Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Confessions of a Female Swinger: Part 2- The Decision to Enter the Lifestyle

This is the second part of Nicole's story. Read Part One here.

***

How did we get started? How did I bring it up with my husband? Did he freak out? These are two of the most common questions people ask.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be the best poster child for bringing up the topic of swinging. Both of us, over the course of our marriage, had made some very poor decisions that resulted in some painful resolutions. If I were to do it again I would give the advice of being honest and open with your partner. If this is something that you really want to explore you need to approach the topic in a way that makes your partner understand your feelings. There may be a problem like mismatched libidos, wanting to add spice to the bedroom, or a bunch other reasons. If your partner is unaware of your feelings or the depth of your feelings then they are likely going to dismiss the idea.

For us how it eventually started because we're both very sexual individuals. In the beginning of our relationship we couldn't get enough sex with each other to the point where we had to back off just for the chafing alone. Time went on, the family expanded, and sex slowed down. We both still enjoyed sex but things became routine and predictable except for that once or twice a year “crazy sex” where we were fucking on the picnic table in the middle of the night after having one too many drinks.

Those types of crazy nights progressed to us messing around with friends, which involved me kissing other girls, grabbing their boobs, and other mild foreplay. This was always exciting and we would fuck like rabbits for about a month afterwards until we settled back into our routine. We both loved those crazy times but never really thought about expanding them beyond the chance encounter. It felt safe for me to mess around with girls because they’re harmless. While fun it was understood that I wasn't going to leave my husband for them.

That changed after a conversation with another co-worker. She revealed she they would go out on “dates” that her husband arranged for her so she could fuck other men. It turned her husband on knowing that she enjoyed it but it also gave their love life a dirty aspect. They got off on doing something “naughty”. 

I was perplexed by her casual way of reciting the stories like she was planning out her meals for the week or making arrangements for the kids' summer camp. I, like most people, had so many questions. Doesn't your husband get jealous? Does he fuck other girls? What happens after the date? Do you see these people again?

Relaying the story was the seed that eventually I planted with my husband. It was easy since we were not talking about us, jus a co-worker. After the initial discussion, he became fascinated with the topic. We would end up having many late night conversations about my co-worker. We would scoff and think “Wow, they’re fucked up. I’m glad we don’t need that in our lives to enjoy each other.” We were judgmental assholes.

Our conversations became longer and longer to the point where we actually thought out loud...what if we did that? Thinking of ourselves in that various scenarios helped bring up feelings we'd probably have. We came to a "what the Hell, let's try it at least once" decision. That brought up the planning aspect. How would we even start? How do you meet other swingers? What happens when you meet them? Is there a dress code or secret handshake?

Basically, I gave my husband the green light to research our questions. Those questions grew into deeper conversations that led to a lot of mental gymnastics. Why were we both okay with me fooling around with women but it wasn't okay for him? How would I rationalize allowing my husband to potentially fuck other women? If I was truly secure with myself and our relationship, should it matter? These were just a few of the questions I considered, which would eventually lead to us taking the plunge into the swinging world.

In the next post, I'll discuss how I answered these questions. 


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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Confessions of a Female Swinger: An Introduction to the Series

As I've mentioned before, I'm close to releasing my fourth book tentatively titled "Curing Sexual Boredom." Jeff and Nicole, one of the couples I discuss, are swingers. I've been bugging them to guest-write a series of posts here at The Sexpressionists blog, but they doubted anyone would be interested in their story. After convincing them with the traffic data here on the site (my posts about threesomes, mismatched sex drives,  and consensual nonmonogamy have been exceedingly popular), Nicole finally relented. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to give her an open forum to write about her experiences, give advice, and answer any reader questions. As I mention in the book, these are not their real names. Using their real names would immediately out them to my circle of social media friends, and they're currently "closeted" due to both of their occupations. Without further ado, I present Nicole:

***

Confessions of a Female Swinger


I’m a wife, a mother, I have a white collar job, my kids play sports, I enjoy swimming and I’m a swinger. It’s still a complete mind fuck to say that out loud. Or in this case, type…but it’s true. My hope and goal by writing this blog is to entertain, have people question their own ideas about how we view our relationships, and ultimately grow. Your life is not my life, your circumstances and choices will be different than my circumstances and choices. I hope we can learn from each other through this series of blog posts. If you’re an open minded individual it might plant the seeds for something that fits into your lifestyle today or some day in the future.

Swinging, or “the lifestyle” as it’s also referred to, is not a bunch of bell bottomed, pot smoking twenty-somethings sharing free love to anyone and everyone, but much, much more. For me, it’s been a very eye-opening experience. I've learned countless things about myself sexually and learned more about all my relationships than I imagined I would.

This will be an multi-post series about my own personal experiences with swinging and why it works for us as a couple. I believe it's important to give the female perspective. It's easy to see why guys would want to choose swinging:

Fuck all the ladies you want and your spouse is ok with it? Hell yeah! 

It's a little more complicated from the female perspective, I think. 

Some of the upcoming blog posts will feature the following topics:
  • How and why I personally chose the lifestyle, and why we as a couple chose the lifestyle.
  • How swinging positively changed my views on my sexuality and body perception.
  • How to navigate the "You let your husband fuck other women and you're not jealous?!?" issues.
  • What happens when you're faced with a tiny penis? Yes, there is a point when size matters.
  • What do you do if the chemistry isn't there for one partner but it's there for the other?
  • What's it like to go on a couple's date knowing you might potentially fuck these people?

These are just a few of the topics I'd like to cover. If there are any other topics you as a reader would like me to discuss, leave suggestions in the comments below! Jason assured me all comments can be left anonymously. No topic is off-limits, so ask away!

Part Two


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does Pot Make Women Horny?

Over the last few months, I've been discussing various manifestations of female sexual arousal disorder, a common "disorder" women experience as they age. Women don't want to have sex as much as they used to in their younger years. I am of the opinion this is more of a situational issue related to boredom than a biological issue. The preferred solution would be to alleviate the boredom, which I've discussed previously. However, if we're not willing to take the leap into the world of alternative relationship models, we're left with artificially influencing female desire.

The quest to find a "female Viagra" has been well-documented. The company that finally finds, tests, and receives approval for a drug that will increase female arousal will have struck gold. And oil. 

But what if such a drug already exists?

I have a few friends that, thanks to their states' recreational marijuana initiatives, started experimenting with sex and pot. According to their anecdotal reports, certain strains of weed had a profound effect on arousal. Specifically, female arousal. Even more specifically, physical sensations and orgasm.

Being the skeptical person I am, I chalked it up to a placebo effect. After all, if female arousal were a common side effect, I would have expected to hear about it somewhere

Then another friend sent me this link:



The sample size is tiny (n=21), but the implications are fascinating. There's a link between the body's endocannabinoid system and arousal. The connection is poorly understood and more research is definitely needed, but it's enough to give credence to my friends' anecdotal reports.

Maybe the magical female Viagra already exists, and we just don't talk about it. If it turns out to be the case, I still don't believe it would be the ideal solution to "cure" female sexual arousal disorder, but it would certainly be better than some of the alternative (like a lifetime of sexual frustration or boredom.)

I'm curious just how wide-spread this phenomenon happens to be. I have a sneaking suspicion quite a few of my regular female readers may have first-hand experience with this phenomenon. If so, leave a comment!


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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Sample #4

This is the fourth and final sample of my new book (title still undecided.) 


***


The honeymoon feeling is supposed to last forever. From perfume ads to the plot line of Disney movies, the idea that passionate, romantic love is the defining emotion in relationships is constantly reinforced. We’re told our partners should basically be like crack cocaine- we will have an insatiable desire to want them. They become the center of our universe. We crave and worship their bodies. We’re on a euphoric high fueled by the presence of our lover, and the buzz will last forever. 

Why this is problematic: If we were in this state perpetually, it would quite literally kill us. It’s exceedingly taxing physiologically. Moreover, the initial honeymoon feelings always fade and are replaced with a warm, more intimate connection. I like to think of it as nature’s way of continuing the species- the euphoric high gets us to have lots of sex (thus conceive babies); the warm oxytocin-fueled connectedness that follows keeps us together long enough for the kids to become relatively self-sufficient.

Our partner is our everything. Two or three generations ago, couples had much different expectations of romantic relationships. The person you married served a limited number of roles: Co-parent, sex partner, and domestic teammate. Times have changed. We now expect our partner to be our best friend. We expect the to take care of our physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs. The problem with excessive expectations is failure. By expecting so much from our mates, we’re setting them up to disappoint us. 

A good example would be conversation. When we first meet our partner, we can talk for hours about anything and everything. Why? It’s all a mystery. Eventually we run out of things to discuss, or at least we get to the point where we can predict what our partner is going to say. Contemplating the vastness of the universe ultimately devolves into deciding if it’s time to buy more ketchup.

Relationships are forever. We have this weird idea that every relationship is destined to last forever, which translates to “until one of us bites the big one.” Like many items on this list, it’s a romantic ideal that’s glorified throughout our culture. The apparent security that our partner will never leave our side because of permanent attachment inevitably causes us to take each other for granted. We’re not always willing to give 100% effort to assure the relationship is strong. We cut corners. We save time. After all, they’ll be there tomorrow, right?

This “forever” belief also prevents us from fully living in the present. We sometimes get so focused on the future, we don’t appreciate the present. What if we lived our lives as if today were the last day we’d ever see our significant other? 

We expect our partner to be able to read our minds and fulfill our needs. This is related to our partner being our everything. We want a partner that knows us so thoroughly, they have the ability to predict and meet our needs without having been told. For many, that ability is the very definition of love. If our partner paid attention to us and knew us as well as we expect, unsolicited need-meeting behavior is a powerful sign of their love for us. When our partner fails to meet our needs, we take it as a personal affront. We think “Why doesn't he buy me flowers anymore?” instead of “I want flowers; I will ask him to stop by the florist.”

We must talk about everything. Talking has become the catch-all solution to anything and everything. Getting bullied on the playground? Talk it out. Someone cuts you off in traffic? Talk it out. Grandma has a raging gambling addiction? Talk it out. Your spouse refuses to put their socks in the clothes hamper? Talk it out.

Talking as a means of resolving conflict and other issues is valuable, at least occasionally. The problem arises when we insist on talking about everything. When we insist on discussing the minutiae of life, we cheapen the process and develop “discussion fatigue.” In regards to our significant others, over-sharing removes a lot of the mystery, which tends to kill passion. I’ll discuss this dynamic later in the book.

We know everything about our partner. From the time we first meet our significant other, we begin building a profile. We catalog their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We note their fears; we remember the stories of their past. We know how they react at dinner parties or when there’s at unexpected knock at the door. We learn their pooping schedule. We know their pet peeves, their turn-ons, and their all-time top five movies. We know where they’re ticklish; we know their flossing habits. After enough time, we begin to feel as though we know everything about our partner. 

Yet we don’t. 

All of us choose what we allow others to see. No matter how open a person claims to be, there’s always a lot more of the iceberg underwater. The net result- we begin making assumptions about our partner based on incomplete information. We begin thinking we can predict their thoughts, feelings, and actions without regard for the motives, desires, and beliefs they choose to keep hidden. This creates a dangerous situation where we see them as a character we create versus a dynamic individual prone to change. Once we've built a sufficient profile, we stop searching for new information. This is a major reason couples grow apart without realizing slow, incremental changes in each other.

We own our partner. Most of us have a weird sense of possessiveness over our mate. “Ownership” isn't especially politically-correct, but it accurately explains the phenomenon. Instead of saying we “own” our mate, we codify our language with phrases such as:


  • “Your heart belongs to me.”
  • “I’m yours.”
  • “Be mine.”
  • “You’re the only one for me.”


This language seems innocent enough but it reinforces the idea of possessiveness to the point where it’s considered perfectly normal. 

Intimacy leads to passion. I've already mentioned this idea, but it is worth repeating. This idea is so pervasive, it’s assumed to be true. Yet it’s not. The closeness of intimacy requires openness and sharing. Passion requires distance and mystery. As such, they are mutually-exclusive.

If we believe intimacy is a prerequisite for passion, we engage in behaviors that bring us closer together which never produces the desired effect. The harder we try, the less effective our attempts become. Eventually we give up and that leads to all sorts of negative outcomes.

We become one. People in long-term romantic relationships tend to alter their behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts due to each others’ influence. We've all known the those people that loved heavy metal until they met their “soulmate”, then suddenly started loving bluegrass. This process is inevitable and serves a useful purpose- it bonds us by building intimacy. It makes us feel connected and safe. However, this process also smothers passion. Maintaining individuality is important. 

We can control our impulses. We like to believe we have a lot of control over our decisions, but do we really? There’s a concept in psychology known as the restraint bias, which explains that we’re not as good at resisting as we think we are. This is significant because we may place ourselves in bad positions. 

The scenario usually plays out like this: A couple reaches a point where one person is unhappy or bored, so they innocently seek out others for some sort of social interaction. They’re confident they can keep everything above the board, so they put themselves in a situation that requires restraint. Of course, they cannot restrain themselves, which results in bad decisions. Joe, my former coworker that made a hobby out of picking up married women, understood this idea perfectly. Part of his “game” was setting up situations where he knew the women would think they could restrain themselves, but ultimately would not.

These ten beliefs, taken together or separate, dramatically influence the course of our relationships. The longer the relationship, the greater the impact. Because most of these beliefs either develop naturally or are reinforced by society, we’re not always aware of their presence. . Becoming aware helps, but the better solution involves redefining our relationships by developing new principles.

Before we develop new principles, let’s take a look at another couple. Ben and Ariana and Jordan and Andrea experienced the same basic problem- one member was no longer sexually attracted to the other which resulted in severely mismatched sex drives. Sometimes the old relationship story manifests itself in different ways. One of the most common is the development of the “martyr complex.” Terrence and Rozella have fallen into this common trap.

Terrence was a junior executive for a regional corporation and worked long hours. His income allowed Rozella to stay home a raise their young child. After a few years, the workload and stress of his corporate job limited Terrence’s energy to devote to his wife. The passion between them waned to the point where it was nonexistent. Earlier in their relationship, Rozella had never been especially good at communicating her needs, so she developed a pattern of doing nice things for him in the hopes he would return the favor. Sometimes he would, but more often than not her needs would go unmet. 

Her solution was to try harder. She would try doing more things for him, but he never seemed to respond. When their child was born, Rozella threw herself into parenting as a way to cope with the lack of attention from Terrence. Rozella started to take pride in her ability to ignore her own needs to take care of her husband and child. Other people noticed her willingness to always go above and beyond; to take on every task imaginable. She never said no. She appeared to be a superhero wife and mother. And she loved the attention.

Unfortunately, Terrence rarely reciprocated and took care of her needs. Rozella would go through periods of withdrawal and anger. Terrence didn't understand how or why she did this. He couldn't make the connection that Rozella was resentful that he wasn't willing to sacrifice his own needs and take care of her as she did on a daily basis. 

Rozella was exhibiting textbook martyr behaviors, which are defined as the tendency to seek out suffering in the name of love or duty. People suffering from the martyr complex make unnecessary sacrifices at the expense of their own needs. Over the short term, this behavior appears to be helpful. In fact, our society rewards this relationship behavior.

Over the long term, martyrs typically experience negative symptoms including psychological and physiological stress, resentment that others aren't making the sacrifices they're making, and displaced anger at the people they serve. If they're in a relationship, it's not uncommon to ignore the partner and/or play the role of a victim, which is exactly what Rozella does. 

Here are a few situations where the martyr complex rears its ugly head:


  • New parents that take on most or all of the parenting duties.
  • Long-term caretakers of the gravely ill.
  • "Momma's boys."
  • Employees that throw themselves into their job.
  • People that do not know how to verbalize their own needs.


This is a very partial list; martyr behaviors are extremely common in our society today.

The problem with martyrs is they intentionally induce self-suffering by ignoring their own needs to meet the needs of others. Just like breathing, eating, or sex, we have a finite amount of time we can go without addressing our own needs. To make matters worse, the martyr will induce guilt with anyone that isn't willing to make their irrational masochistic sacrifices. They demand recognition for their martyr role and hold everyone else to the same unrealistic standard.

Normal, healthy people address their needs first, then address the needs of those around them. This is the only way you can maintain mental and physical longevity, especially in long-term romantic relationships. 

Shelly and I have a simple method to combat the martyr tendency, which uses a few tactics I discuss later in the book. Since we're both prone to postpone our own needs to "power through" and get stuff done (usually related to caring for our kids), we call each other out. If the kids are especially annoying and I'm stressed, I need to get away from them. As soon as Shelly sees this, she calls me out with an assertive "Don't be a martyr. Go take a break." command. Sometimes I return the favor.

It's a brilliant system. It keeps us personally sharp because we rarely experience the burnout and other negative emotions associated with the martyr complex. Resentment is rarely an issue because we communicate with each other. We keep each other from becoming martyrs.

We also extend this idea to our relationship by avoiding the behaviors that can develop into martyrdom. Many people put their kids first above anything and everything else. We don't unless there’s an emergency. We put our relationship first. Kids come next. 

This idea has some wonderful benefits. First, we're far better parents when we can be a cohesive team which is built from the intimacy we develop when spending time together as a romantic couple.  Second, it assures we'll always be good role models for our kids by demonstrating good relationship behavior. Third, it gives us an opportunity to express our own needs when out on a date. It’s much easier to communicate without being surrounded by screaming, needy kids.

If we're planning a date night, we go even if our kids cry and beg us to stay. We need our alone time and we realize we’d fall into the martyr trap by putting our kids' "needs" before our own if we didn't go on the date. The lesson- always be on the lookout for martyr behavior. If your significant other is playing the martyr role, talk to them. If you're doing it, change. You'll appreciate the results. The lessons later in the book will help overcome the martyr complex.


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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New Book Sample #3

This is he third sample of the first draft of the relationship and sex book Ill be releasing soon. As always, feed back is welcome and can be left in the comments section. I'm also looking for title suggestions. If you have one, leave that in the comment, too. 

The previous samples can be found here:


Sample 3:

Formulating a New Foundation


Coming to the conclusion that our popular relationship story was likely wrong was the easy part. Finding a replacement would be significantly more difficult. Thanks to the influence of other authors like Tim Ferriss (The 4 Hour Work Week), Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Nonconformity), Hugh MacLeod (Ignore Everybody), and Seth Godin (Linchpin, Tribes, etc.) and my own adventures into the periphery of social acceptance (barefoot running, ultrarunning, living a minimalist lifestyle in an RV, mma training, etc.), I was acclimated to tossing convention out the window and considering a new relationship story. 

I was anticipating months of in-depth research. I was planning to read a lot more books, pore through hundreds of journal articles, read countless case studies, read a slew of blogs and forum posts, and really explore the details of the works cited section of Sex at Dawn. I was a little overwhelmed; I didn't know where to start. I was hesitant to ask my poly and swinger friends, because their lifestyle seemed to deviate a little too far from the current ideal. Honestly, I just couldn't imagine living with their relationship style. I decided to trust Amazon’s book recommendation engine. People that had purchased Sex at Dawn also purchased Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity

I’m really glad I decided to listen to Amazon. Perel’s book provided the theoretical tidbit I needed to develop my new understanding of relationships. Perel’s central thesis has to do with the relationship between intimacy and passion. Intimacy is the closeness and connectedness we feel towards our partner; passion is the desire to have sex with them. She argues the two constructs are mutually-exclusive. You cannot have intimacy and passion at the same time. Intimacy requires closeness; passion requires distance.

For me, this was a huge “ah-ha” moment. As Perel points out, our modern ideal relationship story is based on the idea that intimacy is a prerequisite for passion. 

Want hot sex? You need to be emotionally close first. 

That bit of advice, in one form or another, is repeated again and again by most relationship “experts.” Its a cornerstone of our understanding of romantic relationships. Unfortunately, building intimacy has the exact opposite effect- it smothers passion. It’s not hard to see why we believe intimacy leads to passion, though. Intimacy builds comfort and security, which usually allows us to be more expressive. Being more expressive usually leads to better sex. Better sex is often associated with passion.

If we consider the possibility that intimacy kills passion, it’s easy to see where relationships go wrong. When we first meet, we’re driven by the crazy cocktail of neurotransmitters in our brains. Eventually those wear off and we develop a warm closeness. While we love the safety of intimacy, we miss the raw heat we experienced in the beginning. We try to recapture that by forcing more intimacy, which further kills passion. Over time, the lack of passion leads to boredom. That boredom ultimately leads us to make bad decisions which doom the relationship. The folks cheating with prostitutes and pickup artists or using illicit substances were, in all likelihood, just trying to add excitement to their routine, uneventful lives. If they didn't have the tools to spark excitement with their significant other, they searched elsewhere.

Tim Ferriss, the previously-mentioned author, discusses happiness in The 4 Hour Work Week. He makes a convincing argument that we’re not really seeking happiness in life; we’re seeking excitement. When we’re doing exciting things, we’re happy. He also theorizes the opposite of happiness isn’t unhappiness, it’s boredom. This reframing of happiness/unhappiness to excitement/boredom can then be used to describe relationships because it pairs well with Perel’s passion/intimacy dichotomy.

The entire foundation of my relationship model is based on the idea that both partners can be happy indefinitely by regularly injecting excitement in the relationship. That excitement takes the form of passion, and passion is built by creating distance. Passion alone won’t keep a relationship alive, so we will have to cycle periods of passion and intimacy. Furthermore, it’s important that this is done in a way that works for both ourselves and our partner. This requires a more flexible model for relationships.

If lasting happiness can be achieved by cycling passion and intimacy, all we need is a few effective methods to accomplish this. For the remainder of the book, I’ll present an experimental framework to help develop your own relationship model using a wide range of ideas to help build both intimacy and passion. I will also give practical suggestions to effectively cycle between the two. Before I tackle that methodology, let’s briefly revisit Ariana and Ben.

It was clear the couple still loved each other, but they knew their relationship was in peril. Specifically, Ben’s need for sex and Ariana’s disinterest were causing major problems that threatened to tear them apart. Their counselor offered the standard advice offered to most couples in their position- Ben needed to get closer to make Ariana feel more comfortable. That’s not what happened, though. Ben’s excessive attention eliminated any possible distance they had, thus extinguishing any passionate feelings Ariana may have experienced. The result- Ariana was bored. Even though the sex was good and she loved her husband dearly, she had little to no desire for him. They had become roommates, not lovers.

My goal in writing this book is to help couples like Ben and Ariana find a new path toward happiness by creating their own new relationship story. While I recognize I do not have the power to change a world that isn't ready to change, I know I have the power to positively affect you and your significant other. I also know you have the power to change others, too. To that end, feel free to share this book far and wide. If the ideas resonate with you and you know of someone that is similarly-minded, pass the book on. Together, we might be able to create a bit of a relationship revolution. We might not be able to change the entire world, but we can still make a pretty decent dent in the universe. 

How the Book is Organized


The remainder of the book will be divided into five sections. The first four outline the process used to develop our own relationship story that will utilize the push-pull dynamic of intimacy and passion. I’m also including an optional fifth step for the really adventurous. In more detail...

The first section takes an in-depth look at the fantasy versus the reality of our intimate relationships. As we’ll see, that divide is uncomfortably large. I’ll explore the typical course of most relationships, then discuss some of the antiquated beliefs that unwittingly sabotage our relationships.

In the second section, I’ll propose a few changes that will dramatically enhance our relationship experience. I’ll discuss gender differences, the nature of love and attachment, and all the other variables that are prerequisites to developing a relationship story designed for mutually-beneficial happiness.

In the third section, I’ll provide a template to create an actionable plan. I’ll introduce the idea of systematic experimentation, methods to increase both passion and intimacy, and provide several activities to develop an effective push/pull dynamic. The desire we build in this section will help alleviate sexual boredom. 

The fourth section, we take off our pants and jump into sex. According to Blanchflower and Oswald (2004), sex factors heavily into our perception of healthy relationships. It deserves its own section. I’ll talk about the traditional (and often hypocritical) view of sex we have in America, then I’ll propose a more healthy approach. I’ll discuss a slew of other topics that will help you and your partner develop a more fulfilling sex life including overcoming inhibitions and becoming more sexually adventurous. 

Section five? This is where we get a bit crazy, hence the “optional” part. I’ll keep you in suspense until you get through the first four sections. I don’t want to scare you off. Yet.

Section One: Relationship Fantasy Versus Relationship Reality


When it comes to romantic relationships, most of us buy into the fantasy based on “soulmates.” We believe there’s one (or maybe a few) people that, once found, will allow us to live happily ever after. We enter into one relationship after another desperately searching for that one soulmate that holds the key to our heart. If we don’t find eternal happiness in one place, we break up and look elsewhere.  It’s all very poetic.

This “searching for the perfect match” idea is exasperated by the advent of Internet dating. All of the popular dating sites on the Interwebz use the same basic marketing ploy- they promise to help you find your soulmate as efficiently as possible. These websites facilitate this process using “profile shopping” methods, where we can search, filter, and peruse hundreds or even thousands of profiles and pictures until we find the best of the best. All use different systems, but the promise is the same- eternal happiness can be found if only we select the right person.

So why is this idea a fantasy? What’s wrong with the concept of a soulmate? 

The answer- the honeymoon of euphoric happiness always ends. 

Take romantic comedies and TV sitcoms as an example. We never see what happens when the honeymoon phase ends, we just see a parting shot where happily ever after is implied. To that end, here’s a rough outline, a road map of sorts, of the course of our typical relationships:

Two people meet and begin to get to know each other. If there’s mutual attraction, they “fall in love.”
Both people become infatuated with each other. They spend all their time together, they obsessively think of each other, they cannot take their hands off each other. They ignore or glorify obvious flaws.This is the frantic “white hot” time of the relationship we’ll later crave.

The excitement wears off and the previously-ignored flaws are now recognized. Both people do a cost/benefit analysis. If the flaws are too much to ignore, the relationship ends. If the flaws are manageable, they stay together. This is an optimistic phase once we get past their flaws; thoughts and outlook for the future are very positive.

They begin building a life together, which may include kids, a house, a pet cat named Whiskers… whatever. This stage starts out very warm; the couple usually feels close and secure.

After a few years, negativity begins to creep in, which may take the form of rejection, boredom, resentment, or a host of other unsavory emotions. One or both people may begin to question their decision to enter the relationship and they may begin to consider options. This usually leads to a crossroads where several options are considered:


A. Continue on with the relationship without changing anything, thus assuring a life of silent misery (sadly, far too many couples actually choose this.)
B. Continue on in silent misery, but drown the misery in alcohol or other drugs, or throw themselves into distractions such as their kids, career, or hobbies.
C. Confront the spouse and take action to attempt to change things for the better. This is the route Ben and Ariana took by seeking marriage counseling. This may also include taking steps to add spice to the marriage in an attempt to revive the fire from part two above.
D. Seek someone outside the confines of the supposedly monogamous relationship, which usually takes the form of a virtual (Internet) or real-life emotional or sexual affair. This may also include visits to prostitutes. 
E. End the relationship.


Of these options, only “c” could result in a positive outcome for the relationship. Some people are content with “a” or “b”, though powering through a loveless relationship for decade after decade until one of us is put out of our misery with the sweet release of death seems pretty damn bad to me. Option “d” almost always ends badly when the faithful spouse discovers the extramarital affair. The final option, sadly, is all too common and in many cases, unnecessary. 

This pattern explains the vast majority of romantic relationships. If we can survive that first judgmental period immediately following the honeymoon period, we’re usually golden until we hit the end of the fourth phase where we've built a life together. A few lucky couples never reach the fifth stage, usually because they instinctively or deliberately do things to keep that spark alive. The rest of us slip into that fifth phase at some point. Worse, we rarely recognize it. Even worse, it usually happens to one partner before the other, which is why the discovery of an affair or being served divorce papers can sometimes seemingly come out of nowhere. One partner was in the blissfully content phase four; the other had already advanced into phase five.

So why does this happen? Why can’t most of us live happily ever after? Why can’t that fantasy become our reality? The problem begins with the fundamental beliefs we hold about relationships. Let’s take a look at a few of these beliefs.

Sample #4 coming soon!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Book Sample #2

Here's sample #2 from my new relationship book, which should be released by September 2014. As always, any input or feedback would be appreciated!


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Joe, who was single, spent most of his free time seducing married women. He was a pickup artist. He went on to explain his methodology in frightening detail. To summarize, he’d identify a woman that likely had been married for a few years (his targets were usually between thirty and about forty-five.) He would meet them at Starbucks, the grocery store, gyms (he had multiple memberships), or any other place married women may frequent without their husbands. According to Joe, age was important. He would strike at the typical point in a relationship where people begin to get bored, which was critical to his methodology. These weren’t women searching for an end to their relationship; in almost every case they were otherwise happy. They just weren’t as into their husbands as much as they used to be. They wanted to feel a tiny bit of the sexual excitement they felt at the beginning of their relationship. He offered them a no strings attached chance to get a brief taste of that delicious fruit they secretly craved. 

He would introduce himself, flirt a bit to assess interest, then pounce as soon as he determined she was sexually bored. He’d start by suggesting he’d like to get to know her better but he needed to be 100% discreet. This assured her everything would be kept on the down-low. He wouldn’t take a typical “you’re hot” approach to overtly hitting on the women. He’d take a much more indirect route that usually involved some gentle teasing. He routinely acted as if he was the one being selective. 

He would also utilize more subtle but effective techniques. Since the women would have a need to avoid feeling slutty, he would then alleviate her fears of seeming promiscuous by suggesting their meeting would be a once-in-a-lifetime crazy adventure. He would then slip her his email address (he told her it was easier to be discreet because phone bills usually list calls and/or texts.) The actual phrases and techniques he used were shrewd and impressively effective. Most of the time, she’d contact within a week. 

Joe did this all the time. Since he traveled around the metro area frequently, he’d meet anywhere between four and seven women per week. He claimed about three quarters contacted him. He rejected about a third of those, usually because they seemed to be looking for more than a random hookup. That’s why he searched for seemingly happily-married women. The result? He’d hook up with two to four married women per week. Sometimes he would hook up with the same women, but liked to limit it to about five meetings. “You start to develop an emotional connection at that point, which causes you to make stupid mistakes and end up getting caught.” he said. 

Joe had been doing this continuously for over a decade. I asked him how many married women he had seduced, and he had no idea. Conservative math would put his figure at a minimum of about 1,000 women. It took me awhile to really digest Joe’s experiences, mostly because it seemed unfathomable. It was also difficult because of the cognitive dissonance it created. I had always assumed, as the modern ideal relationship story would suggest, happily married people don’t cheat. Furthermore, I always assumed it was almost always the men in relationships that weren’t getting enough sex, thus the gender that was far more likely to cheat.

As a somewhat-trained social psychology researcher, I had to solve this incongruence between my beliefs and my observations. Why were these women cheating on their husbands if they seemed to be perfectly happy? The sheer volume of Joe’s experiences, even if exaggerated, simply didn’t make sense. I started considering the modern ideal relationship story from a more skeptical perspective, which led to the third seed- my polyamorous friends.

I have a few friends that are openly practice polyamory, which is a romantic relationship arrangement involving more than two people. There are all sorts of variations that fall under this definition, which I’ll discuss later in the book. For this discussion, these friends would routinely point out that most American’s ridiculously narrow view of relationships isn’t representative of our relationship capacity, nor is it even the norm around the rest of the world. They had been telling me that for years, but I more or less dismissed them as eccentric weirdos justifying their own particular brand of kinkiness. That is, until I brought up the two previously-mentioned issues with one of those poly friends. She wasn’t surprised at all and laughed at my naivete. She suggested I read the book Sex at Dawn. 

So I did.

And it completely changed how I frame relationships. 

The book offers an alternative to the popular theory of human sexual evolution, which the authors call the “standard narrative.” The standard narrative, which I was taught as an undergraduate preparing for a career in sex and relationship research, is based on the idea that men and women have very different reproductive strategies. Women, because they have to deal with the dangers of pregnancy and can only have so many kids which requires a lot of work, basically play defense. They’re selective in their mates. Men, on the other hand, play offense. Since one man can father many children, the reproductive cost is low. Men, as a result, are slutty. 

This basic premise is used to describe and justify all sorts of human sexual and relationship behaviors, including the pair-bonding that occurs when we meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. This is the story we’re taught.

Sex at Dawn offers a different explanation. Specifically, humans didn’t evolve to form monogamous pair-bonds. We evolved to form small promiscuous tribes. The tribes would use sex to create social bonds. The children that were conceived in the system, because paternity was uncertain, were raised by the tribe. 

The book presents a convincing argument which helps explain a lot of modern human sexuality and relationship behaviors. The most significant variation had to do with female sexuality. The book suggests females crave novel sexual experiences as much as males. We’re much more like our free-loving bonobo primate cousins than the often-cited and more sexually-conservative gorillas and chimpanzees. There are many other relevant points discussed in the book which could consume an entire volume. I highly recommend reading the book.

Like any evolutionary theory, it has some obvious weaknesses. Still, it offers the possibility that our assumptions about our current relationship story may be wrong.

Regarding the need for casual sex, I stumbled up an interesting study by Terri Conley (2011) found women were just as likely as men to engage in casual sex. The data confirms the assertion made in Sex at Dawn. It turns out men don’t hold exclusive rights to the enjoyment of hooking up. 

This revelation led me to seek out another couple I knew that were active swingers. They were in a committed relationship with each other, but both openly had sex with other people. I had known them for a number of years and had noticed they always seemed unusually happy. I assumed it was a facade disguising their deep unhappiness. After all, why else would they want to have sex with other people?

When I brought the topic up, they also laughed at my naivety. They were completely honest- both of them loved sex and used the sexual novelty of other people to fuel their own sex lives with each other. They had read Sex at Dawn and agreed with the premise. Humans aren’t designed for lifelong monogamy, and that expectation unwittingly kills relationships. They didn’t believe swinging was necessarily the answer for everyone, but they did agree that most couples had no idea how to inject passion into the relationship after a few years. All of these ideas seemed crazy, but I was intrigued enough to dig deeper.

The observations and discussions with the prostitutes and drug dealers, the conversation with the pickup artist, the discussions with my poly and swinger friends, the theories presented in Sex at Dawn, and the casual sex data, when coupled with the divorce rate data (about 60% of all marriages end in divorce) and the infidelity data (between 20-25% of all people report cheating on their significant other with another 70% or so claiming they would cheat if they knew they could get away with it), cast a pretty big shadow of doubt over the modern ideal relationship story. The conclusion I eventually came to:

We’re not necessarily bad at relationships, we’re just really bad at a particular type of relationship. 

Unfortunately, that type of relationship is our current societal norm. Most of us are playing a game that is destined to fail. Indeed, the majority of us do fail. he point of failure almost always starts when one or both partners loses interest in the other sexually. Mismatched sex drives develop and relationships hit the rocks. That epiphany brought me to the question that inspired this book- how can we change the game to assure a better chance at success?

Sample #3 coming soon...

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Book Sample #1: Perpetual Lust: The unconventional no-breakup, affair-free guide to long-term relationship success

Over the last month or so, I've been working on a new relationship book geared toward people in long-term relationships. Specifically, the book tackles many of the beliefs and behaviors that govern our relationship behavior.

Most of us are or have been in a relationship that loses a bit of excitement after awhile. Many of our attempts to "reignite the passion" work for a short time, then falls flat. This book aims to change that.

I recently finished the first draft and anticipate the finished project hitting the shelves (well, virtual shelves anyway) by the end of August. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting excerpts from the book as a sample of the content. If you like it, find it interesting, or know of anyone else that may be interested, please share! 

Comments and other feedback, as always, are welcome. Please keep in mind this is the minimally-edited first draft... there may be a slew of mistakes. 


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Perpetual Lust: The unconventional no-breakup, affair-free guide to long-term relationship success


The whir of the ceiling fan wasn't enough to cover the sound of their breathing. Ariana and Ben were lying back-to-back. Both pretending to be asleep; neither succeeding. It had been a long night of talking. In years past, they would have went to bed angry. Tonight? The conflict-resolution exercise their marriage counselor taught them resolved the conflict. Or at least extinguished the anger.

Ariana missed the anger. While it never resolved their problems, at least Ben showed passion. Now? She secretly resented the stupid exercise. The meaningless hand-holding, the scripted positive affirmation statements, the forced eye contact… it seemed so mechanical. They've had this same fight countless times over the course of their eight year marriage, and this supposed solution only seemed to make it worse. “What the Hell is wrong with me?” Ariana thought. “I have the perfect life; why can’t I just be happy?”

Ben had a hard time processing exactly what he was feeling, though he knew his thoughts were skewed by his unresolved horniness. He did everything right. He gave her all the signals; did all the prerequisites. He cooked dinner. He did the dishes even though it was her turn. He folded the laundry. He even gave both kids baths before bedtime, which was almost exclusively her job. He lit the candles, poured her a second glass of wine, he gave her a relaxing massage. He skipped preparing her a bath tonight, mostly because he was too distracted by his other chores. Could that have been it? Could that have been why she wasn't in the mood? He silently kicked himself. At least they were able to talk through the conflict. He started mentally preparing his game plan for the next attempt the following morning.

Ariana and Ben both lived lives of silent desperation. They seemingly had it all. Both were college-educated professionals with (mostly) fulfilling careers. They had two wonderful children even if they were a handful on occasion. They had recently purchased a nice house in a neighborhood surrounded with kind neighbors. To the outside world, their marriage seemed perfect. 

Indeed, both treasured their relationship. They both genuinely loved each other, which is the reason they were both eager to seek marriage counseling. They recognized their relationship could be in trouble. They didn't fight often. When they did, they remained civil and respectful. Both took pride in their self-restraint. Yet they never seemed to solve their problems. Specifically, they couldn't solve their mismatched sex drives. Ben had a much more demanding libido. 

More often than not, this resulted in a predictable scenario. Ben would feel horny. He’d spend a day or two making a plan to get Ariana in the mood. He’d put the plan into action only to be rejected in the end. When he did succeed, he’d make mental notes of what worked to be used next time. When it failed, he used to sulk and pout. He hated feeling rejected because it made him feel unloved. He knew Ariana enjoyed sex, so her rejections never made sense. Sometimes she would get angry, which resulted in a fight. Prior to the counseling sessions, the fights never resulted in a positive resolution. It seemed like they were repeating the same lines fight after fight, year after year. Since they started counseling, they learned to talk through their feelings. While Ben felt less rejected emotionally, he was still horny as fuck. 

Ariana had high expectations for counseling. She desperately wanted to understand why she felt the way she felt. Ben was a really great guy. She hated rejecting him, but couldn't seem to break out of the pattern. It’s not that she didn't enjoy the sex. It was quite good, actually. Ben was an attentive lover that went out of his way to assure she had orgasms. She also enjoyed the attention he showered during the buildup. She liked the loving notes he left in her car, the flowers delivered to work, the meals he cooked, the sensual massages. Her friends were always envious of her. She also loved Ben’s openness. He was always willing to talk; always eager to share his feelings. Despite that constant, intimate level of communication, they could never resolve the sex issue. Counseling was supposed to fix that. So far, it only made her feel like more of a failure as a wife.

Introduction


Ariana and Ben’s story is hardly unique. The story is becoming increasingly common in our modern culture- two people meet, fall in love, get married, have kids, build a secure life, and live happily ever after. At some point, when everything should be perfect, something happens. One or both people in the relationship start feeling a bit empty… like there’s something missing. Life begins to feel like we’re stuck in a rut or we’re on autopilot. Over time, these feelings grow. We try to convince ourselves the feelings are illogical, but they persist. We sincerely love our spouse, but the feeling that we’re somehow missing out on something is unmistakable.

These feelings, which usually begin as vague, sometimes unidentifiable pangs, begin right around the time we really begin assessing our mortality. We realize we’re going to die eventually, and we’re getting closer and closer with each passing day. We start reassessing our lives; we begin second-guessing every major life decision we've made. We start regretting decisions we didn't make; opportunities we didn't explore. We wonder if our situation would have been better if only we had taken a different path. 

Most of us seem to have a charmed life from the outside, even if we've had significant obstacles. Most of our friends and family probably assume we’re genuinely happy. This drives us to bury our quiet desperation from most of our friends and family, probably our significant others, and maybe even ourselves. 

Responsible folks, like Ben and Ariana, seek professional help. Sometimes that comes in the form of marriage counseling. Other times it comes in the form of medical intervention, such as the prescribing of antidepressants.. Many people take a different route, like developing unhealthy addictions to drugs or porn, frequenting prostitutes, having emotional and/or sexual affairs, or simply ending the relationship. The drive to fill that growing emptiness is unbelievably powerful and will drive us to do things we never thought we were capable of doing.

All of these “solutions” assume we’re personally failing at relationships other people successfully navigate. The problem is us. We don’t have the right personal qualities. We haven’t taken the right steps. We messed up the formula to keep the spark alive. We chose a partner that’s incompatible. For whatever reason, we can’t follow this relationship story. “Happily ever after” alludes us. The problem is exasperated because we see other people supposedly living perfect lives and wonder “Why can’t I do that?” 

Of course, we don’t realize they’re probably living behind the same facade we’re living behind. 

What if we’re not the problem, though? What if the problem is the story itself? What if we’re all trying to follow a plan that’s fundamentally flawed, yet we all conspire to keep it alive because we need to rationalize our decision to follow it? What if the story is so ingrained in our culture, we can’t fathom alternatives? 

This book offers a different way to consider our relationships. For most of us, the old story simply doesn't work, especially over the long haul. I want to introduce a new story. Your story. My goal is to provide an alternative plan that seems rather contrarian and is based on the concept of self-experimentation. My story is based on the idea that we need to take a step back, observe ourselves, observe our significant others, consider our environment and situations, come to some brutally honest conclusions, then set a course of action based on our needs. We create our own relationship story instead of following some predetermined societal expectations. We need to be open to new ideas and brave enough to try unorthodox methods. Of course, this book won’t appeal to everyone.

This Book Was NOT Written For…


When writing this book, I had to consider the potential audience. I had to choose between mass appeal and direct, honest communication to small group that would be receptive to the message. If I wanted to write a book that would appeal to most people, I would have to dilute the message, cut out some of the potentially valuable content, and use “PG” language. I’d have to pull my punches. I wasn't willing to make those sacrifices just to sell a few more copies. As such, there are some groups that will, for one reason or another, completely reject the message and likely be offended at the content. They may even leave a few bad reviews on Amazon. Those groups include:

People involved in new relationships- Most of us go through a distinct “honeymoon” phase in relationships where we’re too distracted by crazy brain chemistry to experience significant relationship problems. The issues this book will help fix aren't typically encountered until five to ten years into a relationship. The younger you are (thus less relationship experience), the more pronounced this will be. 

Relationship idealists- If you expect burning, passionate love to automatically last forever once you find your soul mate, your relationship expectations are far too high to consider my message. Wondering if this is you? List your top ten all-time favorite movies. If more than 50% are romantic comedies, you’re not going to like this book.

People that have a strict moral code and see the world as black and white- Some of my ideas… okay, almost all of my ideas, would violate a Puritanical moral code. I’m a pretty open-minded, liberal dude which will become evident as you read the book. If you can’t at least consider the ideas without harsh moral judgement, the book will be of little use.

Asexuals- Asexuals, people that have no interest in sexual activity, may find some value in the general ideas I present, but the major sections of this book deal with sexuality. For non-asexuals, a healthy, fulfilling sex life is usually an integral part of our relationships, hence the in-depth discussions later in the book.

Couples with newborns- Babies are incredibly difficult. They take time and attention, which cannot be applied toward your significant other. Your relationship is going to suffer at least a little bit during the infant years, so save this book until they reach preschool or so.

Language arts experts- I’m not Thoreau, nor do I pretend to be. Hell, that woman that wrote 50 Shades of Grey will make me seem like a high school sophomore in comparison. I have a conversational writing style. I unapologetically take quite a few grammar liberties. It works for me. It works for my core audience. If you can’t get past the occasional nonstandard word usage, grammar, and organisation, you’ll probably be too distracted to fully appreciate the message.

People that are easily offended- Not only do I use a conversational tone when writing, I also enjoy profanity and juvenile humor. This is intentional; the language acts as a filter of sorts. If you’re easily offended by either, there’s a pretty good chance you’re a fucking prude and not open-minded enough to consider the ideas presented. 

This Book WAS Written For…


Didn’t fall into one or more of the categories from above? Excellent! There’s a great chance you’re ideally suited to fully understand and appreciate the messages contained within. Specifically, these groups will find the book extremely valuable:

People that want their relationship to last- Wait, don’t all of us want our relationships to last? Well, not really. How many people are willing to engage in destructive behaviors and/or end relationships if they’re unhappy? Lots. These folks cling to the idea of the perfect relationship to the detriment of making the actual relationship work. If you’re willing to reconsider the very definition of “relationships” in order to create a better relationship, you’ll find the book useful. 

People that are in a relationship with someone they love, but feel something is missing- We have a belief that our romantic partners needs to fulfill all of our needs all the time. This lofty expectation is a recipe for failure. Just because our partner can’t fulfill our every need doesn't mean we don’t love them. Nor does it mean we should engage in destructive behaviors or end the relationship. It is possible to eradicate those feelings of emptiness without pushing the self-destruct button.

Fans of my other books- Okay, so that particular group only consists of enough people to field a baseball team. Still, if you’re weird enough ignore social mores and run barefoot, run ultramarathons, or live in an RV with small children, you probably have the intestinal fortitude to buck convention and consider the ideas I present here.

Why Did I Write This Book?


A few years ago, I started a relationship and sexuality blog called “The Sexpressionists” (http://www.sexpressionists.com.) I've been interested in the topic since my undergraduate days training to be a social psychology researcher nearly two decades ago. I also dabbled in the topic during my twelve year career as a high school psychology teacher. When I left the profession, I could devote more time to sexuality blogging. That freed me to be able to talk about taboo topics that would not have been appreciated in the religiously-conservative area I taught. 

As The Sexpressionists blog became more popular, people started contacting me with questions and topics for future posts. Most came from people somewhat similar to myself- educated, between the age of twenty-five and forty-five, married for five to ten years, a few kids, etc. I quickly discovered a pattern: Many of these people, despite seemingly near-perfect lives, were secretly miserable. It appeared as though they had the American Dream- nice house, nice car, nice clothes, great career, well-dressed kids, a devoted, loving spouse… whatever. 

Some were like Ariana and Ben. They knew they had a problem and they took positive, productive steps to fix the relationship. In most cases they experienced temporary positive results… before sliding right back into the abyss. Other couples chose to alleviate the misery by drinking or doing other drugs. Some sought sex or comfort outside the relationship behind their partner’s back. Some became martyrs, immersed themselves in their children, hobbies, their career, or other such distraction. They ignored their unhappy situation in the hopes it would magically improve down the road. Finally, a lot of these folks decided to break up their families by ending the relationship.

All of those decisions were minimally effective. Still, I always recommended they either attempt to fix the relationship through counseling or end the relationship amicably. This was especially important if children were involved.

My own opinions began to change about a year prior to writing this book. I had been a champion of the modern “ideal” relationship story, at least for most childbearing heterosexual couples mostly because it defined my own relationship. [note- I’m in no way opposed to any other variation of relationships, they just fall outside the scope of this particular book.] That “modern ideal model” consisted of a few characteristics, including:

Our ideal partner is more or less a “soul mate.” Attracting, courting, and committing to that soul mate will result in the best possible relationship. According to Wilcox and Dew (2010), about two-thirds of Americans believe in the idea of soul mates. 

Serial monogamy (defined as being exclusively monogamous as long as you’re with that particular partner, but may change to another exclusive partner if the relationship ends.)

Frequent honest communication about anything and everything, which is accomplished with lots and lots of talking.

Both parties in the relationship discard stereotypical masculine and feminine gender roles as much as possible to help assure equality.

Most sexual problems are the result of a lack of intimacy between the partners.

There’s an implicit (or explicit) belief that there’s a degree of “ownership” between the partners, usually expressed in loving phrases like “your heart belongs to me” or “you are mine forever.”

Men were perpetually the sexual aggressors whereas women were more passive and “played defense.”

This modern ideal relationship story has evolved over time. A generation or three ago, puberty hit several years later than it does today. Premarital sex was rare. Kids got married in their late teens to very early twenties. Sex was a duty for the wife. Intimacy was created by fulfilling traditional male and female gender roles. The excessive sharing of our hopes, desires, and fears was almost nonexistent. Divorce was uncommon. Monogamy meant you were with your partner until one of you died. Even then, some believed you should remain celibate until your own death. You know, like we’re living out Leave it to Beaver. 

Oh, how times have changed! Today, we hit puberty earlier, widely accept premarital sex, and wait significantly longer to get married. Female sexual satisfaction has become a priority. We talk about anything and everything and frown on secret-keeping. Divorce is easier legally and more accepted socially, which has brought about the acceptance of serial monogamy in favor of lifelong monogamy. 

I was acutely aware of this evolution over a relatively short period of time, but I didn't consider the possibility that the modern ideal relationship story may still be evolving. I also didn't consider the possibility that the story may not be keeping pace with the rapid developments of science. In short, we may be expecting too much from an institution that hasn't changed all that much from our male-dominated patriarchal past. 

I fell into the same trap most of us fall into- I idealized the elderly couples that had been together since the depression, I watched the romantic comedies, and I bought into the idea of our relationships lasting until “death do us part.” I made the assumption that most of us make- when relationships go bad, someone fucked up. That conclusion was reinforced by the marriage counseling and self-help industries. I was well-versed in the inner-workings of sex and relationship dynamics, but never questioned if my entire paradigm as based on an accurate foundation. Like a fish never realizing it’s wet, I never considered the way we actually think about relationships may be the problem.

Ariana and Ben knew they had problems, so they got help. Their solution wasn't working. Both assumed the problem was them; they had failed at some part of the process. Or maybe, despite the fact that they genuinely loved each other, they just weren't compatible. Neither one thought to question the very nature of “relationships” they had been taught since an early age. Their parents modeled what a relationship was supposed to be. They saw it on TV. They read about it in books and magazines. They saw aunts and cousins and friends all make the same journey. When it was no longer working, they sought help from an educated professional that repeated the same old story. 

The Cracks in the Foundation


The seeds for my skepticism toward the modern ideal relationship story has been planted over time from a wide variety of sources. The first seed was planted innocently enough- I started commuting on foot.

Let me back up a step. My wife Shelly and I spent about two years traveling the country in an RV while conducting barefoot running clinics. When we go tired of the constant travel, we settled in a suburb of San Diego. Money was tight, so we lived in a campground in our RV. We could only afford one vehicle, so I walked to work every day. The area was a little rough around the edges. Homeless people, transients, drug dealers, and prostitutes were everywhere, which provided non-stop opportunities for people-watching. Since I was always walking everywhere, I befriended a few of these folks. Through our conversations and observations, one thing became readily apparent- a lot of married folks were traveling from the posh neighboring suburbs to, in the case of males, pick up prostitutes, and in the case of females, buy drugs. 

I’m a pretty liberal libertarian-leaning guy and don’t morally oppose prostitution or drug use as long as it’s consensual and done in a safe manner that doesn't put anyone at unnecessary risk. However, as the dealers and prostitutes noted, most of these folks were keeping these behaviors secret despite being “happily married.” Hmmm…

Seed two came shortly after. An acquaintance at my job found out his wife had been having an affair. Distraught, he shared the story with a few of us. He was completely blindsided. He thought they were perfectly happy and had no clue she wasn't content. After he finished his story and we comforted him with awkward bro-hugs,we went back to work. I happened to be working closely with one of the other guys that overheard the story. Let’s call him Joe. Our exchange went something like this:

Me: “Man, I can’t believe he didn't see any signs his wife was unhappy.”

Joe: “Are you kidding? I've met his wife. She’s a perfect target.”

Me: “Huh? Target for what?”

Joe: “Target to pick up. I would have fucked her if I didn't work with her husband. That shit can get messy.”

Joe, who was single, spent most of his free time seducing married women. He was a pickup artist. He went on to explain his methodology in frightening detail..........



Sample to be continued in the near future...


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Do We Accept Zombie Love?

Little-known fact: The idea of modern "zombies" originated from H.P. Lovecraft's observation of people listlessly wandering through life, methodically decaying from the inside out, trudging along in a slow, mindless march toward their eventual demise. In other words, he was observing people in long-term relationships.

Okay, not really... but it makes for a compelling story. 

I'm defining "Zombie Love" as a condition that afflicts people when relationships move past the passionate honeymoon phase, past the "warm comfort" of discovering and accepting each others' flaws phase, and past the "building a life together in harmony" phase. It's the point of a relationship where we activate the autopilot. We're basking in the comfort of knowing we've won the heart of our significant other, so we relax. We develop routines. Life becomes predictable. Lazy, even. 

And we love it.

After all, this emotional security is the reason we crave long-term relationships. It gives our lives order and a degree of certainty. Emotional security is, after all, one of the more basic needs on Maslow's hierarchy.

Unfortunately, comfort eventually leads to complacency, which leads to... well, boredom. Conversation morphs from the sociopolitical climate in Africa to "did we run out of crackers?" Spending discretionary income on exotic vacations is replaced by refinishing the deck. Sexy lingerie is replaced by torn, stained pajama pants. 

Since we're on autopilot, we don't notice the slide. We're too immersed in our young children, careers, or hobbies. Our significant other becomes more of a roommate than a lover. We fall into a rut, and the rut gets deeper and deeper. 

This is the point where he zombies become most noticeable. They stop smiling as much. They move a little slower. They start gaining weight. They drink too much. They develop a raging porn addiction. They start finding excuses to avoid their significant other. They complain more often. Yet they do nothing to improve the situation. 

They've reached the Zombie Love phase of the relationship.

That brings me back to the title question: Why do we accept Zombie Love? 

Leave your answer in the comments!

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