What I Kept Of My Ex Pt. 2

It’s time for another look at “What I Kept Of My Ex” (Click to read the first post if you missed it!)

There’s something about the end of the year that makes people sentimental.

Maybe it’s the good old holiday spirit, maybe it’s being back in your old bedroom, or maybe it’s just having enough time off work to start dwelling on your mistakes. We keep things – and usually there is a reason why. You hated that person. That was a failed relationship. It hurts when you think of what used to be. The feeling of joy is overwhelming.

What is something that your ex gave you that you kept – and why did you keep it?

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The Eroticism of The Unknown

Dear Diary,

Olivia Wilde recommended a book about parenting so I went down to Powells to try and find it. There were two copies left. A nice older man pointed me towards the bookshelf in the back, beyond the children screaming, to a quiet place in the parenting section where the childless can still plead ignorance.

The book is called Mama Tried and I bought it for ten dollars. I started reading it on the car ride home. I’m not pregnant and I’m not having a kid and I’m not trying to have a kid and I only know like two people who have kids so I have a pretty strong degree of separation between myself and parenting. Let’s not make this weird. You read books to learn new things and I know nothing about parenting.

That seems strange to me because I write a blog about sex and sexuality and relationship dynamics and as I tiptoe ever closer to my thirties, parenting is rapidly becoming a pretty important component of that. I have to wonder – at what point between trying to figure out my career and my relationship and how to wash my hair so that it’s not too greasy or too dry am I supposed to learn how to keep an infant alive?

I feel like the best time to get my feet wet is now. When I’m not responsible for another living, breathing human being. When I’m years away from even having to register for the exam.

I don’t want to presuppose that parenting is something that you can learn from a book. I’ve heard you can’t. I’ve heard that books about parenting mostly just make you feel anxious about how you’re parenting. I guess the book is less functional and more erotic. It’s the magazine under the bed you sneak looks at because it doesn’t quite belong to you yet. I get all wide-eyed like how do cloth diapers work and is swaddling literally a baby burrito?


It doesn’t provide me any answers but it gives me a glimpse into some kind of unique horror story. Is this the honey in the trap? The sleepless nights, the dazed-eye look, the promise that it’s so wonderful as you walk crooked down the hallway, middle of the night, nipples bleeding, stomach stitched, screaming I really love my children(!) waiting for the next one to take the bait.

Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know.

More later,

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Couples Questions: Talking To Your Partner About Infidelity

Last year I bought this book called 1001 questions to ask before you get married. We’ve gone through the whole book a few times now, except for the chapters about marrying a criminal or marrying a celebrity or religious views all of which don’t seem to apply to us anyways. I keep the book tossed behind our bookshelf. It’s hot pink. It calls too much attention to itself and I don’t like that.

Every now and then I look up and ask J if he wants to do some marriage questions. He always says yes – even if it’s in that voice that also kind of means “kill me now” – so I reach my hand back behind the other books and dig it out of it’s secret crevice.

It’s one of those cheaply printed books with the thick, grainy textured paper, the spine worked through from opening and closing, listening and thinking. It’s only caused an argument or two. Most of the time I’ll start to ask a question, stop halfway through, raise an eyebrow, do people actually need to ask this?

Last night we talked about infidelity. It’s one of my favorite subjects. I like to swim in these what-if questions. We talk about some of them. What if you say yes to that cup of coffee. What if you say yes to that cocktail. What if you say yes to that movie. What if you say yes to the prolonged hug. The kiss. What if you lie about where you are just once. The line moves, moves, it moves along and so do you. You make little justifications. You say you’re just friends. You suck up that energy like a vampire. The guilt slips over you like a film you can’t wash off.

We’re a baby relationship, we aren’t at five years yet. And the idea of being unfaithful to him sounds like a bad joke. But that’s what everyone thinks, and what makes us so special that we would be immune to time, temptation, opportunity? Those things present themselves to everyone, wrapped up, smellin’ pretty. Pretending they don’t exist isn’t any better.

Sometimes it’s important to go back to the basics and remember together.

Does just thinking about infidelity make your skin crawl? Anyone in a serious long term committed relationship should be open to discussing the realities of how can we prevent this from happening to us?

Some couples answer that question by being mindful of their boundaries. Some answer that question by changing their boundaries and opening their relationships. Others hide from the question entirely, telling themselves they’d never do that. 

It’s a little scary to write about, talk about, think about. I wrote my thesis on infidelity, I read nothing but relationship politics for almost a year, but it still makes me uncomfortable to say out loud. What would I do in these situations? For me, the solution is to keep talking about it. To be cognizant of every situation you’re in and ask yourself “what decision can I make in this moment that will be the healthiest for my relationship?”

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Q: Sex Therapy and Making Things Work Together

Partner and I are looking to strengthen our relationship after a breach of trust. We also have ongoing issues with not being on the same page with our sex life. We are considering seeing a couples and/or sex therapist. 2 questions- 1) what might we expect from seeing a sex therapist? It was suggested to us by a couples therapist on our first visit but seems intimidating. 2) Book suggestions for a couple of bookish people who are a bit skeptical of anything too fluffy or cheesy-self-helpish?

Sorry to hear you’re going through a rough patch. Cheers to you guys for making the effort!

Like any other kind of therapist, the experience you have with a sex therapist will probably depend on the therapist you find, their expertise or area of focus, and what methodologies they use. Without knowing more about what you’re interested in working on, I may suggest finding a general therapist who also has a background in sexuality so you can see the same person to work through a variety of issues. I have never been in sex therapy myself but my understanding is that is pretty similar to what you may already know of regular counseling, just with a heavy focus on sex and relationship dynamics. However, if your issues largely pertain to sex and sexuality, the recommendation to seek one out may be the right call.

Therapy can be super intimidating. Especially when you’re talking about your wants and needs sexually. One thing you may experience is a weird sense of uncomfortable freedom. What I mean by that is, you’ll probably be saying some things you’ve been thinking and wanting to say, but haven’t known how to say. Your partner may tell you things you had no idea what they were thinking. Moments like this are uncomfortable but they are freeing because they create a sense of openness, transparency, honesty, and forward momentum. Odds are that you’ll experience a few moments like this where you feel naked, emotionally. 

Don’t worry about anything too weird, though. Your sex therapist won’t have you strip down and hop up on the table for an interactive demonstration. At best they may assign you and your partner some homework to do in your own time.

As far as book recommendations, here are some books I’ve read and would recommend for a couple struggling with maybe rebuilding their foundation a bit.

I know a lot of these books are just about love and relationship dynamics. That’s because I feel like sexual intimacy often overlaps and intersects with general emotional intimacy. Gain strength in the ability to talk openly, lovingly, and with humor to your partner. Find spaces in those conversations to be real to yourself and what you want. Be vulnerable with one another. I think that’s where connections are made, and those connections are transferable to the bedroom.

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Three Quick Ways To Ease The Tension In Your Fight

So, we fight. It’s not very often and it’s not what I imagined it would be like. The longer we’re together, the better we’re able to work together. Here are some tips I think are pro. Try incorporating them into your next disagreement or serious conversation.

1. Pull A Goof

You’ll have to time the pause right for your fight, but there’s nothing to bring a couple closer together than a gentle eyebrow wiggle in the middle of a tense moment. Play this card wrong (or too often) and you’ll be accused of being unable to have a serious relationship talk. Don’t avoid difficult subjects with humor, but use them as a playing card when you want to remember that you and your partner are actually fighting together, not against one another.

2. Say “You’re Right”

Or “I didn’t say that the best way I could have” or “I said some things I did mean and some things I didn’t mean.” When you’re angry you often get defensive. If you don’t get defensive, you probably get some other emotion that doesn’t feel too hot. Whatever that emotion is can lead you to say some things that aren’t strictly true. You have to learn when to say you’re right. You don’t want to be right all the time, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re in the heat of it. Sometimes you should want your partner to be right, because it means they were able to see something you didn’t. That’s what a partnership is.

3. Ask Your Partner What They Mean

When you don’t quite understand what your partner is saying, ask them what they mean by repeating it back to them. In therapy this is called mirroring. Repeat what they said back to you word for word. When they hear it coming out of your mouth, they might realize that they didn’t quite phrase it exactly right. It might give them the opportunity to add more clarifying details. Be sure you don’t put words into your partners mouth, which I can at times be guilty of accidentally doing. Sometimes saying the same thing in a different way can help both partners come to an understanding about what you’re actually talking about. Best way to fix a misunderstanding in a relationship? Communicate.

Did you end a fight and things don’t feel totally 100% okey dokey yet? The cool down period is a good time to think about how your partner is feeling. At the end of a fight you’re fully feeling your own emotions. You might feel hot, you might be crying, you’re probably pretty emotional. Consider after a breath where your partner was coming from and approach the conversation a second time with as much understanding as you can muster. Not all arguments find light after one conversation.

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Should Your Partner Be Your Best Friend?

holding seashells up in a heart

Jason is my best friend. By any and all qualifications that matter in a friend, let alone a best friend, he ranks supreme. He is the first person I text when I want to share news. He’s the first person I text when I have nothing to say. And he’s the only person that I’ll actually use my phone to call – except the government, my healthcare provider, and very rarely with some shame, Comcast.

How I communicate with him makes him my best friend. Not just when and how I communicate, but also what I say.

At the start of a relationship we tell each other whispered secrets as tests of loyalty. In bed at night, those first sleepovers, we stay up later than we’re used to, running on pure adrenaline. We tell each other secrets. I feel this way, I’ve never told anyone else before. We wait for them to scream. They don’t. We fall into the honeymoon period, we rock back and forth, we fall in love. And then, deep-seeded security, comfortable and content, it becomes all too easy to stop sharing these things. More often than not it’s because these feelings we used to share are now about this person. We wonder if it’s safe to share. I am afraid, are you afraid too?

A best friend says yes, a best friend says, lets be afraid together. Then maybe we won’t be so afraid anymore. The relationship you have with your partner, because of the depths it seeks, is one of the most important relationships you have.

The problem with articles that ask this question, this big question: who is your best friend? is that they work off of, and often value, outdated modes of relationships. Antiquities of culture. This perception that you will have a soul mate of a best friend, the same way you have a soul mate of a partner. Maybe you have a best friend, just one, the very best. The person who you have rated and graded, who floated to the top, the science experiment of all your people. I look at my friends and I see too many. I know that the work I put into these soul mate-friendships is what makes them special. No arbitrary grading scale will do.

Putting people into these boxes of best or worst or most valuable isn’t fair to me and it’s certainly not fair to my friends. I steal from polyamory, I steal and I don’t care. They’re all important to me in different ways.

Learning how to express this, learning how to value your friends so they feel best, that’s what’s the most important thing.

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How To Move On From A Kissing Affair

Please help! my 50+ year old husband had a “kissing affair” with a bar tramp over two years ago. I was gone for weeks at a time taking care of my dying father, then my elderly mother. I am an only child, so it was all my responsibility. As a result, he had a “friend” that got him to go to a bar everyday after work. Yes, hubby had a choice, but his alcoholic friend needed an enabler and a ride home everyday… he had gotten a DUI a few years before and never got a license again. Anyway, long story short, he met this bar tramp who worked there and she began preying on him – yes he allowed it, but she knew exactly what she was doing!!!! She is the poster child for “daddy issues” and sociopath because I was later told she had done it many times before AND she bragged about it!!

I know it didn’t go any further because I overheard a conversation with a best buddy of his (that he shares everything with) and he said that he thanked God everyday that he never “f’d” her… his exact words. He said she was just some cheap easy tramp who paid attention to him at the time and that she was absolutely unattractive and I saw her picture.. she is!

The minute I found out I stopped it and forbade him to ever have contact again! Her numbers were blocked, he comes home everyday after work, has never been to any other bars and has done EVERYTHING right to make up for it. He read all of the christian books about infidelity, owns his mistake, and NEVER once blamed me! He said he was a weak, selfish bastard and will regret it forever and I know he still lives with the guilt. He has told me many times how sick it makes him when he can still see the pain he caused me. And since we’ve been together for 26 years, I know him well enough to know he’s truthful.

So, the only problem I have now is that I just can’t stand the thought of him kissing me now! I’ve become hyper sexual since then, and I’m 57 years old now! Also, since then, he’s had trouble getting erections at times. I resent the hell out of that! but beyond that, I gag at the thought of letting him stick his tongue down my throat now, knowing he was in her nasty mouth with God knows what in it! I want to move on because kissing is supposed to be more intimate than sex but the triggers make me want to vomit!

HOW can I erase the triggers and move on? This is the ONLY issue I still live with and your advice would mean so much. God bless you, your service is to be commended!

When someone is unfaithful the first thing I always ask myself is why were they unfaithful?

An explanation for infidelity is not an excuse for infidelity. Based on only what you’ve given me here, I would anticipate that perhaps your husband struggled with the illness in your family and your absence during that time quite a bit. It’s possible that he didn’t have an outlet for support. Does he have one now? I think that’s important because he should focus on growing and evolving from the mistake that he made. If he doesn’t grow from the mistake, it will make it more difficult for you to grow from it as a couple.

I believe that you’ve forgiven him and trust him but I’m not sure that you’ve let it go. And that’s a hard thing to do. Maybe it’s not something you should do. Letting it go and finding ways to move on are different things.

That kiss can be something that made you stronger, or it can be the thing that made you never enjoy kissing your husband again.

I would advise that you go see a therapist if you’re not already. Intimacy, once damaged, takes work to regain. I don’t think there’s one right answer. You may need to find new or renewed intimacy with your husband. You may need to seek forgiveness to the other woman who was likely struggling deeply in her own life to do this with married men. You may need to question your own values and feelings about intimacy, and kissing. You may just need more time.

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How to Emotionally Support Your Partner Through School

Jason is about to start his masters of business program. His school did something unreasonably cool and hosted a “partners panel” where previous students and their romantic partners discussed how they survived the two year haul. It helped me a lot and when I left I felt so extra-proud of the adventure my partner is about to embark on.

J will be working full time and going to school part time meaning that most of his free time will be filled with studying. Here’s what I learned from the panel.

Set expectations

Set expectations up front and try to be realistic. Working full time is already a lot of work, but when you’re in school, it’s like working two full time jobs. Your partner might space out sometimes, they might not feel or be total present. They may need to change plans last minute or bail completely. There may be an adjustment period where they’re more tired or more stressed out at the start.

Take on more than 50%

Relationships aren’t always 50/50. It’s hard to be in a relationship that is always one hundred percent egalitarian. It’s important to recognize when your partner needs more than 50% or when you’re taking more than 50%. That way you can prepare to gather than energy, or you can prepare to find ways to give appreciation. I think that understanding that things aren’t always 50/50 is important in setting expectations.

Keep busy with your own hobbies

While we do a lot of things together, and like to spend a lot of time together, I also feel pretty comfortable saying that we have our own separate hobbies that we really enjoy. He has nights where he goes and plays poker or goes and plays music with friends, and I have girls nights or stay in and write. I like to think of this as a positive in that while he is working on his school work, I can use that time to sit and work on my writing.

Be patient

Whenever there is a significant change in your life, expect there to be a period of transition. You may both experience some turbulence as you find your footing. Be kind and patient to each other, but also to yourself.

Speak up

School and work aren’t excuses to be a shitty person or a shitty partner. If you feel like expectations aren’t met (on either end) sit down and talk about what’s not working and figure out a way to work together to fix it.

Create a shared calendar

All the partners in the partner panel said they had some form of shared calendar (google or otherwise) that they used to know each other’s schedule. Jason and I have been doing this for most of our relationship and it’s super awesome for keeping everything straight. If you’re in a committed relationship and you don’t already share a calendar, give it a try! You can also include events of interest, special holidays, or little shared reminders.

Understand why it’s happening

Why is your partner going to school? To better themselves? To give themselves more opportunity? To get the right credentials for a new career? Either way, keep coming back to that starting point in your head. School isn’t forever, but the impact of the program can impact your partner and your relationship forever.

Have a question about sex, life, or love? Submit now!

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Going to Bed at The Same Time as Your Partner

J and I always go to bed at the same time. It has become a habitual synchrony. I pop my routine like vitamins and the next day, for having done so, I can tell the difference.

There’s something I’ve come to especially enjoy about being a morning bird, though. The quiet of the morning is different than the quiet of the night. The quiet of the night has a buzz like phone lines along the highway, an undercurrent of electricity. It’s too loud and too heavy with expectation. The morning presents itself as an empty slate.

It’s 9:00pm and I’m in bed. I’m in the middle of a mystery novel I’ve been trying to finish for months. (Tana French, In The Woods) J is reading the same series, four books down the line. I lean over and make guesses about the killer. He plays a poker face. I’m pretty sure I’m on to something.

I flop the same leg over every time. He sleeps on his right side. I sleep on my stomach with one leg up, stretching my hips as I sleep. Sometimes we spend an hour talking. Sometimes it’s hot and I’m grumpy. Sometimes we play the-bed-is-lava. Almost every night we make up a song, replacing the actual words with the name of our cat.

One of our alarms goes off, usually around 6:00am. If it’s his that goes off first my body

click click click

and shoves him like an automaton.

If it’s my alarm that goes off first, I usually jump halfway up in the air, the volume still turned all the way up from the night before.

With our life in sync like this I think about all of the little moments we share that we would otherwise miss. Our time alone together is already so limited that those extra few moments together can make all the difference.

Do you go to bed at the same time as your partner? Why or why not? What are some synchronicities that you love in your relationship?
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How To Make Friends When You’re 28

We were at a house party with mutual friends and I was hovering around the chip table. The moment you went to the bathroom I leaned over to Shelly and said “I have to befriend her.”

This is what friendship looks like when you are 28. It’s tactical. Play one is always the same. You lean over to a mutual friend, your partner, your cat, and you whisper with awe: I have to befriend her.

You’re going on and on about all of my favorite hobbies and all of my favorite sports teams and all of my favorite foods and in my head I’m hopping back and forth clapping, in my head screaming “me too me too me too” with a basket full of vocal fry.

Instead I nod, curtly.

Yes, sports, mmhmm, you enjoy discussing sexuality with your peers, yes, that is the good time these days. 

I make a move to the bathroom and vomit all of the stress chips I just ate. Everyone brought Kettle sea salt & vinegar chips so when it comes up its like a salty, tangy wave of regret.

I come back and you’re standing in a new group of people and there’s no easy way for me to make my move into the circle. The kettle chips are wide open so I go back and start eating them again so I have something to do with my hands.


  1. Say “I have to befriend her” out loud.
  2. Develop a comprehensive list of everything you have in common.
  3. Don’t act like a total spaz when they say “I absolutely love this [one cult movie that you thought you were the only person in the world that saw it and now, here she is, your dream girl, and now that gay marriage is legal you’d totally propose because this might be it, this is probably it] – “
  4. Oh yeah, I like [that thing] too. We should totally [that thing] sometime.
  6. She’ll be like oh shit this girl is so cool we have one thing in common and she wants to hang out with me maybe I need to rebalance my friend stock portfolio but she just walked away like how could she do that she must not be very desperate for friends. Oh god should I be desperate for friends?
  8. At this point she will now awkwardly ask you to hang out and it will sound like shes asking you first even though you already asked her.
  9. Tell her it’s a great idea, you’d love to hang out, it’s so nice of her to ask, let’s exchange numbers.
  11. Don’t text them immediately. Wait like three days and then send them a gif of a bear riding a motorcycle. Type out “just like last night, so crazy” and right when you see that read receipt, PRESS SEND. Then throw your phone in a lake.
  12. You’ll see her by chance at the market, wave and say “Hey… You’re so and so, right? We should totally hang out!” DONT MAKE PLANS FOR LATER. You’re only available RIGHT NOW.
  13. Get her drunk. Tell her all of your deepest darkest secrets.
  14. Wait for her to tell you hers.

Invite her to your wedding. When you have your first born, call her Auntie so and so. Send her a card in the mail once a year for no reason that just says “you’re a real sweetheart.”

ERrea erraa erra (rewinding sound)


  1. Find friend. Proclaim with confidence “you’re my friend now.” Don’t overthink it – you’re awesome!
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