Originally posted on redredapples:
Whether you’ve been with that guy for a long or short time, whether you’ve been thinking about marriage or have already tied the knot, now is perhaps a great time to give your relationship a health check. Just as there are known indicators of physical health, relationships carry their own set of indicators, which let us know whether or not they are functioning as they should. Healthy relationships by their very definition are likely to fill us with a sense of peace and well-being; they build our self-esteem and affirm that we are worthy of being loved. They easily confirm that we have made a correct relationship choice or that our hard work on the union, has paid off.
Conversely, a negative relationship scenario breeds unhappiness, depression, instability and uncertainty. While we can spot such a relationship a mile off, we can yet become hooked on it. The truth…
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Originally posted on redredapples:
When it comes to understanding the tango between a man and a woman there is still a lot of mystery out there. We all know that sexual chemistry can be powerful and we know that the pull between a man and a woman can be so strong that it can appear to defy good reason or even common sense. But what exactly makes a guy so sexy to a girl and what is it that draws a man to a woman like a moth to the flame. Of course many of us will claim to have individual tastes and preferences when it comes to looking, shopping around or even praying for our mate.
Some of these items on “the list” may have been born out of what we noticed about our parents’ relationships. If the qualities in our Dad for example were good and gentlemanly, we may think that we…
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As sexualized as our culture is, many of us still hold erroneous beliefs with regards to sex. One of those primary beliefs is that a woman needs a man with a big penis to feel sexually satisfied. It has even been said that some women are, at times, unwilling to relinquish a man who on all counts may be a real jerk, simply because his claim to fame is a large penis. While the philosophies which may guide those pursuing casual sex and those interested in commitment and marriage may be entirely different, the idea of the large penis being correlated with great sex, still holds sway in the minds of many, regardless of their relationship status.
There is a standing joke that there really is no need for extra-large condoms because such men who claim to need them, really only have extra-large egos. Whether you agree with this evaluation or not, there is no denying the fact that we live in a phallus-dominant society. From the design of lipsticks, to pens, to gear-shifts and the obvious obelisk, phallic symbols are everywhere. Let’s face it, men are not only seemingly defined by sex but they place great stock in the tool designed to do the job.
Haven’t we noticed how some men, somewhat unconsciously, seem to touch their genitals when talking in social settings, as if there is a constant need to affirm that the penis is still there? While some may think that this behaviour is ample proof of Freud’s “castration anxiety” theory; (the belief in an unconscious fear of penile-loss which develops during childhood and lasts a lifetime), I believe that it also confirms men’s tendency to externalize their sexuality.
The externalization of sex involves an emotional disengagement with the sex act by focusing primarily on the sex organ as the “tool” which does the job. In this paradigm of sex, it’s the penis doing the work and not necessarily the man per se. It is this type of thinking which has contributed to the obsession with penis-size. Not only do men believe that the size of their penis relates directly to their ability to give sexual pleasure but many women have themselves bought into this notion. Failure to reach a climax for these women may, therefore, lead to the complaint that the penis was too small.
Actually, the greatest sexual tool needed to enjoy great sex is the brain. How we feel about ourselves; our sexual self-concept, our ease and comfort with our sexuality and our thinking patterns with respect to sex have a greater part to play in our enjoyment of the act than any old penis. It is a medical fact that the vagina is not a gaping hole to be filled or plugged; it is an expandable space. This simply means that it will normally adapt and adjust to the size of the penis which enters it. For women who have had children and who may experience some sense of “slackness” (actually overt stretching of the vaginal wall) this can be remedied by the regular exercising of the pelvic floor muscles (imagine stopping your urine flow) and by the selection of sexual positions which allow the female’s legs to be closed.
The overt reliance on the male penis as the source of all sexual pleasure has also placed an undue sense of responsibility on men for the extent of female pleasure. Focussing on the genitals also restricts the level of ingenuity or creativity a man is able to bring to the bedroom when it comes to lovemaking, as it downplays the skills he may need to develop with his hands and or mouth.
Right thinking women, however, must own their sexuality and understand that the responsibility for their own pleasure first lies with their thinking and attitudes towards sex. By turning her focus inward to her own pleasure-centre, a woman can learn how to surrender and release herself to sexual pleasure and own her sexual experience as an enthusiastic participant. Dwelling more on what she brings to the experience also puts her in a frame of mind to give pleasure to her spouse, as she feels a greater sense of sexual empowerment. For men, a healthy, functional view of sexuality should also mean developing the understanding that women are far more concerned with how they are treated and valued in the context of a relationship, than they are with pure penis-size.
Adapted from How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain by Denise J Charles
The idea of “falling in love” as an all-consuming passion over which we seem to have little control is standard romantic fare. We meet someone with whom there is a strong physical and even emotional attraction. We may even get to the stage where we become mildly obsessed. We can’t seem to get this love interest out of our minds. We not only think about this lucky one constantly but when we see him/her we often get all warm and fuzzy inside and our body might do things which we didn’t exactly plan for. But each of us knows that these feelings do not last. Why then do we claim to have “fallen out of love?” Do we honestly expect to maintain these heady feelings for a lifetime and what are our relationship options when this intensity begins to fade?
Scientists explain that the chemical dopamine plays a big role in those initial intense feelings of attraction. It provides an intense pleasure-rush not dissimilar from what is experienced in other addictions. The danger comes when we literally get hooked on the butterflies or on the rush and high of initial sexual attraction. If these feelings also inform our expectations of what a relationship should be, then we can experience intense disappointment when the feelings wane or absolute confusion if we experience them with someone else. How many times have we heard a friend claim to have “fallen out of love” with one individual and “in love” with a next? How then should we navigate our relationships when faced with the reality that these feelings have not lasted?
1. Change our relationship expectations: If we understand from the outset that the fall from the high of love is inevitable, then hopefully we won’t fall apart when it occurs. We often unrealistically expect that “true love” means sustaining our original emotion. Coming to terms with the reality, that change can be a vital sign of our maturing love, should enable us to redefine the fuel which drives our relationship.
2. Desire more than feelings: It’s regrettable that so much of the literature and even music which exists about love, is based on feeling. It is important to reframe love as more of a decision to commit which is of course buttressed by attraction. Essentially, this commitment is a choice to deprive ourselves of other choices. While those mushy feelings which drive attraction may be great, they’re obviously not enough to base a lifetime of commitment on. Attraction should, however, be viewed as an ongoing dynamic which must be worked at by both partners. At the same time, our love should come from a deeper place. Knowing what makes us attractive to our spouse and working on that constantly is, therefore, also critical.
3. Understand that love is an action: Verbalizing love is great. Many of us women particularly, love to be told “I love you”. Love should however be evidenced through active demonstrations of thoughtfulness. It should also be communicated in the love-style which our partner desires and not necessarily what we prefer. Our love-style simply means how our experiences, personality and gender converge to influence how we like to give or receive love. This will mean stepping outside our comfort zone to learn and do the things which our partner may appreciate but which may not necessarily be second nature to us. So if a woman needs to be romanced or a husband needs sex to feel wanted, then we should respectively oblige.
4. Add personal value to our relationship: Very often in relationship-land we tend to focus on ourselves; on our needs and on what is important to us. Seeing our relationship, however, as a place where we can give and add value means that we focus less on us and more on the greater good of the relationship. This will require us asking ourselves “How can I improve my relationship?” or “What can I change about myself to make this relationship better?” Moving out of self-preservation mode to focus on the value which we can add, also forces us to take responsibility for our own happiness.
5. Create memorable moments: Our daily experiences form the basis for our sense of life-fulfillment. When those experiences are positive and pleasurable, we feel a sense of peace and contentment. Creating positive memories means living each day of our relationship intentionally. This will encourage us to put more thought into our actions, to think before we speak and to evaluate our core motivations for doing things. This will also encourage us not to take those daily moments for granted. While living in the moment is good, planning for future moments means taking our relationship off automatic-pilot to work towards the lifetime of love we want.
That sex is of primary importance to a man goes without refute. While we may accurately blame socialization and culture for much of what most males practice today in terms of sexual behaviour, I honestly believe that the sexual DNA of the male places sex right up there with breathing. In other words, sex is an indelible part of who he is. Through his sexuality, a man is defined and affirmed. But what does this have to do with his ability to stay faithful to one woman?
There is a popular school of thought, I’m sure invented and promoted by men, that when it comes to the male sex-drive, a man is simply unable to help himself. And many men hold this driven-by-my-primal-sexual-instinct dogma as gospel, especially when attempting to justify their cheating ways. Whether or not we swallow the idea, it is pretty clear to many of us women that the male sex-drive is a distinct animal with a life of its own.
Yes; men love sex and we women generally speaking don’t have a problem with this. We just want that our man only loves it with us. In putting their super-charged sexuality into operation, it would appear that some men have simply learned dysfunctional ways of handling their overpowering need to connect. Men don’t have an innate inability to commit to one woman; it just sometimes serves their social purposes not to. When we examine the human sex-drive in both men and women, we can’t help but notice how it reflects our God-designed need and capacity for intimacy. This is literally spelt out in the physical, emotional and spiritual connection which is experienced during intercourse. Because the inherent nature of sex exposes our limitations and vulnerabilities, some men recoil from this by erecting what I term psychological barriers; a major one being “the other woman”.
One of man’s best-kept secrets is therefore the guard or mask of the “player-personality” who refuses to commit or settle down. This has become a useful construct designed to give men the appearance of being in super control of their sexuality and emotions. Regretfully, many of us women have erroneously schooled them from boyhood days to behave in this way by discouraging them from displaying emotion for fear that this would feminize them. A man may never articulate this but sometimes he cheats because he’s afraid to “give all” to his partner.
Men will therefore seek to retain what they perceive to be sexual power by not surrendering their vulnerability to one woman. A man’s natural drive for human connection may propel him to seek out intimacy through sex; his super sex-drive does have a purpose. His dysfunctional way of acting this out, however, encourages him to hold out on the woman with whom he is involved and to hold on to flawed concepts of power and self-preservation. This results in a string of sexual encounters which often leads to a cycle of shallow, connectionless sex. Ironically, this “multi-partner-mode” while at the surface can bring a high, fails to bring any lasting sexual fulfillment and so the cycle of cheating continues.
Men, through personal coaching and self-discipline, can be taught to relinquish these limiting notions of their sexuality. They can unlearn the concept of sex as a display only of dominance and power. Even the language of sex as we focus on “penile-penetration” provides a sense of imbalance to the act of sex which as one friend puts it, should also be thought of in terms of “vaginal-envelopment”. Only when men become comfortable with the concept of surrendering their sexual power, will the idea of commitment to one woman take on new meaning and significance.
I believe that a marriage relationship can be that place where a man is forced to finally “grow up” sexually and emotionally but this is not necessarily automatic. While I will not excuse men for their philandering ways, many times we women enable this behavior by settling for it both in and outside of marriage. We literally think that it comes with the territory and even when unhappy, our silence communicates our acceptance of such.
As women we must remain resolute in communicating our expectations in our relationships. This includes our expectations for sexual fidelity. We must not settle for less by allowing our men to think that we will just be their dispensable “sex objects”. The man, who is strong enough to recognize that “becoming one” is an addition and not a subtraction, is on the road to a more meaningful sexual relationship, especially if his partner is on the same sexual page.
When a relationship has been plagued by an affair, there is tremendous fallout. Suspicion, the loss of trust, blame, humiliation, intense anger, hurt and grief all follow as natural results of relationship or marital betrayal. Infidelity is any act which brings a third person emotionally or and sexually, into an exclusive or covenanted relationship.
Whatever motivated the affair, the wronged party, will begin to self-doubt and question the genuineness of her relationship. These thoughts may extend away from her own marriage to focus on the external party, causing a barrage of understandable questions. Was she better in bed? Was she more loving and attentive to my spouse? Is she really a “whore” with no moral compass? Is she a threat to my long-term happiness?
While these questions may never be completely answered, their existence reveals a trend among individuals affected by infidelity; the tendency to project outwards away from their partner to enable them to blame the other woman. This is especially true of women who are considering letting their man off the hook by overlooking the real source of the affair. Apportioning blame to the other woman can become a vital part of what I shall call “the psychology of acceptance”. If a woman can convince herself that her partner’s cheating ways are not entirely his fault, then she can permit herself to either accept his waywardness or accept him again post-affair. This trend of thinking may also cause her to justify confronting the other woman. But is this ever a good idea?
In order for a marriage to “benefit” from infidelity, if I may be allowed to use that term loosely, the infidel must be willing to accept total responsibility for his act of indiscretion. He will not be encouraged to do this, if his partner, in an attempt to fix things, rushes off to put the other woman in her place for messing with her man. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being territorial with one’s partner in the face of an external threat, a man who has erred must have the courage to face the music of his own making. His wife should stay away from jumping into the fray as his saviour but should allow him to feel the full weight of his actions.
Does this mean letting the other woman off the hook? Well not entirely; she of course is also responsible especially if she knew that the man was involved in a relationship. Confronting her to my mind is, however, conditional. If she is a close friend, an acquaintance, work colleague, family member, member of the same church or organization, then there is some scope for direct confrontation regarding her involvement in the affair.
Confrontation is understood within the context of this woman having had a prior relationship or association with the wife. A prior relationship with the wife means that her sense of betrayal will be double-edged; and this is a difficulty she may need to reconcile in her emotions, with respect to coming to terms with the infidelity. If the woman is a stranger, however, such confrontation is ill-advised and the wife may well spare herself the pain that such a meeting might cause. In any respect, a woman’s desire to move on in her relationship may also be hinged on her ability to forgive or “let go” the other woman, whether or not she is known to her.
Although affairs can create a context for relationship introspection, repair and restoration lies first within the purview of the infidel. Honest evaluation of why the relationship was vulnerable or an explanation as to why the cheater acted on its vulnerability should be forthcoming. If this is perceived as an honest attempt to explain his actions, then this can open the door to deeper understanding. Taking the initiative to repair the relationship, accepting responsibility or admitting to individual weakness also shifts blame from the other woman and can convince the wounded partner that a man means business and is ready to grow up.
Forgiveness after infidelity is desired for both personal and relationship growth; it should not, however, be viewed as an instant one-shot action. At best, it is a process involving active dialogue which should lead to a decision to forgive. This is an act of the will and not a feeling. Engaging the grief and forgiveness process after an affair is a mutual act required for healing. Vocalizing apologies in clear terms and setting conditions for fresh accountability in the relationship, are all needed steps towards eventual relationship renewal.
This discussion may seem like a moot point since it may be argued that all men are focused on sex. Without making the term “sex-focused” seem like some errant disease, it is important to note that sexual difference between men and women continues to plague relationships.
While this article is not meant to suggest that women are disinterested in sex, research does suggest that we tend to have a far more holistic view of our intimate relationships. As natural nurturers, we want to take care of, protect, and improve our relationships and of course this includes the sex. For us, sex is important but it is an aspect of the relationship; not the sum total by which it is defined.
Our men, on the other hand, often want to improve the frequency and quality of sex, while paying scant attention to other aspects of the relationship. This can be quite a problem when there are relationship issues like a lack of verbal communication or the need to apologise. Men can sometimes attempt, in these instances, to use sex as a substitute for discussion. Because, as women we are wired differently, we often will have none of this. No matter how good our man is in the sack, nothing beats actually saying “I love you” or “I’m sorry”.
Since women and men seem so much at cross-purposes on the issue of sex, how then do we navigate our relationships? How can we each be fulfilled in marriage when we’re coming from entirely different points of reference? Very often we reach a stalemate because we expect our partner to love as we do and experience our relationship as we do. This is not exactly fair since our hormonal wiring is different. Barring incidents where sex is used to manipulate, control or humiliate, as women, we perhaps need to come to terms with our partner’s relationship pulse; namely sex. Men by the same token must accept that their women are interested in a whole lot more than the latest sexual position, technique or the number of times they have sex in a week.
Adapting and demonstrating a willingness to walk the relationship through our partner’s shoes is perhaps the first step towards finding a resolution. This literally means understanding that sex is a male priority while love and relational health is a woman’s. While a husband may choose to relate or demonstrate love through sex, he must ask himself, does my wife feel loved or validated in each instance? Yes, being sexually desired and pleased is a vital part of an intimate relationship and as women we do value this but the tendency to use sex as a substitute for dialogue or as a short cut for deep relationship change can also be counterproductive. By the same token, as women, we must question how loved or appreciated our man can feel if we’re deliberately withholding sex or have adopted a casual attitude towards its place in our relationship.
This relationship challenge is also compounded by the fact that while men do focus on sex as critical, many are uncomfortable talking about its importance to them. Because this is seldom discussed, the result of inadequate sex from a man’s perspective is often bitterness, resentment, sulking and emotional withdrawal. Men are energized by sex in a way that we as women will perhaps never understand. As a result, its absence in the relationship can leave them feeling depleted, unloved, and less than manly. It is important that this critical need is communicated in marriage. While failure to do so exposes the relationship to being undermined, inadequate sex should never be readily used as an excuse for infidelity.
By the same token, inadequate emotional stimulation in a relationship and a disregard for the importance of communication, also contributes to a woman’s pervasive unhappiness. Women are energized by words and demonstrative love and would also appreciate their man’s “sacrifice” in this area. Most women don’t want to be simply viewed as an object for their man’s sexual release; we want to be appreciated as the multi-faceted creatures that we really are. When a woman is emotionally satisfied, the issue of sexual regularity and quality really becomes a non-issue.
Ultimately, men should not allow their focus on sex to cause them to emotionally disengage from their wives nor should women disconnect sexually because their emotional needs are unmet. The solution to the core difference in priority between men and women, rests in both individual’s willingness to meet the needs of the other and by so doing, demonstrate the essence of true love; selflessness.
We all know that deep love and intimacy seal the deal when it comes to longevity and commitment in a relationship. We also know that relationships suffer from a number of negative issues including poor communication, inattention, infidelity, abuse, boredom and this list can go on. What happens, however, when the sex is really bad? Many individuals may not mind complaining about a cheating, abusive or disloyal spouse but how many of us want to complain about bad sex? On a good day, many of us adults who do have sex behave as if we don’t and even for those of us who do, admitting that we’re having problems in this area is akin to acknowledging some type of adult failure; or so we think.
I was made very aware of this sexual disconnect among adults only too recently. While promoting my book “How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain” it was amusing to note the embarrassed stares, self-conscious giggles or incredulous glances away from the book’s title by a number of adults passing by. This of course included married couples. It was obvious that in spite of our society’s seeming openness about sex, many adults are still uncomfortable confronting their own sexuality. If some of us remain so deeply embarrassed by sex, how then do we navigate the turbulent waters of a sexual relationship where the sex is bad with a capital B? Do some of us even know what bad sex is? Are we even remotely in touch with our own sexual needs and desires? Are we informed by good sexuality education or are we still operating at the level of sexual myths and conjecture?
If we’re to specifically improve the quality of our sexual relationship and if we’re to enhance the overall quality of our relationship with our spouse, then honest communication about the state of our sex is imperative. One of the complexities of relationships is that although we can have a very loving partner who meets our needs in several ways, that individual can still be pretty lousy in the sack. When It comes down to it, however, when we’re in love and our heart is in the right place, great sex is not something we want to experience with someone else; we want to experience it with the one we have committed to. How then can we move our sex from bad to good?
1. Clarify what we want: knowing what we’re looking for in our sexual relationship is the first step on the journey towards ridding ourselves of bad sex. This means being in-tuned with our own bodies, including our sexual needs and preferences. If we’re holding residual shame and embarrassment about how our body looks, if we’ve never looked at our genitals and remain clueless about our own pleasure centres, then chances are, we’re in no position to articulate our desires. Being in-tuned sexually therefore involves acknowledging and accepting our sexuality. This can strengthen our sexual confidence and reduce the sense of trepidation which can keep us silent in the face of dissatisfaction.
2. Communicate clearly but sensitively: Acknowledging our own needs can embolden us to share what is necessary with our partner. Communication in this area should not be designed to humiliate, thereby fostering a sense of inadequacy. We want our guy to know that satisfying us is within his reach and that together, we can learn to enrich our sexual experience for the benefit of us both. If for example, the male partner is plagued with premature ejaculation, working together to overcome this challenge can enhance the quality of sex for both individuals. Communication should also seek to affirm the positive aspects of the relationship first, before zeroing in on the inadequacies. We should never seek to convey a sense of hopelessness.
3. Release Inhibitions: Sometimes our sex is bad because we’re too uptight; we haven’t learnt the fine art of surrendering to the moment. Our inhibitions and skewed expectations can keep us locked into a zone of performance-anxiety which makes our intimate time with our partner both stilted and burdensome. Understanding that our sexual success is not one-sided but demands our own participation and cooperation can be a significant step in the right direction. This can release the burden of responsibility we as women can sometimes place on our spouse to “give” us an orgasm and encourages us to “own” our sexual pleasure. A more participatory approach can add some much needed zest to our love life, opening it up to exciting experimentation, which in turn has the potential to improve its overall quality.
No I haven’t gone off my rockers. But I am quite taken by the idea of the Vagina Monologues: a series of reflective, dramatised, “speeches” which more or less trace the experiences and psychology of the vagina. These monologues express and reveal every nuance of a woman’s sexuality from pain and abuse, to surprise and divine pleasure.
As women we have come to associate our vagina with a representation of our sexuality. How we feel about sex and sexuality is significantly borne out in our comfort level with our vagina. Do we talk about it, touch it (outside of bathing), expose it, cover it up, know what it looks like, or even care what it looks like? Are we even in tuned to what the physical changes in our vagina may tell us about our sexual health?
The vagina is located deep within the pubic area so understandably, it tends to hold its fair share of mystery. Luckily, it has an entrance with a carefully placed pleasure centre, the clitoris, so even though “hidden” from view to some degree, we tend not to forget where it is. The challenge with the vagina as I see it, is not so much its logistics or location. It is more so the fact that it is another mouth, another entrance. And like the mouth, which houses the natural voice, the vagina also speaks. We just need to listen because it is never silent.
When as females we cross the bridge from childhood to womanhood, the vagina cries in bold red; it bleeds and there is pain and discomfort involved (more often than not). What is the vagina saying to us then? Could it be hinting at the fact that womanhood is inescapably a time of pain and that our lives will never be the same? When we experience that other “rite of passage”, our first sexual experience, again there is bleeding, mild discomfort, sharp pain or all of the above. If we took the time to listen to our vagina then, what could it possibly be saying? What could it be alerting us to?
Perhaps it is suggesting that pleasure is often a two-edged sword. It is great while it lasts but it does not come without a price or a risk. That is why a sexual relationship is so ultra-vulnerable. When we trust someone enough to give them our vagina we are in essence giving ourselves and by that same token we open up ourselves to the possibilities of both pleasure and pain. This can come in the form of acceptance or rejection, health and well-being or disease, true intimacy or abuse and yet all can be accompanied by the physical pleasures of the sex-act; a definite and often confusing double-whammy.
If we are in tuned to what our vagina is saying, on a regular day it can alert us to our reproductive health or status. From it we can gauge when we are ovulating, when there is infection, when there is need for a shower and happily when there is sexual arousal. Even our partners can benefit from paying closer attention to our vagina. While it is by no means the only point of sexual arousal, it is where we usually experience the orgasm and so should definitely not be ignored. The vagina can most definitely smile and laugh when its been made happy. In fact, it can scream the house down in absolute ecstasy!
Then there is child-birth. The vagina is perhaps stretched to its greatest capacity as it becomes the tunnel or vehicle to bear life. I think that those of us who have experienced childbirth, would easily agree that then it is perhaps shouting (or screaming) at its loudest. It is at childbirth that we can become more in tuned with ourselves. For me, pain became merely a means to an end, a necessary part of the life-process that wouldn’t conquer me because I experienced it, endured it and lived to tell the tale; all with my bouncing baby to boot.
Amazingly, the vagina can seem like both enemy and friend. It will perhaps continue to hold a series of contradictions which reflect the complexity of life. For those who think that I am perhaps making a mountain out of a molehill and that it is just a body part, think again. The vagina is both the entrance to life (at conception) and it is the exit of life (at birth). It plays a significant part in our identity as women and this is as it should be. Is it any wonder that those who experience vaginal mutilation through female circumcision feel so lost and bereft, as if a part of them was stolen?
I encourage you to embrace the complexity of the vagina and learn from it. It is important that we pass this knowledge to our daughters so that they will not pass theirs around like the latest gadget or toy for the boys to try out.
There is no doubt about it. Our vagina is definitely talking; it never “shuts up”. Let’s practise the fine art of listening to it daily and count ourselves privileged to have one.