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The Freedom of Forgiveness

A number of years ago, my husband went through a certification process on a “relapse prevention” program. He was a fundraiser for a non-profit which worked with addicts breaking their addictions and getting back on their feet. The course wasn’t strictly necessary for his position, but he felt it was important to know what the counselors deal with on a regular basis so that he could more effectively tell their stories to potential funders.

The course was intensive and the participants were required to do homework each night. One evening when he came home, he told me they had gone through the section on forgiveness – an essential section for any addict who wants to truly leave their compulsions behind them and move on. I was intrigued with the conversation until he turned to me and said, “I think we should go through the exercise and talk about your father.”

Oh crap.

In the later years of his life, my father had made some – let’s put it mildly – “poor choices” which had HUGE ramifications for us kids. I had tried to forgive him. I thought I had done a decent job at it.

But here’s the thing about forgiveness: it is a large, ambiguous, and difficult-to-pin-down concept. Sure, we have all heard the quote that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting them to die. But how do you know when you have actually forgiven them? What do you say and do? Can you ever move to the place of having fondness for the person?

The Freedom of Forgiveness

Out of sheer love for my husband, I decided to listen to the perspective that he had gained at the course. Michael Dye, the author of the course, had an interesting spin on forgiveness. It wasn’t just a question of what the person did and how you can “let go”, it was an in-depth look at what you had told yourself when you were hurt.

Through my tears, Eric helped me fill out the chart. Here is one example of what I wrote:

Person: My Dad

Offense: He re-married four months after my Mom died.

Judgment: He is selfish and weak, unable to live without a woman.

Vow: I will never need a man like he needed a woman…I won’t be that weak.

Effect on me: Trust issues in my relationship with Eric which have taken years to address properly.

Person’s Debt: He owed me the right to grieve at my own pace – without a step-mother – for at least a year.

There were actually a litany of offenses, but I won’t bore you with all the sordid details. Eric sat next to me on the couch and wouldn’t let me leave until I had put everything on paper. It took hours. At the end of the list, Dye has you verbally articulate a forgiveness statement releasing the person of not only the offense (the typical approach to forgiveness exercises) but also the DEBT that they still owe you. Keep in mind, the debt might not be logical at all. It is your emotional response to the hurt you have experienced. For example, you could be forgiving a parent for being absentee during your childhood. S/he might “owe” you all the time that you lost with them.

It is the DEBT part of this exercise that is profound. Because unless you actually know what you are forgiving a person for – meaning what debt you are releasing them from – it is impossible to forgive them. If you try to address the offense, but never dig deeper to the debt, you will be spinning your wheels.

How does this have anything to do with sex???

Because I meet a significant number of people who have been unable to move past offenses and debts that his/her spouse has inflicted. A lot of these people are still married but can’t figure out why their sex life is tanking. Let me tell you, if you think you can have a thriving sex life when you are holding on to something that your spouse did to you, you are out to lunch. Sex is one of the most intimate ways we express ourselves with our partners, and this expression will be severely curtailed by unforgiveness. It festers and grows until it becomes all encompassing.

Let me tell you what I experienced after I completed the exercise regarding my father. All of a sudden, for the first time in years, I was able to remember the good things he had done for me. It was as if all the unforgiveness had been a cloud that prevented me from seeing him for what he truly was – a man capable of making some very good as well as some very bone-headed decisions. And there is enormous freedom in coming to that place.

One last thought…forgiveness is a unilateral act. You do not need an apology, an acknowledgement or even a public allocution from your spouse or other offenders in order to forgive. My father had been dead for years when Eric and I went through the exercise. It was for me and me alone. And it brought enormous freedom.

Who do you need to forgive in your life?

Don’t forget to vote in our forgiveness poll!!!

Hint #12

You may never think of the gym the same way ever again!  Did you know that working out for about an hour before having sex will help you get excited?  The extra blood flow rushing through your veins actually preps the body for supersonic orgasms.

Why not turn over a new leaf and start working out at the gym 3 times a week?  Within weeks you’ll notice that you are more in tune with your body and more likely to be sexually responsive.

Hint #11

Sex is like any other exercise.  The more you do it, the better you become at it.  The better you become at it, the more you enjoy it.  This isn’t just a word fodder either.  Studies show that regular exercise releases “happy” chemicals into the brain.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get to practicing!  You’ll soon see that all your hard work will result in more orgasms with less effort.

Simmering Passion

simmering pot

One of the challenges in my business as a Passion Coach is teaching a woman how to make the transition from the roles she plays during the day (mother, sister, daughter, friend, employee, employer) to the role of sexy, passionate wife at night. As women, we pour our energies into the people and tasks around us all day long. Our boss needs something done, and we endeavour to get it done efficiently and with excellence. Our friend calls up sobbing because her teenager is doing drugs, and we listen and empathize. Our coworker is on the verge of having an affair because her home life is boring, predictable and lonely; and we invest time over lunch trying to convince her why this isn’t such a hot idea. And when we return home, our children need us to help with homework, or kiss their boo-boos, or drive them to their game or dance class. Later, we feed, bathe, and tuck them into bed.

And then, tired and worn out, we stumble into the bedroom at night, and there is our dear husband. With that look on his face. And it feels like one more thing we have to check off our “to do” list for the day.

How do we make the transition?

I believe the answer lies not in what happens at the end of the day, but in what we are doing all day long. Sure, we want to be good at our job, be a great friend AND be a Super Mom who engenders the envy of all the other PAC moms. But in attempting to do so, we have trained ourselves to neglect the passionate side of ourselves – the side that actually notices the details of life around us rather than just seeing a blur as we whiz by it. After all, it slows us down and makes us inefficient.

But is it also the side that makes us feel alive.

The best analogy I give to women is that of a pot on the stove. If you want to get it to boiling and the water is cold, it can take some time. However, if the water is already simmering, the pot boils very quickly. So, if you want hot, steamy passion at night, you have to be looking for and cultivating it during the day.

Need some tips and suggestions? Here are a few:

  • The science of arousal is all about blood flow into the genital tissues, so do things which increase your blood flow during the day such as:
    • Do some cardio exercise. 20 minutes is a good place to start because it is long enough to get your blood flowing, but not so long that it is difficult to fit into your day.
    • Eat a healthy diet. Yes, it helps your blood flow as well as your dress size!
  • Slow down enough to actually listen to the words of the songs on the radio. Play songs which make you feel passionate, romantic or sexy. Create a “Passion” playlist on your ipod.
  • Remember the Four Kisses a Day article? Don’t forget to bring passion to your relationship with your husband during the day. Send him a sexy text message or call just to say, “I love you”. Email him reminding him of your last romantic or steamy time together and tell him how much you appreciate him.
  • Pick up an activity which makes you feel passionate and/or sexy. Try an art class, dance class, or even a cooking class (yes, a beautifully prepared meal can be sexy too!).
  • Pay attention to the beautiful things in your life. Do you have nature on your way to work which is lovely? Do you need to go to an art museum or pick up a book on classic art? Train yourself to notice, appreciate and be thankful for that beauty.
  • Most importantly, take your family on this journey with you. Teach your children to understand passion (albeit in the non-sexual way), so that they will take these lessons into their adult lives. In our family, we do it through dance.

 

10 Ways to Reconnect with Your Spouse as Lover

In my business, I often ask couples to tell me what hinders them from having the sex life they dream about. The number one answer that I get is, “the kids.” These parents deeply love their children, but are keenly aware that their sex life began to abate when little Johnnie or little Susie was born. We live in a culture which dotes on children – we make them the center of our world; we make sure that they are exposed to every possible activity so that they can thrive in adulthood; we keep them up with us until we go to bed so that we can spend as much time with them as possible.

The problem with having our kids as an exclusive focus in our marriage is that we forget the romance, the friendship, and the attraction that drew us together in the first place. So many times, couples have very little to say when I ask what they talk about besides the topic of their kids. It seems to be the only thing that they have in common. However, if we want a long-lasting relationship with this person, we need to remember that the kids will eventually leave home (after all, we are raising adults, not children). And when that happens, we want to make sure that our companionship together was not built wholly on them.

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Here are 10 ways that you can stay connected with your spouse as a lover, not just as a parent:

  1. Start dating again. Go on regular dates with your spouse. Begin with once a month and then increase the frequency so that eventually you go on dates once a week. #1 rule of the date: No talking about the kids! If you are struggling about things to talk about, think of things that you used to talk about before the kids came along, what is going on in the world around you, or get a book which gives you questions to ask each other. Learning to talk about as lovers may feel awkward at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be.
  2. Establish good sleep patterns for your children. This includes having a regular bedtime for them that is earlier that when you and your spouse go to bed. If your kids are younger, have a set time when they have to be in their rooms even if their lights are not out. Not only is this good for your sex life, but it is also essential for the health of your children.[1] Need some advice on how much sleep your kids actually need? Check out the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations here.
  3. Establish good sleep patterns for yourself! Oftentimes, we fall into the trap of thinking, “If I stay up later, I can get more done.” However, exhaustion ultimately makes us less effective and it also undermines our sexual relationship (which, in turn, undermines our marriage). So, get into a bedtime routine which ensures that you will get enough hours of sleep. Not sure how much is enough? Find out here.
  4. Take time each day to connect emotionally. Have a time each day where you and your spouse sit down together and have a short conversation without the children present. Let the children know that Mom and Dad need ten minutes alone and make sure that they have something that can keep them occupied and safe during this time. This allows you to connect daily but it also models to your children the importance of your relationship together as a couple. They will reap the benefits of this modeling when they have their own relationships.
  5. Make sex a priority. Sex is the one thing that sets your spouse apart from a really good friend. It is the physical and spiritual connection that you have with this special someone that you share with no other. Set up “sex dates” so that you don’t allow too much time to pass between sexual encounters. Get answers to any physical difficulties that you are experiencing. Stop making excuses (when the kids get older, this will get better…).
  6. Ensure privacy. Are you one of those people who can’t get past the idea of your children walking in on you in the throes of passion? Start teaching your children the importance of Mommy-Daddy alone time. This is time when the two of you focus solely on each other.  It doesn’t have to be sex every time, but once the kids understand the importance of the uninterrupted time, you can worry less about, well, interruptions. But just to be on the safe side, put a lock on your door and get a white noise machine so that you can ensure that you will not be seen or heard by the kids. After all, the modeling I spoke of earlier only goes so far!
  7. Begin a regular exercise routine. What does this have to do with sex??? The science behind arousal is all about blood flow. When you are working out on a consistent basis, you are increasing blood flow to your extremities and you can reap the benefits of this in the bedroom. Not convinced? Exercising also leads to a better body image, helps us sleep better and reduces stress – all of which make intimacy easier.
  8. Variety is the spice of life! We all have our favorites (and knowing your spouse’s favorites is great way to make your marriage sizzle) but variety expands our horizons. How do you find our whether your kids like PB&J sandwiches? Or curry? Or sushi? You let them try. So, add something new to your “menu” once a month. If you both hate it, then scratch it off the list of things you will do again. However, you might be surprised and find a new favourite!
  9. Find out what makes your spouse feel loved. As spouse who feels loved is much more likely to want to jump into bed. Do they need a back massage? A heart-to-heart talk? An afternoon away from the kids? A compliment on how good they look? A love note tucked into the laptop? How about the having the toilets scrubbed? Find out what sets the stage for romance for your lover and then do it unbidden.
  10. Get out of town! Vacation sex is the best. The kids aren’t around (so you don’t have to be quiet or worry about them walking in on you), you can sleep when you want to, you don’t have to get home to a babysitter and you have time to linger. Figure out a way to spend at least one weekend a year away from the kids and try to increase this frequency as the years go on. If you don’t have a relative or babysitter to watch the kids, do an exchange with friends. You take their kids one weekend and then they take your kids another weekend. It’s a win/win for both couples.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there is a reason KT Oslin wrote the lyrics “Don’t kiss me like we’re married…Kiss me like we’re lovers”. All too often we separate the two – especially once kids come along. Never let that passion for each other fade away. It is much easier to stay connected in the first place than it is to re-connect after years of simply parenting together. As my husband likes to say, “parallel parenting is great so long as you can be horizontal in the bedroom too!”

If the spark is fading, then take the steps now to rekindle the passion that you once had (or always wanted). If you still “got it”, then don’t lose it through neglect. Work on it like you were losing it, and you will always have it!


[1] In the September 1 Issue of the Journal of SLEEP, Jacques Montplaisir, MD, of the Sleep Disorders Center at Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal, Canada concluded that children who do not get enough sleep are at higher risk of obesity, ADHD and slower cognitive abilities.

Doctor Prescribed Sex

My husband and I have been trying to have a second child now for three years. It took us a year and a half to conceive our daughter, and we figured that since we had obviously figured out how to do it, it would be easy the second time. WRONG! Although all our tests are clean, we have not been able to “get one past the goalie” as my husband so eloquently puts it.

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Not too long ago, we decided that we would take our trying to the next level and follow our doctor’s advice to go on Clomid, the fertility drug that is prescribed to a lot of women in my situation. As we were chatting with the doctor, I decided to be frank and asked, “So, doc, is this the drug that will turn me into a raving lunatic?” She laughed and diplomatically said, “Well, there can be some side effects with the increase of hormones in your system.” She then proceeded to give us the instructions on how to take the drugs. “Take them from days 3-7 and then have sex on days 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18.” Turning to my husband, she then said, “If you have any business trips to take, schedule them for the rest of her cycle.” And then she gave him a very sympathetic smile. Humm. I suppose this was her way of being more direct to my earlier question. We got a good giggle and left the office to follow her instructions.

Now, for all of you out there who are thinking “I wish I could have sex that often!” let me say that doctor prescribed sex is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it is awful. It turns something that is supposed to be fun, pleasurable and even spiritual into a chore that needs to be ticked off your “to-do” list. You have to do it (or else you feel guilty for not doing your best to get pregnant), you can’t use lubricant (it kills the sperm), and there is no cuddling afterwards (your bum is stuck up in the air on a pillow). Add that to the hormonal changes you go through if you are on the fertility drugs, and ups and downs you feel as you hope, hope, hope and then are disappointed, and the whole experience can really make your sex life take a nose-dive.

In my business as a Passion Coach, many women have come to me to discuss the ramifications of infertility on their sex lives. Their stories are remarkably similar. They speak about the fact that their minds are constantly on getting pregnant, which makes it very difficult to be romantic and stay in the mood because their mind keeps wandering to whether or not this will be the time that they conceive. They are constantly thinking about what day it is, and whether their period is going to come this month or not. Some husbands feel so much pressure that they cannot get and maintain an erection (which, of course, frustrates both them and their wives!). And underling all of their experiences – the waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting.

So, how do we maintain good sex lives in the midst of all of this? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add variety to love-making (change rooms or the time of day that you have sex, add candles or music, play strip poker, etc.)
  • Make sure to have sex even on days which are not “doctor prescribed” so that your sexual relationship isn’t completely tied to the task of procreation
  • Find some friends or a support group to talk to so that you don’t feel isolated during this time
  • Try to find the humor in the midst of attempts to conceive (ie: read a funny yet honest blog, allow yourself to laugh)
  • Take steps to reduce stress in your life (ie: physical exercise, learn stress reduction techniques such as yoga, choose to try to conceive during times of lower stress in your career, and laugh (see point above)
  • Explore other options like adoption, IVF, or acupuncture
  • Set a time period of “trying” interspersed with a period of taking a break (and really take the break – toss out the charts, put away the thermometer, stop tracking your cycle)
  • As best as possible, make peace with the concept of not having a biological child

But at the end of the day, the thing to remember through this is what originally drove this whole thing – a desire to come together as a couple in the deepest of ways. I say that we need to remember that because in the midst of “baby making sex” it is easy to forget to make love. And that is what this is all about really. The intent of the exercise is to fall deeper in love with your spouse, so don’t let it become a wedge that drives you apart.