Archive for the Awesome Articles
in the vein of how you do one thing is how you do anything …
… if someone observed you in orgasm, what would they infer for how you lead your life?
before we dig into that juicy one, why do i care about your sexual pleasure? as much as i want for you plentiful and big Os, what i really care about is that you as a woman are sensually expressed and sensually filled.
you, sensually expressed. you, sensually filled up.
why? because that’s when you’re naturally shining brightest. tapped into your calling. that’s when you are your tail-wagging-est, largest-hearted, sassiest self.
you may notice i have been talking A LOT about what potent combination of understandings, practices and ways of being have women IGNITE and be the brilliant badasses we truly are?
it’s partly because i’ve been happily and myopically focused on my high-level mentorship program, which i’ll unveil in a few weeks. it’s a cauldron in which i’ve combined ALL of those potent ingredients that truly ignites our WomanNess.
turns out, your sexual energy is the same as your creative energy. and, where you might have blocks sexually and sensually, there are often parallels to where you might be blocked creatively.
you CREATE not only in the ways you make art but also in the ways you make love, make business, make babies, make friends and make a home.
which brings us back to how you O = how you live.
by orgasm i mean, yes, sexual arousal and expansion, but i also mean: your pleasure, your bliss, your ability to relax and receive.
what sounds most like how YOU do the DO?
THE RUSH JOB:
how long is this going to take?
i don’t have time for this!
can’t we do this later?
oh, ok, i’ll do you a favor.
now, i’m taking too long.
you’re here to serve me, right?
how do i look?
am i doing this right?
not sure how that was for you, but at least i got mine
sex? orgasm? pleasure? what’s that?
oh, i gave that up for lent 7 years ago.
enjoy myself? i’d rather not. it’s rather messy and i might look stupid.
YOUR pleasure might matter, but mine? not so much.
oh, well, if we must, i’ll “think of england?”
don’t worry about me, i’ll be fine.
la-la-la-la-la (fingers in ears)
most women pattern their own turn-on from of man’s:
1. get hot quickly.
2. come as fast and hard as possible.
it takes the average women around 20 minutes of playing around to even START to get aroused.
we often have no idea what our unique turn-on is like, that it might be a different beast from his altogether. (and any other woman’s for that matter).
i’m all for the fabulous quickie. hard and fast Os aren’t a problem in and of themselves.
but when it’s ALL you know, when you aren’t on intimate terms the vast sensual landscape that is your birthright, then i take issue.
men and a lot of women learn about what sex and pleasing their partners should be and look like, through porn. which is a lot like studying a paper menu and trying to recreate the meal from the black-and-white words on the page.
bottom line: for most of us, it’s an outside-in job.
i say, our sensual lives should be an inside-out job.
the degree to which you are sensually expressed and sensually full-filled is the degree to which you feel truly alive. it is not only fun and pleasurable, it’s the key to your juice and brilliance as a woman. (like ‘er? feel free to tweet ‘er)
so maybe you’d go instead for guidelines (for sex and for life) along the lines of:
* stop. breathe. feel.
* reach up and into sensation in order to feel more.
* notice urges and impulses as they come up, share them (boldly, kindly and exuberantly) with the knowledge that if you were thinking it, likely they were too.
* this is a great spot. let’s linger here for a nice, long while.
* the more i’m having a pleasurable time, they more he is and they are.
* how can we make this the most fun possible?
* there’s as much (or more!) enjoyment in the journey as in reaching the destination. (ever notice how much more fun it can be to get ready for the party than the party itself?)
* let’s widen the aperture of our senses to drink in more of life.
* let it in. let it come.
so, to this end, your mission, should you choose to accept it is a short exercise with a snappy title:
COME SOME OTHER TIME.
the point is to shift the goal of a sexual/sensual experience from orgasm/climax to exploration of sensation and to expansion of pleasure. so often sex is goal-oriented, and you miss the whole process along the way, in order to reach the goal of climax. this exercise is about re-defining the goal as the process itself.
it’s for in the bedroom. you can do it with yourself or with a partner.
but once you practice it between the sheets, please adapt what you learn so you can practice it in your life as well.
1. take a few moments to prepare an inviting, sexy, sensually-rich, comfortable space. (candles, putting on music, incense, opening the window for a cool breeze, having some wine or a bath beforehand… you get the idea).
2. take a moment to connect, settle down from whatever you were doing before, and be with yourself or your partner. (appreciate you. or them. look into a mirror. notice your breathing. thank yourself (or them) for being there).
3. do whatever sensual and sexual doings you want to do, however you usually do ‘em, but to focus on the “getting there” rather than the “there.”
~ the goal here is to have each moment more pleasurable than the last.
~ if you feel your mind wandering, bring it back to what is going on, whatever sensation you are experiencing.
~ if you feel close to orgasm or climax, relax and breathe into the sensation, spreading it from locally at your genitals throughout your body.
~ at any point, apply the guidelines from THE SAVOR-ER, above.
5. continue, experiment, breathe, indulge, relax, communicate and enjoy! but, COME SOME OTHER TIME.
6. perhaps take some time afterward to share the experience, either with your partner, or by writing to yourself.
~ what it was like to have sexual experience that’s focus was on NOT focused on orgasm/climax, but on everything but?
~ what did you learn, what did you like, what would you like to throw away and what would you like to include in your love-making?
~ what, from this kind of love-making, would you like to graft over on to your life-making?
in fact, share that last one with me below!
to your wildly expressed, pleasure-filled life,
i had dinner last night with two of my girlfriends at a sumptuous French bistro by the bay in San Francisco.
these women are stunningly beautiful, smart as whips and entrepreneurial wizards. one’s married to a gorgeous surgeon at the best hospital in SF and the other is in an epic love affair with a millionaire celebrity hottie. they radiate health and contentment.
i was showered in enough brilliance to put PG&E out of business and light up the evening skyline.
so, then the question is: was i crawling out of my skin with envy? did i carefully watch what i said, for fear of seeming stupid or inept? did i worry they would talk shit about me later? did i feel less beautiful, less successful and less lovable as i compared myself to these women and their lives?
read: did i worry if i could really trust these women?
the answer is NO.
and here’s why:
i find that one of the biggest energy leaks for women is the fear and mistrust we have of other women. (if you like it, feel free to tweet it)
over thousands of years (for as long as women have been dependent on others for our food, care, roof-over-our-heads, money, reputation and personal power), we have grown to see other women as threats.
if someone else has control over the stuff you need, you can very quickly get into competition with the other folks who might get your stuff instead of you.
~ she comes from a better family than you? she gets married to the powerful bread-winner, not you.
~ she’s more beautiful than you? she gets the love affair, not you.
~ she’s smarter than you? she gets the drea job, not you.
~ she’s sexier than you? she gets the love. the loyalty, and the soul-shattering orgasms, not you.
~ she makes more money than you? she gets the admiration and the status, not you.
there are two really big stinky problem with this popular line of reasoning:
1. competition is not women’s true nature
2. there are enough love affairs, dream jobs, love, loyalty, orgasms, admiration and status for every woman. and plenty left over.
many of us women are no longer dependent on others for the stuff we need to flourish. (no not ALL women, not by a long shot. but probably YOU)
however, we can still see other women as threats, to be competed with and preferably bested. we still have left-over and outdated mistrust coursing through our DNA, built up over thousands of years.
not ALL women are trustable, yet. but A CERTAIN KIND of women is thoroughly and powerfully trustable:
the woman who is no longer at war with herself, but who has befriended herself.
when a woman begins to revere her body, learns the language of her inner wisdom and prioritizes her juiciness, she then starts to trust her self.
she no longer sees herself as a wild beast, just waiting for her to loose the reins of control for a moment, only to run off into the wilds of fat-lonely-ugly-broke-toothless-and-homeless.
she trusts her desires to lead, is fueled by her sensuality, and is rockin’ her own unique brand of the feminine. (well, maybe you want to tweet this one!)
she’s no longer trying to GET; she has an overflow to GIVE.
and then, she becomes that kind of woman who is thoroughly and powerfully trustable.
your body, your woman’s body, is hooked up to infallible divine guidance. the energy that courses through your veins is the same that infinitely renewable Source that powers life itself, makes babies, urges salmon to swim upstream and bursts cherry blossoms into bloom.
i stand proudly astride my soap box and say (because i know for myself and have observed in other sassy lassies): a woman’s true nature is overflowing-enough-ness.
when your well is full, it naturally overflows in the juiciest of ways on to other people. you get clear on what you want to contribute to the world. you value your voice, tremendously. you take pleasure in your daily moments now while you yearn deliciously for you next adventure.
around you, people can’t wait to be their best selves. your presence is firestick, lighting a flame in their hearts.
can you really trust other women? no, not all of them.
but can you trust the lit-up ones? the ones that are at home in their skins, who have found a compass at their core, who know their worth and who are rocking their own unique brand of the feminine?
you can trust that kind of woman with your child. with your newest, tenderest desire. with the keys to your Porsche or your raw, hurting heart.
you can trust her to hold you with love and respect. you can trust her to call bullshit on you when you need some stretching. you can trust her to remind you of your beauty and brilliance (randomly, and when you need it most).
i have purposely surrounded myself with THIS kind of sisterhood: i hang out with them, mastermind with them, cry with them, party with them and dine with them.
in the presence of their firestick beings, i become LIT.
i pray you have at least one woman like this, if not a dozen, surrounding you.
if not, please get one or some. please. your life – and the woman you know yourself to be – will transform.
the first step is learning how to trust your own bad self, your own woman’s body, so you become that open, confident, tail-swinging, trustable woman who attracts similar women, to her.
so here’s a nice practice, to start it off, and start rocking your own unique brand of the feminine:
1. start with your envy of her. (really)
let’s say her six-pack abs make you green.
2. then, ask yourself if you had that thing you envy, how would it make you feel? what would it make possible for you? (really dig down on this one)
let’s say you come up with something like:
it would make you feel powerful, strong and sexy. it would then be possible to feel lovable and capable of having a beautiful relationship.
3. KNOW THIS: you would not notice that thing in her, if it wasn’t beginning to burn and blossom in you.
that’s how it goes with women. you wouldn’t even perceive her abs (that shorthand for power, strength, sexiness, lovability, etc) if the potential wasn’t IN YOU ALREADY.
4. so, lastly, ask yourself, “in what ways can i notice that in ME today?”
so, in the six-pack-abs example, you’d ask yourself, “in what ways can I notice my power, strength and sexiness today? and while I’m at it, my absolute lovability?”
if you let her, your sweet self will begin to gather evidence of your lovability; she’ll collect examples of your power and strength to lay at your feet and she’ll wink at you, “oo-la-la, sexy!” many, many times in your day.
(AND … let me know at least one way you “rock your unique brand of the feminine,” below in the comments!)
to YOU, stepping fully into this kind of woman (and surrounding yourself with a bunch, too),
When I heard the news of another prominent figure involved in a sex scandal, did my eyebrows raise? Did they wryly raise further when I connected his last name with the subject matter of his sexting? I don’t mean to be too cynical, but the answer to both counts was nope. I wasn’t exactly surprised. Were you?
This isn’t an article about the scandal Weiner has brought to his post as a government official. It isn’t about the hurt he’s brought to his wife and family. It isn’t a “how could he do this to us?” cry for mending morality. It isn’t even a straight-out plea for the privacy of all humans, regardless of their office.
This is an article exploring some reasons (albeit totally made up and fictional on my part) about why he may have done it. And not the convenient reason so many may have come to – because he must have been a weak-willed, sneaky, narcissistic, cheating excuse for a public servant. While that may or may not be true, the reasons I’m fascinated with lie in an often-unexamined place: the shadowy psyche of the erotic mind.
Would I find texted pix of your willy erotic? Not so much. Bear with me.
And I also ask you to bear with me as I make a bunch of likely inaccurate assumptions about the inner sexual workings of a man I’ve never met, likely never will meet, and whose life I feel shouldn’t be a subject of public scrutiny or mockery in the first place.
We look for cracks in our leaders, the same way we are simultaneously horrified and fascinated by a crime scene. We want them to be inscrutable gods and goddesses, examples of how it should be, flawless examples of human beings in whom we can trust. I mean, would you really want a leader who is fallible and vulnerable having her hand on the nuclear “deploy” button? Would you want him guarding your house and family at night? Making decisions that will impact your bodily and economic well-being? Like it or not, that’s what we’ve got.
Ever had a fantasy that involved experiencing or doing something that in “real” life you’d never want to experience? Ever had a fantasy you’d share with a stranger but you’d be ashamed to share with someone you were intimately connected with? Ever wonder why sexual fantasies are so often kept secret and in the dark? What’s at work here? Why the connection between sex and shame? Are we all twisted beyond any hope of help?
Ten years ago, before my transition into the field of relationships, I had a private practice in New York City in which I’d work with clients to their heal bodies and emotional eating issues entirely through self-awareness, lifestyle adjustments and holistic nutrition. Enter Christina, who came to me with uncontrollable cravings for ice cream. She’d polish off a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream each night. Every night. That’s a whole lotta ice cream.
Even the word cravings can conjure up associations with being sinful, bad, lacking in will-power and undisciplined. But I’d learned to respect cravings as the body’s best attempt at a signal for something direly needed. Christina and I started by deconstructing the facets of her ice cream cravings, in order to deconstruct – and dignify – what he body was really asking for.
Ice cream is cold, milky, creamy, sweet and fatty. Additionally, for Christina, it provided an emotional sense of comfort and of treating herself. So I suggested a couple of radical things. First of all, I didn’t tell her to eliminate ice cream. The focus wasn’t to take anything away, just to add in more of what her body might actually asking for, but was settling for through the ice cream.
I prescribed more fresh salads and fresh vegetables to cover the “cold” element. She was to add healthful fats like olive oil and avocados on her salads to cover to the “fatty” element. And she was to add in some sweet root vegetables like squashes or sweet potatoes so her general diet would have more natural sources of the “sweet” element. Often, a craving for milky substances is an attempt to “mother” ourselves. Since there’s no more nursing for most of us adults, we often substitute other comforting – and milky – things. We looked at the places in Christina’s life where she was hurting and needing “comfort,” in essence needing the mothering kindness she was trying to get from the surrogate teat of ice cream.
In the span of the one-month experiment, she lost about 10 pounds, had eaten ice cream less than a handful of times, and was considering for the first time going off of her anti-anxiety medication. Christina’s body responded extraordinarily well to some healthful substitutions that satisfied the spirit of her cravings, if not the letter of them.
In the vein of deconstructing food cravings, let’s take a look at what it is that Weiner (allegedly) did. He texted and/or tweeted his private junk to potentials other than his wife. He did it in secret, ideally with the aim to not be found out. Where for Christina it was ice cream, Weiner’s erotic cravings showed up as exhibitionism and the titillating thrill of (hopefully) getting away with something. What might his erotic cravings be asking for on a deeper level? And might these cravings have some innate dignity to them?
If you have the chance, run out and get yourself of a copy of The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment by Jack Morin. After reading his astonishing book several years ago I began to ask if there might just be some fantastic, potentially liberating intelligence to our sexual cravings. Perhaps our erotic shadows have a code language, akin to other types of cravings, that needs some deconstructing and understanding, rather than more shaming or repression. Perhaps there is even a powerful force at work behind sexual scandals that is actually strongly life-affirming and deserved of respect?
Morin suggests that sexual obstacles in one’s youth create lifelong scripts for arousal. Drawing on 351 respondents, straight and gay, who discussed their erotic lives with him, Morin developed an “erotic equation”: attraction plus obstacles leads to excitement. This formula is neither tidy nor predictable. Feelings ranging from exuberance, joy, anxiety, humiliation, naughtiness and anger can intensify arousal and turn out to be aphrodisiacs. Which begins to explain why the best sex – or most potent sexual fantasy – is dynamic and risky rather than static and safe.
Which sexual obstacles showed up in your youth? In what ways did your plans to overcome them get entangled in your sexuality? If you were the geek or nerd who could never get the girls, perhaps (as you’d take your frustrations our on yourself) you’d plan for ways to “get back” at them later by never allowing them to “get” you. If you were of the Catholic school meme, perhaps guilt and the naughty thrill of doing something you were not supposed to do showed up precisely alongside your first sexual awakenings. If you felt unseen, unwanted and invisible when your sexuality started to bud, perhaps you dreamed of a time when you could exposed any part of yourself, inspiring only delight and arousal from others.
Which obstacles – and plans to overcome them – might have been Weiner’s ?
Morin claims that understanding our peak sexual experiences and fantasies – and the obstacles that came with them – offer the greatest opportunity for self-discovery and, thus, revitalized sexual experiences. In essence, he says that deconstructing erotic and sexual elements can bring them out of the shadows. Rather than exposing himself to text recipients other than the woman he vowed to be faithful to, the question becomes how could Weiner honestly and openly incorporate the element of exhibitionism into his erotic world? Rather than deceiving his wife and his constituents, how could he bring the elements of “almost getting caught” or “being naughty” into his sex life?
Additionally, how could he explore the line between secrecy (doing something you wouldn’t want anyone to find out about) and privacy (having an inner world that is yours and yours alone, hurting no one) and hence open up some much-needed lines of communication with his spouse? In personal relationships, while secrecy can be a killer, privacy can often actually help preserve the relationship.
Should Weiner have been afforded a blanket of privacy? Should any public figure or leader? While I wouldn’t count myself as qualified to make that call, we should consider for ourselves what the line is between privacy and secrecy. It’s a line our very own government is in the process of blurring the boundaries of as I write.
I am in no way dignifying the fact that Anthony Weiner was doing stuff he didn’t want anyone to know about. There’s no dignity in deceit. I do believe that if you’re holding a public office or commanding the public eye, part of your preparation and job description should include getting a handle on your kinks so they don’t run away with you and your career. But that’s another article.
The threats of shame, disapproval or massive loss are seemingly not enough to prevent sexual scandal. Our deeper sexual cravings almost always trump our ideals for morality. That’s some powerful ju-ju that’s driving us, despite our loftier intentions. Perhaps a sincere and vulnerable look into the secret heart of our arousal could create some balance and healing. Maybe confronting the unresolved feelings that produce “troublesome turn-ons” in our fantasy world might allow us to act more congruently in the “real” world. Perhaps deconstructing our erotic cravings, and acknowledging the desire to give and receive love that is at the core of them all, might just restore some much-needed dignity to our sexual selves.
“Most of your sexual desires, no matter how weird or kinky they may seem, are rooted in your need to give and receive love or your need to experience a specific part in the spectrum of [sexual] energy. These needs are natural, although if denied or hidden they can grow into ‘pathological’ forms that require healing. If you don’t embrace these desires in yourself with compassion, you can create an inner division that results in an energetic kink.”
Actually, I don’t find it all that scandalous; more like, “Yeah, duh! It’s about time!” Although I see why it’s incredibly controversial and is being called the most important text on human sexuality since Kinsey’s research, it all makes perfect sense to me and my world view on relationships.
So, I wanted to share with you a tidbit from a great review of the book, invite you to read the whole review, and maybe even the whole darn book!
[Se*x At Dawn author] Ryan explains the difficulty of trying to restrain se*xuality using the metaphor of being a vegetarian. “What we are saying is that you can choose to be s*exually monogamous for your whole life if you want to, but this is a choice like choosing to be a vegetarian. It can be an excellent decision morally, ethically, health-wise and on many different levels, but simply choosing to become a vegetarian does not mean bacon will stop smelling good.”
In other words one can choose to have a monogamous marriage, but it doesn’t mean falling in love or getting married will eliminate the natural appetite to have sex with other people. “Once you understand this then you don’t feel you are a failure because you have a fantasy about someone other than your husband. You don’t think there is something wrong with your husband or your marriage because you’re fantasizing about someone else. No, it simply means that you are a homo sapien and that is how it is.”
Ryan says one can choose the context for relationships but people will have feelings and desires regardless of the decisions they make. “Once you understand your nature, and where these feelings come from, it is easier to control them if you choose to.”
I follow that with my assertion that there are seven big road-bumps that shall eventually place themselves beneath your relationship’s feet. They WILL show up sometime in the life-span of your partnership, it’s just a question of when. And whether these road-bumps trip you, face-plant you, derail your whole relationship or merely give you a magnificent view from the top of ‘em, depends on how you deal with them.
To read about all seven, along with HOW to deal with them well, proactively, with love and respect, you’ll have to wait ’til next year for my book (in the writing, as we speak I know, I’m such a tease!), but the first big road-bump is this:
#1: We assume monogamy’s IT – but it’s rarely what we do or get.
(Take a breath with me. Breathe. In and out. Take another. I’m all for monogamy. It’s a great choice and it’s very good for very many humans.)
OK, we all know that monogamy is the “right” default sexual agreement of all serious, committed, long-term relationships, correct? Or do we?
Although more than 80% of Americans consider infidelity morally wrong, about 8 out of 10 people have cheated themselves or are affected by cheating. Our morals say one thing, and our actions another. A majority of us are actually non-monogamous while giving only lip-service to the gold-standard of sexual exclusivity.
This is not because we are all crazed se*x addicts, have loose morals, lack emotional maturity, have an attachment disorders or are selfish bastards. Sometimes that might be the case, but there are some other forces at play.
There is a paradoxical effect that sexual monogamy so often has on long-term relationships: what nurtures and feeds love and commitment is the opposite of what fuels erotic desire, and so our sex lives too often dwindle. Sexual spark often needs things like newness, difference, a touch of “danger” or intrigue and “otherness.” The by-products of long-term relationships like closeness, comfort, safety, habituation, sameness, trust, and feeling like you “know” your partner completely, as wonderful and vital as they are, are often the antithesis to a lifetime of hot s*ex.
S*ex At Dawn is simply another (clear, powerful, colorful) voice that, through sharp observation and compelling research, asks us to re-examine the gold standard of monogamy.
To read the full Sex At Dawn review, click HERE.
And to read more from my “other” website, Re-Defining Monogamy, click HERE.
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.
A Five-fold Path for Divine Dating in the 21st Century
By LiYana Silver
Have you ever wondered if dating is a modern form of torture, an iron maiden slowly squeezing the last breaths from our hopeful hearts? Is the dating pool a mass of muck and mire to be paddled through in hopes of reaching the far-off shores of our ideal relationship? Or could dating be a transcendent experience, a meeting of gods and goddesses in shining, soul-opening moments over cocktails? Could dating be divine? I consulted four other relationship experts who offered some heavenly answers to these worldly questions and revealed a five-fold path that can illuminates our way.
Dating. It ain’t what it used to be. The entire rulebook of courtship seems to have changed. The hows, wheres, whens, whats and whys barely even resemble those of our parents or grandparents. The internet is just over a generation old, drastically influencing how and where we meet people. How do you know when is the right time to call, to have sex, to stop dating other people? What we do on dates – and why – is also open for interpretation; are you looking for a soul-mate, life-partner, mother-of-your-children or a no-strings-fling?
If my ten years of private practice as a relationship coach have made anything clear, it’s that relationships are truly complex. However, the recipe for lasting love calls for five vital ingredients, and four other expert dating coaches echo my findings. So, what are these five ingredients; what is this five-fold path we help our clients walk, amble and saunter along? It’s a concept, an acronym and a memorable verb; and it’s what most of us wish we could do on yet another agonizing date: A.S.C.E.N.D. A is for Appreciation; S for Self-awareness and Self-care; C for Communication, E for Ending the war of the sexes, N for Negotiation; and D for Divine dating.
But let’s start with what we would like so much to ASCEND from shall we? Why is dating such a misery, a drudgery and an ongoing opportunity for dashed hopes and painful rejection? Mama Gena, Queen of Pleasure, and founder and facilitator of the Womanly Arts Mastery Program, and author of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts says it’s due in part to our abundant expectations, as well as our baggage and past disappointments that we haul around with us from date to date. Our poor partner has to attempt to overcome our history of unmet expectations, hurt feelings and broken heartedness in only a few short hours.
Jordan Harbinger is a dating coach and teacher with The Art of Charm, which offers men primarily the skills of natural charisma, body language, presence and being their authentic selves without apology. He points to our – and especially men’s – prideful egos as one of the main pitfalls to pleasurable dating. With our attention on how the other person is perceiving and judging us, and how and if we are measuring up, there’s little room left to be present with our date. Add to that our fear and shame about admitting we’ve got a lot to learn about dating, relationship and social dynamics. We feel like we should already know how to be great on a date, amazing lovers and fantastic communicators. We truly need that relationship education that almost none of us actually got.
In addition, dating and mating rituals are far from clearly defined. Is he supposed to call on Wednesday for a date on Saturday? Is she supposed to text midday and demand a steamy meeting later in the evening? Reid Mahalko is a bi-coastal sex educator and coach for relationship self-esteem and sexual self-confidence. He chimes in, reminding us that although we often manage to find decent people – which used to be reason enough for our parents and grandparents to make a lifelong marriage work – that is no longer enough. We need to learn to, as Reid puts it, “date our species.” We expect more out of our relationships than ever before; sure our date needs to be a decent person, but we also expect to meet our emotional, intellectual, financial, familial spiritual, social and sexual match as well.
Hollywood’s leading love and relationship expert Lauren Frances, who counsels A-list celebrities and mentors women around the globe in creating what she calls “legendary love affairs,” adds that the fundamental underlying obstacle to enjoyable dating is our lack of clear intention. Why are we dating, to what end? What do we want to get out of courtship? Until somewhat recently, dating was a means to the endpoint of marriage, which created a lot of psychological safety.
Many of the women I work with experience what I call “Groundhog-Day Dating.” Like Bill Murray in the 1993 movie who awoke day after day destined to repeat the same painful patterns, so it is for many of us in dating. We inherit these relationship ruts from our families of origins and our culture. We are often perplexed that our hard work and good will does nothing to shift our attraction to the “wrong” person over and over again. We KNOW what to do, but we don’t.
So, now that we know how and why dating sucks so bad, how do we start to have a blast instead? We A.S.C.E.N.D.
Starting with Appreciation is key. Deceptively simple and often overlooked, appreciation in and of itself it doesn’t always solve complex issues or turn the date around, but it paves the way. And without it, the date – and likely the rest of the relationship – is headed downhill. Appreciation is afoot when you relish the experience of the date itself, approve of your own self, and acknowledge the human being you’re on the date with – even if not the right man or woman for you. “The more you honor your own journey and appreciate every step you took, the more you will draw toward you the best experiences,” says Mama Gena.
The second step of the five-fold path is Self-awareness. Get on intimate terms with what you want, what makes you happy, what thrills you, your deal-breakers, the things you can’t stand and even those things you think you don’t deserve but secretly hope for. Knowing want you want is sexy. Get really clear who and what “your species” is – as Reid Mihalko instructs – so you can see if you are on a date with them! This second step also includes Self-care. The date starts before the date; the more you invest in making yourself delicious, the more you both will enjoy yourselves. Mind follows body and body follows mind.
The third ingredient in your delicious dating recipe is Communication: words to sweetly break the ice, to gracefully extract yourself from an uncomfortable date, to get you started appreciating the human being you’re with. Be kind, be interested in this person. Rather than judgments, focus on finding commonalities and connecting on an emotional level.
Fourthly, E is for Ending the war of the sexes. In case you didn’t notice, there is a sea of misunderstanding separating us from true partnership. When we know men and women truly want (nope, not just to get in her pants or to get at his credit card), we can actually begin to have a sweet dating experience. In our heart of hearts, women want most to be seen, to receive enlivening attention, and to be noticed afresh each moment. See her, hear her, notice her, for real. Guys want to be appreciated, respected and supported in their purpose. As a teacher of mine once said, “Be happy and blame it on him.”
Lauren Frances reminds us of the fifth step, Negotiation. Dates, she says, especially first ones are mainly for “romantic research and checking for compatibility coordinates. If you are marriage-minded, ask your date if he or she believes in marriage – and listen very carefully to the answer. If he or she balks, you’ve done a great job of uncovering a serious relationship incompatibility. You WANT to scare the wrong suitors off! Harmony in relationships comes from an alignment of “mutual romantic intention.’” I always say it’s more a question of sorting through all our options than desperately hoping for this one to be The One. They can be a truly great person, but not a right fit for you. If you are not clear where you are going, it’s hard to get there.
The sixth ingredient is D for Divine Dating, where all these five steps have been leading. To turn an ordinary dating experience into a transcendent one, begin with no expectations, while holding strongly what you deeply desire. Stay present; feeling seen, heard and truly appreciated are the things of falling in love as well as lasting love. Continue to not taking anything personally, especially on first encounters. Make sure to make the date somehow meaningful, so none of your time spent with another person is ever wasted time. Although you may want a coach to help access it, remember that you have all you need inside. Although you may need a course to remind you, notice that on the other side of your insecurities is the truth of your magnificence.
Not every date will result in a happy ending, but each can be an affirmation that you are showing up for your love life fully and you are taking the right actions. Become more committed to your divine dating experience than feeling bad about your failures. Develop a point of view about your partner that is loving, even if he or she isn’t a fit for your relationship intentions. Who you are in every moment – including swapping stories over margaritas – is who you are in life and in love. Says Mama Gena, “We are each responsible for bringing the recognition of our own divinity, which allows us to see it in the other.”