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“What’s Your House of Cards Made Of?”

April 7th, 2014   •   no comments   
“What’s Your House of Cards Made Of?”

Like so many other folks I know, I’ve finally gotten hooked on “House of Cards,” the amazing series on Netflix. The work is exceptional on every level – writing, production, music, cast, cinematography, and concept.

And since I can now watch it on demand, I’ve already spent seven hours during the past two weeks watching; devouring it, both as a screenwriter and as an average audience member, as I moved from chapter to chapter, at will, savoring the ability to move on to the next segment whenever I wanted to without having to wait a week or a month wondering what will happen next or who will do what to whom.

It occurred to me after my latest watch fest during which both Claire and Francis’ indiscretions were placed front and center, that we all build our own house of cards fashioned from our greatest weaknesses and distorted ideas, bad choices and questionable values, with each dwelling as unique and individual as our DNA strands.

In Francis & Claire Underwood’s case, by forging the nature of their open marriage and implied confidences to one another about the progress or depth of each whim or dalliance with seeming full acceptance or indifference, the threat of such infidelities were they to be leaked or revealed publicly has been completely castrated.

I find that fascinating in a culture where fidelity is usually a breakpoint issue in any intimate relationship. And since Francis and Claire appear to be tacitly complicit in acknowledging and accepting one another’s sexual peccadilloes, these occasional straying forays appear to carry no weight and thus, can’t be used as a threat or weapon should a spurned or discarded lover decide to expose their behavior. Or can they?

How clever. And how sad that they appear to place little or no value on fidelity. And yet, there are other values that seem, at least for now, to hold much greater weight in the future of this marriage. Loyalty, perhaps, being at the top of that list, along with trust, respect and honesty. At the end of Chapter 7, loyalty was suddenly thrust center stage as a possible tipping point down the road. And of course, one can discourse for hours on the definition and importance, even existence, of loyalty in this situational drama at all.

Even the photography as well as the production design for their home, offices and wardrobes suggests a colorless sterility, a black and white coldness, even though shot in color, that implies an edgy frigidity immersed in the turbulent, fast-moving world of politics and money called D.C.

While I have no idea how this saga will play out beyond this first season and on through the second one, one thing has become more clear. These two protagonist, or villains, depending on how you see and value them and their choices, are well-matched. They seem, at least for now, to have agreed upon some very dysfunctional house rules that allow them to exist with comfort, ease and satisfaction in what you and I might consider a very uncomfortable, uneasy and unsatisfying world of greed, manipulation, and lies.

It makes one wonder how many half-truths or distorted realities someone must buy into in order to justify using others to win the chess game of power and control?

A house of cards differs from a life based on grounded reality in that it’s built on a foundation of self-deception and created from the unhealthy fluff we attach undue importance to in order to convince others that we have real worth, power, influence, and choice. That’s why it can often come crashing down with one small tremor or slight gust of wind.

So the question worth considering is: Do you live in a house of cards? If you don’t know the answer, this might be a good time to consider it. Because the odd thing about a house of cards is that others usually end up seeing it first – its size, its angles, its doors and windows and roof – long before you do. Inside that structure lie your distortions, foibles, fetishes, thoughts, intentions and deeds that you wouldn’t want anyone else to ever discover or reveal.

That’s what makes it so dangerous. It’s comprised of our faults, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, oversights, biases, prejudices, ignorance and stubborn refusal to be accountable for our life choices. Unless we perceive, admit, acknowledge and accept all of those not-so-nice-parts of ourselves, we will forever have an area of our life that can be easily blown to bits by someone who wants to make us fall on our face.

That’s why it’s solid, common sense to keep your personal inventory up-to-date and brutally honest so you’re always fully equipped to be Playing with a Full Deck, enhanced with a self-aware, self accountable sense of responsibility for all of the tucked-away secrets that could bring your house down with one puff.

As for Francis and Claire, sooner or later, a house built on subterfuge is bound to crumble. It’s going to be a fascinating ride and one I’m eager to take. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted.


Olive Gallagher, a life coach, ethicist, and national columnist recently moved to Lake Oswego, OR and is currently offering classes on The Inner Bottom Line twice a month at the LO Adult Community Center along with a group focused on Stress Management.

You can submit your questions and ethical dilemmas or book consulting appointments and private and group coaching sessions with Olive at 503-908-7842 or

Hard cover, Kindle and audio versions of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are now available on

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