Shirley P. Glass, 67, psychologist, expert on marital infidelity

October 10, 2003|By Jacques Kelly and Frederick N. Rasmussen | Jacques Kelly and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Shirley P. Glass, a Pikesville psychologist who was known as "the godmother of infidelity research" and wrote widely on the subject of family relations, died Wednesday of breast cancer at her Owings Mills home. She was 67.

"For 30 years, Shirley has been an icon in our field and a unique talent. She had wisdom and a wide breadth of clinical experience. She zoned in on issues with clarity, compassion and kindness," said Dr. Pat Love, a marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas.

Born Shirley Politzer in Richmond, Va., and raised on Sunset Road in Northwest Baltimore, she was a 1953 graduate of Forest Park High School and earned an education degree at the University of Maryland, a master's degree from Towson University and a doctorate in psychology from Catholic University of America.

The New York Times, in a 1999 article headlined "Infidelity Comes Out of the Closet," referred to her as the "godmother of infidelity research," and said her work "suggests the gender gap is narrowing but that men are still likely to be the cheating partner in a marriage."

"I'm not saying that a bad marriage won't make you vulnerable [to an affair]," Dr. Glass told The Sun several months ago. "I'm saying that's not the only thing that can make you vulnerable. A lot of people who see themselves as loving and devoted can find themselves in this dilemma."

"Today's workplace is the most fertile breeding ground for affairs. The observed increase in women's infidelity is because more women are in the workplace and more women are in professions that were previously dominated by men," she wrote with Jean C. Staeheli in their 2003 book, NOT Just Friends: Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal.

Over the past 25 years, Dr. Glass treated hundreds of couples who were dealing with relationship issues. She also wrote numerous scholarly articles, including several with Thomas L. Wright, a Catholic University colleague.

"She is the pre-eminent infidelity expert in America and her contributions are far reaching. She was the first one to make us see that you could have a good marriage and still have an affair," said Diane Sollee, founder and director of Smartmarriages. com in Washington and an advocate of Dr. Glass' work.

"People think if you have a flat stomach, bake cherry pies and have better sex, a marriage will work out. But that's not what always happens. Shirley operationalized how to avoid affairs. She made it very clear and doable," she said.

"She was an advocate of the `Walls and Windows' theory that a couple's recovery depended on speaking about all the details of the affair. That way the aggrieved partner can at any time walk up and look through the window. Walls were to be built around the relationship to protect it," Ms. Sollee said.

"She was intelligent, loving, understanding, compassionate and determined," said her husband of 48 years, Barry S. Glass, a retired certified public accountant. "She dealt with the intimate details of her patients' lives. She was a popular speaker who often talked about relationships that parents had with their adult children."

Dr. Glass was interviewed numerous times and had appeared on television on Oprah, Today and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

She was a member of the American Psychological Association and the state Board of Examiners in Psychology. She was also a diplomate in family psychology.

For many years, she studied piano and voice, and took classes at the Peabody Institute. She attended Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Opera Company performances.

Services will be held at noon today at Sol Levinson and Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Ira Glass, host of the Public Radio International program This American Life; two daughters, Randi G. Murray of Hillsborough, Calif., and Karen Glass Barry of Los Angeles; a brother, Bennett Politzer of Baltimore; and two grandsons.

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