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.


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


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!


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.


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!


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!


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...