“I’ll be there for you”

Who is right for us? What do we want from them?

Why do some couples tackle life’s great challenges together, while others fly apart at a slight bump in the road?

Why are some couples able to plan a future together, knowing that being with each other is the rock upon which their worlds are built, while others are together “if it works out,”on swirling waters that may or may not flow in the same direction?

Some relationships seem to represent commitment, “I’ll be there for you.” Others seem contingent: “I like almost everything about you, but might meet someone who has more of what I like. Then I’m gone.”

Really?

Some of us are incapable of “love.” Again, this may be biological. We believe in love, we want love, we show a version of love, or infatuation, but we don’t do well with lasting, committed love. Maybe we were designed to upset the status quo, to breed with many so we can diversify combinations of DNA, or maybe we are broken by mother’s lack of attention when we were two years old.

Why does this happen? That doesn’t matter to me in this moment. What matters to me is that we recognize and accept and communicate these things, as difficult as that honesty may be.

We owe it to our partner to let them know we have a terminal case of wanderlust. Or commitment to our job. Or to our church. We owe it to them not to string them along, nor be “wrong” about what we think we want when in our deepest thoughts, we know we are likely to move along when something more attractive comes along.

We owe them clarity that they don’t matter to us as much as our other priorities. Yes, that’s harsh. But hiding it doesn’t make it less so.

I envy those couples, men and women, men and men, women and women, who know a partner will stop at the store for cream for their coffee, even though the partner drinks it black. Too many of us have learned over time not to even ask, or worse, won’t ask because we don’t want our partner to expect us to do the same for them.

Honesty is hard, but in the long run it’s much less damaging than false expectations.

Do we want a sales pitch?

My favorite coffee shop (name redacted) in Seattle has incredibly comfortable chairs where I go occasionally to stare out at the water and gather my thoughts. The chairs are clustered a little too close together, so sometimes conversations are shared with strangers.

Yesterday I overheard one that I knew I wanted to write about, which is why this post is a day late.

The woman, I’ll call her “Elaine,” was talking to “Robert.” They were friends, not lovers, though had been at one time.

“What do you tell a woman? What do you say to sweep her off her feet?” Elaine asked.

“I don’t really do that. I just am who I am,” Bob said.

“No wonder you’re still alone. You have to tell her that she’s the light of your life. That you’ll do anything and everything for her, forever. For better and worse,” Elaine said.

“Selling myself seems dishonest in this age of uncertainty,” said Bob. “I’m a good man. I do good things. I show them who I am, I don’t want to have to make a sales pitch.”

“You have to do more. Maybe you should at least tell them that you’ll be there, that you won’t… ” and here, Elaine couldn’t continue. She started to cry, but sort of pulled it back together and between breaths, said, “…you should tell them that you won’t cheat on them, that you won’t break their heart.”

I felt for Elaine. She was wearing recent wounds. I really admired Bob for not saying anything. Instead, he reached over and took Elaine’s hand.

I somewhat agree with Bob. It’s important to share a vision of the future, but to what extent do women want that vision molded and polished, as if we were being sold a used car? Not me. I want to see it run. I want to take it for a drive where I slam on the brakes, and yank the steering wheel. Is it safe on the road or only in the sales lot?

Flowers at the beginning of a relationship can be lovely, but flowers throughout a relationship are exquisite. I’m waiting for the one who brings flowers because that’s who he is, not just who he says he is.

Free books, a sneak peek

On Friday I completed a crucial chapter in the new book, Crosscurrents. It’s a bedroom scene. A friend said she had to leave the kitchen while reading it. I don’t know exactly what she meant, but I take that as a compliment. Crosscurrents will be released this year. I am committed to getting the first draft complete by the end of this month (March, 2015).

I’d like to send you that chapter in rough form, before the editor gets to it.

I’d also like to send you a FREE copy of Exposed in ebook format, gifted to you through Amazon. Or, if you’d prefer, I will send you a signed paperback copy for FREE, asking only that you pay shipping, which is about $4.75 at the media rate (Amazon is charging $15.51 for the book, plus a fee for shipping).

In return, I ask that you post a review of Exposed on Amazon. You reviews influence other readers and are important to our success. It’s that simple.

This offer is limited to the first 20 people who respond.

If you’d like to participate, just click here to fill out the form.

The first 10 of you who respond and have posted a review on Amazon will also get the ebook of Crosscurrents for free when it’s published, or the signed paperback if you’ll pay $4.75 for shipping. We have to pay Amazon the full price for ebooks we gift to you, so this is a real commitment on our part.

I want to thank everyone who has been reading the blog, or has purchased the book, or otherwise shown support. Without readers, we writers would not have the privilege of doing what we do.

Differences that unite

Salt is a rare but important commodity for monarch butterflies. Those that eat milkweed along roads treated with salt appear to have an advantage over those that don’t. With more salt, males develop more thoracic muscle, enabling them to fly further in search of females. Females get bigger brains and eyes, allowing them to find better places to nest.*

Hmmm. Males and females may be genetically programmed to have different priorities, and these may be expressed differently in different environments?

Because so often male / female communication seems so screwed up, I don’t think we really appreciate the extent to which biology plays a role. I may be painting a target on my chest, because so often when someone, anyone, brings this subject up, shout-downs often follow. I think the major culprit is the tendency to over-generalize.

So let’s agree for just a moment, anyway, that human sexuality has a mental component, and minds can’t be divided into simple categories of “man” and “woman.” We have homosexuals and pansexuals and asexuals galore, babies occasionally born physically as both, and while it may be that each of us has a tendency to a “wiring” that allows us to see the world a little differently than other people in the room, there are few absolutes.

We all know and accept not all straight men are insensitive, and not all straight women are nurturing. Bonding conditions at birth play a huge role, as does testosterone exposure in the womb, as does a hundred million other factors we haven’t even begun to discover.

Nature also plays with groups of individuals, tribes or societies. Where behaviors are partly genetic, and genes switch on and off, and environments change, and everything overlaps, sorting out a single “truth” about these things is pretty complicated. Categories are useful tools but are oversimplifications when dealing with continuums. Depending on them for ultimate “truth” is reckless.

Personally, I think differences are pretty cool and without them our species, any species, would be at a significant disadvantage. It’s rare that two people see the world in the same way, but it’s possible for either or both to change a point of view, if not priorities and genetics. Unconditional love is one of the most powerful and transformative forces on Earth.

Along with really good sex.

It also appears that some lab rats may feel regret, and, possibly empathy.* Not to overgeneralize, but I know a few guys that could take some lessons.

*Science News, July 12, 214

 

Training my lover

Sam didn’t used to be a great lover, but, OMG, does he know how to touch me now. It didn’t take long, either.

The other night we were talking in bed with him propped up on his elbows, when he scootched toward me and kissed me slowly on the lips. Just a soft, dry, lip-to-lip kiss, firm enough that I knew he was serious but still gentle and calm. He waited for my tongue to start to explore the contours of his lips. At some point, his hand found the small of my back but but that arm was also locked between my legs, so that when he pulled me close I could press against that muscle in just the way I wanted.

When we first met, he was tentative and I was in some kinda need (it had been a while). He could kiss me once, I would discover how aroused he was and that aroused me, and soon hands were all over everywhere with clothes flying, and it was good. But as time went by, what I wanted was a little different.

At first, Sam was confused, and a little hurt that I “didn’t seem to want him” like I used to.

Too many of us Romantics (capital “R”) want sex to be perfect all the time, and it’s not going to be. Most of us do not want a man to grope our groin 90 seconds after we sit next to them on the couch, or crawl into bed. We do not want a wet sloppy tongue in our mouth at the grocery store, or ten minutes after dinner. But that’s not to say we don’t ever want a probing tongue, right?

We own some of the problem if we fail to communicate with our lovers about what we are feeling and what we want. If it’s not “just right” and we pull back without communicating, or just go through the motions, or let them have their way while subtly communicating that they failed us, we leave them confused and hurt. That builds up baggage, and fast.

Most men want to please (and we shouldn’t be with those who don’t). But men don’t get much training in the arts, and the all-pervasive porn industry rarely gets it right. And, what we want varies from person to person, and often from day to day.

The language of sex is complicated, and talking about how to please each other may seem like it ruins the spontaneity. Or we may suffer from the belief that our perfect lover will come equipped with all the right moves and the capacity to know, immediately and instinctively and without words, exactly what we want.

Maybe. But do we want to waste years waiting for someone who might not arrive when we may be able to create perfectly good love-making with someone we love, and are willing to talk with about what we like, what we want, and how we want it?

Sam sometimes can kiss my belly for what seems like forever, making me ache with not knowing if the deliciousness of those lips will move up to my breasts or down to an anticipation starting to glow between my legs. He moves slowly, and let’s me tell him with soft murmurs what I want next. I like that.

But it took a while to get him to take a while.

Emotional infidelity

Jackie is vivacious, with sparkling eyes and a melody of laugh that grabs attention from across the room. She has had many lovers, some of whom she stays in close touch with, sharing their lives in ways deep and profound. When her boyfriend Mike asked who she was always on the computer with, she bristled, and defended hours spent emailing Dave, a former lover.

“Mike has no right to tell me who I should talk to, and what I talk about. I’m not having sex with Dave. He was an important part of my life long before I met Mike. That’s just how it is.”

When Genevieve smiles, a corner of the world lights up as if by magic. She loves deeply, and she even loves men she had been “in love” with years ago. Some of them still want to bask in her glow: Men from her past sometimes seek to be in her present, unable to let go.

But Genevieve doesn’t go too deeply into conversations with former lovers, because she knows there’s a hook in there, a door trying to open, but more importantly, she knows her fiancé Don would not like that, any more than she would, and thinks of that as emotional infidelity.

It’s so tempting to take sides, but I don’t think there is an absolute right or wrong, here. But I do know absolutely there are consequences to the choices made.

Genevieve has chosen to make Don the focus of her emotional universe, and he knows that, and responds in kind. That “exclusive emotional intimacy” is valuable to each of them, and each knows the other is the one rock available to which they can return in a world of too little stability.

Mike may have no ability or desire to communicate on the level Jackie needs to feel complete. It’s easy to think of a situation where Mike could be perfectly good with Jackie sharing her soul, or partaking of Dave’s, but in this case, the sharing is causing friction. Dave has access to Jackie that Mike finds hard to accept.

Jackie wants it that way. She hasn’t done anything “wrong,” that’s just how she is.

The parallels to sexual behavior are valid. Readers here know I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong with polyamory, or casual sex with multiple partners, sequentially or simultaneously. But I know absolutely there are consequences to the choices made. If both partners are on the same page, sharing may enhance a relationship. If one wants exclusivity and the other does not, there are going to be problems.

I agree that Jackie gets to make the call about continuing her relationship with Dave. Mike has to accept that as part of Jackie. But Mike doesn’t have to accept that as part of his life. Mike does get to decide that he wants someone who does not share herself in that way with anyone but him.

If he heads for the door, Mike hasn’t done anything “wrong,” that’s just how he is.

 

 

Owning our desires

Sophia’s long, thick brown hair, olive skin and wide sensual mouth are set off by the most amazing light green eyes, and the effect is electric. With her tall and slim five-foot-eight frame, men and women are instantly attracted to her. We’ve been at breakfast when men stopped by our table, or phone numbers were delivered.

What a burden.

She never told me when she was first sexually abused, certainly before she was 15. She “always looked older” than her years, and barely finished high school as her beauty became the defining element of her world.

Becoming of legal age, but naive, she was offered a world that was glamourous but came with hidden agendas. In her early 30’s now, she refers to a period “about ten years ago” when she led a life on the edge, riding her beauty for cocaine, Cristal Champagne, jets, Vail and Chicago. She has the thin arms and legs of a runway model, with cheekbones to match, but also these large, grapefruit-round breasts attached to her chest, the gift of a man who liked that sort of thing.

Some of her friends from back then still live in trendy neighborhoods, rent paid. For some reason, internal compass or sobering event, Sophia moved to a small flat in the suburbs and “left that behind.” Now her worry is memorizing 30 medical terms by Wednesday in the effort to be a dental hygienist.

Somewhere during Eggs Benedict, she started to cry.

“He was such a sweet and gentle guy, really smart and I really liked him. I was doing everything to get him to cum. Every position, talking dirty. Finally I said, ‛will you please have an orgasm! I’m going to fuck you again before we go to sleep, we don’t have to do this for hours!’ He stopped, looked at me, then got up, got dressed and left!”

She didn’t know why.

Most of her sexual experience is of men who learned about sex with online porn, I suppose. Men who want her to talk dirty, to flail her hips so they could get off as if by their jack-off hand, want her on her knees or on top or backwards, frantically changing from one to the other. Sophia has been cum on and in so many times by men who didn’t care about her or what she would like, oblivious to her lack of emotional participation, that the beauty of sex is lost to her.

It’s become a performance for the benefit of somebody else. She no longer has the ability to be vulnerable, to trust, so that she can lose herself in the experience.

Worse, she has begun to resent sex because of what she has been through, and the demands of others. The beauty of sensuality is lost to the beauty most people would like to share it with.

What an crappy irony.

A lot women can relate. This isn’t the just the result of Sophia’s choices. Another woman I know was married for far too long to a man who humiliated her into starvation because he liked fucking skinny women. When he wanted sex, which was often several times a day, she was used so he could get off. Part of the routine, or there would be consequences, was that she had to fake a convincing orgasm.

I don’t know if Sophia will ever heal, if the right man (or woman) will fall in love with the girl within and with tremendous strength, maturity and patience, bring her back into womanhood in the right way. What a gift that would be, but how risky for Sophia, to let herself become that vulnerable.

I could blame men for this, but I’m not going to. In many ways, the price they pay for the lack of love and romance is just as great, though masked by power imbalance. That’s as far as I’m going down that road, for the moment.

You may question my morality, and the fact that I love men and sometimes enjoy more than one simultaneously, and sometimes enjoy all that in “public.” But I’m so thankful that I was empowered to own my own sexuality, regardless of what you think, and to celebrate that when and where and how I choose.

The advantage of promiscuity

Nikki looked at me across the table. “I told him I wanted an open relationship. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, or wanted someone in particular. I just wanted more.”

Twice this week I’ve had similar conversations with really smart women. A lawyer. A business owner. Self-directed, centered, strong women.

“We were going through the motions,” said Nikki. “We’d become stale.”

“The routine wasn’t bringing what I needed,” said Ali.

We can all relate.

Selfishness? Sense of entitlement? Some of my friends would say so. I tend to think it’s Biology. A psychologist friend said once that the “in love” feeling lasts about 18 months max, then needs to become something deeper, or the relationship will fail.

Women are designed to put our heads up once in a while, and look around. There was an article in the Feb 7, 2015 issue of The Economist, pg 75 (yeah, yeah, I know. I have lots of odd habits) that referred to research indicating that about half of the female population (in the U.S.)  belonged to a more promiscuous phenotype, or had a genetic predisposition to… let’s just say it: fuck around.

We are designed to want that tall, dark and handsome bad boy (substitute your own fantasy) in the corner of the coffee shop, and we want him more at certain times of the month when we are fertile. Biology wants to maximize the possible combinations of our DNA. Diversity offers protection against disease wiping out our bloodline.

Biology doesn’t care who survives, by the way. She’ll leave that to the changing conditions of natural selection. She just wants to maximize the chances.

There are competing forces, of course. Personal and social stability, for example, represented by laws, and the church using my personal favorite, guilt. To protect my brood from my sister, who’s always wanted what I have, there’s jealousy.

So what’s a girl to do? There isn’t one solution, and it’s never an easy decision. We are not all alike. Nikki and Ali chose very different paths. Nikki went to divorce, multiple partners and a busy, though seemingly happy life. Ali chose monogamy, parenthood, diapers and a bigger home, and a seemingly happy life.

The key, I think, is honesty. First and foremost with oneself, within one’s values. And with our partner(s), as early and as often as possible. It’s also necessary, according to my grandmother, to accept that we can’t have our gateau and eat it, too. Only the immature believe that’s possible, or the pathologically selfish.

An honest appreciation of who we are, what we want and what we are willing to sacrifice can lead to fulfillment. But don’t pretend a decision doesn’t have to be made, because the journey is short, and momentum can take us to dreadful destinations.

Working out

Pixie works out at the same gym I do. I go in three days a week. I think she goes in every day.

Each muscle of her body is defined, and I’d guess she has low-single-digit body fat. She works hard, she sweats, if she is there when I arrive, she is often there when I leave. She doesn’t compromise.

“Is it a sacrifice?” I asked her once when we were both between sets. I meant the time, the pain, the effort, all of it.

“It’s what I do, it’s who I am,” she replied.

I often wonder what separates those who seem to easily overcome pain, or resistance, or avoidance, to do things that others find difficult. Do they have extra dopamine? Were they given an extra dose of discipline?

Or is it more dark? Are they driven by invisible needs, perhaps looking for an extra dose of dopamine that biology held back, or accolades missed in childhood that now come from having a cut and perfect body?

People come up to Pixie all the time and ask her, “What’s your secret?” after seeing the results, unaware of the effort. She is almost always gracious, though she told me once that she no longer tries to educate, because it’s time wasted.

“Most people won’t put in the work,” she said. “There are no secrets. You decide, this is who I am, this is who I will be.”

How to stick with that? How to get started? My grandmother once told me that when a task seems too large, break it down. “Decide to clean just one tile in the kitchen. You know you can clean one tile. Then, if you want, clean the next. Soon, the floor is clean.”

Don’t think of the run; put on your shoes and go outside. Don’t dread all the sets and all the reps; go to the gym and stand in the weight room. Don’t starve yourself until your brain makes up lies while you eat ice cream; eat something nutritious before you binge. Don’t fret over the novel; sit down at the keyboard and write.

Can’t wait to see him? Need to establish boundaries? Want to break it off? Want to go dancing or want to stay home?

It’s up to you. But before anything else, face honestly the decision that “…this is who I am, this is who I will be.”