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The Greatest Gift

My daughter and I recently returned from Disneyland. It was amazing. In fact, I had more fun taking her and watching the wonder on her face than I ever had being there as a kid. We met up with her three best friends there (whom she hadn’t seen since we moved from Vancouver) and it was a full-on Princess extravaganza. I felt a little badly for the one male in our group who resorted to taking shots of testosterone each night just to survive the whole experience! (Just kidding. He didn’t really dope up, and he survived just fine.)

The trip was made possible by my aunt and uncle. When they asked what they could buy Riley for Christmas, I thought and thought and thought. She doesn’t need stuff. She is like many North American kids…she has everything she needs and then some. As such, Eric and I have been gravitating to the concept of investing in memories rather than things. Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily the cheapest option. Sometimes memories cost more than the hottest toy – take that Disney pass for example. But unlike the hottest toy that will be outgrown and tossed out in time, the memories will forge greater relationships in the moment and then last over the years.

As this was about memories, we took a million pictures at Disneyland. My favourite one is Riley, exhausted from the first 12-hour day, in bed in her pajamas with her dinner on her lap. She almost fell asleep as she ate her quesadilla! She was so happy and so tired!

When our friend Louise came to visit for the holiday season, she built upon this memory-building gift giving idea. Her gift to Riley (and our family by extension) was tickets to a performance of the National Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker. For a little girl who has been taking ballet for three years, this was a magical moment. She even wore her pink ballet outfit to the performance and got to meet some of the ballerinas.

But since Riley is a bit too young to fully grasp the concept of “memory building = Christmas gifts”, we realized that we would need to wrap some things up that represented our time together. We figured a basically empty tree and an admonition, “But remember your gift happened weeks ago” would not cut it. So we framed a huge collage of Riley’s time in Disneyland as well as the signed poster that she got at the ballet. On Christmas morning, as she tore off the wrapping paper, she squealed and relived the memories as she poured over each photo. Now those frames hang in her room, representing the gifts that she was given this year.

I realize that I am too late to give you advice on gift giving this past holiday season. But here is a suggestion for the rest of the year – Valentine’s Day, birthdays, your anniversary. Take the amount that you would have spent on a traditional gift for your lover and invest that money into a “memory date” instead. Here are some ideas:

  • A Starbucks (or other favourite coffee/tea house) card charged with enough money for 5 coffee dates together. Make the stipulation that you can only use the card together so that s/he doesn’t use it all up on the way to work each morning.
  • Tickets to an event that means something to you as a couple (or at least the person who is receiving the gift – part of this gift is participating in their interests!). Perhaps it is a concert, theatre presentation, movie tickets or even a Monster Truck Rally!
  • A gift card to your favourite restaurant so that you can escape together when life gets crazy and stressful.
  • A weekend get-away package set for sometime when you can get good deals. Book the travel and accommodations and then plan some activities so that you can present the overall concept as your gift.
  • Gift certificates from your favourite babysitter so that your spouse can cash them in when s/he decides that the two of you need to get out for an evening. (If you think that handing your babysitter a wad of cash in return for a promise of service is an unwise idea, then have the necessary amount for 2-3 nights out tucked inside an envelope that is only used for this purpose.)
  • Coupons for a walk together at the local park, a boat ride, a time tobogganing, a trip to the local art gallery, a walk in the downtown part of your city, a ride on a train, time to volunteer together at a local soup kitchen, a trip to a local tourist spot, cups of hot chocolate delivered to bed complete with whipped cream on top, and so forth.

Here is my final suggestion: if it is decent to do so (because you can most certainly spice up the suggestions I have given above), take a camera with you during your “memory date” so that you can preserve your time together. Because while the primary investment you are making is time – the return on that investment are life-long memories.

Do Men Fake Orgasms?

Did you know that MEN fake orgasm too???

Ever since the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, we have been culturally conscious of the fact that women can pull the wool over the eyes of their men. However, new studies are now debunking the myth that only women engage in this sort of activity.

According to the November issue of the Journal of Sex Research, 25% of the men in their study confessed to pretending to orgasm. Askmen.com also did a survey of 100,000 men in which 14% admitted that they had done it once and a further 16% said they had done it multiple times.

But how? This seems to be the question that immediately comes to everyone’s mind.

If you think about it, in the day in which condoms and lubricants are prevalent, it would be easy to cover up the (lack of) evidence. If you throw in the fact that most women are not checking to see if their partners are faking it – because, let’s be honest, how many are – it would be relatively easy for the guys to pull off.

Why would a guy fake it? Simply put, for the same reason a woman does. The study published by the Journal of Sex Research stated that the most frequently cited reasons were:

  • they wanted sex to end
  • they knew that orgasm was probably not going to happen and faking it seemed like an easy way to “finish”
  • they wanted to demonstrate to their partners that it was good for them too
  • they didn’t want to hurt their partners’ feelings

Very often, we assume that men are always willing and eager to have sex and overlook the fact that they might be tired, or stressed or simply not in the mood. Just like many women.

But the typical response for women who find out that their husband is not automatically ready to go or cannot achieve orgasm is to assume that something is wrong with them. “Is he getting it somewhere else? Am I too fat? Am I not good enough?” are the some of the myriad of thoughts that float through their minds.

Perhaps. But it is much more likely that there is something else in play. Here are some of the common reasons why men have difficulty achieving orgasm:

  1. SSRI Drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc.). These are prescribed for issues such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. A very simplistic explanation of how these drugs work are that they keep more serotonin in your system (the happy, feel-good hormone). This is excellent news when you are dealing with depression. However, the nasty little side-effect is that this increase in serotonin actually suppresses your dopamine levels (which stimulate your sex drive). The end result is that you might have lower libido, it might take you longer to achieve orgasm or you may be unable to orgasm.
  2. Erectile Drugs (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, etc.). If you think about it logically, these drugs are a result of the industry that has grown in response to our demand to perform anytime, anywhere. We make jokes about the common disclaimer – “seek medical attention if you experience an erection lasting more than four hours” – but the fact of the matter is that we expect these drugs to make us a sex GOD. But what happens when you are not in the mood? Physiologically, you have all the tell-tale signs that you are aroused, but what if you are not completely there? For men who find themselves in this predicament, achieving orgasm might not be as easy as they had anticipated.
  3. Alcohol (Beer, Wine, Spirits etc.). In my practice, I find that this is the most common drug that affects orgasm. Alcohol actually inhibits testosterone and this can result in lower libido, decreased arousal and delayed ejaculation.
  4. Porn (pictures, video, etc.). One of the issues that is becoming more and more prevalent in the field of sex therapy, is dealing with men who have turned to porn, thinking that it would give them a good sexual education. Bombarded with these images of completely unrealistic sex, genuine intimacy with a flesh-and-blood woman can become increasingly difficult. Remember the Sex and the City episode wherein Miranda dates a guy who cannot have sex unless there he is also watching porn? When she makes him choose between her and the movies, he chooses porn because “those girls have been with me longer than you have.” This might be a humorous depiction of the issue on screen, but is very serious when it is happening in your own house.
  5. Life.  As I mentioned before, men’s sex lives are affected by stress, their jobs, their bank balances, their sleep patterns, any number of medical issues, emotional interaction with their wives and a whole host of other reasons.

So what if you are caught in the trap of faking it? The first time you faked it, it was probably to alleviate the pressure you were feeling in the moment. But now, you are under even more pressure to keep up the act and this can get very old, very fast.

Here is my advice.

Stop.

Yes, that’s right.

Stop.

fake-it

Instead of devising ways to pull off the deception, view this as an opportunity to learn together and make your sex life better. You have the information now about the causes for your lack of orgasm as well as some of the feelings that your wife is probably going to have when you tell her, so you will have a little more (intelligent) communication points for the conversation that will inevitably happen.

Here is what I want everyone to remember: change is inevitable in your sex life. Inability to orgasm is just one of those possible changes. It is guaranteed that your body will change as the years go by, and your perspectives will most likely shift as well. If you do not have open and honest communication with your spouse, things will fall apart. You will find yourself with a spouse who is doing things that were awesome five years ago, but aren’t so hot anymore. Or you will find yourself hiding more and more instead of becoming more and more intimate. This does not make a fabulous sex life.

So have the conversation and devise a strategy of dealing with the issue. Perhaps you can go to your doctor and find something that is effective for your condition but does not have the sexual side-effects. Perhaps you can develop ways to lengthen the amount of foreplay so that you can really be aroused. Perhaps you need to lay off the booze.

And if you are the woman who is finding out that her husband has been faking it, don’t be defensive. Just listen. And then seek solutions together.

Sometimes an independent perspective can helpful.  If you need a Passion Coach, then contact me for some extra help.

That’s what I am here for!

Post Halloween Reflections

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Since my daughter is still young, Halloween is a HUGE event in our household. The conversations about costumes and candy and safety begin literally weeks before the big event. This year, Riley’s teacher fully embraced the season and read what Riley called “spooky-scary” books to them, wore Halloween ties and pumpkin earrings, and sent home a list of ways to be safe and responsible while Trick or Treating. Riley was so excited that she could barely see straight.

One morning, she announced to me that her teacher had said that they could wear heels to the class Halloween party, as long as they “went with the outfit”.

Now, allow me to give you a little insight on my daughter. She is a fashionista. Young though she is, she has an innate sense of style – albeit her own unique style which often involves pairing pink fluffy dresses with cowboy boots and a string of costume pearls. I seriously doubt that you would find anything even remotely resembling a “Riley Line” on the catwalks of Wal-Mart much less Milan or Paris. But it nevertheless emanates from who she is and how she wants to present herself to the world.  And ever since her MiMi bought her first (and only) pair for her this summer, she has absolutely adored heels.

So after her big announcement regarding the permissibility of wearing heels, I then asked her, “What do you want to be for Halloween?”

“A WITCH!” She cried excitedly.

“Do witches wear heels??” I was a little dubious.

“THIS witch does!” She grinned from ear to ear. Her enthusiasm was matched only by her self-confidence.  However, in an unfortunate blow to fashionable Halloween witches everywhere, when we went looking for costumes, she decided that big pointy hats and black shawls were not so stylish and she ended up going as a mermaid.  And with the same enthusiasm she employed towards her first idea, she made no bones about the fact that mermaids also wear heels.

And so, when the big night finally rolled around, we dressed up and unashamedly set off to randomly knock on doors, beg for food and take candy from strangers.

Like all kids, Riley loves the costumes and candy, but I love the community spirit that Halloween builds. It is one of the few times when we actually see and interact with our neighbours. Parents linger along the streets as their children go from door to door. I met – for the first time – the moms and dads of many of Riley’s schoolmates. I walked through my neighbourhood rather than driving. I slowed down. I chatted. I began relationships.

One couple in particular stood out to me. As they walked along, they held hands and were as warm in their affection for each other as the night was cold. But when I realized that they newly dating and not married, it made me very sad that they were showing up all the rest of us who were.

But it also gave me pause to think, as I grabbed Eric’s hand and cuddled up to him.  I know for a fact that I am more in love with my husband than she is with her boyfriend.  I know this because we have 18 years of history, of moments lived and memories shared.  So why on earth would I not be more affectionate towards my husband?

So here is my thought for you: make time this week for a little PDA (public display of affection) with your spouse. Nothing obscene, of course.  But hold a hand, give a smooch, link arms together. And then write me to tell what you did and what the reaction was around you. I want to know!

And then have some left over candy as a “reward”!

The Flat Tire

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Last week, when I was driving Riley to school, I heard a weird noise coming from the wheel well that even I, who is not in any way mechanically inclined, knew was not a good sign.

I pulled over at the next safe place and got out of the car to inspect the damage. Sure enough, the wheel was flat. Making a quick phone call to the school to tell them that Riley would be late was easy. Figuring out how to proceed was more difficult. Eric was out of town, and (to be brutally honest) I forgot in the panic of the moment that we had Roadstar Assistance because I have never used it before.

I did briefly consider changing it myself. To my father’s defense, he had taught me how to change a tire as one of the rites of passage that every teenage girl should undergo. But that was back in high school (eons ago) and I knew for a fact that my tires had been put on with pneumatic tools. Even if I could remember what to do, I seriously doubted that I had the strength to do it.

Even though he was far away, Eric did prove to be extraordinarily helpful. He hopped on the internet and got me the name and number of our tire shop and recommended I call them. When the man picked up the phone, I threw myself on his mercy. I played the “husband out of town” and “five-year-old in the backseat” cards like a champ.

“Where are you?”, he asked after he had explained that he probably couldn’t help because he had a guy out sick and another out of the shop. When I told him, he said, “Hang on, I think my guy is two blocks from you!” Sure enough, my knight in shining armor (or at least a ball cap and big truck) showed up five minutes later.

Within moments, he had the spare on my car and was heading back to the shop to start fixing my tire. The problem? It had gotten screwed. Literally. Evidently, I had run over the screw at one of the many construction sites around our house. What a humorous way to start the day.

You might be wondering how this story has anything to do with passion. Here’s the deal: I had rushed out of the house that morning without any makeup on. To you, that might not be a big deal. In fact, that might be how you start every morning (especially if you are a reader of the male persuasion). But I grew up in Texas. And Texan women of my generation don’t go to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk without putting on makeup. It’s just what we do.

As a result of this upbringing, there are at most 3 times a year that I will venture out without a full complement of makeup. This was one of those times…and I got caught with a flat tire. I felt decidedly unattractive.

The gentlemen at the tire store didn’t seem to notice. I suppose the fact that I live in British Columbia, wherein makeup is definitely optional, made me blend in better.

The next day, I went back to the tire shop to get my winter tires removed (which technically was before the official start of summer, so I felt okay about that). Since I had clients to meet and things to do, I looked, well, normal. When I eneterd the store, the guy at the front desk looked somewhat surprised and said, “You look different today.” I responded, “You caught me on a bad day yesterday.” And then he said something that amazed me, “Funny, I thought I caught you on a great day.”

Now, he could have been being kind. After all, they do give superb customer service at this shop (as evidenced by my rescue the day before) and so maybe it is second nature to assuage the embarrassment of female patrons.

Or maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe how I see myself isn’t how others see me. Maybe what I personally find “attractive” doesn’t register as necessary or even as “attractive” for others.

When I am teaching clients on the importance of attractiveness, I always stress how important it is to ask your spouse what s/he finds attractive. Taking care of yourself and putting effort into how you appear is important to keep the passion alive in your relationship but how this looks is different to everyone. You could spend hours of time on something that you think makes you look hot but your spouse doesn’t give a rip. In that process, you might be overlooking what really matters to him/her. So, how do you know for sure? Ask.

All things considered, I am glad that I had a flat that day. I was able to experience, with fresh eyes, things that I tell my clients.  And if you’re going to be wrong about something, being seen as attractive when you don’t think you are is a pretty decent thing to be wrong on.  Maybe I don’t always have to be right!!

What about you?   Are you sure you know what your lover finds attractive?

Winning Isn’t Everything

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Not too long ago, a dear friend came to visit us. During the course of her stay, we had much discussion about her new career. After years of working in the field of web design, she has taken to has taken up designing board games. She seems to have a natural talent for it; two of her prototypes have a very strong potential to be published in the next year.  Not bad for a newbie designer.

Because my repertoire of games runs the very uncreative gambit from Go Fish to Monopoly, I found this new world to be completely fascinating. The more I learned about the intricacies of the process of publishing games, the more impressed I became. And, of course, you can’t hang out with a game designer without playing a lot of games. So, after Riley was put to bed at night, our friend would pull out various games and we would play.

One game, Dominion, was addictive. We played every chance we could get. The hours would melt away, and I would look at the clock in horror when I realized it was late into the morning hours and we were still playing.

Needless to say, once our friend returned home, Eric and I immediately purchased the game. After all, TV had become incredibly boring in light of the fact that we could collect gold and potions and other such fun baubles.

Fairly quickly, however, I noticed a disturbing trend. Eric and I would play; he would beat me (badly); I would get angry; I would go to bed in a huff. Evidently, my husband’s skill at the game had escaped my notice when there were several people playing and was magnified when it was just the two of us. We were not just playing the game of Dominion on the kitchen table; it was manifesting itself in our relationship too. The fact that he won ALL THE TIME had me seriously pissed off.

Have you ever tried to have sex when you are pissed off? It doesn’t work so well. Pretty soon I noticed that it had been a long time since we had sex. (I will refrain from mentioning a specific time frame here only because I believe that every one should decide for their own relationship how much sex is “enough”. Just take my word that, for us, it was a long time.)

Since we both saw the pattern of drought that was emerging, we would start the evening with the best of intentions. “Let’s play a quick game and then have sex,” I would enthuse. (Why didn’t I reverse the order, you ask? Simply put, our five-year old does not go to sleep immediately at bed time, so we have a “no sex” safety-buffer zone for about an hour after we put her down.)

And then, after one game, I would want another…and another. But by the time my husband had thoroughly trounced me over and over, I was physically and emotionally exhausted and ready to call it an evening. “I don’t like playing with you,” I would pout. Until the next night came and I would ask to play again. Seriously, a therapist would probably have a field-day with me.

I did get me thinking, though. The game of Dominion might seem like a silly example, but there are lots of little irritations that we allow to invade our sex lives:

  • He doesn’t pick up his socks and has no clue about the enormous amount of housework that I have to do = No sex for you buddy.
  • She is watching her TV shows (again), so I will roll over and fall asleep. Pocket veto.

Really, at the end of the day, there are so many things that get in the way of a good sex life that really shouldn’t get in the way. Isn’t your sex life more important?

Finally, FINALLY, I took a bit of my own advice and decided to do something about this issue. I had a few options:

1)   I could stop playing the game.

2)   I could change my attitude towards winning. My husband, to his defense, was trying to teach me new strategies so that I could get better. He wasn’t being a jerk about the whole thing. Really. No, really.

3)   I could do some work during the “buffer” time, then have sex, then play the game. (And get pissed off or not at that point…either way it wouldn’t have impact on our sex life!)

4)   Try other options that hadn’t yet occurred to me.

Recognizing what we need to change and then going and making that change is challenging. My problem was that I enjoyed the behaviour that ultimately led to my anger. I liked playing the game. I liked trying to win. But the long-term effect was counter-productive for my relationship. So I needed to change.

I personally chose a combination of options 2 and 3. We still play the game, and I still have delusions of beating Eric, but it no longer has a negative impact on our sex life. And in my mind, that is a pretty big win.

And I take my wins where I can get them, because they still aren’t happening in Dominion…but I’m not bitter (anymore)!!

The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift You Can Give

The Greatest Gift You Can Give

When was the last time you told your children how much you love your spouse?

That’s right.

When was the last time you looked your kids in the eyes and said, “I am so in love with your Dad [or Mom]”?

Are you terrified that they will feel unloved? Are you nervous that they will fall over themselves and say, “Ahhhh, that’s gross!!” Would they be totally confused? What holds you back?

Recently, I had to explain the concept of divorce to my daughter. Our goddaughter is part of a blended family, and so when my daughter asked some probing questions about them, I decided to answer honestly (but with brevity since she is only five). Many of Riley’s schoolmates come from single-parent households, but this was the first time she connected the dots with someone who is really close to our family.

The sadness that Riley felt was palpable. She didn’t understand how two people could marry and then divorce. It was incomprehensible to her that you would not live with the father of your child. In fact, she was so disturbed by the concept that she had another heart-to-heart with her teacher that day at school. I wish we were all so disturbed by divorce. The impact on a family is truly nothing less than devastating.

Kids live with the fear that their mom and dad will split up. This is understandable. They see it on TV (in one of Riley’s favourite shows, the dad is conspicuously absent). It is happening to their friends all around them. Why wouldn’t they wonder if they are next?

I believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is love for your spouse. Your marital happiness is the foundation of your family unit. And your kids need to hear about it. They need to know that you go on dates because your relationship with each other is precious. They need to see you flirt and cuddle and laugh. They need to hear that you love each other.

I don’t care if you are on your first, second or third marriage…if you are committed to making it work, then talk about how much you love your spouse around your kids.

“Riley, I love your Daddy.”

“Yeah, I know Mom. You tell me that all the time.”

Perhaps she will appreciate it more when she marries. Until then, I will have to keep modeling it for her.

Relational Eroticism Part 2

I am not a history teacher by any means, but I have heard the comment that those who do not study the past are destined to repeat it.  I understood that statement to be an indictment on ignorance, and I have never wanted to be ignorant.  So, in order to “study the past” I became a student of it, mostly by watching the History Channel and Mel Gibson movies every now and again.  And one of my, now less so, guarded secrets is that I love watching the History Channel.  I was watching it the other day when my husband walked in.  He stared at the screen for a moment and saw men dressed up in medieval armor and turned and looked at me…waiting for some explanation as to why I was watching historical battles reenacted. I didn’t really have one other than a meek, “there wasn’t anything else on.”  But the truth is that I found it fascinating.

I love the names we have given to periods of time in history:  “The Dark Ages”, “The Renaissance”, “The Age of Enlightenment”…these all sound so romantic.  It’s way better than simply saying, “I grew up in the 70’s!  Best I have is “The Age of Bellbottoms and Awful Moustaches”, and that doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Just like looking back at pictures from the 1970’s and wondering how on earth our parents could have thought those clothes were fashionable in any way, when we look back on other ages in history it is always interesting to see what odd and even ignorant perceptions and paradigms people held so dear to themselves.

For instance, look at the so-called “Middle Ages” or “Dark Ages” for instance.  It was not until hundreds of years later that scholars began to use those terms for it, and it quickly took on a derogatory meaning.  It became a way to sum up that section of time by focusing on what was deemed to be “wrong with it.”  For a while it was called the “Age of Faith” because religion reigned supreme in the culture. Later, when this was deemed to be inappropriate because it is in direct conflict with the subsequent deification of intellect and man, scholars began referring to that period of history as “barbaric” and “priest-ridden”, and spoke of “these dark times”, “the centuries of ignorance”, and “the uncouth centuries”.

By the same token, these same scholars began calling their own time the “Age of Enlightenment.”  Thanks to the great oracle Google, I can tell you that, The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment) is a term used to describe a time in Western philosophy and cultural life, in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority.  In fact, during this time reason was held to be the primary value of society.  Reason was prized above authority, intuition, emotion, mysticism, superstition, and faith.

Why am I forcing you into my private interest in history?  Because there are things we can learn from the past.  In fact, our current culture is shaped, in many ways, by cultural past. Studies have been done that show as much as 90% of our beliefs are secondary – meaning, that we either heard or read it, but did not personally experience it, and yet we believe it to be true. So when we hear “Dark Ages” we believe those times to be “bad” and when we hear “Enlightenment” we believe those times to be “good”.  What follows from that are logical conclusions that we should do like those who were “enlightened” and not be like those who were “ignorant”.   The pendulum has swung fully from a time where mysticism and faith (belief in that which cannot be seen or explained) were revered to a place where reason and understanding reign supreme.  Anything that cannot be fully known, understood, and explained in minute detail is not to be trusted.

The problem with this, like with any over-reaction, is that we have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.  Believe me, I too love to know and understand things.  When my husband is telling me something, I often serenade him with a chorus us “details, details…I WANT DETAILS!!!”  Seriously, I really do sing this to him.  It’s cute when I do it.  Seriously.

Anyway, the point here is that I am like everyone else when it comes to knowing things.  I want to know.  I need to know.  It’s my God-given right to know!  And therefore I tend to not trust things that I do not really understand.

This same philosophy has wormed its way into our belief about relationships.  I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they “deserve to know” every detail of their lover’s past and present in every area of their life.  And if they don’t know every detail, then they assume that things are being hidden and if things are being hidden then they must be bad or they wouldn’t hide them, and if they hide things then they don’t trust them, and if they don’t trust them then they cannot truly love them…and round and round the circle goes – each link in the chain assuming more and more negative qualities and it will become a major block in a relationship (if not a causal link to it failing).  Somehow in marriage we have come to the point where we actively and intentionally strive to eliminate all mystery.  We lose tolerance for a spouse who loads the dishwasher differently than we do – we don’t even bother to see why they do it a different way, we just know that our way is better.  We lose all tolerance for ambiguity – everything has to be nice and predictable.  Orderly.  Able to be quantified and classified.  Simple and easy to explain and understand.

The problem with this banal perspective is that it is, well, boring.  And aside from boring, it by definition extinguishes any erotic life from marriage.  Eroticism thrives in an atmosphere of mystery.  It allows for, and even encourages, spontaneity.  It provides fodder for our powerful imaginations to re-engage in the area of sex.   We regain a sense of wonder about sex.

I love the wording of that phrase: sense of wonder.  The very word bestows us with permission to not know.  To wonder is to not be sure – to not know.  And yet, one of the things we revere about children is their unadulterated sense of wonder – their amazing ability to simply look at things in awe without the overwhelming desire to understand it all.  They can take things at face value and appreciate them for what they are on the surface.  Faith comes easy to them.

We as adults, on the other hand, almost pride ourselves on our cynicism.  No one will take advantage of us.  We have ubiquitous sayings that permeate our sub-conscious like, “fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me” or “if it seems too good to be true, then it is” or “I’m from Missouri, SHOW ME.”  We require proof.  In many ways we still cling to the pendulum that swung so far.

This is because, in North America, our thinking has been so radically impacted by the Age of Enlightenment. We can rationalize and explain virtually everything in our world. Intellectual discourse is high on our list of values. If I can explain things more articulately than you then I win the debate. We put very little value on mystery, on that which cannot be explained. Even our “mystery” shows on TV – CSI and Bones among others – are tied up neatly with a bow at the end of the episode. Shows which refuse to explain every little nuance – the show Lost comes to mind – drive us insane. (Why can’t they just tell us what is up with that island anyways?!)

And so it is with our relationships. Can’t communicate well? Head to your local bookstore and look through the thousands of self-help books. Or even better, flip on Dr. Phil – he will give you an answer. Can’t sustain an erection? Go to the doctor and get a prescription of Viagra or Cialis filled. If that doesn’t work, you can research penis implant surgery.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that diligently seeking solutions to life’s problems is wrong. Au contraire – I wholeheartedly advocate being solution-oriented. And yet, there are times when we cannot find answers. Times when the prescription medication he is taking to keep him alive has devastating side effects on his libido and despite all the things you have tried, nothing can take away the ache that he doesn’t pursue you like he once did. Times where even though she has never had an orgasm with you, she finally confesses that she cannot live like this any more. Even though you have tried and tried, nothing is working and your fear that she will leave is escalating with each failed attempt.

In these moments, do we stop looking for solutions? No.

Rather we have to act like the love illegitimate love child of Mulder and Scully from the X-Files.  While looking for answers, we have to simultaneously learn to embrace the ambiguity of mystery. We choose to learn from the very fact that we do not know the answers. Contrary to everything our culture teaches us, we realize that we can grow from not knowing. We choose to see this mystery box as something that will weave richness into our life’s story rather than an inconvenience that needs to be immediately eradicated.

Richard Rohr calls this place “liminal space.” He says, “It is when you have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else… It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun.”

No, it is not fun. However, if we can survive liminal space without bailing out too early for cheap and easy answers, we reap incredibly rich rewards: we become adept at dealing with anxiety, living with ambiguity, and stoking the flames of eroticism.

You thought I had forgotten about eroticism. Trust me…I’m getting there, but we have to build the foundation first. Next week: Exploring the Mystery of the Erotic or The Truth Erotic is Out There…

the erotic is out there

Relational Eroticism

One of the most profound talks I have ever seen took place when JJ Abrams spoke at the TED Conference. If you are not yet familiar with TED, you really should be. It is a conference held each year on topics which relate to Technology, Entertainment and Design. Experts from all around the world are invited to speak about their field of study in 18 minutes or less. God himself would only be allotted 18 minutes to speak at TED. And while it costs about $6,000 to buy a ticket to the conference – if you can get one at all – you can watch the talks online for free.

Back in March 2007, JJ Abrams spoke on mystery. When he was a young boy, his grandfather was the instrumental person in his life that encouraged both his love of mysteries and as well as his exploration into how things work. One of his grandfather’s gifts to him was a box of magic tricks advertised to have $50 worth of magic for only $15. Abrams has carried that box around with him for years, never opening it, as a reminder of his grandfather and the wonder of what the box might actually hold. As long as he keeps it closed, there is mystery. Abrams contends that “Mystery is the catalyst for imagination” and “there are times when mystery is more important than knowledge.”

If you want to watch his TED talk in its entire 18 minutes, click here – JJ Abrams – Magic Box .

The reason, he continues, that mystery trumps knowledge is that we crave “mystery boxes” in our stories. They are the lifeblood of entertainment.   Take Star Wars for example:

You got the droids; they meet the mysterious woman. Who’s that? We don’t know. Mystery box! Then you meet Luke Skywalker. He gets the droids, you see the holographic image. You learn, Oh, it’s a message. She wants to, you know, find Obi Wan Kenobi. He’s her only hope. But who’s Obi Wan Kenobi? Mystery box!  So he goes to Old Ben Kenobi and it turns out he is Obi Wan Kenobi and he knew Luke’s father.  But who is Luke’s father?  Mystery box!

It is these mystery boxes which draw us into the story. They stimulate our imagination. They are the great unknown. They bond us to the characters. They are the twists and turns which we do not expect but utterly delight us. That is our attitude…at least when they are happening on screen.

But what happens when we encounter mystery boxes in our own lives? Typically, we get very annoyed. They are inconvenient. They deter us from easy and fun things in our lives. They don’t fit into our neat and tidy version of a picture-perfect life.

However, if we were to translate our lives into a movie script, they would look like this:

  • My 13 month old daughter was just diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness. We don’t know what is coming next. Mystery box.
  • There is a world-wide economic downturn. How are we going to make it financially? Mystery box.
  • My husband has just been put on anti-depressants which are killing his libido. How do we manage that? Mystery box.

In our personal lives, we want to – in fact we demand to – rip open the mystery box to see what is inside. The very circumstances that would make our life’s story a block-buster hit on screen are what we want to immediately eradicate. We want all the answers right here, right now. But the irony of the mystery box is that once you rip it open, all the possibilities are gone. Suddenly the anticipation of $50 worth of magic is replaced by the fact that you actually only got a bunch of cheap tricks.

And yet, if you are going to experience eroticism in your relationship, you are going to have to endure a bit of mystery.

How on earth do eroticism and mystery have anything to do with each other?

They have everything to do with each other. Think about it – when did you have the most passion and eroticism with your lover? I would put money on the earlier days of your relationship. Those were the days when we would kiss for hours; we would talk until 4 in the morning; we could not wait to get a phone call during the day from each other. To quote the band, The Police, it was the period in our relationship when “Every little thing she does is magic.”

Ironically, those were also the days when we knew very little about each other. Our hunger to become more knowledgeable of each other drove our passions. The very mystery of this new person sparked eroticism. But as we began to understand each other, as we began to grow deeper in love, and as we melded our worlds together, the eroticism faded.

In his book The Kosher Sutra, Shmuley Boteach describes it as such: “[Eroticism] is much like a secret that you long to hear. As soon as its contents are revealed, it has ceased to be a secret and in the process it has ceased to be interesting or erotic.”

If I had to wager a guess right now, I would bet that you have a lot of knowledge about your spouse but not a lot of mystery. I would further guess that you miss the passion that you once had in your relationship. Those two circumstances are intrinsically entwined.

So how do we nurture a relationship of intimacy over decades with our spouse and still experience mystery?

This is the topic I am going to be discussing over my next few blogs. Together, we will explore how the Age of Enlightenment and the accompanying deification of reason threatens to destroy the passion in our relationships. We will look at the annoyances of dealing with ambiguity and the importance of seeing our lovers through fresh eyes. We will brainstorm about ways to increase the erotic in our marriages. And somewhere, in the midst of all of this, I hope that we will begin once again feel the flames of passion. Perhaps we will even want to rip the clothes off of our lovers once again. Stay tuned.

Anal Sex in Marriage – A Guest Post

It’s a beautiful evening and the kids are gone to grandma’s house.  There is a fire in the fireplace, the candles are lit, and the music is low and sultry.  You are kissing and fondling and things are quickly moving to the next level when you feel your husband’s fingers at the entrance of the forbidden zone!  Oh no, wait, that isn’t his finger at all!  As this realization hits your face, your wonderful soul-mate husband of many years leans over and whispers in your ear…”feeling adventurous?”

Ever happened to you?  Well, this scenario (with various different changes) is played out in marital beds all over.  I’ve had women to ask me why in the world their husband seems so infatuated with their bottom.  To me the answer is pretty simple.  Men get sexual gratification from sticking their member into small damp holes.  Once a man and woman are married, their bodies belong to each other.  Of course it’s only natural for a husband to think of all the places he can go with it.  The three holes that are large enough to accommodate a penis are the mouth, vagina, and anus.  A simple, mildly blunt explanation as to why a husband may be intrigued or interested in anal sex.

It would be unfair though; to say that husbands are the only ones interested in back door play.  Many women are also curious about this ‘taboo’ subject.  In my own marriage, I have always been the aggressor when it comes to anal play/sex.  I had experimented myself during some alone time and found that there really are some nerve endings at the entrance of the anus that feel so pleasurable when stimulated!  I told my husband about it and asked if he minded using a finger there from time to time during intercourse.  The results were mind-blowing orgasms that made me melt and made him feel pretty good too!

So… how does a couple know if it’s really okay to try anal sex?  I firmly believe that a married couple should feel free to try almost anything they want to in their own marriage bed.  I draw the line at involving a third party, which includes other people physically and also pornography (this could be a whole other article in itself).  A healthy marriage is between the husband, wife, and God.  I also draw the line with sex acts that will hurt or demean one of you.  If you are involved in an act that makes you feel humiliated or degraded, then that act is unhealthy for your marriage.  That is a gateway for resentment to set in.

Anal sex can be very pleasurable for some women.  (Notice I said some and not all.)  We hear about orgasms that start from the clitoris or from the G-spot, but there are many women out there who swear that they have had orgasms originating from their anus.  I believe them because it’s happened to me as well.  But for all the women who claim to love anal sex, there seem to be just as many who don’t like it at all.  For some women it seems degrading and for others it’s uncomfortable or just down right painful.  Communication is so important here.  If you are curious about it, then TALK to your spouse!  Ask them how they feel about trying some anal play.  Find out if he/she is uncomfortable with the idea.  Discuss any concerns openly with each other.  There are some possible medical issues that could result from participating in anal sex, including infection and damage to the rectum, so it would be wise to research this together before deciding on trying it. If you find that your concerns and uneasiness outweigh the curiosity and eagerness, then you probably need to stop and back up a bit.  If you and your spouse have researched this topic and feel like it is something you’d like to try together, then here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You need to start small with a pinky finger or similar sized toy and gradually work your way up to the size of the husband’s penis.  You may find that you can’t accommodate your husband’s penis but you do like the feel of his index finger.
  • STOP if you get to something that hurts. DO NOT try to “push past the pain.”  If there is pain it’s there for a reason and should be taken as a warning.  You are looking for sexual pleasure, not something that hurts you.
  • There is no such thing as too much lube. Use copious amounts of it, all over you and your husband.  Use the amount you think you’ll need, and then add some more.
  • Go slow and let her be in charge. Let her choose the position that she likes and allow her to set the pace.  It may take several minutes for her to be able to handle the full monty, so be patient and wait until she is ready for more.  Short, slow strokes are best to start off with.

You may wonder how in the world anal sex can deepen intimacy in marriage.  Over the last few years I’ve heard many stories of this, including one woman who wrote to me explaining how she had been sexually active with several other men before marrying her husband.  In her marriage, anal sex was a very intimate and bonding act for the simple reason that she had never had anal sex with any other man.  Her promiscuous past included vaginal sex with other men, but they both knew that the only man she had ever had anal intercourse with was her husband.  Thus, it became a very intimate act between them.

Like all other sex acts, this is a decision that is left up to each individual couple.  Anal sex isn’t for everyone.  It’s not the be-all end-all sex act.  It’s simply one out of hundreds of things that a married couple should feel free to try, if they both want to.  If both of you aren’t on the same page about it, then choose another book.  It shouldn’t be a divisive issue.  So communicate, research, and make a decision together.  And above all, have fun!

cumingirl

Cumingirl is a devoted wife and full time mom of two living in the USA.  She is one of the co-creators of www.christiannymphos.org.  Their website is considered by many to be groundbreaking in its ability to intertwine sex and the Christian faith.  The site was launched as a way to teach married women to walk in sexual freedom with their husbands.