Let’s paint a familiar scenario. You’re out at a restaurant with your partner when you notice his eyes wandering to the beautiful lady across the room or perhaps his eyes rested a bit too long on the backside of the attractive waitress. Immediately, you become incensed at the audacity of the man and this spoils your date night for the rest of the evening. Is this spate of intense jealousy a reasonable response to the common practice of the wandering male eye? Is jealousy ever permitted or is it always an out-of-place emotion which can do more harm than good?
One rule of thumb which must define any committed relationship is a sense of integrity. When mutual integrity forms the basis of a relationship, then partners will not readily act in ways to jeopardize or compromise that union. Having said that, with human nature being as fickle as it is, the road towards relationship integrity can be a rocky one. It is definitely a journey and not a destination. In other words, no relationship is immediately perfect. The preferred quality of your relationship will not be ideal from the get-go but will require hard work and constant dialogue throughout the course of your lives together. So how then should we deal with that green-eyed monster if it rears its ugly head?
Setting realistic parameters for all opposite sex interaction which will occur in the course of your relationship, is advised. This simply means deciding together what is or is not appropriate. Realistically, we will find other people attractive from time to time. Being in love does not make us blind. Acknowledging attractiveness with a cursory glance should be fine. Dwelling on someone else’s attributes in a prolonged way, out rightly flirting with them or even being physical or playful whether or not our partner is there, is, however, disrespectful to our primary relationship. This behavior should be confronted, discussed and hopefully discontinued. Discussing relationship expectations in this regard is therefore critical and partners must be clear and consistent about what they will not tolerate.
On the other hand, jealousy can also be an unreasonable response which stems from insecurity and or immaturity. Sometimes an individual’s idea of commitment means total ownership and control. Of course this is a flawed idea but it exists in several relationships nonetheless. Controlling who your partner speaks to or glances at, even when such behavior is not disrespectful in any way, can mean that there are deeper issues at stake. Fear of abandonment, or fear of rejection in one partner, can contribute to such behavior. Infidelity in a previous relationship can also influence the lens through which we see daily interaction between our partner and others. This must also be confronted and exposed if a relationship is to assume a sense of normalcy.
These extreme examples aside, we may experience a fleeting sense of jealousy occasionally in the course of our relationship; this is human, normal and to be expected. We are in a relationship because we desire exclusivity and at heart we do want to be the only girl or guy in the world, in our partner’s life. Having said that, being open about deep, recurring feelings of insecurity or confronting our partner if his/her actions make us feel disrespected in any way, is also vital to the life and health of our relationships.
I have to admit that I am no green thumb. Plants under my care tend not to thrive. The truth is that whenever I have had a young plant, I usually begin with loads of enthusiasm which tends to peter off as time goes by. If we think about it, many of us treat our significant relationships or marriages like this; we begin with enthusiasm only to allow them to languish in neglect.
And a relationship is like plant. It’s a living, breathing thing which requires loads of attention if it is to grow and thrive. If, however, we pursue our relationships on automatic pilot instead of with thought or intention, then we run the risk of missing valuable “growth-moments”. When that plant becomes dry and withered because of a lack of water, sunlight or nourishing soil, then it will take some pruning, watering and overall care to get it back to a healthy state.
If our relationship is suffering with neglect and needs an injection of life and renewal, then the following pointers should help us maximize growth.
- Utilize confrontation wisely: If we are constantly unhappy with the up-turned toilet seat, or with our partner’s propensity to be a workaholic; if we are bored stiff with sex or hate the fact that we have virtually no romantic couple time; then now is the time to open our mouths wide and speak. Suffering in silence or being a relationship martyr is dis-empowering and self-destructive. Practicing the fine art of loving confrontation with disarming ‘I feel’ statements, as opposed to harsh accusations, can go a long way towards improving relational quality.
- Take responsibility for your own happiness: Ensuring relationship growth is a two-sided deal because both partners share equal responsibility. While one may be responsible for outright change, the other is equally responsible for facilitating that change. Admittedly, it is very easy to blame someone else for our own misery. It is, however, equally important to look within to see where we have let ourselves down. Very often we can internalize our life-disappointments and project this unhappiness unto our spouse. Taking responsibility for our own peace of mind may mean deliberately letting go of past hurts in our relationship or previous ones.
- Practice self-love: As women we want to be loved and told that we are beautiful, sexy and desirable. Amazingly, some of us can’t stand the best bone in our own bodies. We are filled with self-loathing and self-rejection every time we stare at ourselves in the mirror. If we are unable to say to ourselves “girl you look fine”, then why on earth would we expect our man to tell us this. Low self-esteem and self-recrimination are tangible states of being which affect the way we carry ourselves. This negativity can be reversed through daily declarations which affirm that we are indeed beautiful. If there is anything we do need to change, then we can actively pursue this while understanding that our worth is not tied to our looks.
- Pursue dreams: Some of us have been taught that it is vain or even self-serving, to focus too much on ourselves. As a consequence, we usually place the needs of others before our own; ALL THE TIME. Of course I wholeheartedly believe that there is a juncture in our lives when this is entirely necessary. When we have babies and small children we learn about this all too well and this is perhaps as it should be. But there is nothing wrong with also pursuing what makes us happy or fulfilled; as long as it’s legal and no one is being hurt. Women, who constantly sacrifice their dreams and goals and never share such with their partners or children, run the risk of becoming angry and resentful. On the other hand, when we feel happy and fulfilled, we bring a positive energy to the relationship which is infectious.
- Shed unrealistic expectations: Falling in love does not mean finding a perfect soul-mate who will meet our every emotional and sexual need; this is a myth. There can be a sense of purpose or even destiny in partnering with someone who does share our vision and values. No one, however, is perfect. We should therefore shed unrealistic expectations. These can include beliefs that our partner should anticipate our every need, read our minds even before we speak, know exactly what we mean when we do speak, be the perfect lover, kisser, gourmet chef, provider, leader, handyman, disciplinarian, planner and the list can go on. While there may be such men somewhere out there on Mars, I haven’t met many of them. Accept that neither one of you is perfect and determine to improve together.
If you’re single but dissatisfied with your status, you may be thinking that a relationship will set everything right. Sure, like any other person you imagined that by now you would have been married or at least settled in a serious relationship. You have no doubt carefully perused your internal list of requirements repeatedly but when it comes to a mate, no one you’ve dated so far has even come close. Maybe there have been some exciting prospects in your past but then some mishap or the other snatched the possibility of your taking your relationship to the next level. But as anxious as you may be to get this aspect of your life all settled, are you really ready for love? Are you prepared to make the sacrifices required for a committed relationship, much less marriage? Do you have what it takes to tango with someone for the long haul?
The following twenty questions, while not exhaustive, (and their answers), should help you to determine how prepared you are for this next step. Read carefully and try to answer honestly without merely giving what you think the right answer should be. They are a great starting point for self-reflection and even for dialogue with friends.
- Do you love yourself?
- Are you actively pursuing your own life goals?
- Have you resolved past hurts from previous relationships or from your childhood?
- If such issues remain unresolved at the moment, are you at least aware of these hurts and actively seeking to put them in perspective?
- Do you really know what you want in a relationship?
- Do you expect that a relationship will make you feel whole or complete?
- Are you comfortable communicating your expectations?
- Is marriage a part of what you’re looking for in a love relationship or is it not a deal-breaker for you?
- Is marriage simply a legal contract to you for easy “bailing out” or is it a “higher-order” covenant?
- Are you prepared to practice sexual exclusivity?
- Are you prepared to establish adequate emotional boundaries with friends of the opposite sex, in order to protect your relationship from possible emotional infidelity/disloyalty?
- Are you willing to relinquish some of your independence or autonomy in favour of interdependence?
- Are you aware of the personal strengths which you can bring to a relationship?
- Are you aware of personal weaknesses which you need to work on?
- Are you prepared to compromise?
- Are you willing to sacrifice some personal preferences for the greater good of your relationship?
- How financially stable are you?
- Do you harbor childish/fairytale expectations about relationships or marriage?
- Do you expect your partner to be near perfect?
- Do you expect that your partner will meet all of your needs?
While relationship readiness does not always mean having it all together, your level of preparation and self-awareness will greatly increase your chances for relationship success.
For those guys interested in a committed relationship, getting a woman to take you seriously may feel like a scientific experiment gone haywire. Women of class and substance (you know the kind you’d actually want to introduce to your mother) just aren’t easy these days. And any woman worth her salt will work this for all its worth. Many have grown tired of the players, the dating scenes, the games, the lies and the competition. Most are convinced that there’s hardly a decent guy left on the planet and have virtually reconciled themselves to another season of singleness, being unsure of how long that season will last this time around.
But perhaps you are a guy with some shred of decency somewhere or maybe having messed up your significant relationships in the past, you want to make a fresh start. You are a man reformed. So how exactly do you convince your lady of choice that you’re totally serious this time around? Admittedly, the ease of this feat will ride on a number of factors. For example; has your potential lady been seriously hurt by a guy in her past and did this hurt involve serious stuff like deception and infidelity? Maybe she has never had a good relationship with any significant male in her life; including her father, so for her all men are basically in the dog house. What about you? Are you a well-known player whose reputation precedes you? Or are you a flirtatious smooth talker who just sounds so good to be true that no woman in her right mind would even think of giving you the time of day? Whatever your case, chances are if you’re called male, and this woman has some steel in her, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
While I don’t advocate a formulaic approach to relationships, since we’re all unique, I do believe that there is some practical wisdom out there for you guys in a bit of a relationship pickle. From a lady like me committed to seeing great relationships emerge and thrive, maybe these few pointers might help:
- Try not to compare your new love interest with any woman you’ve had before; each of us is actually quite unique and need to be handled with individualized care and attention. In practical ways, this means finding out what your potential woman wants and needs in a relationship and letting her know that you’re prepared and ready to provide it.
- Don’t get on the defensive when it comes to things like deep and meaningful conversation. A woman will judge you by your ability to communicate and share about yourself and be warned, she expects honest exposure; even of your flaws and foibles. She may not want to be exactly surprised by hidden skeletons in your closet and besides, we love strength of character and vulnerability. Remember, your aim is to build trust.
- Embrace her entire family as much as possible, especially if she’s from a close-knit one or if she has children of her own. If you’re looking for a relationship for the long haul, a woman will be suitably impressed by the attention you pay to her Mom or her kids.
- Speak positively of women generally; including your own mother, siblings or even the mother of your children from a previous relationship or marriage. Yes, you may not always be on great speaking terms with an ex but dragging her name and your past stuff through the mud repeatedly, may make a lady wonder about your integrity and discretion. This may cause her to question whether or not she will be your next casualty.
- Let the lady know that you find her beautiful inside and out and be specific about why you find her attractive. The emphasis here is on being distinct in terms of what you really like about her. So never say things like, “I love big boobs” or “I prefer a woman with a big butt.” While this may be true, the last thing you want to communicate is that your lady of choice is just one lucky selectee from a long line of options in your proverbial male line-up. Yes, women do love to have their assets admired but “tasteful, tasteful” must be your emphasis. We ladies of substance don’t like to feel like we’ve been in the figurative meat-shop waiting to be butchered.
- Ensure this lady that you are prepared to forsake all others for her. I hear your panic but don’t get scared! This simply means that you must demonstrate a willingness to set appropriate boundaries with other women when it comes to your relationship. So don’t ogle other women when with her, get rid of your flirtatious ways and decide on a discrete way to manage any other close female friendships which you may have. I’m not in any way suggesting that you ditch meaningful, old friends but make sure to communicate to them what this lady means to you; that she is now your priority. Enlist their cooperation in allaying any fears or suspicions which she may have as you seek to build a foundation of openness and trust.
- We women know that sex is always on your mind but try to show the lady that she’s more to you than a living, breathing vagina. See her as a complete person which means not pressuring her for physical intimacy, not laying a guilt trip on her if she wants you to put a ring on it and learning to honour her spirit, even before thinking about the sexual package. Value her complete womanhood and be sure to communicate your willingness to commit at the highest level; especially if this is what she is looking for.
Follow these tips guys and you just might find yourself with that woman you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be an endorsement of ‘’indiscriminate kissing” but simply reflects my take on what your kissing-style preferences may say about you. Read with a pinch of salt.
Self-tests and inventories of different types have all been used to help us delve a bit more into our personality. From our communication habits, to our recreational preferences and even our conflict resolution style, these questions have been used to enable us to understand ourselves a bit better. But have you ever wondered about the way you kiss? And have you ever answered a “kissing inventory”? Yes, something as “everydayish” and ordinary as kissing, can tell us and others (if we’re paying attention) quite a bit about ourselves. And what about the act of kissing; do we even enjoy it in the first place or do we view it as an intrusive, germ-spreading, unnecessary activity? For the purposes of our “lip-locking” analysis I’m going to advance five basic kissing styles and will attempt to explain my own take on what they reveal.
Slatherers tend to use lots of saliva, so these kisses invariably prove to be somewhat wet and slippery. The individual on the receiving end of this kiss may actually feel smothered and a bit overwhelmed by the slatherer’s enthusiasm. While aesthetically this kissing style may leave a lot to be desired, in the real world, this individual in a relational context is actually big on piling on the love and affection. This style may reveal an openness to love and a willingness to be vulnerable. You see, slatherers aren’t into game-playing, image-presenting or pretense; they’re about as straight up as they come. They wear their hearts on their sleeve and tend to be loyal in their relationships and may actually prove to be excellent spouse material.
Professional Peckers (PP’s) thrive on being connoisseurs in the kissing fraternity and love to utilize lip pressure in their performance. They believe they have pretty much mastered the basics and therefore have kissing down to a science. As a consequence, they like to use their “kissing skills” to gauge the barometer of a relationship and believe that it will reveal things like sexual compatibility, chemistry, relationship longevity and the like. PPs, while very concerned about their expertise, are, however, much more into themselves, than into their kissing partner. They also never completely relinquish control or totally drop their guard. It’s all about them and how good they are at what they do. PPs tend to use kissing as more a means to an end, than as an expression of love or intimacy. So they kiss basically to determine what’s in it for them. In a more established relationship, however, their kisses are always self-serving and may become boring and predictable. This is especially so since the focus is always on making sure that they obey a somewhat long list of unspoken kissing rules.
Now these kissers love to take the plunge; literally. They believe that kisses should be long, deep, penetrative, exploratory and almost capable of performing a tonsillectomy (just kidding). But I’m sure you get my drift. While such kissing smacks of deep intimacy and of sexual foreplay, it can also be used to reinforce dominance, control or outright seduction; especially if the head of the receiver is held with both hands while the kiss is being “administered”. If this kissing-style is utilized by both participants, it can degenerate, in a worst case scenario, to a competition or kissing match; you know to see who’s acing it the best. Not to be all negative, however, especially for you die-hard fans of this style, it can also reflect deep love, passion and commitment.
No-show Kissers understand the power of the kiss but because they believe it may reveal too much, try to avoid it like the plague. While this type may actually be a distinct minority, they do exist and actually don’t like to pucker up. Kissing for them is intrusive, time-consuming and not worth the trouble; especially since they love to focus on the fact that it carries germs. (I’ve actually met such a woman who didn’t kiss her husband because of such beliefs). No-showers believe that kissing is grossly over-rated and steer clear of it as much as possible.
Kissers and Tellers
For these, the kiss is never an end in itself but is simply a powerful back-up for what already has been said or will be expressed at some time in the future of the relationship. KATs actually have no preference for any one physical style but live in the kissing moment and allow each kiss’s magic to do its work. At the end of the day, KAT’s ensure that there’s congruence between what they do with their lips and what they say. They also love to focus on the kiss as an act of giving in the relationship.
While some of you may not want to take me entirely seriously, there may actually be some grain of truth to my kissing analysis. The fact is that for most of us, there may be bits of all these traits, based on where we are as individuals, our past experiences, where we may be in a relationship and of course our “kissing occasion”. The underlying thread, however, is that kissing isn’t something we should take lightly. Just ask the prostitutes who will give up sex while refusing to kiss (remember the movie Pretty Woman?)
Though we may never admit it, some of us are intuitively aware that kissing is a physical intimacy which carries with it some weight and the power to expose who we really are. In a committed relationship like marriage, the absence of kissing can actually say a lot about the state of the relationship. While the novelty will admittedly wear off in the long term, its outright absence can be quite telling. All things being considered, no matter what we like or do when we kiss, lets ensure that our kiss tells the story our partner wants to hear.
Okay I have heard it all; the moaning, groaning and complaining about why you haven’t yet found a man. Some of you have already written off the possibility of ever settling down in a serious relationship; much less marriage. You’ve basically given up the relationship ghost. Before you set your boat to sail off into the sunset of perpetual singleness, perhaps you need to closely examine a thing or two. Do you even understand why you’re not presently in a relationship? Perhaps an honest answering of the following may give some needed insight and perhaps empower you to move forward.
1. Do you still have an impossible list?
When it comes to a relationship, I admit we must all have some sort of standards. We all have preferences when it comes to selecting a life partner. Sometimes, however, it is necessary that we examine the source and soundness of our expectations. Are we perhaps missing out on love because we have decided for instance to stay within the parameters of our own race, ethnicity or nationality? Must our guy really be six feet tall? And worst yet must he past the “heft test”? For the uninitiated, this is one of my girlfriends ways of finding out if a guy is endowed enough to meet her approval and involves more or less ‘accidentally’ bumping into his “you know what”. What about things like salary, or his occupation? I know this is a ‘biggy’ especially with some professional women but should a man be wiped off your list simply because he doesn’t have a Harvard degree? What about more enduring traits like his ambition, dependability and integrity which are not contingent on where he went to school? While I am not suggesting that you throw all of your standards out the window, I believe that some of them are definitely worth re-evaluating as you look for love.
2. Are you really interested in giving up some of your autonomy?
Some of you claim to want connection to someone but are fairly afraid of releasing your independence. Yes you heard right. Lots of men claim to want independent women but what do they know about relationship success? I am convinced that some guys use this as a cover for not wanting a clingy or needy woman and I understand this. However, for a committed relationship or marriage to work, each individual must learn to share and live interdependently; not independently. This means having a willingness to unmask and be vulnerable with your partner as you benefit from each others strengths. It also speaks of sharing and mutual accountability. For a successful woman who has grown accustomed to calling her own shots, this willingness to compromise in a relationship may not be as easy as it appears and could actually work to keep her from totally committing to someone because she fears having to give up some of her autonomy. If you are like this, It may be necessary to re-frame this experience. Focus on what you stand to gain in a relationship, instead of what you think you are losing.
3. Talk about someone loving you, do you even like yourself?
Yes, you want a great love who will affirm you, worship the very ground you walk on and in Rihanna’s words, make you feel like “you’re the only girl in the world”. Sounds good to go but is your self-esteem dependent on what someone thinks about you? Do you even like you? How comfortable are you in your own skin? What energy do you give off when you walk into a room? Are you so worried about your size or shape that your lack of self-assurance rubs a guy the wrong way? When a woman is confident and comfortable with herself and understands her intrinsic worth, then there is an undeniable sexiness that is very attractive and hopefully the right guy will notice.
4. Are you “meetable”?
Did you ever consider what signals your body-language conveys? Is your demeanor one that invites conversation? Are you approachable or do guys look at your scowl and bolt with speed in the opposite direction? Does your air of superiority relegate all guys to the category of “worthless minions” to which you wouldn’t give the time of day or does your forehead carry an invisible sign which says “approach at your own risk”? Does your Diva-stance make you appear shallow and a tad self-absorbed; you know as if your heavily applied make-up is hiding your true personality? If you are to capitalize on the several meeting-opportunities that do come your way, then take some effort to ensure that your attitude and body language convey approachability, interest and availability.
5. Have you really let go of your past relationships?
It’s very difficult to move on to something new if you’re holding on for dear life to something old. If it is true that some guy in your past did you wrong, don’t give him any more power in your life by taking him into every other relationship you may have. The truth is, when you fail to forgive past hurts, you invariably short-change yourself out of your own happiness. Not only do you become bitter and resentful but it also becomes easy to tar each hopeful guy with the same brush and while some men are up to no good, each guy should at least be given a chance to prove himself. Expecting a new guy to treat you as your old flame did, will also erect unnecessary barriers between you and breeds mistrust even before you’ve had a chance to get started.
If I’ve read some of you ladies correctly, I know that many of you assume that real love from a real-life prince charming will somehow surmount all the flaws, foibles and barriers which you have erected. Many of you assume that real love from your true soul-mate will be so strong, that somehow, magically it will find you; no matter what you do. While I do understand the seduction of such beliefs, unfortunately, they represent an immature approach to love and easily abdicate you of the responsibility to change you. While this advice is not meant to suggest that there is no happiness or satisfaction outside of romance, if a great love is what you want, then it makes sense to reflectively examine whether or not YOU may not be your own greatest barrier. The best thing is that no matter what you discover, it’s never too late to change.
Many women today, from various walks of life, are making the same complaint; they can’t find a decent guy to settle down with. Most of my single girlfriends voice the complaint, that there seems to be a shortage of good men. Not to be left out of the fray, many males by their defining behavior seem to believe that the girls should perhaps just learn to share. And therein lies the problem. One of the defining characteristics of the male has been his propensity to be fairly generous in his affections and this happens to be the one trait which most of us women find intolerable! We love generosity but not when it comes to intimacies like love and sex.
So what should a girl do? Should she settle? Relax her standards a bit? Get rid of that old, never to be fulfilled impossible list? Accept the “generosity” of her erstwhile male friend? Forget her idea of an exclusive relationship which will lead to marriage? Or should she just settle for spinsterhood? Certainly, critical questions requiring critical answers.
Like any other aspect of life, relationships and our perception of them have the power to define us. From which ever quarters we gather our information, most of us have a fair set of defined standards and I’m not here to suggest that we lay them down by the riverside. It is important that we know what we are looking for, especially in the area of a life-partner. However, having had a couple of conversations with men, I am not at all convinced that the good breed has become extinct. Somehow I believe that the lines of communication have become crossed between today’s men and women and the result has been a polarization of both species. We think we know what each others’ problems are, so we have perfected the art of accusation without pausing long enough to really listen to each other. As it stands, the guys with the really canine activity get all the attention and the really decent ones get branded with the same brush and could perhaps be overlooked time and time again.
Now I really believe that men and women appear to be at cross-purposes because we have easily become locked into exclusive communication styles designed to keep each other out. We have developed an adversarial “us versus them” mentality which deepens our mutual suspicions and keeps each other at arms’ length. But let’s face it, in the war of the sexes, the fight is not always fair. So then how is a girl to spot a decent guy in this crazy relationship maze we have created? More so, how can such a guy get through to a girl without having his tail whacked in a trap as it were? Have we perhaps become trapped in a complex maze of our own making, guaranteed to keep us apart?
The relationship maze speaks in fact to the walls which are built between men and women, as a consequence of our flawed perceptions and mindsets; walls of misunderstanding, distrust and generalization. If we are to surmount the relationship barriers which we have erected, we first have to recognize, understand and then hopefully circumvent them in our quest for true love. Here are a few examples to go by:
|What Women Say||What Men Think|
|What Men Say||What Women Think|
Of course these are just a few examples which are not exhaustive by any means and according to culture and socialization they may change. They however do bring home the point that what we hear/think, is often filtered by our past experiences, the stories we’ve been told by our friends, what we witnessed as children and even by the male-female script presented in the media. The problem with this super-script is when we allow it to become gospel and accept it as the defining parameter for all of our relationships.
There will always be men who are unscrupulous and women who are users. This tendency to look out for numero uno at all costs is just a part of human nature which is unlikely to change. If we hope, however, to find true love, then we have to be willing to give each man or woman we encounter the courtesy of a “clean slate”. So if you’re hoping to get yourself out of this maze, take some advice.
Try not to lump all male and female behavior into the same mold, no matter how tempting it is to do so. Yes we do share several traits but give your new interest the opportunity to shine. Allow a guy or a girl a chance to prove themselves. Keep the channels of communication open and don’t assume that this guy is exactly like your last. Resist the urge to channel your past pain into a new relationship prospect. This does not mean acting naively or putting aside our common sense or our intuition, but it means giving that individual a brief opportunity to prove us wrong. It means keeping hope alive and not being deliberately adversarial or negative in our expectations. Basically it means practicing grace and graciousness, while admitting our own foibles.
Navigating the relationship maze does not mean dropping our guard or lowering our expectations or standards but it does mean adopting a mature response to the exciting opportunity of meeting new people. More importantly, navigating that maze also means looking inward to ensure that we are perhaps somewhere close to the ideal, we are so steadfastly looking for in a mate.
In an article that touted the benefits of one-night stands for women, the writer, Abigail Wick, responded to one of her reader’s queries about the positivity of one night stands, by stating and I quote: “my philosophy about life is seeking pleasure and avoiding needless negative emotions. There are so many means by which to sustain this path of non-harmfulness to oneself and others–for some it’s long-term love, celibacy, free-love, whatever. All of it’s good, (emphasis mine) just so long as it’s healthy and happy!” If I was in any doubt as to how this current age will be defined in the future on matters of sex, I doubt no more.
When it comes to the issue of sex, we seem to be living now in the STANDARD-LESS age; an age where we seemingly apply more care and forethought to the care of stray animals then we do to the guarding of our own sexuality. But then again, that in itself may be an antiquated notion. Sex by several of today’s proponents is whatever you make it; it carries no intrinsic core value other than what you may choose to give to it; if you’re so inclined. Of course people have equal rights and the freedom to do whatever they want with their penises and vaginas. They could rub them against a tree, a chair, a sharp object, cut them off, gouge them out, or put them in or around 1,000 different people. But really, to suggest that all choices in life are equally “good, healthy and happy” is as ludicrous as saying that our actions are devoid of consequences; regardless. People can choose to sleep with whomever they want, whenever they want, but to try to convince intelligent people that the context within which we have sex is inconsequential, is ludicrous. How could all sex be healthy and happy?
This argument is tantamount to saying that there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy eating, or that the distinction between wholesome, organic food and food that is laced with harmful chemicals and preservatives is just a figment of the imagination. What about the other things we measure; like schools, health plans, financial investments, record-deals, contracts, parenting skills and the like? We have implicit standards for such things by which we judge whether they are good or bad. We know that some things in life are unfavourable; even when we like them, even when they make us smile (like sweet, gooey desserts, tons of fried chicken and loads of pizza!).We also know that some unpopular things, like regular exercise and whole-grain cereal, are also good for our health; even though they make some of us cringe.
The point is that standards and our ability to judge what is wholesome, beneficial or a “best practice”, are implicit aspects of what make human beings discerning creatures with superior intelligence to animals. We don’t just operate on instinct; we have the ability to think things through and to judge and act in our own best interest. Why pray tell are we trying to fool ourselves that sex is any different? There is all manner of sex but don’t let’s trick ourselves into believing that all sex is equal. Because sex is wildly orgasmic does not mean that it is necessarily “good, healthy and happy” as Miss. Wick would have us believe.
There were some other interesting elements to Miss. Wick’s argument. She maintained that 50% of women felt that uncommitted sex was more free or liberating. According to her, it gave them “a chance to explore (their) sexuality without the fun being bogged down with heavy meaning.” At the same time, she admitted that women love pair-bonding, and as such only a small percentage, 25%, felt that they were able to have sex without becoming attached. So in essence, a whopping 75% admitted to getting attached through sex.
If my Maths serves me correct, this means that of the 75% who felt that sexual connection was unavoidable, 50% still insisted in pursuing casual encounters. This is virtually the same as using a drug which you know is bad for you but you do it nonetheless because you are addicted by the high it gives. When we pursue something which we know intuitively is not the best for us but are chasing the thrill it brings, we tend to call this dysfunctional behavior. Yet where sex is concerned, we are afraid or unwilling to admit that a life of one-night stands (pursued for the thrill despite the experience of connection) is indicative of an area of dysfunctionality.
As I’m at pains to point out in my book “How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain!”, Oxytocin is the “love hormone” which fosters the feeling of belongingness and connection during the sex act. It intensifies feelings of intimacy; particularly at the point of orgasm. The hormone doesn’t care whether you’ve known your sex partner for two minutes, two months or two years; it just does what its supposed to do! Theresa Crenshaw M.D in her book “The Alchemy of Love and Lust” refers to Oxytocin as some sort of hormonal “super glue”, which makes the idea of casual sex a difficult pill to swallow. Its existence goes against everything that is taught about the meaninglessness of sexual encounters.
Claire Daniel, author of “The Power and Science of Sexual Touch” confirms that Oxytocin ruins what should have easily been a quick “get away”. In other words, it doesn’t allow us to “get up and go” without leaving some part of us behind. If this act of emotionally connecting and then disengaging takes place over a series of one night stands, how emotionally healthy can this be? What about those who never manage to disengage (75% of women)? Sex seems then not to be as meaningless and casual as we would like to make it, since our hormones are in serious over-drive, working so hard to connect us with our sex partner. And I have a serious problem with a philosophy which suggests that women come into true sexual liberty when they begin to mimic the sexual behavior attributed to males for centuries. Does the woman (or man) who hops from bed to bed really remain untouched or emotionally unscathed by this activity?
I admit that some women may believe that they are good at ‘disconnecting’ after they have had anonymous or casual sex but our hormones confirm that we are not necessarily wired to experience sex in connectionless mode. If we agree that there are intrinsic standards in all areas of human experience, then let’s get rid of the “standarlessness” that we so easily attribute to sex. The quest for pleasure should never be an end in itself. It should instead be tempered by a reflection on our actions and their consequences. All sex is therefore not necessarily created equal.
With so many chick-flicks, and love-songs battering our subconscious on every side, I’ve come to the conclusion that many of us may have become addicts or junkies. What is it that consumes us? An idea about an all-encompassing, all-consuming, larger-than-life love, for which we will climb any mountain or delve into any valley; this occupies many of our waking (and sleeping) moments. Lest you think I’m some jaded, jilted, pessimist, nothing could be farther from the truth. I, in fact, count myself as one of those true-blooded romantics, baptised in the fires of traditional Mills and Boons and Harlequin Romance novels which fed us girls a steady diet of romantic expectations. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.
In fact, I can say without the shadow of a doubt, that, I do so believe in love. I also think that there is a fine line between the type of love that springs form a healthy sense of self, and the obsession or infatuation which characterises many of our modern romances. Yes, as human beings designed for deep connection and intimacy, we all have this driving need to find that special someone. This I believe is instinctive and entirely necessary for the survival of the human family. Such love can be huge, all-encompassing and even self-sacrificing; and this is all well and good when such proceeds from a place of wholeness.
Our individual stories however, can greatly impact how we are able to process this need. Failure to deal with experiences of parental abandonment, rejection, low self-esteem, childish romanticised expectations, independence and identity issues, can all result in a misconstruction of this thing called love. What often results is a series of “false-love” behaviours which are more characteristic of an obsessive infatuation, than of a healthy love. Whether or not these infantile emotional responses can mature into a real adult love; will be contingent upon things like, introspection, reflection, openness to counselling and healing of painful emotional memories.
While the following lists are not exhaustive or prescriptive, they are intended to shake up our thinking in this area called love and romance. Perhaps this will lead us towards redefining certain elements of our intimate relationships as we seek to emerge a greater sense of balance in the way we choose to “live out” our love lives as we move into a new year.
When all is said and done, there is admittedly, a fine line between love and obsession. From Jordan Sparks’ “No Air” to Beyonce’s “Halo”, popular music has been masquerading obsessive, dependent emotions as true love. When we marry these notions with the reality of our dysfunctional pasts, is it any wonder that we have jaded ideas about what love really means? Whatever the case, I am in no way suggesting that those of us with a pre-dominance of column 1 traits, are entirely hopeless. Even in the midst of “infatuation” the tiny seeds which CAN LEAD to a more mature love have hopefully been planted. When this has not been the case, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting go a purely obsessive relationship. Sometimes a relationship is wrong because emotionally and spiritually, we are just not ready.
Individuals who are caught in the throes of ‘losing themselves’ need therefore to carefully reassess why they may feel, act or think the way they do. It may mean opening up to a trusted mature friend, counsellor or Pastor who can guide them towards self-discovery and spiritual healing. Sometimes this may also involve letting go of childhood pain, past relationship disappointments or may even include forgiving a parent or past partner for their rejection. Yes, emotional baggage is the stuff obsession is made of! We therefore need to be bold enough to confront unhealthy behaviour which we recognise in ourselves or our partners. Ultimately, the true love for a lifetime which we all crave, is a well, thought-out decision, which should proceed from a place of completeness.