Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “sex and marriage

Negativity and Isolation: Branching Out To Avoid Breaking Up

the time bombs in your marriage

Dr. Jed Diamond wrote an interesting post on The Good Men Project today that triggered this post. 5 Time Bombs Set To Go Off in Your Relationship Unless You Act Now

Here are the 5 Time Bombs according to Dr. Diamond:

  1. Our social networks are getting narrower.
  2. We’ve increasingly put all our “emotional-support eggs” in a single basket.
  3. We are expecting more and more from our spouses in meeting more of our needs.
  4. Our brain’s negativity bias causes us to over-emphasize the negatives in our partner.
  5. Our brains are Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive.

Can you recognize some of these behaviors in your relationships? Let’s take them apart for a second.

Our social networks
In our personal lives and our work lives, we are becoming more isolated. Sitting in front of a computer screen or texting is not really social. You can communicate that way, but going social, getting personal with someone requires face-to-face communication. Eye contact and physical touch go a long way to unlocking our deep feelings and giving us deeper connections. Who do you share your issues with? Do you have one or several friends you can go deep with? In most cases that number is very small. And there can be problems if the only person you can reveal yourself to is your spouse. It’s hard to complain and get advice from your spouse, especially if the issues are between the two of you. Recommendation: Broaden your network of face-to-face friends who can hear your problems without reacting to them.

It’s easy to see the things your spouse is not doing right. You can point the finger at her for not wanting sex as much as you do, and she can point it back at you for not paying attention to the chores and repairs that need doing.

All of our “emotional eggs” in our spouses basket
Closely related to the first one. Your spouse can be your best friend and most trusted confidant, but you need others. And there are some things that are better worked out with someone other than your spouse. Recommendation: If you don’t have other deep friends you might consider a counselor or minister of your church. You need someone other than your spouse to get things off your chest.

Expecting our spouses to meet all of our needs
And we, of course, expect more than just the ability to talk about deep subjects and disagreements. We need to talk about things like kids, bills, chores, sex, planning, money. Sometimes the blur of hard subjects can mute the positive things. If you spend 80% of your time working things out, you’re not got going to have much energy or compassion for getting close. Even closeness requires energy. And if the hard stuff hasn’t caused you both to request a break, then you might be able to spend some time making love. But that’s a long “if.” Recommendation: Get help where you can. Put your bills on autopay. Hire a housekeeper if you can afford it. Getting some of your needs (non-sexual of course) met outside of your marriage may go along way towards bringing the good energy back into your marriage.

We have a negativity bias
It’s easy to see the things your spouse is not doing right. You can point the finger at her for not wanting sex as much as you do, and she can point it back at you for not paying attention to the chores and repairs that need doing. Recommendation: Affirmations of your spouse can go along way towards reminding you what you love about them. Giving appreciations when you first get back together is easy and a great way to restart the connection on a positive note.

It’s all about biasing towards the positive and finding ways to discharge the negative. You can release a lot of the resentment and anger away from your primary relationship.

Velcro for the negative, Teflon for the positive
Often it’s the feelings of anger and resentment that get stored up and kept deep in our secret heart. It is harder to release these kinds of feelings. (Again, this is a place where a counselor or confidant can help greatly.) So we tend to stick those hurtful feelings deep inside, trying to bury them. But this never works and they fester until they come out in some indirect way. And positive feelings often feel fleeting, especially if they are small moments within the storm of life. We can hold on to the positive with some practice, but it’s harder to store. Recommendation: Find ways to release the anger and resentment, either dealing with the issues directly or talking to a counselor. And learn to bias your responses to life in a positive light. Find the things you are happy about and bring them up more often. Give thanks and affirmations freely and to everyone you meet. (Not in a trite way. Example: “Sweetheart, I love the way you made breakfast for the kids and let me sleep an extra hour. Thank you.”)

It’s all about biasing towards the positive and finding ways to discharge the negative. You can release a lot of the resentment and anger away from your primary relationship. While your spouse may be the trigger for the anger, the depth of the feeling is probably related to events and hurts that are much older. Often our deep rage is related to our family of origin and what behaviors we learned or were hurt by as kids. And here’s a key: Our spouses cannot heal us. The healing is up to us. And often it is best to get that support and growth strategies outside our marriage.

It doesn’t always work. We fail, we get angry, we let the shit fly. And if we can’t redirect enough of the struggle away from the heart of our love, we might end up in divorce. The best we can do in this circumstance is to continue to try and forgive and move on. And even more important now, the affirmation of your ex-partner as a good parent, and accentuating the positive goes a long way towards showing your kids how relationships work. Even when you are no longer married, the issues are the same. Stay on the positive side. And if you need help, get it, from someone other than your spouse or ex.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Reference: 5 Time Bombs Set To Go Off in Your Relationship Unless You Act Now – Dr. Jed Diamond

image: love bomb, karl norling, creative commons usage


The Whimsical Blowjob & Other Unexplainable Marital Ecstasies

I use the term blowjob interchangeably to apply to both sexes. And for me, the phrase, better to give than receive, actually fits. But it is also a sensuous desire that needs to flow both ways, for the full appreciation to be understood. Again, I’m out on an untested limb here, but I’m assuming a person is either “into” oral sex or they are not. Ideas like learning, or inexperienced, by the time one has passed out of their twenties… Well, I’m willing to bet, if the fascination isn’t there, the desire isn’t there either.

In my divorce recovery class (I participated in one session, and facilitated at a second session) the most amazing meeting was the night we get to ask the sex questions. And without breaking any confidentiality here, this was the big “ah ha” moment for me and many of the others in the group.

BIG REVEAL: Oral sex is not for everyone. Many people (both men and women) can “take it or leave it.”

I was stunned by this revelation  Having had an insatiable desire to see, explore, play with, and taste, the female vagina, I have not known a time since my late teens that I wasn’t willing, ready, and able to dive into a woman’s nether region with abandon and enthusiasm.

I did not have an example of her withdrawal into logic and reason. I was not aware of how her stress response was to go into “spreadsheet” mode and try to map out the “plan.”

I do understand that people express love in many different ways. And if we take the 5 Love Languages as a model, there are 4 of them that are not physical touch. But still, if the sexual act and sexual organs are not objects of mesmerizing awe and curiosity, I suppose, in my definition that person is not all that sensual. I mean, sex is a yes, in most people, but oral sex, I am understanding is an acquired taste. Or perhaps a learned and cultivated behavior.

In one of my two classes, the question of oral sex made the rounds as a polling question. “Oral sex, yes or no?” And the answers ranged from “not so much” to “essential” to what became known as my answer, “deal killer.”

I am a sensuous human. I find my way, my security, my thrill, and my comfort in physical intimacy. And the actual act of having sex is less important to me than being in-process in some form of physical connection with my significant other when we are in close proximity. If I pass you in the kitchen as I’m heading to another room in the house, I am the one who is likely to pass close by so I can put my hand on your back or shoulder as I move close by you.

And when things get difficult in life or even in the relationship, I am the kind of person who would rather snuggle and support than almost anything else. It’s not avoidance. The tasks and trials will all be met, but let’s pause for a minute and gather our collective resources, be together with the event, and then move from that place of closeness to solving whatever is going on. My ex-y, I learned, was from a different planet. And while the signs were clearly marked when we were courting, had I known what to look for, we didn’t really hit any major stressful relating issues until well into our third or fourth year of marriage.

So, I did not have an example of her withdrawal into logic and reason. I was not aware of how her stress response was to go into “spreadsheet” mode and try to map out the “plan.” And as these two very different response and manage systems became engaged over and over again, perhaps that’s when and how we began to drift apart. We drifted towards our own individual comfort systems, and were saddened and hurt by the other partner’s inability to bridge the gap for us. And as things escalated we became even more locked into our patterns. I wanted a hug, she wanted the numbers.

I can now see how my need for closeness during stressful moments would trigger her need for logic.

In terms of sexual compatibility, however, the ex-y and I did share a great love of the sensual. She did love oral sex. And as our patterns of lovemaking evolved, it was clear that she was primarily orgasmic via manual or oral stimulation. So we got into it. I had found a partner who was willing to indulge my curiosity and passion for giving her a “blowjob.” So much so that the concept of “she comes first” was a badge of honor with me. Or at least a known competency.

So now, in my evolved patterns and tastes, when I think of having sex, the idea always starts with me diving in head first and not surfacing until “timeout” was requested. THEN, we’d get to me. (grin)

And I guess, I now understand, that my oral orientation is not universal. In fact, many of the women in the classes fell in the take it or leave it category. It was interesting how you could understand a bit more about the person’s makeup by knowing if they were “in to” or not “in to” oral sex.

One of the ways I learned to ask for sex from the ex-y was to suggest that I give her a blowjob. And I was perfectly happy giving her a big “O” and walking away. That rarely happened, but it was fine. I had sensuousness to last me days even without orgasming myself. Usually, it worked better if I offered to give her a massage. But I tried and refined my “ask” many times over, in an attempt to solve the question of why she was beginning to close me out. And the blowjob was one of our codes. But it often referred to me going down on her.

Looking back on everything, I can now see how my need for closeness during stressful moments would trigger her need for logic. My desire to solve things by hugging and kissing and napping was contraindicated in her brain. Her ask for money planning meetings, and mapping out summer schedules was a huge buzz kill for me. I would do it. And perhaps now I am understanding that she would “do it” for me in the same way. Hmmm.

I am not suggesting that my ex-y in some way didn’t enjoy sex, or that she wasn’t sensual. But her availability factor was about 10% of mine. And her passion level, when things got difficult, went into negative numbers pretty quickly. And that’s a shame because things are going to get difficult. Situations and life events are going to happen. Disagreements are going to be a part of living and evolving with someone. That’s exactly how we evolve.

If that person doesn’t do well with accepting or joining in closeness, even when things are difficult, then I am going to be feeling left out in the cold. It’s not abandonment as much as longing to JOIN around an activity or event.

GF 1 had a great phrase that embodied the idea. It was about experiencing something so great or fun that you wanted to go home and “have sex” about it. As if you could lock-in the great experience by joining together in love making.

So maybe the nap is also a form of sensual ecstasy. Or maybe to my ex-y it was a sign of laziness. Often she would need to get sick, before letting herself drop back into relax and take it easy mode. And she often resented my self-care needs of taking a nap on Saturday AND Sunday if I could arrange it. And it wasn’t like I was trying to nap in spite of her. I would try and arrange things so that we could nap together. Who knows, maybe we’d make love, maybe I’d give her a blowjob. Who knows?

She didn’t get more available for play or ecstasy. There was always something else. There was always the next thing.

But she was often too wrapped up in getting everything into a certain order that would make her feel safe. It was often money, or house cleaning, or catching up on her work, that would prevent her from allowing me to give her a blowjob or a massage. And how many times we missed those opportunities are uncountable. Maybe I would have been better served, or she would have been better encountered if I had demanded more naps with her. At some point, after ask number 75, you begin to get fatigued. And I suppose she might have had the same feeling about filling in the projections or modeling our financial future. If I had only participated more.

But my question is this. If I had only participated more in getting the chores done, or making sure there was enough money in the bank accounts, then what? Would she have opened up and become more receptive to sensual advances? Would she have accepted more offers to nap together and receive a blowjob or two?

I tried that. I worked hard to jump into action and pickup the house, get the kids off to friend’s houses, get the dishes clean, be a good earner so we wouldn’t have to worry about money. I did the dutiful husband role and I went through a two-year period where I stepped it up a notch. But it didn’t work. She didn’t get more available for play or ecstasy. There was always something else. There was always the next thing.

And I found myself giving myself blowjobs more often than giving them to her. (frown) And MAYBE I could have been more demanding there too. Maybe I should’ve made the sexual connection more of an issue in couples therapy, rather than letting most of our discussions and negotiations focus on some crisis that always seemed to be at the top of her list.

I don’t think I could’ve changed her, with any of my activities or requests, into being a more happy and whimsical human being. I don’t think that my asking for naps, or blowjobs, or sensuous connection could have gotten more creative and flexible. And no matter how hard I tried, and how many spreadsheets I participated in filling out. No matter how much money was in the back to make US feel secure. She did not willingly relax and let herself go, without a huge effort on both our parts.

I won’t be traveling that path again: trying to change a non-touch love language person, into a touch-oriented person. It does not work. It cannot work. The behaviors can change, but the wiring remains the same.

And there were things in the early stages of dating my ex-y, that I might have seen, had we even had the “love languages” model at that time. But I was head over heels in love with the body and beauty that brought me so much pleasure in those early days, before the stress of being a family, with kids and bills and insurance requirements. Before we experienced stress together things were rather dreamy.

Under stress, however, she became a different person. Maybe I did too. But our two corners of comfort were on different sides of the planet. I wanted holding, she wanted numbers.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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