Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Opposites Have A Sense Of Humour...

...albeit sometimes a dark one.

One woman told me this:

"Ever since my affair, my husband doesn't trust me. He thinks I have one foot out the door. Which is weird because the truth is, I've had one foot out the door for our entire marriage. It wasn't until after the affair that I realized I wanted to be with him.

When I had his trust, I wasn't trustworthy. Now that I AM committed and faithful, he has no faith in me."
 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Less Commitment Requires More Trust

Here's an interesting paradox I've noticed about casual or non-monogamous relationships.

The more casual relationship, the more trust is required.

The reason for this is time. You have less time together and more time apart.

Less time together means you don't get to know the other person as quickly. You don't get to see them in as many situations, so you have less experience with them. The less time you spend together, the harder it is to determine if they are trustworthy or not.

More time apart means your brain has that much more time to wonder what they're up to or what they're doing. Your fears and insecurities have that much more time to prey on you.

Less time together means you have to budget your time together. You have to decide how much of your limited hours are going to be spent on enjoying your time together and how much is going to be spent on relationship maintenance. You have to accept that you can't always run to each other whenever you feel the need.

More time apart means that they will be up to things when you're not around. Especially if they are sexually active with you and other people, it means an increased risk of health concerns. It means you have to trust them to keep to the limits you've discussed and let you know if those limits change. If YOU'RE seeing other people, it means you have to do the same, no matter how uncomfortable those discussions might get. It also might mean putting limits on your own behavior--which sometimes feels counter-intuitive: I thought dating casually  means I can do anything I want.

Nope. In some ways, you actually have to be MORE careful, not less. You have to communicate better and more precisely. There are more people to be considerate of--your other partners, your partners' partners....the number goes up exponentially the more people involved.

In essence you need to learn to trust yourself to soothe your own emotions when they aren't around and you need to trust them to tell you what they need you to know.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

(for Men) Before You Kiss Her...



The secret to the first kiss, isn't the kiss itself--it's the set-up.

Before we get into that, though, I should make something clear.

Humans have been kissing for a long time. There have been millions upon millions of first kisses. Many of them have been sublime. But many of them have also been awkward, weird, or funny enough that they turn into stories that get told and retold over time--sometimes at the couple's wedding.

There is no perfect kiss. There is no perfect set-up to a kiss. How the kiss happens is how the kiss happens.

That said, if you've never kissed someone before or are inexperienced or nervous at the prospect of  initiating a first kiss, here is something I've found personally helpful in uncertain smooching situations.

Set the kiss up well before you actually try to kiss her.

If I'm on a date, and I feel like I might want to kiss the other person, I let her know, and I let her know long before I ACTUALLY try to kiss her. I prefer to do it in the context of a date and while we're in a public space--say, having coffee or enjoying a round of mini-golf to minimize any feelings of danger, pressure, or threat.

Why do I tell her this?

One reason is because ambush kisses are weird. Even if she likes you, you never want to surprise someone with physical affection. You want them to know what's coming so they can consent to it and get themselves ready to respond with the passion and ardor the moment requires.

Essentially, you're changing your thinking. Instead of trying to find out if she wants to kiss you, let her know that you want to kiss her.

There are three reasons for this. I call it (*) the Triple-T effect: Trustworthiness/Truth, Tension/Tease, and Time.

-By telling her what I want, I'm being truthful. I'm letting her know that I'm willing to be honest with her. I'm not going to wait until I know what she wants and then tell her what she wants to hear.

-If she's into me, I'm building tension. I'm telling her what I want to do--but I'm not doing it yet. It's tease in action.

- By telling her what I want and then not acting on it, I'm also giving her Time. She knows what's coming, and she has an opportunity to sort out how much she likes me, whether kissing me tonight is something she wants, and if it isn't--giving her a chance to find a way to back out gracefully before the moment of truth.

A couple of examples.

"Sorry, I missed the last thing you said because I was thinking about how much I want to kiss you."

"I'm thinking I want to kiss you later."

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you say something like this, make sure the other person knows you are seeing each other with the possibility of exploring a romantic context. If you just blurt it out to someone who thinks you are just friends or to the server bringing food to your table, things might get weird)

Once you've said that leave an appropriate space for her to reply. She might have an opinion ("I don't kiss on the first date" Wow, you're forward. I like your honesty.") or she might have nothing to say.

Any response is fine. Even no response is fine. We're not debating and we aren't making demands. We're telling her what we think, we're listening to her response without judgement, accepting where things are, and moving on.

I like to leave her a beat to reply and then go on talking about whatever it is we were talking about before.

Essentially we are using a version of the 3R model that I talked about here: You're letting them know what you're offering, giving them a chance to respond, and then doing that thing.

You might in fact find step one is all you need. You might discover as the date goes on that things will unfold fairly naturally from there and that all you need to do is pay attention.

- May All Beings Be Sexy

(*) Not really. I just made it up now because I want to sound cool. Also, alliteration. Who doesn't love that?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What Does "I Want To Be Friends First" Mean?

I've read a lot of people say they want to be friends first. But when I try to be someone's friend before going out with them, they say they don't want to 'ruin the friendship.' So what does 'Friends First' mean?


My experience is that most of the time, "friends first" doesn't mean ANYTHING. It's something people say because we heard it somewhere and/or because we think it sounds good in theory. It is not a great predictor of how anyone who uses the expression actually behaves.

Trying to pin down someone's definition of friendship from the expression "friends first" is like craning your neck to see what is above you when they ask "what's up?", addressing their palm when they say "Talk to the hand" or believing they have arrived at a place of serene all-acceptance when they tell you, "Whatever."

"Friends first" is a handy euphemism in a lot of different social contexts, precisely because it's so vague. Used on a date, it can mean "slow down, cowboy." Used publicly among certain social groups it's a marker for "I'm not slutty" without being so crass as to talk about sex directly or to slut-shame. On the internet dating it means "I want to go slowly," "I'm not attracted to you, but I don't want to hurt your feelings or totally reject you in case I change my mind/get desperate later," or "I need more words to fill out this profile and I'm not the greatest writer so I'm going to fall back on cliches."

And sometimes it means, "I want to be friends with someone before I become involved with them romantically."

Funnily enough, I don't hear the expression quite as much as I used to, which I think is a positive thing. I think our culture has changed enough that more people are comfortable a) being direct and b) owning their sexuality.

I guess a shorter answer would be that because it's such a broad phrase, if you're really curious as to what a specific person meant when they used the phrase in a specific situation, I imagine your best bet would be to ask the person who used it.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Great Expectations: What To Expect When You're Not Expecting

A woman and I went out for awhile, broke up because we wanted different things, and then started dating.

 That isn't the typical relationship arc.

But it works for us.

"You know what's weird?" she told me. "We see the same amount of each other as we did when we were going out. Back then, it wasn't enough. Now...it's perfect."

She's right. We are much happier together.

Which seems weird because on the surface, nothing has changed.

We do the same things together we always did. We spend the same amount of time together. The before and after pictures of our relationship are identical.

All that has changed is our expectations.

Sometimes that's exactly enough.

PRACTICE
Think about times you've been angry and upset in your relationships. How did the person or situation fail to meet your expectations? What ARE your expectations in a relationship? Which of those expectations do you feel comfortable communicating? Are there expectations you feel your partner should just "know?" Have you ever been surprised to discover you had an expectation in a relationship and didn't even realize that expectation was there?

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Other articles on change can be found here and here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Relationship Grab Bag: Quotes from David Nicho's 'How to Be An Adult In Relationships'

Getting ready for a trip to California.

There will be no posting next Tuesday.

To tide you over, here are some quotes from David Nicho's "How To Be An Adult In Relationships."

I've quoted from it before. If something speaks to you, maybe you'll enjoy the rest of the book.

(Note - The gender pronouns alternate from chapter to chapter so anything that mentions 'she' or 'he' can probably apply to both sexes.)

On Being Supportive

"There is sometimes a recondite, unreachable, unnamed feeling in a person's experience. She herself does not know what she really feels or needs in the moment. Support may consist simply in honoring that inner mystery."

On Intimacy and Commitment

"Not everyone is cut out for a fully committed relationship...Some people are more comfortable with--and only psychologically calibrated for--light relationships or friendships. They are driven not by fear of intimacy but by truthful recognition intimacy is not for them."

On Needs
"We know...what we needed was not there or being withheld...We may go on denying how deprived we feel...I just won't need what isn't there."

"Sometimes one partner does not meet the other's needs, but since he also does not do anything major [we] go on in the relationship without thinking of options such as change or separation: He will never be so bad that you will leave him but never so good that he will satisfy you."

"Mature adults bring a modest expectation of need fulfillment to a partner. They seek only 25 percent of their need fulfillment from someone else, with the rest coming from self, family, friends, career, hobbies, spirituality/religion, and even pets."

Life Cycle Of A Relationship
"The rose of relationship grows petals in romance, thorns in conflict, and roots in commitment."

New Relationships
"The trick is to enjoy [romance] with full pleasure, yet safely. We want to be thrilled but not wrecked as we sail into it...we fall, notice how we are falling, and catch ourselves all at the same time."

Unhealthy Relationships
"Both rejection and acceptance fire up our adrenaline, so both are equally exciting to the addict. Thus, adrenaline hooks us both coming and going; we are still hooked when we are breaking up. We can get a fix from our partner even as we leave him."

"In healthy relating, we connect but do not attach. We can only really possess what does not possess us. This leads to the great irony of addictive relating: We attach and thereby do not have. The second irony is that the more we rely on someone for security, the less secure we feel."

"People who believe they are lovable are people who love."

Clinging and Pushing Away
"She seduces because of her terror of being alone...she withholds because of her terror of being close. She is at the mercy of a panic that creates a reflex response...the seduction is not a lie nor is the withholding a punishment."

On Conflict
"The purpose of relating is not to endure pain...our challenge as adults is to live through it and move past it."

Fears of abandonment or intimacy stemming from childhood
"Am I the warden of a body in which every cell holds a prisoner pacing with rage for crimes he did not commit?"

Jealousy
"Our ego demands that our partner save us: "Stop doing what I do not want to grieve for.""

Infidelity
"Triangles form...when we do not want to let go of the original partner but instead only make the unlivable livable...The affair is not the disturbance but a symptom of the disturbance...A frustrated partner finds someone else to colonize the empty space rather than address it or grieve its emptiness directly"

"Those avoiding intimacy with the original partner will most likely keep avoiding it with a new partner. What's more, the secrecy and time constraints of an affair make intimacy ultimately impossible in that relationship too. So ultimately, two lovers are less than one."

Disappointment
"So many frayed strands, of disappointments, some barely noticeable, dangle from our hearts in the complex tapestry of a lifetime...Disappointment is a kind of loss, the loss of what we hoped something was or could be. At the bottom is the loss of an illusion to which we were clinging or on which we relied."

"When we feel disappointment, we need to work on our grief. But other people can help us too. If someone understands our disappointment...and shows empathy, it revives and comforts us."

Endings
"All relationships end. Some with separation, some with divorce, some with death. That means that in entering a relationship we implicitly accept that the other will leave us or we will leave him. Grieving is there for included in what we signed on for...We think we only feel it at the very end, but we have probably felt it during the relationship too."

"The worse the relationship was, the worse our grief will be. This is because when we end a very difficult relationship, we are not only letting go of a partner but of all the hope and work we invested in keeping something alive that had expired long before."

"We feel the pain most severely when we uselessly fight against a necessary ending. Holding on is the painful element of letting go."

My Personal Favorite...
"Our bodies cannot be fooled."

Also, on pages 90-93 is a beautiful letter from someone to a new potential partner.