To Forgo the “O”

Sex without orgasm? You’re jokin’, right?

Recently, I had a returning female customer come into our boutique and giddily thank me for advising her and her husband to try preventing orgasm. I remembered the woman by sight because she and her spouse had struck me as a particularly handsome older couple who were deeply in love; but frankly, I didn’t remember giving them that specific advice. “Oh yeah,” she said, “at first my husband thought you were trying to be a smartass!” Then I remembered. He’d been having a difficult time maintaining an erection, and they’d come in to our establishment to see about purchasing pleasure aids he might use to focus on giving her orgasms when he wasn’t feeling up to the task.

At the time, I’d just finished re-reading  Viktor Frankl’s classic account of surviving as a prisoner in various Nazi concentration camps entitled Man’s Search for Meaning¹. Towards the end of his autobiographical account, Frankl, a neuro-psychiatrist by profession, posits his theory of logotherapy and explains some of his techniques for working with various mental illnesses. One of the techniques he suggests involves “tricking” the brain into a sort of reverse psychology. Since I am not a mental health professional, I cannot subscribe or even explain how it works; nonetheless, I suggested this couple might try something of the sort.

I asked if they’d ever tried pleasure mapping [I’m a huge fan of the practice] and suggested that they “map” their erogenous zones together. “But,” I said, “neither of you are allowed to climax.” Her husband scoffed, “Sex without an orgasm? Where am I? You’re jokin’, right?” I explained that I thought his condition (erectile dysfunction) was perhaps exacerbated by the anxiety he was experiencing by trying so hard to make his wife orgasm via penetration. Of course, they had a lot of other options that they could explore, for example cunnilingus, arousal enhancers, adult toys, etc., that could bring both of them pleasure. I admitted that I’d be happy to sell them the latest and most expensive toys in our store; but I was curious to know whether or not they would benefit from just leisurely exploring one another’s bodies. Sometimes, when orgasm is seen as the end-all, be-all of sex, so many other pleasurable opportunities are missed.

When the woman came back to tell me how happy she had been with their pleasure mapping experiment, she said it was practically a miracle. “If it hadn’t been so passionate, it would have been funny. In fact, ____ and I laughed about it later, but he couldn’t keep from getting aroused!” I admitted that I couldn’t take credit and told her about an example from Frankl’s book wherein Frankl worked with a man who had been overwhelmed his entire life with a terrible stutter. The man was to speak publicly at a conference and sought the doctor’s help. Frankl suggested that during his speech, the man force himself to stutter throughout. The result was that the man actually couldn’t stutter.

I knew that it sounded too good to be true, but the woman assured me that she didn’t care about the “how” of it happening; she was just thrilled that she and her husband had been able to reconnect intimately and she promised she would be sharing the wonders of pleasure mapping with all of her friends.

______________________________

For more on Pleasure Mapping, see my post on Searching for Your Buried Pleasure.

¹Man’s Search for Meaning  by Viktor Frankl, 1946. [find a quick link in Resources]

What Is an Intimate Adult Sexual Relationship?

Is there a gap between what you were taught in Sex Ed at school and what you’ve experienced in real life?

Let’s face it, we don’t know what we don’t know. If you were asked to create a delicious four-course meal from scratch that would be enticing, balanced, and healthy for your dinner guest, where would you begin? Personally, I would begin by freaking out. If you’re a skilled chef, this assignment would be easy, right? But for someone like myself, who was never even offered Home Economics in school, I would be at a total loss.

I don’t even know what’s served in a four-course meal. I know appetizer, entrée, and dessert. I thought appetizers were the first course. I’m missing an entire course. And as for “balancing” a meal — what exactly is a balanced meal — does that mean I have to offer vegetables; and if I do, do they have to be green to count? If they do have to be green, I’d also like to know whether or not a box of frozen peas would be considered as cooking “from scratch” because I think it does, as long as I add some spices or something to them. I guess green peas could be enticing if I added enough butter and cheese, but then that might subtract from the healthy part of the equation. And speaking of healthy, a healthy dessert just sounds like an oxymoron to me.

So, if our culture, our churches, our families, and our friends all think that we should eventually be in an intimate adult sexual relationship … where the hell are we expected to learn how to do it?

If current data on the divorce rates is any indication, adult relationships have been miserably failing for the better part of the past thirty years or so. What the hell happened? It’s obvious that adults have been entering marriages without being properly taught the skills of effective communication, a deeper understanding of interpersonal expectations, healthy emotional boundaries, and how to be committed to their intimate lives. So, if our culture, our churches (synagogues, temples, or other homes of spirituality), our families, and our friends all think that we should eventually participate in an intimate adult sexual relationship — being successful at it, notwithstanding — where the hell are we expected to learn how to do it?

Colleges are talking a lot about everything sexual being consensual nowadays, but they’re not teaching young people how to build sexual and emotional intimacy. I wonder if the type of  “education” we are offering is a result of, or a precursor to, our new and often damaging “hook-up” culture. Because a lot of young folks are proficient at releasing sexual tension, but they woefully lack what it takes to participate in mature, emotionally healthy, sexual partnerships that develop and deepen over time. I’ve heard this is called “sharing parts, not hearts.”

For those of us who desire lasting relationships over brief encounters, answers deeper than “it’s complicated” are necessary. So, let’s break it down. Intimate Adult Sexual Relationship:

  • intimate:  arising from a close personal connection or familiar experience
  • adult: grown up; mature
  • sexual: of, relating to, or for sex
  • relationship: the way in which two people are connected

Having a mature, close personal connection with a sexual partner seems easy enough, right?

According to Elizabeth Entenman, “Being in a relationship means you’re in a relationship with your entire partner; you can’t pick and choose which parts you do and don’t like. Along with the good comes the bad, and being a partner means embracing all of someone.”¹ Okay I’ll admit, that does sound complicated, but not impossible.

So, maybe not everyone wants to be in a lasting intimate adult sexual relationship. But, for those who do, it’s important to acknowledge that fostering deep emotional intimacy is crucial to building a healthy, solid sexual relationship. If you are interested in learning more, I’d love to hear from you.

_________________________________

What Being in a Relationship Really Means,” by Elizabeth Entenman for The datemix via zoosk, September 3, 2017

Fixing a Marriage Does Not Necessarily Fix the Sex

I once knew a woman who had been going with her husband to marriage counseling for about a year when she admitted to me how disappointed she was that, while she and her husband were rarely arguing anymore, she didn’t feel like they were really connecting physically and emotionally. After all of the take-home assignments and communication exercises they’d been given, she and her husband were getting along more smoothly and working together towards their family goals. She said that her husband seemed happier and even their children seemed happier, but she was still sadly discontent. “What’s wrong with me?” she wanted to know.

When her mother-in-law applauded their “success” at counseling and commented about how lucky her daughter-in-law must feel to have such a great husband who was willing to “go the extra mile” for her, she said it took every ounce of her strength not to burst into tears. She wanted to correct her mother-in-law with, “Your son is a great roommate but I need a husband.” She felt like a fraud. I asked if she’d talked to the therapist about the intimacy disconnect she was still feeling and she held up her hands as if to stop me and said, “Believe me, I’ve tried. The only answer I keep getting is ‘the physical will follow.'”  But, it wasn’t. And she was miserable, blaming herself for being so unhappy despite the progress they’d made. I asked if they’d considered seeing a sex therapist and she laughed, “We don’t need a therapist for sex. We already know how to have sex.”

I’d like to be able to share a happy ending of this story, but the truth is, there wasn’t one. About a year later I heard from the woman again. She confided, “maybe we didn’t know how to have sex after all.”  She told me that her husband ended up moving in with another woman before their divorce was even final. I told her that his actions spoke more strongly of his character than of her, but she was adamant that their sex life — or lack of one — was the final curtain of the divorce. “He couldn’t get past seeing me as a mom,” she insisted. “And neither one of us could be really happy with a sexless marriage.”

 

 

Life is Messy

Life is messy. We all know it. It is inconsistent and contradictory. It can be smooth sailing one minute and topsy turvy the next. The only constant we can rely on in this world is change. Change often brings conflict and stress. That is why it is so important that when two unique souls come together in a relationship they set boundaries and expectations and have a clear vision for their relationship together as a team. Having cohesive boundaries and explicit expectations within any familial relationship are paramount to maintaining the mental and emotional health of each of its members. It is the only way that they will be able to weather the storms life throws their way.

My spice and I are such firm believers in the messiness of life that we chose it as our family motto, vita est nuntius (“Life is messy”). We didn’t chose this motto from a stance of fear or as a warning, per se; rather we proclaim life’s messiness as a rallying cry for our family to be always prepared. To know that we are always and forever on the same team. We want to live fully, facing Life head on; and we want our children to be brave when facing the messiness of living full and daring lives. Perhaps this decision to see our family as a team, as a unit, a clan (we are Clan Allen, after all), stemmed from my spice’s military experience as a Marine. He knows firsthand the importance of the semper fidelis.

When my children were young, I would tell them every time they left our home that they were entering the “mission field” as a reminder that they would face challenges to their faith, their beliefs, and their world as they new it — certainly not to instill fear, but to nurture their emotional and mental foundation, knowing that home, The Home Clan Allen Builds, is always their fortress of refuge and strength. Home is always the one place they can come to be loved and embraced fully for who they are.

Three of Clan Allen’s explicit expectations are that: (1) we are a team and stand together protecting our family from anyone or anything that might break up our unity, (2) we are to live to the best of our ability, and with God’s merciful help, Ephesians 4:31-32: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” [which I’ll admit is often much easier quoted than done!]; and (3) only one of us gets to be “crazy” at a time. Again I’ll admit, this is easier said than done — especially when we had three teenagers in the home at the same time. Alas…

Of course it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Clan Allen. In our messy lives together, we’ve often had to remind one another, and especially our children, that Hey, we are on the same team here. Of course because life is messy, many boundaries have been crossed and expectations haven’t always been met, but having them in place has been the cornerstone of our family’s sanity. What boundaries and expectations have you and your partner, your teammate in Life, set for your familial relationships?

 

 

Hope for the Holidays

The holiday season can be a time for crazy extremes for many women. Everything around us telling us that we should be full of excitement and good cheer, but in truth we may be feeling very anxious and stressed. Let’s face it, party planning, gift hunting, and wrangling family politics aren’t always exciting ventures! You may be grieving the loss of a loved one and coping with the pain of facing your holidays without them. It can difficult to manage our expectations when everyone in holiday commercials looks like they just stepped out of the Hallmark channel.

We need to be mindful about keeping our priorities and expectations in check if we want to keep our sanity relatively stable. I recommend giving yourself a Mind, Body, Spirit check as often as possible.

MIND

Do your utmost to keep any positive thoughts in action. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have or don’t have time to do, remind yourself of what you are grateful for in life and what you have already accomplished on your holiday to-do list. Celebrate every small victory. Whether you identify as being Christian, Jewish, pagan or anything else, keeping your mind focused on what is true, honorable, lovely … and anything worthy of praise is sound advice for every mind.

BODY

This one seems a no-brainer, but is sometimes it is easier said than done. Moderation at all times, but especially during the holidays, is key for a healthy, happy body. For me it means lightening up on sugary sweets … and alcohol. Again, easier said than done; especially if all you wanna do is race home from a long hard day of wrestling with bustling holiday crowds and reward yourself a hot toddy or four! Keep your body moving because it can actually keep your energy levels up. Oh, and a little vigorous sex can be a really fun way to do this, by the way. But self-care and being kind to yourself means treating your body with the respect it deserves.

SPIRIT

This is a sacred time of year. Stay connected (or re-connect) with your Divine. Nourish and enrich your spirit, planting and watering the seeds that you want to reap in the New Year. If your goal is to practice love, patience, kindness, and gentleness with those around you, you must get in the habit of practicing love, patience, kindness, and gentleness with You first.

Remember, there is hope for the holidays. My holiday wish for you, girlfriends, is for a peaceful and gracefully contented time with those whom you love during this sacred season.