It’s already sounding snarky to me, but I have to give thanks to the mother of my children for releasing me from a marriage that had grown unbalanced and unhappy. She pulled the trigger and set the separation in motion long before I was willing or able to admit we were done. But we were. Kind of.
I was not done, but I was very unhappy. As an eternal optimist I trained myself over the course of our marriage to sublimate the desire for sex or the desire for joy. I was a good husband and a good provider. But I was not good at just going through the motions. We described the last year of our marriage as “living like roommates.” I was unhappy about this, she was more matter-of-fact. Things weren’t living up to her satisfaction, why would she continue to have intimate relations with someone she no longer loved.
As I took matters into my own hands and forgave her for some loss of libido, I was also beginning to feel a bit hopeless about my ability to remain centered and happy. Of course, I was already way off-balance, but I didn’t know this. I thought I was being the honorable and stable one. What I was being was stoic and stubborn. I should’ve called for a time out or a pow wow long before we reached the D stage. But I didn’t.
I’ve learned I’m what’s called “conflict adverse.” If I can avoid a fight I will. I will hide certain facts (like a speeding ticket or bounced check) in order to not “get into it.” But this sort of behavior, even as small as it was, was maddening to my then-wife. She had trust and security issues. And any minor infraction of this “trust issue” as it became known in our counseling sessions was met with cynicism and “you will never change.”
The problem was our relationship while built on the desire to have kids was not strong enough to build and rebuild once the kids reached school age. While I was always pursuing my creative crafts (writing, music, blogging) my then-wife had put most of her artistic ambitions in the closet, right behind the vacuum cleaner. She became more obsessed with the cleanliness of the living room and less interested in the connectedness of our relationship. How could someone you love be okay with going a month without sex? I was astounded and hurt that we had reached such a distant state. I asked for therapy, and contributed actively to the rebuilding idea, but something was not working.
In therapy we seemed to focus on me and my issues. I suppose, due to my bouts of depression, I allowed this to happen, even when the issues, in my eyes, were more emotional. She kept bring us back to some crisis of trust. Over and over. A little thing, a receipt from a restaurant that I forgot to report on my company expense report for reimbursement could become a “thing.” And the issues continued to grab the lion share of our therapy sessions. Meanwhile we were sleeping in different beds about 90% of the time and my suggestions at intimacy were rejected by habit.
As our emotional life was being crushed we were counseling about “trust issues” and my “mental health.” Of course, my depressions had been awful, and I have nothing but respect for this woman who stood by me through the worst of it. I also began to believe that she might never return to her happy state. She might never joyfully suggest sex or show up in the hallway in matching bra and panties. She was somewhere else emotionally. She was packing her bags as she was hammering me about my next job and when the new insurance would kick in from the new job.
Today, almost six years later, I can say, I am very happy and very sexual in my new relationship. And while we’ve got our work ahead, I have to acknowledge that something is very different about how we relate to each other. For one thing we BOTH really like sex, and we BOTH seek out that connection. (Who knew that the best sex was ahead?) AND we seem to have both gotten our emotional and psychological issues mapped out enough to related on a very open and honest level.
She’s seen me depressed. She didn’t freak out or run away. She’s seen my financial status vacillate from AWESOME to BROKE and back. And she’s laughed with me at the stupid complications my ex-wife has injected into my life through litigation. We laugh a lot.
And on my part, I’ve seen things in her that were a bit different from what I imagined. I had developed the idea that only a mother would have the skills and empathy to understand my own kids. What I didn’t know at that time, was how complete this woman could be with her life and her choices and how she could WANT my kids in her life, even if she didn’t have any kids of her own. In fact, the non-kid aspect made our early courtship a lot easier as we merely coordinated around MY kid schedule.
Today, I can openly give thanks to my ex-wife for giving me the opportunity to seek and find a different kind of love. And I look forward to build a new life around and with my kids and this wonderful new partner.
The Off Parent
back to Single Parenting
- The Off Parent: You Won’t Believe How Good It Can Get
- Things Broken and Unsaid
- My Urban Fit Uber-cute Couple Bias
- Evolving Single Dad: Failure to Hopefulness Again
image: breakfast in bed, nyc, 2015, cc the author, creative commons usage
We’d just finished a rather rawkus roll in the hay and I said, “Whew, maybe I should start doing crossfit with you.”
“What would you get out of crossfit?” she asked. A glow in her face, told the story of her experience.
I didn’t really need to answer that, now did I? But I was winded. We’d just had a energetic and fun sexual encounter and we were still wrapped together in post-coital snuggles. My heart was racing and my lungs were still catching up. See, she had this crossfit body, and even though she was six years older (and at our age that can be a lot more distant than you think) she was uber-fit. And I was expressing my desire, in that moment, to make love to her even better, even more energetically and with more stamina and longevity.
BUT… I’ve been learning recently, that a woman often doesn’t want or need porn-length sex. As men, we’re taught that you’ve got to stay in control, and last as long as you possibly can. But that’s a trap that comes back and haunts you later in life. If you stay controlled during sex you may be missing some of the greatest parts of it: utter and uncontrollable abandon. If it’s all about how-long-can-I-last I am probably not focusing on how-good-can-I-make-it for her.
Okay, so we’re in need of an update around this sex thing and how long should it last. So, from what I’ve been reading (Kiss and Tell – Secrets of Sexual Desire in Women) a woman is usually okay with sex taking about 15 – 20 minutes, rather than an hour or more. What? That was news to me, even in my early 50’s that women didn’t always crave the afternoon-of-love like I did. And that’s not to say that we’ve gone back to wham-bam-thank-you-mam, but we’re somewhere in between.
Again, I think it’s about communication. And communication during sex is difficult. Or it can be.
In my training as a sexual athlete I learned to listen and wait for the woman to have an orgasm first. Always. It was a sense of pride I had, to always wait. Um, okay, but what if the woman often had a hard time achieving orgasm? Or what if they were really just jumping in the sack to meet my need at that moment, and didn’t really care to much about an orgasm for themselves.
Often this difficulty in orgasming could have a direct relationship on their willingness to have sex in the first place. AND if it was all about them, all about me waiting for them, that was going to put some undue pressure on them. What? Pressure on them to have an orgasm? When did we get to worrying about that?
And in this new age of older sex and even sex with new and different women (post-divorce) we’ve got a whole new language of love to figure out. And though orgasms are cool, the can also be an inhibition. It sounds like a contradiction, but let me explain.
I really enjoy making love. Almost all of the aspects of the routine and ritual of courting and coupling, I love. And in the act, I am fully engaged and fully digging it, even if I NEVER have an orgasm. (I don’t me never, that would be a discussion I needed to have with my doctor.) I mean, if I don’t have an orgasm during one of our sexual encounters I am not really disappointed. In fact, some of my desire to crossfit train, as I was expressing it to this woman, was my desire to last longer. To enjoy the act of making love to her, as much as the moment when it climaxed in a fiery release. Hopefully, for both of us.
This time we were successful and our new love making found the momentum it needed for both of us to have an orgasm. Cool. But not necessary for ME to be satisfied. A lot of factors come into play with orgasms, that if we can remove those expectations, we can have more fun making love to the other person and enjoying the act of love making ourselves. If it’s all about the O, then we’ve both got some performing to do.
The Off Parent
- If Age is Just a Number Why Do I Still Want to Lie About My Age?
- 5 Early Warning Signs When Dating: Looking for Ms. Lovejoy
- Erectile Misfire Might Be More About the Sex Than the Dysfunction
- Casual Sex. What? I Have No Experience with This…
image: crossfit dallas central, adrian valenzuela, creative commons usage
Awhile back a woman asked me, “So what makes for bad sex?” It was an interesting question, and I hadn’t really thought much about it, but the concept has sort of haunted me. While I imagine that I’m pretty conscious in my sexual encounters, I’m certain there are times when I am a less-than-great lover. What makes for disconnected sex? By looking at some of these turn offs, perhaps it is possible to become more conscious when they are happening and try to steer the passion back towards the shore.
The Five Habits of Bad Sex
1. TDTF (too drunk to frack)
Alcohol and other mind altering substances can be fun for a bit. They can unleash the animal passions and loosen the inhibitions. BUT… they are not a key to great sex. If you require altered states to get aroused there might be a bit more at play. Of course, these changes can loosen the grip of some of the bad habits below, but if drinking is the gateway to sex, every single time, there might be a problem and a pattern that is being established that will lead to other destructive behaviors. A margarita and wild sex every now and then is fine. Three glasses of wine every night before rutting is not.
2. TTTF (too tired to frack)
Yep, we’ve all done it. We’re about to fall over exhausted but something triggers our sexual appetite. Our lover comes in dressed to the nines, or perhaps sweating from a run, and we are turned on. Our physical and mental bodies are low on energy, but the sexual opportunity brings some life to the situation. And we’re in, trying to please the other person and perhaps please ourselves and just as things are ramping up, we lose our spark. For men this can mean losing your erection, even if you are enjoying the sex tremendously. For a woman… well, I have not idea, what that feels like, please enlighten me in the comments, if you’d like to share.
3. MEGO (my eyes glaze over) – “Are you done yet?”
Apathetic sex is a killer. And it may not start out that way. It may be that moment, that opening for sex you’ve both been waiting for, and you are going about the task in a happy and healthy way… And something changes. It could be a combination of any of these other habits, or it could be something else, but what happens is your mind is distracted and you are no longer paying attention to your partner, or even yourself. Sex is mechanical and you’d just as soon it be over. (I know the first time this happened in my now-defunct marriage I was devastated. I had never noticed it before, if it had happened. I could see in her eyes that she was thinking about something else, and was simply waiting for me to finish.)
4. Hyper-focus on the orgasm. – “Did you come?”
Then the flip side of #3, is the “Hey, you didn’t come, let’s get you too.” And while this can be awesome, often it leads to this odd state of performance. Where you are trying to orgasm, partially to have an orgasm, and partially to fulfill your partners need for you to come. Let me tell you, for me, as a man, orgasm is awesome, but your orgasm is better. Yes I’d love to come, but if I hear you having a great time, I’m pretty fulfilled. And when the “focus” becomes my orgasm rather than the playful interchange of sex and passion, then I’m as likely to lose my erection as if I were being interviewed for a porn movie. Let’s play at sex, let’s not focus on either persons orgasm, and have fun. If we both orgasm, awesome. If we don’t awesome. If we can keep it about connecting instead of coming we are well on our way to compatibility.
5. Distractions and chores. – “Oh shit, look at that cobweb in the corner of the ceiling.”
Noticing the pile of laundry in the closet during sex and wondering how you’re going to get it done before the weekend is over, is a sexual killer. Once the mind is focused on other things, bills and chores being the most prevalent in my experience, there is no way to keep the connection. Once our focus shifts from looking into our partner’s eyes we begin to lose our charge. If I’m worried about an upcoming work deadline it can be hard for me to stay focused. I might be able to “get” you, but I’m probably not going to orgasm. If that’s okay, let’s go. If it’s a session of love-making you want, we might wait until the emotional connection is engaged.
Sex, for me, is about connection. There is pleasure involved, and the pleasure must go both ways. But for me, the pleasure is simply in the act of lovemaking, or screwing if we’re in an animal state. When the connection is lost, for whatever reason, the sex becomes routine or functional. Sex should not be functional.
There’s this myth that a man needs to orgasm every so often because his hormones or testosterone levels reach critical mass. It’s a myth. I’m sure a lot of men would like to foster the belief in this, and keep the mythology going so they can have more frequent sex. But your hormones don’t build up for release, they build up for the purpose of procreation. Your body wants to follow Darwin’s theory and continue their genetic line. You want to have sex, as an animal, for the purposes of having progeny. While this is a function of our mammalian brain, we’re a bit beyond that as humans.
If it is just sexual release I need, a discharge of my hormones, that’s easy enough to take care of myself. If I can rope my partner into thinking it’s part of my maleness and she should help, well, that’s a bit manipulative. It’s like when you are trying to have a kid, sex is ALWAYS an option. Once you have kids, sex is ALWAYS a negotiation.
Connected sex is what I’m after and what drives my fulfilling feelings. I get closeness from sex. I get relaxation and bonding from sex. And with my wiring (my Love Language is touch) sex or “skin time” is important. But skin time can be cuddling. Or hugging and kissing on the couch.
What ways have you found that sex becomes disconnected? I am learning, and hoping to provide a tiny glimpse into my unique male mammalian thought processes, and I’d love to hear from you about your perspectives. As men and women, we are in this dance together. Sex has many different flavors and colors. What get’s your passions heated? What turns them off? Please let me know, the comments are always open. (grin)
The Off Parent
- Seven Signs of a Healthy Post-Divorce Relationship
- the green bike girl < a poem of desire
- In Defense of Dalliance
- Sex is Fun: Should You Settle for Apathetic Sex?
- Zen and the Art of Lovemaking – Won’t Save Your Marriage
image: a sensual poem should start here, karoly czifra, creative commons usage
At the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, comes the things we need for survival. Things I associate with that are food, shelter, water, sleep. I was surprised when a friend shared with me that sex was indeed part of the base needs. What?
So what is it about sex is the required for our survival? Aside from procreation.
Today a post on The Atlantic about our youth’s “Hookup Culture” caught my attention and my comment. Here’s what I wrote on the subject of sex and hooking up.
Very nice summary of two trains of thought and your own place somewhere in the middle. Thank you for your honesty and clarity in your own pride and prejudice.
I think HBO’s GIRLS has the current generations MO down pretty close. Of course, I’m on the outside looking in, but the show’s currency can’t be argued.
So where is SEX in our growth trajectory as humans? It’s pretty a base-level need according to Mazlow’s Hierarchy. So we’ve all got to come to terms with it. Some earlier, I was a freshman in high school (home from prep school on Christmas break) when I lost my virginity to a girl a grade ahead of me, who came out and said, during the memorable event, that she was unable to achieve orgasm so “Just enjoy yourself.” I did. But it was sort of sad.
And jump cut to today, I just turned 50 and I’m single again for the first time in 12 years, I’ve got two kids, and… guess what? Sex and dating are no easier now then they were back in college. Well, let me take that back. It’s a lot easier establishing my priorities and boundaries and trying to understand what I will or won’t put up with in a relationship, but… the sex? Well, as Thomas Moore says in The Soul of Sex, “sex is one of the last mysteries left to us.” And as a mystery it has the power to drop us back into the sacred mind.
So sex is sacred and should not be taken for granted. Yes. AND. And sex can be casual and fun, and without dire consequences. I’m saying this from my 50-year-old perspective, but I’m pretty sure the good and bad sex happens with and without the sacred shroud we put around it.
You didn’t have sex until later in you life and your married, and are happily married to the woman who got your cherry. CONGRATS. I’m recovered from a second marriage that I wanted to last a lifetime, and now I’m back on the playing field, trying to rediscover what dating in the 2010’s looks like.
It’s a mystery. And sex can be both sacred and casual. The head games you put around it are up to you. And what do YOU think of Lena Dunham and Company’s generation now opus? Accurate? Over dramatized? For one thing, they get the mundane of sex up front and center so we can learn from their mistakes. At least we can hope to learn from their mistakes and our own.
The Off Parent
< back to On Dating Again index
- Don’t Blame “Hookup Culture” – The Atlantic
- Lena Dunham Doesn’t Want a Victoria’s Secret Body. Hers Is More Powerful. – Slate
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
- The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love – Thomas Moore