Sunday, December 7, 2008

Respecting the relationship's boundaries

Back in September I wrote Fulfilling Desires vs. Respect and Love. Doug had come into the forums upset that his wife would not do something for him sexually that he wanted. He pushed and pushed and she still wouldn't do it, despite saying she would consider it. I advised Doug that it was unloving and disrespectful of him to push his wife to do something that she clearly was not comfortable with and did not want to do.

We've recently had someone come into the forum from the opposite side of that equation, the side that is being disrespected. Scott and his wife have entertained a fantasy in the bedroom of having another man join them. Initially this turned both of them on, and it was just talk. Then Scott's wife asked if they could make it a reality. Scott asked if she had someone in mind, and when she very quickly mentioned a specific guy, Scott suddenly felt insecure about the whole idea. Then his wife told him she wouldn't be able to do it the way they had fantasized, the way they had talked about it, she wanted to have sex with the other man without Scott there. Scott reluctantly agreed, but told her the other man must know that he knows. The other man balked, saying it would be difficult to see Scott at the company Christmas party if they did this before then, so it would have to be after. The further into planning this got the less OK with the idea Scott was. So he told his wife the whole thing was off, and now is feeling guilty for denying her something she wanted, and worried that she would go through with it behind his back.

My initial advice to Scott was:

Talk to her, talk to her, and talk to her. You two have been open enough to share this fantasy and, for a moment, entertain actually bringing it to reality. Now is NOT the time to stop talking to each other. Tell her how you are feeling, let her tell you how she's feeling. I think this conversation is more vital than any other you've had about this topic, because now it's about the feelings you're both experiencing as a result of almost going through with the fantasy. This is the real life side of that fantasy, and it needs to be discussed.
He came back a few days later concerned that if he doesn't let her go through with it then he will always wonder if she will do it behind his back, or if she is secretly pining for this other man. Now his wife has told him that she thinks she might have feelings for this other man. Scott seems to believe that if she doesn't explore this they will never be able to move passed it, and he will always wonder and be afraid. So Scott has told his wife to do what she feels she has to do.

I've told Scott:
Frankly, I think you need to grow a pair. There's nothing wrong with wanting monogamy, and if you aren't comfortable with her having sex with someone else she should respect that. You shouldn't have to sacrifice your desire for monogamy because she's got a crush on someone.
Scott feels that telling her it's not OK to have sex with this other man will mean living the rest of his life afraid that she's really in love with someone else. He believes that if she goes ahead with this now then it'll either be over between her and the other man, or it'll be over between her and Scott, but at least he'll know where he stands.

Here's my response to that:
So she sleeps with him, comes back and tells you she doesn't want to end your marriage. What then? Will you honestly be able to trust that she's never thinking about him or someone else? Will you honestly be satisfied with that? Or say she comes back and says she wants to continue to see him, but she loves you too and doesn't want your marriage to end, will you be able to live with that? Or she comes back and ends your marriage to be with him....will you be able to forgive yourself for giving her permission?

The seed of doubt has already been planted in your head. Her sleeping with a guy she says she might have feelings for isn't going to do anything to quiet your fears. More likely it will make it worse.

If you aren't OK with her sleeping with another man there is nothing, let me repeat that, nothing wrong with that.
Scott's wife is showing him zero respect and love when she expects him to tolerate her having sex with someone else knowing that he's not OK with it. I understand they entertained a fantasy, and that she's curious about this other man, but what she's asking of Scott is outside of his comfort zone and if she loves him she'll respect that boundary.

Every relationship has boundaries, whether it be a marriage, friendship, familial relationship or coworker relationship, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most importantly there's nothing wrong with enforcing the boundaries in your relationships.

Unfortunately for Scott I think his wife already crossed one of his boundaries, and I'm afraid there may be no coming back. My advice to Scott is to stand firm on that boundary. If he doesn't then he's shown his wife that he doesn't respect himself, and she in turn will not feel she has to respect him. He's setting himself up to be walked on.

Please, love yourselves more than that. Respect yourselves enough to demand respect from those around you. There's nothing wrong with saying "I'm not comfortable with this and I want it to stop." Someone who truly loves you will not want to continue with something that hurts you.

With love and respect,

Update 12/24/2008

Scott came back to the forum. In the past several weeks, while waiting for an opening with a marriage counselor, he and his wife have been talking a lot. Scott sees his wife as "georgeous, smart, tough, a ton of fun, loving, hardworking, and for the last five years, a wonderful mom to our son." However, he's learned recently that she doesn't believe any of that. She thinks Scott is blinded by his love for her and wouldn't give her a second glance if he weren't married to her, and that nobody else finds her attractive. This is why she pushed for the fling with the other man, to prove to herself that someone else finds her attractive, someone who isn't blinded by love, someone who isn't bound to her by marriage and parenthood.

As is often the case, is seems that Scott's wife's disrespect for him really started from a lack of love and respect for herself. Scott is hurt that his love and attraction for her isn't enough to show her that she is wonderful. Myself and others have told Scott that nothing he says or does can improve her self esteem, she needs to learn to love and respect herself with or without attention from a man.

There needs to be more love and respect in Scott's marriage, and it all needs to start with self love and self respect. I hope Scott and his wife are able to find their own inherent value.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I shouldn't have to tell you, you should just know

Hey everybody! I know it's been a while since I wrote, and I'm sorry about that. I just haven't been able to come up with any good topics. Today I stumbled onto one at one of the relationship forums I participate in.

A woman came into the forum wanting to know how to better please her husband. No, not like that! Just little stuff. He's complained that she isn't affectionate enough. He says she doesn't show him enough attention and doesn't touch him as often as he would like. She thought she had improved in those things, but he isn't acknowledging any improvement. So she talked to him and asked him to show her specifically some things she could do that would help him feel appreciated, but he won't. Instead he tells her she should just know.

Here's the problem with that: If she knew she would be doing those things already. She's not doing those things, so obviously she doesn't just know, because that kind of affection doesn't come naturally to her.

My husband has one of those stereotypical tenancies you read about in the relationship help books. If I complain about something he immediately goes into fix it mode and starts throwing out solutions. However, most of the time I don't want solutions, and many times there isn't even anything that can be done. I usually just want to vent a bit and get a hug.

Just listening and then giving me a hug is not my husband's natural reaction to a complaining woman. So he doesn't just know to do that for me. It would be unfair of me to expect him to just know that, because it's not the way he deals with things.

So I try hard to remember when I just need to vent and get a hug to tell him exactly that. Then we all get what we need. I get a to vent and then get a hug, without any of the "Did you try this. You should do that." that I don't want. And my husband gets to fix the real problem (which was never the thing I was complaining about anyway, it was that I was stressed) and everyone is happy!

Don't ever be afraid to tell your partner what you need. "You should just know" is an unfair expectation because your partner is not you. If they were they would already just know and be doing the thing you want them to do.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Long term love

This week marks the 9th anniversary of my marriage to Mitch. So I thought I'd take a break from writing advice specific to relationship problems, and try to write something about what makes a long term relationship so wonderful. Too often those who give advice focus on the bad things that go on in relationships and how to get past I'd like to focus on the good things about relationships and how wonderful they can be!

There are a lot of people out there who can't even fathom being with one person for a few years, let alone decades or a lifetime. I used to wonder myself if human beings were really cut out for long term monogamy. Over the years I've come to believe that some people really are not made for the monogamous lifestyle. However, there are those of us who are. And I gotta tell ya, I think it's a beautiful thing.

What's so beautiful about sharing your life with only one person? My husband and I have discussed this many times.

One of the first things that comes to mind is that we don't have to deal with the discomfort of learning all about a new person and teaching them about ourselves. When you date someone new, you really don't know anything about them and they don't know anything about you. That can be very exciting, but it can also be stressful and a lot of hard work. Mitch and I are far past that. It's actually surprising when we learn something new about one another, because we've been together long enough that we think we know everything there is to know.

There's a comfort in that, in knowing that this other person knows everything there is to know about you and they accept you and love you for everything that you are. I don't have to worry what Mitch will think when he learns that I was a nerd in school....he already knows. Mitch doesn't have to worry what I will think when I learn he has an extensive comic book collection....I already know. If we were to find ourselves suddenly single again I think it would stress both of us out just knowing we'd have to reveal ourselves to a whole new person and then worry about what their reaction would be.

I think this knowing each other is at the core of everything that is beautiful about long term relationships. I feel safe with Mitch because he knows everything about me. I know that a lot of people have trouble trusting another person enough to really put it all out there, but there is no better feeling than doing so and having that person embrace you completely. It's taken time, for both of us, to get to this point, to truly trust each other enough to reveal our complete selves....but we are now closer than ever and that feels so good.

Another side of knowing someone for this long, and letting yourself be truly known, is not having to figure out what makes them tick in the bedroom. Mitch is an expert at how to get me going and get me off, and I'm an expert at getting him going and getting him off. That doesn't mean there's never anything new, there certainly is. It does mean that when there's not enough time for long slow love making, we know how to get it done quick! It also means we know how to make it last all night.

The trust we have built over the years has helped our sexual relationship grow to something far more beautiful than either of us could have imagined. I think we both probably expected it to get boring. I mean, really, how exciting can having sex with the same person for 11 years be? But it is exciting. We trust each other enough to be able to ask for and try new things, things we might not be able to try with someone who we hadn't been with this long, who we didn't trust as much as we trust each other. Our sexual relationship is better now than it's ever been, after almost 11 years together.

It's nice to be so comfortable with someone that you can play games together, watch movies or TV together, solve puzzles together, or just have a quite dinner together and be comfortable. It's beautiful to know that this person loves me completely and that we don't have to hide anything from each other.

It feels like home.

I wish each and every one of you that very feeling.

I love you Mitch. Thank you for sharing in this life with me.

All my love,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The selection process

A woman came into the forums I post in complaining that her boyfriend of 4 months didn't want sex nearly as much as she did, and any time she brought it up he got upset. In every other way he was perfect. She wanted to know what to do, whether she should just get over it and deal with less sex than she wanted because he was so great in every other way, whether he should see a doctor because his sex drive was so much lower than hers, whether she should leave him.

Here are the facts:

  • She wants sex more than he does
  • He doesn't want to discuss the fact that she wants sex more than he does
  • In every other way he's perfect
  • She does not want to live the rest of her life with less than enough sex.
So, what can she do?
  1. She can stay and learn to be happy about it
  2. She can stay and be miserable about it and probably make him miserable too
  3. She can cheat on him and risk losing the relationship altogether, never mind sacrificing her own values
  4. She can negotiate an open relationship, if he's game
  5. She can move on.
The simple fact is that she will not be getting as much sex as she wants from him, so she either has to be OK with that or find it somewhere else.

The reason most people date is to find out if the person they are dating is someone they can and want to spend a much longer period of time with. This woman in particular is trying to decide if her boyfriend is someone she wants to marry and spend the rest of her life with. Dating is part of our selection process. Even earlier in the selection process we decide, sometimes subconsciously, if we are at all interested in someone, interested enough to even go on a date with them. We are constantly evaluating people based on ever changing criteria to see if they are a good fit to share our lives with.

If, during the dating period, we find that there is something about a person that we do not want to live with for the rest of our lives, then we need to have the strength to admit that and end the relationship. Not doing so generally ends in an unhappy marriage and, sometimes, divorce.

This is just part of the selection process. To go through all of that and then say "Well, I don't want to live this way for the rest of my life, but I've already invested however many months, I don't want those to have been a waste, and I like all these other things about this person" negates the whole process. So then what if you stay and it never changes, and then you find you've "wasted" 10 years?

Let's face it, you can't change people. If he's happy with sex twice a month it's not likely that you'll coerce him into having it 8 times a month. So it's time to have the self respect to say "I'm not willing to sacrifice a satisfying sex life for these other wonderful things, I need to move on."

It's much easier to have a happy marriage if you use the selection process beforehand to find someone who fulfills you in every way that you feel is necessary. Otherwise what's the point?

Love Yourselves!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Abusive relationships

On the relationship forums that I participate in we get a lot of people coming in wondering if they should end their abusive relationship. They give us tales of verbal abuse, sometimes physical abuse, certainly a lack of anything resembling loving behavior, and wonder if they can make their partner treat them better. They make excuses for why they can't leave.....they don't have any money, he/she would be destroyed, they don't want their kids to lose access to their "great father" or "great mother," he/she used to be great.....and most of all, "I still love him/her."

I'd like to discuss some of these excuses, as well as some others I've read, and why they are not a valid excuse for staying, especially if you have children.

  1. He/she used to be great - OK, that's fantastic, really, but all that proves is that you weren't stupid enough to fall in love with an asshole. That doesn't mean you have to tolerate him/her acting like an asshole now and for the rest of your life. You can't make him/her be the person you fell in love with, that's in the past. You can only deal with now.
  2. He/She would be destroyed/Our families would be devastated - Umm, no, they won't. Everyone will live. You parents will survive, his/her parents will survive, the kids will survive, you and he/she will survive. But consider this - if you stay in an abusive relationship and it turns physically abusive, how devastated will your parents and children be at your funeral?
  3. I have no money - If you are in physical danger, get out anyway, there are shelters you can go to. If you are not in physical danger, then start planning your escape. Start setting aside money, get your own bank account, start gathering copies of records, speak to an attorney if you are married and/or have shared assets. There's nothing wrong with taking your time in leaving. Just be careful....the most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is when they are planning their escape and just after they've left.
  4. I don't want my kids to lose their great dad/mom - OK, first of all, as long as their dad/mom is still alive, they don't have to lose them. Second, how great a parent are they really if they are treating their child's other parent like garbage? How great a parent are they if they treat their child's other parent like a punching bag?
Here I'd like to stop and make a special point about children. Children are born with absolutely no knowledge of what a marriage/romantic relationship is supposed to be like. They start learning very early. They learn from the adults in their home first, usually their parents. If dad abuses mom boys learn it's OK to abuse and girls learn it's OK to tolerate abuse. If mom abuses dad boys learn it's OK to tolerate abuse and girls learn it's OK to abuse.

Make no mistake, your children are watching you. They are little sponges and they absorb everything, even the things they don't consciously recognize. Their definition of what is correct and acceptable in a relationship is being formed from day one. As they grow that definition will start to look exactly like the parental relationship they see in their own home.

If you don't want your children to grow up believing that abuse is OK, that's it's acceptable for them to abuse or be abused, then do not be in an abusive relationship. Consider your own relationship very carefully and then think about how you would feel if your own child were in your shoes, or were behaving like your abusive spouse. If you would not be happy with that, then you need to change your circumstances so that your child starts to learn different criteria for relationships.

And if you don't have children, please get into a healthier relationship before you do. Children will absolutely not force your abusive spouse to treat you better. In fact, having a child may make it worse.

Everyone deserves to be treated with love and respect. We all teach people how to treat us, and if we tolerate abuse then we've taught our abuser that it's OK. It's possible to stop it, but you have to be willing to end the relationship. You can't make someone treat you right, it's just not possible. Instead you need to get out of the relationship, and figure out why you allowed yourself to be abused so that you don't fall into the same type of relationship next time.

You can get out. Millions of people do it every year, most likely people in much harder situations than you. Please seek help, don't let yourself be abused anymore!

Resources for abused women:
Resources for abused men:

Take care of yourselves and be safe!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fulfilling desires vs. respect and love

I have recently been involved in a discussion about the balance between fulfilling desires and respect. A gentleman who I'll call Doug was wondering how important women find it to fulfill their man's desires even if they may find the particular activity that he's requesting uncomfortable and/or dirty.

In reality, however, what Doug really wanted to know was why his wife kept saying she would give a specific not-so-ordinary sexual activity a shot and then kept refusing when he asked for it. There were other lets-spice-things-up type things that he didn't give specifics on, that Doug had asked for and was refused. Doug was feeling as though their sex life was not really their sex life, but her's alone, that she held all the power because she did not do every single thing he desired.

What I've tried to explain to Doug is that a sexual relationship has to be based on respect. Doug shows his wife no respect or love when he expects her to do things she is uncomfortable with. He has decided that his desire is more important than her comfort, and I can't seem to convince him how disrespectful and unloving that attitude is.

Instead Doug has essentially stomped his feet like a spoiled child and repeated "but she said she would consider it." He's mad that she won't do what he wants, he believes that giving the idea fair consideration means that she should acquiesce, he feels unfulfilled because she hasn't, and he has implied that her refusal to satisfy his every desire would excuse him if he were to try to fulfill that desire outside of their marriage.

Does this seem loving to any of you? It sure doesn't to me. One of the things I've asked Doug is why he doesn't respect his wife enough to do what she wants to do? I mean, he expects her to love him enough to do what he wants her to do, but at the same time refuses to do the one thing she wants him to do, which is to stop asking for something that she is clearly not comfortable with, as evidenced by her repeated refusals.

Let's take this out of the bedroom for Doug. What if my husband loved sky diving and I was terrified of heights? Would it be respectful and loving of him to constantly request that I go sky diving with him, even after I've repeatedly said I didn't want to, that I didn't feel safe, that it scared me? No, of course not, that would be mean and insensitive. So my husband would go sky diving and I wouldn't and we would both be happy.

Unfortunately, unlike sky diving, I seriously doubt that Doug's wife would be OK with him seeking to fulfill his desires with other women.

Lets face it, sometimes we give up desires to make a commitment to the one we love. I'm sure my husband would have loved to have married a super model, or someone who wanted to share him with her sexy girlfriend, but he gave up those desires when he married me. There are things we both might like to do that the other is not comfortable with, and we gave up those desires when we married. Some people are lucky enough to find someone who wants absolutely everything they do, and therefore they can have their every desire fulfilled, but I think that is pretty rare. Instead I think most of us give up a few desires in return for a loving respectful relationship, and most of us don't have a problem with that. My husband will likely never get to have the threesome that so many men dream of, but he's OK with that because he's got me instead. I will likely never be married to a millionaire, but I'm OK with that because I got Mitch instead.

Besides, what fun are sexual activities that you partner really isn't into? I mean, if Doug's wife gave in, gave him what he wants, she's not going to be into it. They've tried it before and if she liked it she'd probably have tried it again by now, but she's consistently refused, so I have to conclude that she didn't really dig it. So how enjoyable is it really going to be for Doug if his wife is just laying there putting up with it until he's done just to shut him up about it? And then she may resent him for getting so much enjoyment out of something she was so uncomfortable with, treating her like an object who's only purpose is to fulfill her partner's desires. It just sounds like a road to marital disaster to me.

My final advice to Doug is to stop harassing his wife for things she obviously isn't comfortable with. If those things are so important to him that he just can't live without them, then he should respect his wife enough to leave her and go fulfill those desires elsewhere, allowing them both to find partners who's sexual desires are closer to there own so that they can both have fulfilling sexual relationships.

Remember lovelies, you can't have a healthy relationship without respect!


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who wants some?

My friend Lily is back with another issue she is having some trouble with.

Often I am the one initiating sex, about 90% of the time (my husband disagrees). I actually asked him last night if I didn't initiate sex, how long would we go without having it. He said "maybe a couple of days" I laughed and I said "Well, it's been a couple of days"...and I mentioned that we've gone long amounts of time without it. He said it was because he thought I was too tired for it... I told him I would never be too tired for it. Then we started intermittently kissing and then he started falling asleep so I just thought "fuck it" and went to sleep.

I hate being the initiator... I wouldn't mind if it was 50% of the time, but it seems like 90%. Add that to the problem I WAS having with him looking at porn and that really does a lot of bad shit to a self-esteem. So any advice and wisdom you can impart I would greatly appreciate :)

There are so many things that can cause an imbalance in who's initiating sex. He could have a lower libido than you, which may or may not be a medical issue. He could be uncomfortable initiating for any number of reasons. He could be suffering from some depression because of his current employment situation. There are too many things that could cause this imbalance for me to come close to covering them all.

I have gone through times when my libido is in the dumps and I never initiate. I've been through times when I initiate almost all the time. It's another one of those things that comes and goes. What I've come to realize is that it doesn't really matter who initiates, as long as we are both happy with the frequency of the sex we are having. And let me tell you, letting go of that, no longer worrying about who initiates as long as someone does, makes life a lot easier.

My advice to you would be to let go of it, stop keeping track in your head of when you last had sex and who's been initiating what percentage of the time. If you're horny, go get him. And make sure he knows that if he's horny he should feel free to go for it.

The flip side is that you both need to understand that there are going to be times when it's not going to happen for whatever reason, and that it's not necessarily something you should be hurt by. We all have days when it doesn't matter who's offering, we just aren't in the mood.

Another approach would be to tell him that sometimes you need him to initiate, and ask if it would be OK for you to just tell him that. Say you’re feeling like it’s been too long since he made the effort, and you’re feeling up for it, so you tell him, maybe early in the day, “I think you should try to get some tonight.” That way he knows you’re up for it, so he doesn’t have to worry about being rejected, but it’s him that really makes the effort. However, one important aspect to this scenario is if he’s really not in the mood he would need to tell you that early, so you aren’t spending all day waiting for him to start pushing your buttons just to be hurt at the end of the day because he didn’t. It’s not very spontaneous, but I think sometimes spontaneity is overrated. In real life sometimes you have to be more practical to get what you want.

Try talking about it over dinner or something, when it's not a moment that one of you would be trying to get things going. It's always best to discuss sex at a non-threatening time, so that you can both be completely open without feeling any pressure. My husband and I used to occasionally set aside an entire evening to have a few drinks and talk about sex and it was clearly understood from the outset that having sex was not the goal....not that it never happened on those nights, lol, but there was no pressure.

I also think some of what you are going through is just the growing pains of a new marriage. You two did the long distance thing for so long, and now you are kind of getting to know each other in a way that wasn’t possible before. It might just take time to find your groove. Hell, my husband and I lived together for a year and a half before we got married, and it still took us a number of years to find our groove. In some ways we’re still adjusting to each other. It’s a continuous process, you just have to be open to it and communicate about it.

I hope you two are able to figure this out. It’s one of the most frequently talked about topics on the relationship forums that I participate in.

As for the porn and the boredom, I think you are probably right, that it might have to do with boredom since Rick isn't working. Also I’m sure it’s not the best thing for his ego that he can’t work and contribute financially right now…..I have always been and will always be the bread winner in our home, but it still really gets my husband down when there isn’t a lot of work and he isn’t contributing. And being down about something can cause someone to search for anything to brighten their day, and porn can certainly fill that need.

All in all I wouldn’t be too quick to judge the state of your marriage right now. You've just started really having an in-person relationship, and you are currently living with family. I’d wait until he’s working and you two have your own place and can really figure out your life together. Then hopefully you can find your own groove and really start enjoying married life!

Good luck to you!