with an argument about the interplay between ethics and civility.

So why should we be nice if we don’t have to be?

The health benefits, for one. According to Forni, “Science tells us that when we engage in acts of civility and kindness, both the person on the giving end and the one on the receiving end benefit; it’s known as ‘helper’s high.’ Cascades of hormones and neurotransmitters activate when we are giving a token of our civility.”

Indeed, a slew of studies confirm that kinder people tend to live longer and lead healthier lives; volunteers have fewer aches and pains; and compassionate people are more likely to be healthier and successful.

Widespread incivility, on the other hand, can wreak havoc. Mean people, writes Stanford professor Robert Sutton, have “devastating effects, partly because nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on our moods than positive interactions – five times the punch.”

Says Sutton: “You have to overwhelm the negative with so much positive, it’s ridiculous!”

Moreover, due to a process called emotional contagion, the ripple effects of demeaning acts adversely affect coworkers, family members and friends who watch – or even just hear about – ugly incidents.

Sutton has written widely about the economic and social benefits of rooting out jerks from the workplace (except Dr. Sutton doesn’t call them jerks). His bestselling book is called “The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.”

Sutton distinguishes between occasional rudeness – of which everyone is more or less guilty – and certified jerks. His “Dirty Dozen” of common everyday actions that out a certified nasty person include: personal insults, invading one’s personal territory, uninvited physical contact, threats and intimidation (both verbal and nonverbal), sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems, withering email flames, status slaps intended to humiliate their victims, public shaming or status degradation rituals, rude interruptions, two-faced attacks, dirty looks, and treating people as if they are invisible.

Certified jerks display persistent patterns of these bad behaviors and have a long trail of victims. (Sutton has also developed a self-test called the ARSE, but I took it and I’m pretty sure it can be gamed.)

But why are people mean? Forni suggests a handful of root causes that may cover the entire spectrum of uncivilized behavior: lack of restraint; stress, illness or depression; anonymity; insecurity; lack of time; or a sense of entitlement.

“All of these factors can work together,” says Forni. “In traffic, for example, anonymity and stress work together. The first driver cuts off the second driver. Perhaps both are late and therefore anxious. They don’t think they know one another. And so they engage in some finger puppetry. But say one of the drivers suddenly recognizes the other as the pastor of his church. You will have an immediate effort to minimize what happened.”

According to Forni, anonymity also plays into uncivil behavior online: “You have this wonderful technological marvel that can improve our lives and yet it has become a dismal collector of the moral toxins of our society.” (Imagine Forni’s elegant turns of phrase spoken with a fabulous Italian accent.)

Ultimately, civility is about power – and character. “The difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know,” writes Sutton.

Since nasty people are unavoidable in daily life, Sutton offers a few tips how to deal with them – and perhaps rebound more quickly from run-ins:

Stand up or develop indifference.

Sutton says that if you find yourself the victim of bad behavior, do a power analysis: “You can either address the problem directly, or you can exercise the fine art of emotional detachment. Can you take a picture of the jerk’s license plate and report him to the police? Is there a number on the side of his car you can call? If yes, fine. If not, then try to forget the incident as quickly as possible. There are times when things are beyond your control and the best thing for your mental health is not to give a damn. In those circumstances, find ways to engage in short-term denial.”

Reframe and change how you see things.

Attempt to reframe a run-in with a jerk in way that is less upsetting. “This is a kind of mini cognitive therapy,” says Sutton. If you can’t escape a stressor, you can reduce the damage by changing your mind-set about what’s happening.

“Develop a coping mechanism, if you must. Sometimes we are able to find delusions that serve us.”

Sutton offers a reframing example from a recent holiday meal, where a relative did something rude.

“Afterwards I was complaining to my wife and she turned to me and said: ‘I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want the 1% that was bad to ruin the 99% that was good.’ And then she left the room. It was surprisingly effective.”

Sutton cautions, however, that if you’re in a long-term situation that is bad every time, reframing will not make it go away.

Limit your exposure.

Avoid if you need to. For example, if you shop at the same place frequently, go out of your way to avoid the mean clerks. By limiting how often and intensely you face jerks, you create a buffer against their demeaning behavior.

In a work context, Sutton offers additional strategies, like building pockets of safety, support and sanity; and seeking and fighting battles that you have a good chance of winning.

Later, reflecting on Sutton’s strategies – stand your ground, detach, reframe and avoid – I am reminded of the oft-repeated meditation for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

And I add a little prayer of my own: “Please God, next time grant me a baseball bat for the car that almost ran my kid over.”


Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. HAPPY 2012 TO YOU!

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