Archive for December, 2010
by LiYana Silver
Cheating in relationships rears its hurtful head everywhere, and I don’t have to tell you it’s a devastating killer. What if there were an option to cheating in relationships that didn’t have to involve fiery break-ups and divorce lawyers; that didn’t have to spell betrayal and dishonesty; and that didn’t have to make enemies of allies? And what if this option challenged how we define the gold standard of relationships: monogamy?
Although love, intimacy, sex and relationship are often the most important areas in our lives, they are also where we experience the most confusion and suffering. Cheating in relationships is one at the top of the pile of confusion and suffering. Additionally, the relationship models we have inherited don’t fit us so well. We have few tools or skills with which to navigate relationships we are in. Or we can’t seem to find one at all.
Cheating in relationships is one of the most painful ways we “break the rules.” However, cheating actually has more to do with the rules (spoken and unspoken) that are broken with the act of cheating, than the act itself. It is therefore essential to fully define, and even re-define, the rules by which we live out our relationships.
Cheating in relationships: is there an honest response to this dishonest act? I want you to hear more, inspired by the timely question of a reader and client below.
In an intentional community in New Mexico, I was raised on liberal doses of critical thinking, self-expression, and interpersonal relating. During the span of my career from modern dancer to business consultant to nutritional counselor to relationship coach and teacher, I have developed irreverently reverent perspectives on relationships, love and sex. As the traditional boundaries of life and love seem less and less applicable to our current lives, I notice that navigating sex and relationship in the quickly-evolving landscape of 21st century life calls for nothing short of a revolution of relationship re-definition.
Let me introduce myself: LiYana Silver, Relationship Expert. Consider me your intrepid guide on your joyride to your relationship edges. I am honored to have my life defined by my exquisite relationship, now marriage – a co-created work of art – which has been workshop, crucible and launching pad for life and love.
Let me introduce a question from one of my readers, “Does Monogamy need to be re-defined for today’s couples to have any chance at longevity?”
Well, as far as the dictionary is concerned, monogamy already has a definition. Webster’s (or, more accurately, the excellent dictionary that accompanies my computer’s word-processing program) puts it like this: “Monogamy: The practice or state of being married to one person at a time; the practice or state of having a sexual relationship with only one partner.” Pretty clear. And no, I don’t intend to keep addressing your question like a smart alec! I bring up the dictionary’s denotation of monogamy so that I can to reach beyond it to monogamy’s connotation: monogamy as a relationship lifestyle and outlook on love, sex and partnered life; monogamy as sexual exclusivity; monogamy as marriage. And this monogamy, I would say, is in grand need of re-definition.
Another way to phrase your question might be, do we need sexual monogamy and marriage to stay together for the long haul? By examining the relevancy of marriage and sexual monogamy, longevity also gets thrown under scrutiny as well.
Life is changing, and fast. For many of us, culture has flung its doors wide open and said, “You choose!” We live in an era exploding with choice – where to live, how to live, with whom and for how long. Never before has the cultural conversation leaned so far in the direction of personal choice. Never before have we been as encouraged as now to consider that following our personal bliss is the ultimate directive to inform one’s life path. At the same time, we still live in a culture that holds the relationship gold standard to be: find-a-soul-mate-or-at-least-someone-you-can-stand-get-a-ring-get-married-have-a-kid-or-2.3-and-live-happily-ever-after. There is tremendous pressure to be everything to one another, to get all your needs met by one person. And of course, in the middle of those cultural pushes and pulls, the models of relationship passed down from just the previous generation are less relevant to the our day to day lives. I’m sure you know a relationship or two that have longevity going for them, but nothing else.
Healthy, functional longevity assumes that your two lives go in relatively the same direction for a period of time. I have heard it said that marriages “worked” when the life expectancy for the average human being was 30-40 years. We’re up to something like 65-75 years now, living more than twice as long as when marriage “worked.” To have a life-time’s worth of longevity in your relationship you need to be relatively well-matched in most areas, including career direction, managing money, family and social circles, having children, rearing children as well as preference of sexuality and geographic location. It is a tall order to expect that two individuals will want the same things throughout a partnership of possibly a lifetime’s length, pragmatically speaking. Especially when there is cultural encouragement to live life based on your personal directive.
Please don’t misunderstand: I am in no way saying there is anything wrong with a lifetime partnership of monogamy. It can be infinitely more simple and satisfying than some other relationship concoction, to be sure! However, we have been taught that we should just find love, and somehow it will all fall into place. But love is not enough for a successful and sustainable relationship. Nor is it enough anymore to fit one’s self into the standard cultural model of monogamy. A relationship that is lasting and sustainable, in which the individuals are happy fulfilled and challenged for a long as the relationship lasts; that in and of itself is a powerful re-definition of the monogamy we know and have inherited. And this kind of monogamy requires looking under the hood of the relationship vehicle, not just climbing in and hoping for the best. It requires a bit of a radical overhaul and a set of skills not provided in movies, school curriculum or most family dinner conversations; skills for communication, adaptation, and navigating the large questions of life and partnership.
I look at the process of re-defining like taking the lid off of what you are SUPPOSED to do, examining it, keeping the bits that work for you, leaving the rest. For most of us, this is a new and confronting task. Peeking under the lid will bring up all kinds of interesting things, including how long you want the relationship to last. Maybe you don’t want till death do you part. Maybe there is a natural life and death of a relationship, and if it ends before life does, it is not a failure. The father of a dear friend of mine has had a series of 10-year relationships over the course of his life. He’s on his 3rd rich and wonderful one, and certainly doesn’t consider himself a failure at relationship or marriage. Maybe you don’t want just one sexual partner. Ours is a generation groomed on sexual choice, pre-sold on sex. It is just as natural for people to want to pair up for life as it is to be gregarious, flirtatious, and sexually experimentative. Humans are complex beings, with sexual and sensual curiosities abounding. But sexuality aside, it is preposterous to expect you can get all of your needs met by one person. Re-defining monogamy must include, then, a look at what it is possible to get from your partner, and what is best gotten outside the relationship, to ease the pressure on the partnership and feed the complex beings within the partnership.
Consulting your own heart at least as much as our cultural norms is not just a novel nicety afforded by modern life, it is also a necessity. Depression, suicidal tendencies, schizophrenia, and general numbness can be caused by all kinds of reasons, including genetics, history, family, diet, environment, astrology, karma, gender, pre-destiny, seasons or hormones. More importantly, it can also be caused by being un-aligned with your personal truth and not living according to what you hold most sacred, inspiring and exciting.
But does following your personal bliss inevitably lead you away from monogamy? Does it lead you to want more than one sexual partner, or reconsider marriage as the ideal container for relationship? Does it encourage irresponsibility? Maybe. But, of course not necessarily.
To re-define monogamy is to invoke adaptability and responsibility – the ABILITY to ADAPT and RESPOND; it is to become a relationship entrepreneur. What are most needed are the necessary skills to navigate ANY relationship, to have it last as long you desire, monogamous or not. To re-define monogamy is to go beyond the definition in the dictionary, or the model that was handed down to you like too-tight tennis shoes, and create a model that is relevant to you and your life, that you love.
And from a client, “Is the desire for monogamy a concept that is culturally inbred and encouraged, or it truly a primal urge innate in most of us?”
My simple answer is YES.
YES, monogamy as the culturally accepted norm for relationships is definitely inbred and encouraged. If you were to throw a dart into a wall of DVD movie rentals, you will likely pierce one that is all about finding the perfect soul mate, being faithful and blissful, happily ever after, forever and ever.
I certainly can’t speak for “most of us” but YES, monogamy is certainly an urge innate in many of us.
We, the human species, tend to use the lenses of cultural trends, science, anthropology or sociology to attempt to make sense of our humanity – caught as we are somewhere twixt our animal instincts and our abilities to be rational, self-conscious and contemplative of the divine. These lenses attempt to define what is natural, and hence, what is unnatural. We look for common threads and search for proof as an attempt to determine a direction to point ourselves in for our best life. But among humans, there’s no control group. What the herd is currently doing, what the herd did historically or what it means to go against the herd is just one metric to judge a life by; it is just one system or standard to use to direct your life.
We are always looking for THE answer, but it is also useful to spend at least as much time looking for YOUR answer. Are you a person for whom monogamy is an intrinsic urge, a means to be most fulfilled and connected this lifetime? Or are you a person who is happy to lift the constraints of monogamy so as to create the relationship most suited to your expression and satisfaction? Are you listening close enough to see when that might change for you, and do you have the skills to adapt as your needs change?
It is difficult to look toward culture for any kind of standard, since no culture is completely homogeneous. Within any culture there are sub-cultures – a constant, dynamic morphing as the culture converses with life. As culture changes, its desire for monogamy can also change.
It is also difficult to look solely toward science. Often science looks to the animal world to give us strange human creatures some guidance in what is “natural.” Some animal species mate for life and are poster children for loyalty and fidelity. Some use sexual intercourse with multiple and copious numbers of partners as a means for creating and maintaining social harmony. Some eat their mates after copulation. Any concept can be proven scientifically, partly due to the extraordinary variations in the observable world, and partly due to the viewpoints and agendas of the funders of said scientific study.
It is equally difficult to look toward anthropology. There are theories that support pair bonding as the healthiest and best means of survival, and there are theories that extol the virtues of an entire village raising a child. A colleague once told me of a tribe from South America, where a woman is expected to choose one man to be the biological father of her child, another one or two that will raise and look after the child with her, and several others with whom she will have intercourse with while pregnant, so as to impart their qualities to her developing baby. Granted, I am not sure if this is an actual tribe discovered by some intrepid anthropologist, or created by a hopeful sociologist as a fascinating alternative for child rearing and monogamy. Regardless, it is a cultural norm a tad different than the one we find ourselves steeped in, to be sure!
And of course, it is just as difficult to look toward your own instincts or desires. There can be an assumption that if you remove the SHOULDs imposed by culture, your desires will rise to the top like cream. Making your way through cultural influences toward your own innate desires requires self-awareness, the ability to go where no man or woman has gone before, and the willingness to be inner-directed, rather than governed by custom. I believe what is “natural” are those desires that bring you the most joy, fulfillment and sense of contribution. But that is my personal definition, created by a mind encouraged to think freely, within a greatly privileged culture that hasn’t ostracized me for plodding upstream against the current of convention.
I say look to – and then beyond – both nature and nurture in order to create a life and a love that is born of you and resembles you thoroughly. I assert it is better to have a relationship that is imperfect but based on your own deliberate choices than to have one that is retro-fitted to someone else’s version of perfection. At the end of the day, I say marry yourself to your own oxymoronic nature. Take what deeply resonates with you and leave the rest.
You know how it goes. The conversation starts out OK, but all of a sudden it is like someone lit a fuse and set off a fireworks display of defensiveness, blame, lashing out, accusation, icy silence or hurled insults.
Want to know how keep that fuse from being lit, especially around this holiday time? How to De-Fuse an upset or conflict? How to cool it all down enough to restore some rationality, create some space for some real communication and connection?
I thought you might.
It is unchecked reactivity that is the highway robbery of connection. Reactivity can sideswipe and derail any well-meaning communication. By De-Fusing reactivity, the other person will feel like you still “have their back” rather than have suddenly become the aggressor or their opponent.
Some of these 12 ways will work well for colleagues and friends, others for your partners and family.
They are generalizations, since all of us humans are different and unique, but for the grand majority, they hold true.
These will work at the first sign of reactivity – yours or theirs. And it goes without saying that none of these will work unless they are 100% genuine and from your heart.
12 Ways To De-Fuse, this holiday season:
Pick one, or try all 12!
(You can sing along, if you’d like: “On the 12th day of De-Fusing, my true love gave to me …”)
1. Start With Appreciation: It may not always be the first thing on your mind, but make it a practice to have it be the first thing out of your mouth. Tell ‘em what you honestly love about them, what they did for you, said to you, how they moved you, etc. You’ll not only activate your ability to be grateful, but you and others will rise in value and worth in your eyes.
2. Be Gentle. A full-frontal assault on someone, all guns blaring is usually not that effective, unless your aim is a knock-down, drag-out fight. If your aim is healthy communication, start with some vulnerability, with your throat bared, so to speak. This will set the stage for you both to be kind and considerate to each other.
3. Repeat It Back. What you hear is often a far cry from than what person intended. Since language is an approximation, we all interpret the same words in often vastly different ways. A good rule of thumb is to repeat back to someone what you think they just said: “So, here’s what I think I just heard you say. You are feeling/thinking…” Stopping to clarify in this way can save you so much of the pain that comes from the build-up of repeated misunderstanding.
Especially effective with men:
4. Consider Your Timing. Can he focus on you right now or would you do better to wait until later?
5. Acknowledgment. Tell him some way he has touched you, impressed you, something he has done well. Thank him. This opens him up to let down his guard and hear you.
6. Give Him Space. Sometimes guys need to take a long time to answer you, or they need to go away for a while and figure it out. If you give him space, he will come back with something great.
7. Give Him A Way to Win. Consider posing your communication in the form of a problem he can solve or you can solve together, rather than as something he isn’t doing right. Guys come in to their element when there is a way for them to “win”, to show up as a hero, and when there is something that they can fix.
Especially effective with women:
8. Make Physical Contact With Her, like a touch or a hug. Physical contact is grounding and calming like nothing else, and reminds her of your presence. She will stop worrying that you are outa there, and will then be open to hear what you have to say.
9. Remind Her That You Are Not Leaving. In a highly emotional and heated situation, especially if you walk away or become emotionally distant, women can become triggered and feel like you are leaving for good.
10. What Do You Love About Her? Is it the curve of her neck? Her rapier wit? Her grace? Tell her. Often in an upset, she may feel that you no longer love her (even if you said it earlier in the day), or that because you are angry, she is losing your love. Is there limit to the number of times you can tell a woman you love her, or what you love about her? Um, no.
And, for all humans, again…
11. Say It Differently. If someone is responding as though they haven’t heard you, no matter how many times you have said it before, THEY are not stupid, YOU have not said it in a WAY they can hear. Try using different words, tone or intention.
12. Go For Humour. For example, if your Aunt Mildred always badgers you about why you aren’t married yet, or why YET AGAIN you didn’t bring home a prospective partner, you can tell her something like, “Listen, I know you are excited to hear about the scores of marriage offers I’ve had to turn down this month and all the love letters I’ve framed on my wall. And I know you want to discuss what to cook for the eight suitors I brought, but let’s find something else to talk about, OK?” Adjust humour and content accordingly…
Enjoy – and for extra points, tell me which one worked best!
“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.” ~Author Unknown
This time of the year has always mystified me. ‘Tis the season of love, yet it seems to be mostly about giving and getting a bunch of stuff no one really wants or needs, and running ourselves ragged in the process. We (mostly) neither love what we give, what we get, nor how we give or get it.
And if there were a ton o’ love in the things being bought or got, that would be cool, but for the most part, there’s not.
Before you accuse me of Scroogitis – yes, I was raised Jewish/New Age/Buddhist – let me remind that around the holidays, suicide goes up, we over-eat, under-sleep, get stressed out, gain weight and burn the candle at both ends.
Despite our country’s economic recession, we remain the land of plenty. How much more of what we don’t want in the first place do we really need? All I’m saying is maybe we could peek behind the curtain of this culturally-sanctioned sadness and madness, masquerading as gladness, just a little wee bit.
Instead of RE-GIFTING all those gifts you’ll be getting that you didn’t want in the first place, consider DE-GIFTING.
Don’t know what to get that special someone? Don’t get them anything at all. Blame it on Rudolf.
Imagine: no gifts given or gotten, aside from the ones that mean something, are truly desired, or you are moved and inspired to give.
1. Don’t buy any gifts unless they truly are DESIRED by the person you are buying them for.
2. Let your friends and family (and office peeps) know that you do n’t want any gifts unless they are truly INSPIRED give them to you.
3. In lieu of needless gifts given or gotten, consider:
* “Paying It Forward” look around in your life to find someone who would ordinarily not be getting a holiday gift from you, and do something, give something that would be incredibly valuable and meaningful for them. (usually isn’t money, but can be). Pay forward your great fortune and abundance. If you want, you can share this story with those in your life you de-gifted.
* a micro-finance loan. Kiva (http://www.kiva.org) and World Vision Micro (http://www.worldvisionmicro.org) are two amazing organizations that take your small donation ($5, $25 or more), and put it in the hands of a person in a developing nation, in the form of a loan that must be repaid.
Most recipients start a micro-business with your loan that gets them out of poverty, sends children or family members to school and totally changes the trajectory of their lives. You get to watch their progress, too.
All for the price of a Starbucks gift card!
“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver.” ~Thomas á Kempis
May your heart be full to bursting with love and gratitude this holiday season, LiYana
“A chicken and an egg are lying in bed. The chicken is smoking a cigarette with a satisfied smile on its face and the egg is frowning and looking put out. The egg mutters to no one in particular, ‘I guess we answered that question.’” ~ Author Unknown
Here’s another way to answer the question of who comes first – or at all.
Ready? No one. Neither of you!
The point of this is to shift the goal of a sexual experience from climax to exploration of sensation and expansion of pleasure.
So often sex is so climax-focused and goal-oriented that you can miss out on a ton of amazing stuff along the way. This is about re-defining the goal as the pleasurable process itself.
Here’s how it goes:
(Note: adjust this accordingly, depending on if you will be doing this with a partner, or by yourself)
1. Prepare an inviting, sexy, sensually-rich, comfortable space.
2. Take a moment to connect, settle down from whatever you were doing before.
3. Feel free to do whatever sensual and sexual things you want, however you usually do it, but remember to stay present to the sensations. The goal is to have each moment be more pleasurable than the last.
If you feel your mind wandering, bring it back to what is going on, what sensations you are experiencing. If you feel close to climax, relax and breathe into the sensations, spreading them from your genitals throughout your body.
4. Continue, experiment, breathe, indulge, relax, communicate and enjoy! But, Come Some Other Time.
OPTIONAL: Take some time to share the experience – what it was like for you to have sexual experience that’s focus was NOT focused on orgasm/climax, but on everything but?
What did you learn, what did you like, what would you like to throw away, what would you like to include in your future love-making?
By the way, this isn’t to mean you should NEVER climax, just not THIS time .
“At some point while in the midst of making love, stop. Don’t move. Look into your lover’s eyes. Breathe in slowly and inhale their being. Feel God through them. Then continue to make love not as two people, but as
a God and a Goddess.” ~ Anonymous