Written by Shala Hainer Wednesday, December 28 2011Snapshot: Dr. Sherry Blake, clinical psychologist
From professional athletes to entertainers to the average Joe, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake focuses on empowering people to reach their goals. Currently counseling Grammy Award winner Toni Braxton and her family on WE TV's Braxton Family Values, Blake also owns and operates Touchstone Psychological Services in Atlanta.
Blake has been active in her community and in professional organizations. She has served as president of the Metropolitan Atlanta Mental Health Association and on the boards of numerous organizations, such as the Clayton County Mental Health Association. She is sought after for her expertise by major news network affiliates, radio stations, and cable news networks and provides information and life lessons on her website.
Adding author to her list of accomplishments, Blake recently released the book The Single Married Woman, which showcases true stories of women who feel alone in their marriages. Available on Amazon.com, the book breaks down and analyzes each story and offers Blake’s reflections, inspired by some of her own experiences. She picked the stories because they express issues and feelings familiar to many women trying to balance work, household duties, the kids, and time with their spouses. In the book's foreward, Braxton encourages readers to use the book as their “own personal, one-on-one session with Dr. Sherry.” She writes that many women “have fallen in love with the idea of marriage without considering the challenges it involves,” saying that Blake has helped her and other women understand relationship roles clearly.
Womenetics: Tell us about your book, The Single Married Woman.
Sherry Blake: The Single Married Woman is a book that inspires, empowers, and equips women to deal with their relationships without losing themselves or their voices. Women often play the role of everything from the loving wife, the nurturing mother, the personal call-girl, and the personal GPS for tracking all objects or clothing items. They find themselves doing so much for so many that they lose their sense of self. The book deals with real women with real issues and their coping styles. Rather than just talking about the problem, the book provides an analysis of the problem areas and solutions in the way of "tidbits." The book will have people laughing and crying as they see themselves and deal with issues around co-dependency, blended families, emotional and physical abuse, and many other areas.
Womenetics: What inspired you to write this book?
Blake: The concept of the book emerged years ago from my personal life when I was much younger, married with young children, and starting my career. I was overwhelmed and felt like a "single married woman.” I noticed in more than 20 years of working with women that there was a pattern with women trying to do so much for so many that they felt overwhelmed. The single married woman is a syndrome wherein women want to be married and usually love their husbands, but are not getting the support and their needs met in the relationship. Most mates will "help" when asked, but the frustration comes from the need to ask when it is obvious what needs to be done. I decided to write a book to help women empower themselves rather than continue to complain and feel helpless. In working with women, I discovered that the issues are apparent regardless if they are legally married or not.
Womenetics: In your book, what advice do you give women to help them find balance among work, home, and family?
Blake: First, they need to understand themselves and rank their priorities. As women, we often want it all and have been told that we can have it all. We can have it all, but maybe not on the level or in the manner we imagined or desire. Given that, I encourage women to take off their "superwoman cape," put it down, and slowly walk away.
Womenetics: Do you think finding that balance is more about educating women or men about how 21st century relationships must work?
Blake: It definitely starts with communication. Part of that communication involves educating one another about expectations in the relationship. Many people base their relationships on what they have seen in their parents or others. That may have worked for their parents or friends, but it definitely may not work for them. Each circumstance is different, and the relationship must adjust to the needs of the individual relationship.
Womenetics: What are the major challenges women deal with that make them feel like single married women? How do they begin to address those challenges?
Blake: There are many challenges that women deal with. The No. 1 challenge is wanting to be married, loving their mate, but not having their own needs met. Another challenge is trying to have the "happy home" and the perfect children as well as the prospering career. These challenges can create overwhelming situations when the woman is responsible for managing it all. Women must address these issues by first understanding their roles in the situations. So often women blame others without first taking a look in the mirror. Once able to understand themselves, they begin to understand how they got into the situation and what needs to be done to correct it. The book gives tidbits along the way for dealing with issues and developing healthy coping skills.
Womenetics: Talk a little about blended families, which are so common these days, and how that changes the traditional dynamic of a marriage.
Blake: There is a chapter in the book entitled "The Brady Bunch...Not So Brady Afterall" that deals with many of the dynamics of blended families. Many women have an ideal view of what that family will be until they get into it. Communication is the basis of having a healthy blended family. That communication must start before the marriage and involve both spouses as well as all the children. So many women fail to clarify their roles and how they're going to deal with these issues before they get married. Without clear communication between spouses, the blended family will "Not Be So Brady Afterall."
Womenetics: You've probably heard many examples of single married women during your time as a therapist. How did you choose the four women whose stories you share in your book?
Blake: The four women in the book represent the most common issues that are dealt with by single married women. These women are unique, but share common themes with many women who are struggling with issues in relationships.
Womenetics: You've served as a therapist to many celebrities, from entertainers such as Toni Braxton to professional athletes. How are their counseling needs different, and how do you meet those needs?
Blake: Regardless if an individual is a star, superstar, or an everyday person, the issues often remain the same. The difference is that many of the superstar issues are under a microscope for the world to see. Therefore, there are many more pressures that they deal with from different angles. However, the issues remain the same and must be dealt with.
Womenetics: What do you recommend for women, stressed from work and family duties, to do to relax? Do you ever take that advice yourself?
Blake: Learn to take some "me" time out on a regular basis. Women have a difficult time taking time out for themselves, but this is a must if they're going to maintain their own sense of sanity. Yes, I do take my own advice, but not as often as I would like. I would love to be on the beach at least once a month. Given that it's not possible or realistic for me at this time, I have learned to take me time on a regular basis. Me time does not have to cost any money. It only requires a commitment to do something for yourself. The trick is for women to know when me time is a must and not just a luxury.
Womenetics: How can the information you provide in The Single Married Woman help new couples just starting out and keep them from continuing that cycle?
Blake: The book focuses on relationships and would be a definite plus to help both men and women prepare for a long-term relationship. It could save them a lot of pain and frustration. Reading the book is like having a personal therapy session on your own time.
Based near Atlanta, Shala Hainer has been writing and copyediting since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the Marietta Daily Journal and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, she most recently wrote and edited articles for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a bachelor’s in communications from Jacksonville State University.