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:
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!