I want to be open – my partner doesn’t!

My boyfriend and I have been together for a couple years and I’m realizing that I really want to be in an open relationship. I love him and I love having sex with him but I’m missing having sex with women and I’d like to experience sex with another man again. I feel like every time I bring it up I hurt his feelings and he doesn’t want to budge on the issue. What can I do?

This is the toughest, and I feel like so many people wind up in this exact situation. I love you, but I want to see other people. I think the toughest part, that you noted, is being able to clearly explain to your partner exactly what you want and why. It’s not easy to express your need/desire for something new or different without your partner feeling like they aren’t good enough. I mean, fuckit. I’ve been studying this stuff in school and in my personal life for the past couple of years and there are still some aspects I struggle with, still some new things I’m learning.  It’s a process. With no understanding of polyamory or open relationships or swinging, the thought of your partner being with someone else can be particularly painful. Don’t forget that. It may make complete sense to you, it may not seem hurtful or damaging to you, but if your partner isn’t in the same mental state that you are he’s going to perceive what you’re asking for differently than you may want him to.

That’s where I’d start. Get on the same page. Read books together (Open, Opening Up, Love in Abundance, Sex at Dawn, The Ethical Slut…) and learn about alternate styles of relationships. Write lists about what you’re both looking to get out of your relationship. Write about what you want and what you need. Express your concerns, your boundaries. Talk about what you want together out of your relationship. Develop your ideal relationship. Talk about why you want to stay together rather than just splitting up. Talk about how you want to make it work and find a way to both be satisfied. The hardest part is understanding. The hardest part is getting to a place where you have a similar point of direction.

If you can get to that point, you’ll be able to work on experimenting with these things and developing the boundaries for your relationship. You’ll be able to work through struggles one at a time. Finding a couples counselor who works with open couples may be incredibly useful for you in learning how to deal with your emotions and learning new ways of communicating with one another.

You also have to consider that your boyfriend knows what an open relationship entails and just isn’t interested. In this case you have to consider your relationship with your boyfriend. Are you going to be happy if you stay in this relationship and don’t get to have these experiences?

The bottom line is that you can’t have an open relationship by yourself. Your partner needs to be on board and consenting to the style of relationship you want to have. So talk about it. Express how you feel. Communicate. Maybe don’t jump straight into your ideal relationship but tiptoe to it with baby steps that make him feel comfortable. Explore it together. See if there is anything he’s interested in trying. But if he’s not interested, consider the need/want you have for these new experiences. Are you going to regret not experiencing them? Are they a necessary part of your life? Are you not ready to completely settle down yet? Is settling down something you ever want to do? Is this something you can compromise on and let slide? A passing curiosity? For some it is, for some it is definitely not.

Continue Reading

after your infidelity: what next?

I got a submission from someone asking what they should do after having cheated on their partner, so I thought I would do a little writeup of my own personal feelings on the subject. There are obviously many different ways that this can go, and I think that the most important thing to realize is that there is very little control in scenarios like this. With emotions flying, all you can do is the best you can do. It’s imperative that you realize that all you have control over is yourself. You cannot control or predict how someone will react when you tell them that you cheated on them. It’s important to understand that no matter how well you plan this conversation that its still going to take on a life of its own once you let it out. Coming to some sense of calm about this will help, I think.

In my earlier post about why people cheat, I pointed out that a lot of people who cheat have serious guilt and shame about what they’ve done. I don’t believe that people who cheat are bad people, spare a few exceptions. I think that people who cheat have made a mistake, typically because something in their relationship has become flawed with or without their notice. From that point we realize that our relationship requires some sort of fix me up, break it down and rebuild it, or we realize that our relationship is beyond repair and we end it.

The problem is that most people follow the script of “You cheated on me, this is over” instead of looking at infidelity as a reason for strengthening their relationship, looking at the issues that plagued it, and coming back together. This is reasonable. This is understandable. Trust is the foundation of any relationship and it makes sense that once you’ve lost that trust you may not want to work to rebuild it – you may not think that you can. And you may be right. That said, I think that many wonderful relationships are broken down and tossed away because of a horrible turn of events that could have had a more positive ending. Not every relationship that experiences infidelity needs to end.

But, again, as the cheater, you only have so much control now that this has played out.

So you have to come clean, what do you say? How much do you say?

I think you should tell your partner everything but I think it should be as tactful as possible. The difference between “I slept with someone else, twice, in the past couple of months” and “I slept with these two guys from my gym class, they had giant cocks, we fucked right here, and here, and there…” Your partner will likely want to know more, and may ask questions. I’m inclined to say that answering any question that your partner has is probably better than withholding information. The most important thing about this step is not telling any more lies. Don’t pretend something didn’t happen if it did because this is the moment of truth, of clearing your conscience, of coming clean. This is the moment to get it all out if you want to have even the slightest chance of rebuilding a relationship based on truth and trust.

It would be helpful, I think, to get the basics out. Then to take a break. Leave and let your partner think about what happened and what you said. It’s possible that they may have more questions following your first conversation.

I think it’s important to express your regret for the mistake that you made. I think it’s important to state your intentions. I think it’s important to never tell your partner that they have to forgive you or that they have to make it work with you. Your partner is going to feel horrified as is – and they’re not going to want to be told what to do. Tell them what happened, tell them that you are regretful, tell them that you want to find some way to rebuild what was broken.

It would also be helpful if you expressed some desire to fix the issue that led to the infidelity. Whether it be temptations, dissatisfaction, a friction in the relationship, your own personal depression, your own personal needs, or whatever else you feel led you to that place. I would also consider (before even having this conversation) that you may have cheated because you were done with the relationship. Do you really want the relationship back, or do you just feel as though you still love this person and are upset that you hurt them? Consider that point strongly before expressing a desire to fix the relationship.

Lastly, talk to them immediately. No one wants to hear “So I’ve been trying to think of how to tell you this for a few months now…” It’s better to come to your partner immediately after you’ve cheated to tell them how you’ve wronged them and express your regret.

This post is disjointed, and it gives me the same feelings that these serious and unfortunate conversations usually have. It will likely be messy. It will likely not come out in the order you want it to. Have the conversation, be honest, tell your partner what happened, tell them what you want to fix and how you attempt to fix it (counseling? taking a step back to rebuild? defining new rules and boundaries?) and then let them take some time to think about what they want. It might not be the same thing.

But first figure out if this is a relationship that you truly want to save, or if you just want your partner back because you still care about them and feel badly for hurting them. What did your infidelity tell you about you and your relationship? Why did it happen, and how can you make it not happen again? It’s going to hurt for the both of you no matter what you do, no matter what you BOTH decide. Take the time while he is thinking about what he wants to do things for yourself. Focus on yourself, your friends, your own life. Focus on learning the lesson from the mistakes that were made. Whether or not you get back together, this is going to be an important step. Good luck.

Continue Reading

Infidelity / Age

Do married senior citizens cheat on their spouses with the same frequency as younger couples?

There is some interesting new studies being done on infidelity. I would suggest that you read this article that came out in 2008. Here is a clip with some relevant information. I would note that this seems to refer specifically to sexual infidelity, not emotional infidelity. I imagine emotional infidelity may appear more steady than sexual infidelity – maybe depending on gender as a variable.

University of Washington researchers have found that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006, up from 20 percent in 1991. For women over 60, the increase is more striking: to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in 1991.

Theories vary about why more people appear to be cheating. Among older people, a host of newer drugs and treatments are making it easier to be sexual, and in some cases unfaithful — Viagra and other remedies for erectile dysfunctionestrogen and testosteronesupplements to maintain women’s sex drive and vaginal health, even advances like better hip replacements.

“They’ve got the physical health to express their sexuality into old age,” said Helen E. Fisher, research professor of anthropology at Rutgers and the author of several books on the biological and evolutionary basis of love and sex.

 

Continue Reading

Relationships Aren’t Love Affairs

I just finished the book Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships by Arielle Ford. I picked this book up as a new release because occasionally it can be enlightening to read a good book about relationships. This one was no exception. No matter how much experience (literary or personal) you have in love and relationships, you always learn something new, and you always get good reminders. This book made me sad at times, and really happy at others. While there was brief mentions of God or religion (very brief, IMO) it was always very respectful. It wasn’t “hands off, God will do things for you” and it wasn’t “You should do this for God” –  it was using God as a backbone for the choices that you make in life, and seeking strength in the beliefs you have that things will be OK. I really enjoyed that, as someone who is not religious.

If I had to summarize the book, it would be in the title line. Relationships Aren’t Love Affairs. The other makes the point that love affairs are about passion. Relationships (and subsequently marriages) are about the irritants that two people have to make them stronger together. Certainly it’s all about love, and happiness, and pleasure, and fun, but it’s also about the work that two people put into a relationship to make it stronger.

Here are some notes, and thoughts, that I jotted down in my notebook from themes the book gave.

When you suffer, when you have a history, you become stronger and more beautiful. It doesn’t damage you or make you less-than.

Crisis can be used as a way to bring two people together and make them stronger. You are forced to admit your faults and your mistakes, and your true self. The fact that you are human and can do wrong shouldn’t be seen as a breaking point, but rather a turning point.

On the thought that a baby can bring love and enrich your marriage/relationship. It is another example of how much love we have to give and spread. Another baby doesn’t make you love your husband less, it makes you love your husband more. Presumably. This point is often used when talking about polyamory. Your partner experiences love or emotion for someone else, but it doesn’t mean they love you less. That love they give can help strengthen your relationship, because your partner is happy and satisfied. No mention of polyamory (that I can recall) was given in the book. But a lot of the tools could be useful in any style of relationship.

Forgiveness and sincere apologizes are important. Don’t forgive unless you truly forgive. Don’t harbor ill will towards people while you smile and say that everything is OK.

All you can control in life is your response. You cannot, can never, and will not control someone else. I would suppose the harder you try, the more they will rebel – in some cases. Bad things happen to even the most wonderful people and it’s how you choose to react to these situations that makes you and your relationship.

You should trust your intuition in relationships, not scripts. For instance if you are cheated on the script is that your partner should not be trusted and you should leave them and never return again. If your intuition says this is true, do it. But if your intuition tells you that your partner feels poorly for the mistakes they have made and you want to make your relationship work, don’t feel pressured to do what you “should” do – do what you feel is right.

You should not have to end a relationship to feel freedom. If you feel trapped, why do you feel trapped? How can you seek and experience freedom in your relationship? We may not want freedom from our partners, but from the imaginary things we feel bind us to them.

How do we act differently when our children do something badly, or when our partner does something badly? We expect adults to do no wrong, to know better, to not make mistakes. When a child makes a mistake we may tell them what they did wrong and why it was wrong and what to do the next time. We may not give this benefit to adults, who are also still learning, and also still need space to grow.

Share the truths that you are afraid of. RAFT: Reluctant and frighted to share. These things can help you grow closer to your partner, and help you have a more honest relationship. Keep your RAFT short and concise. Tell them you are RAFT – but you want to step out of your comfort zone to share a part of yourself with them.

We have many soul mates in life, for different purposes, different kinds of love. Nurture those relationships and they will nurture you back.

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.” – Erich Fromm

Irritation over time turns a relationship into a pearl. The things that once made us crazy can make us grateful later. Learn to love the flaws – the things that makes your partner unique. Find goodness in those flaws.

Our care takes many forms. How does your partner care for you, and how do you care for them? This may look different, and you may not at first perceive it as a care. (For instance: Cooking and cleaning for your partner may be a small act of caring that the partner may perceive as a duty, because this may not be a form of caring that they relate to.) Learn your partners style of caring, the little things they do for you that shows their love.

In order to help someone you have to first help yourself (Re: Putting the mask on in an airplane first before you help others do so) You need to make sure you are in order before you can help others. Fill yourself up with good things (food, sleep, exercise, things that make you happy) so you have more to give. Make yourself happy. Know how to.

Refuse to suffer in bad situations. Give your partner space and do what you need to do. Offer compassion. Think about how you can care for them and your relationship, now how you can fix the problem or change your partner.

Continue Reading

Shaving Tips.

I’m 20F and I’ve never shaved anywhere in my life, and now I want to… but I don’t know how much to shave, or where, or how. Help??

No big! Shaving can be a little overwhelming at first, when you realize just how much hair you have. What you shave and how much you shave is really up to you. The big three, I think, are your 1) Legs 2) Pubic hair 3) Underarms. These are the places that I shave (or wax) and you’ll often see others who choose to shave do the same.

Your leg hair can be the most time consuming because there is such a great big spanse of it. Many people choose just to shave the area of their legs that are visible when wearing clothing. For some that might be just to the knee, for others it might be all the way up to the thigh. I typically shave just to my knee – as the hair that is above my knee is much lighter than the hair below my knee. You can’t really tell it’s there. Up to you. The pubic hair may be equally as time consuming, but because the skin is more sensitive and there is more to shave around. Some women just shave the edges – what can be seen when wearing underwear. Others just trim. Some shave everything. Some even shave in the taint area (in between the ass and vagina) or the actual hair that grows in your crack. Some people have more hair than others. You can choose to shave whichever parts you want to, here. Underarms are pretty self explanatory.

I recommend getting a nice razor that has a couple of blades. I’ve tried a few and I really like Gillette. I’ve tried mens and womens razors and prefer the shockingly pink and marketed towards woman version. It always glides a little smoother. It’s good to shave with a razor that is fairly sharp. Not too sharp, but definitely not too dull either. If it is too dull it will pull the hair rather than cut it. If it’s too sharp you may cut yourself. Shave in areas that you are less prone to cutting yourself (your legs, maybe) prior to shaving more delicate areas. Replace blades as needed.

A shaving cream choice is up to you. I like the ones with aloe in them, or ones that smell like raspberry. It’s good to reapply your shaving cream as necessary to prevent dry shaving, which can cause ingrown hairs.

Ingrown hairs are little red bumps that may form after shaving. The more you shave and become used to shaving, the less likely it is that you’ll have these bumps. Exfoliating (using a scrub on your skin a few times a week or rubbing a washcloth with soap over your skin) can help prevent ingrown hairs. Using a moisturizer can keep your skin happy.

The actual process of shaving that I use is: Shave downwards in the direction the hair grows. Clean your razor often to prevent clogging the blades. Once you’ve shaved everywhere downwards, reapply more cream and shave upwards at a diagonal. A fair bit of pressure usually helps, as does pulling the skin taut. I find shaving diagonally prevents cutting and snagging more than shaving directly upwards. Hair grows fast, and you cant get everything with a blade. You’ll likely see stubble the day after shaving. It’s best to wait a day or more in-between shaves if you can to prevent irritation and to allow some of the hair to grow back so you have something to shave. Make sure to go slowly when shaving over the knee and around your ankles – tricky areas. It’s also important to move your lips out of the way when shaving your pubic hair so you don’t snag them. Ouch. If you’re shaving the taint or the hair in your crack, good luck.

Continue Reading

Books Books Books

Fully stocked up on books again, here’s the stack that’s sitting on my table. Summer reading is awesome!

  1. the girl who fell from the sky – heidi w. durrow
  2. the firm – john grisham
  3. the vagina monologues – eve ensler
  4. rose madder – stephen king
  5. delta of venus – anaïs nin
  6. the visible man – chuck klosterman
  7. message in a bottle – nicholas sparks
  8. timeline – michael crichton
  9. zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance – robert m. pirsig
  10. the bell jar – sylvia plath
  11. she comes first – ian kerner

I’ve also had some inquiries as to other books I would recommend reading. I feel like I’ve written about that pretty recently re: sex/love but here are the books that I’ve read so far this year. In order of reading, too!

  1. Steve Jobs
  2. The Walking Dead I
  3. Hey, wait…
  4. Open: Love, sex, and life in an open marriage
  5. Damned
  6. The future of us
  7. Is everyone hanging out without me?
  8. Opening Up
  9. The Help
  10. The God Part of The Brain
  11. The Hunger Games
  12. Sacred Marriage
  13. Delusions of Gender
  14. On Writing
  15. Love in Abundance
  16. The Language of Flowers
  17. Room
  18. Sexual Intelligence
  19. Some Girls
  20. The Pagoda
  21. Book of Salt
  22. Funny Boy
  23. Stuck Rubber Baby
  24. Fifty Shades I, II, III
  25. The Defining Decade
  26. The Passion
  27. Just One Look
  28. Watchers
  29. Bag of Bones
Continue Reading

oral sex, sperm, and fetishes.

my boyfriend says that if he busts a huge load earlier in the day and we have sex later on- i’m not going to get pregnant because he’s already expelled all the sperm…. seems ignorant to me or is he on to something?

One hundred percent false. He’s either trying to trick you into having unprotected sex, or he’s ignorant about how sex works. Either way, no good. Have a talk about safer sex. Pronto. Planned Parenthood is a great resource for this, as is Scarleteen. I’d be glad to answer any questions you or he have as well.

what is the best way to tell your partner about a foot fetish

When you’re hanging out together and talking, tell your partner that you want to tell them something but you’re nervous about it and aren’t sure what they’re going to think about it. I would suggest preparing for the possibility that they’re going to be put off by it or not understand. Have an explanation on hand as why you like it, or how it gets you off, or what exactly a foot fetish would mean for them as your partner.

is it true that there has been a rise in the number of men with throat cancer due to men having oral sex with girls more often

I have read reports that throat cancer is on the rise, due to HPV, and oral sex. The most comprehensive article I found was at the NYT, click here to read.

Have a question? I’ll answer it on my blog. Submit to my formspring.

Continue Reading

Infidelity: Why Do People Cheat and How Does It Feel?

Infidelity is one of those taboo subjects that fascinates me, especially around this time of year as the seasons change and there seems to be noticeable spike in utter dispair. What has always frustrated me, personally, is our reaction to cheating. Using one of my favorite terms, what is the script for cheating? How do we deal with a broken heart? And why?

Obviously no one situation is the same, but it makes sense to feel hurt and betrayed when someone you care about hurts you. For the purpose of this post, lets define infidelity as when a partner in a relationship is physically or emotionally intimite with another person in such a way that they know is not appropriate for having a significant other. They lie, hide, and effectively “cheat” the relationship in order to obtain the outside satisfaction.

This definition excludes one possibility. What if you cheat, but you didn’t know you were cheating? This is an interesting one because most people enter into a relationship assuming that they have the same needs and desires. Much of “relationship politics” goes undiscussed because of the scripts already in place for a traditional relationship. For instance: When you start to date someone there is a nonverbal code for most people that says you will not sleep with someone else. The problem with this is that not everyone abides by the same rules and codes, and even if they do, it is not always apparent when you are switches from “friends” to “going on dates” and “dating” or “monogamous” – sometimes it needs to be verbalized.

The benefit that alternative couples have is that they must design the rules of their relationship. I believe that every couple should do this, even if they are wanting to be a “traditional” couple. What does a relationship mean to you? What does cheating look like to you? What is comfortable and what is not? What are your boundaries? What do you want and what don’t you want? It might sound silly, but I think it’s an important step in having your needs clearly communicated. You should only need to do this once as you become monogamous, perhaps again later on if your relationships shifts, or changes.

But lets stick with this model of pain and heartbreak, because that’s what really pisses people off. I would never condone cheating, and I agree with most people. Just don’t cheat. Don’t do it. There isn’t any reason to. If you’re unhappy, if you want something more, leave your partner and have that thing. But unfortunately for anyone who has ever had their heart broken (or has ever cheated) life isn’t simple. It’s sticky, messy, and decisions are made in the heat of confusion. I don’t think people who cheat are assholes. I don’t think cheating makes you an asshole. I think people who cheat made a bad decision and I think the factors that led up to that point are far more interesting than the actual physical or emotional act of infidelity. I also think that the act of cheating tears up the people who did it almost as much as the people who were cheated on. You know, spare the small percentage of people who just don’t give a shit. But lets not talk about them.

So, I decided to ask some people who cheated why they did it and how it felt. Mostly in an attempt to understand, but also in an attempt to humanize. We all say it could never happen to us until it does. No one gets into a relationship with the expectation that their partner might be unfaithful to them. We have hope, and we trust, and we’re blind to the faults in ourselves and our relationships. So lets look closer.

I decided the easiest way, without sharing too much, would be to bullet the key points that I grabbed. I’m doing this right now without having really thought about them, so I can look back at the bullet points afterwards to see if there are any themes.

  • I was at the end of a very long relationship that was heading south
  • I was looking for excuses to not be around my partner anymore
  • When I was cheating, I had a moment of clarity, it was wrong
  • I felt guilty after doing it, I knew it wouldn’t happen again
  • It made me realize how bad the sex in my relationship was
  • I had my heart broken and I dated many women at once
  • All of the women I’ve been with have taught me something important
  • I knew we were going to break up, but I wanted to make it work
  • I felt bad afterwards, I still loved him
  • It made me wonder why my partner wasn’t that physical with me
  • I found out I was being cheated on, so I decided to do what I wanted
  • The physical and emotional chemistry between us was so intense
  • I continued to emotionally cheat on my partner and my relationship felt toxic
  • I wanted to be with someone while I waited for someone else
  • I was very afraid of getting caught, very afraid of of regretting it
  • In the moment I was excited because it felt taboo and naughty
  • I felt bad for cheating, just because my partner did, didn’t mean I had to
  • I like how it reaffirms my masculinity to flirt with women
  • My sexual drive is stronger than my partners
  • I like discovering what buttons to push with new partners
  • I started to tell myself the relationship was over
  • I didn’t cheat until I knew the relationship was already over
  • I started to cheat to help me move on from my relationships
  • It made me feel unloved and used
  • Doing it once made it easier to do again
  • It was drunken stupidness
  • Cheating was not a good way to start a new relationship, I felt guilty

Alright, so there are some themes I’m picking out from these stories. First and foremost, almost everyone who messaged me cheated when they felt that their relationship was already over, which I thought was really interesting. I’m guessing that this is a case of being afraid to leave something or someone because you’ve been in it for so long. Getting caught up in a long term relationship – it can be hard to imagine how you’ll live or function without your partner, even if you’re unhappy. It can be too easy to get what out need outside of the relationship, rationalizing that you’re no longer in love and so it doesn’t even matter. For some, it can be an excuse to be a better partner. You’re getting your needs met outside of the relationship, so you can be a better husband or wife (or boyfriend/girlfriend) to your partner.

Second, almost every single person expressed guilt in what they’d done, whether or not they had enjoyed the experience. There were a lot of negative emotions and remorse associated to cheating. They did not enjoy the fact that they had hurt their partner, and they noted that the physical or emotional act of cheating hurt themselves, as well.

Lastly, the cheating helped people realize things about themselves and their relationships. For those who hadn’t already realized that their relationship was over prior to cheating, cheating helped them: end their relationship, move into new relationships, help them feel loved or cared for. It also made them feel poorly about themselves, created a cycle of need/dependency, or showed them just how poor their current sex lives were.

It’s obvious to me that cheating is a double sided coin. People are unhappy in their relationships and so they step out of their relationships either

1) As a way to end their relationship

2) As a way to find exactly what they are missing in their relationship

So how do we prevent cheating if it hurts ourselves and our partners? What are the alternatives? How do we make the alternatives more appealing, since people know there are other options? Endorse communication. This means talking to your partner about what makes you unhappy, about what your needs are. That means saying painful things like “I don’t like the sex, but I like you” or “I don’t feel anything with you anymore, I’m not sure if this relationship is going to survive.” And, of course, being your own advocate. Do you want to stay in the relationship? If not, how can you get out of it without making decisions that hurt you, and your partner?

And, as the person who was cheated on,  understand the reasons that your partner cheated on you. As you can see from above, infidelity doesn’t automatically mean that your partner doesn’t love you. Sometimes infidelity just means that your partner loves you, but isn’t happy in the relationship, and needs something. What does your partner need? Can you two make it work? Can you rebuild the trust that was lost as they were looking for what they needed?

I thought that the submissions were very interesting. Thank you very much to everyone who shared your stories with me and everyone else. If you did not get your submission in to me on time, I would be more than happy to publish your story anonymously on my blog if it’s something you want to share with other people. Email me at suggestivetongue@gmail.com

Continue Reading

when happy relationships end

Hi. After reading your last few responses, I was wondering if you could explain the psychology behind something I, and my guy friend, do. Ex: I meet a nice guy, he is polite, interesting, everything is fine, brings me flowers, the perfect bf material, but I get bored and have to break it off. My guy friend had the perfect gf for a year, she cooked and cleaned for him, his parents loved her, they got along great, breaks it off for no reason he can explain coherently. I bring him up because I thought I only did that. Why do people end relationships that are, to the outside world, fine? I mean my ex and I had great sex, communicated well, but there was something missing. I’m assuming same thing with my friend and his ex gf. What is that thing that people want in a relationship? Sorry if im too vague. You’re really well-read in psychology and very knowledgeable so I was wondering if you could provide some insight. Thank you so much.

This question makes a lot of sense, thanks for asking it! There are a whole bunch of things that could contribute to something like this happening, and you’re definitely not alone. So many relationships end without there necessarily being a “falling out.” I really enjoy what (now several) people say about the end of relationships. A relationship that ends is not a relationship that has failed. You always, always gain something from the people that you’re with. You become stronger and smarter in your dating styles and you really learn what you want as an individual in a relationship. So, I suppose that is your simple answer. Sometimes seemingly good relationships just end. Who says a good relationship has to last forever? A confusing sentiment to make, but an interesting one. No relationship lasts forever until it does.

Here are my actual thoughts to your question in reference to why this might be happening.

What you’re looking for 

Like I said above, you learn what you’re looking for in a relationship mostly through experience. You have some good dates, you have some bad dates, you figure out what your needs are. Sometimes two people get along very well and appear to be the perfect couple, but inside are fighting some sort of battle with themselves. It makes them happy (perhaps) but it doesn’t fulfill all of their needs.

Not ready to settle

Some people find themselves in wonderful relationships but hit a point of conflict. They’re in love, but they don’t want to give up on the benefits of being young and/or single. That could include continuing to explore what their needs are, having casual sexual/intimate relationships with other people, or having more independence and freedom before they feel like they need to “settle” with someone. Someone who lives a very active and busy lifestyle could also fit into this category. A relationship isn’t their main priority, or they feel like they aren’t ready to have that relationship be their main priority.

People change

People change. Particularly in their mid to late 20s when they’re finishing school or figuring out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They become, for the most part, who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. Their personality solidifies. They lose a lot of the “discovery” phase that hits so hard. There is some leveling out. If you’re with someone during this time it can be particularly difficult if your partner becomes someone that you’re not familiar with. They might decide they have major life goals that make your relationship difficult to maintain. They may develop their personality further in a way that confuses you or you’re not used to. If you want to be with someone through this period you may have to deal with loving your partner as a different/changed person. Getting over that hump can shake up otherwise well stabilized and setup couples.

The Honeymoon Phase

The most obvious one on the list is the honeymoon phase. You’re with someone and everything is new and exciting and wonderful and you’re learning and exploring and your chemicals are all crazy and your brain is pumped up… and then your hormones level out, you become used to your partner, and despite a maintained level of happiness/contentment, you realize that things have changed. It doesn’t matter that you’re happy necessarily, that initial excitement is gone and that can be disconcerting for a lot of people. What does it mean? Do I still love them? Am I really happy?

Grass is Greener

This leads perfectly into the grass is greener thought. We believe that other people must be more perfect or more exciting than our current partner. That’s simply because we don’t know their own faults yet. Sure – someone else could be a better fit for us, but why does that lead us to leave our current partners if they’re making us perfectly happy already? Is it to just see whats out there? Is it the endless curiosity if you’ve settled too soon, or for not enough? This is where you’ll see a bit of regret in couples who break up and explore new options and realize, clearly, that the next person is just as human as the last.

They’re not actually happy together

Any couple can look like a good couple on the outside, but a smile and a laugh between two people who happen to like the same things and hang out in the same crowd doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy together. Maybe they’re just happy people. There are people that you can love, and like, and have sex with, but none of those things necessarily mean that the relationship is a fully functioning one that satisfies what they’re looking for in a relationship.

What is “happy” – ?

What does happy look like? A lot of “happy” can be pulled down into non-verbal communication. You smile, you laugh, you spend lots of time with someone, you tell people that you are good, fine, great, or you’re constantly busy and trying new things. Your definition of “happy” or “fulfilled” might not be the same as the next person. That’s why it’s so hard to look at someone and determine whether or not they’re actually happy. We think that if we have X and Y we’d be happy, so we presume that people who already have X and Y must be happy. That isn’t always the case.

 

Ultimately I think in most cases otherwise well-off relationships simply end because they’ve run their course. The chemistry dies down, they got what they needed, they realize they want something else. This rounds right back to the intro. Who is to say that a relationship that worked out that well “failed” in some way?

Continue Reading

Love in Abundance / Jealousy

I promised I’d be back with part two notes (see here for part one) on jealousy.

I wanted to start with what was an interesting and simple realization. In response to: “how do you deal with jealousy?” as the most asked question in open relationships I realized an excellent retort is how do you? It’s easy to forget that while jealousy is particularly present in non-monogamous relationships, it’s also ever-present in monogamous relationships as well. The difference is that in an open-relationship each partner is required to tackle the jealous feelings. In your typical monogamous relationship, no such rules for jealousy exist. (And if they do they typically play off of unhealthy ideas, like not trusting your partner, being angry that they treated you poorly when perhaps they did nothing wrong, or a miscommunication of appropriate boundaries.)

Now to some legit notes:

She introduced Freud’s 4 components of jealousy, which I hadn’t heard before or had forgotten. The four components are:

  1. Grief- The pain we get when we feel we’ll lose someone we love. (Grief-stricken feeling)
  2. The distressing realization that we cannot have everything we want even if we feel we deserve it.
  3. Enmity towards the person or thing that we feel will steal the person we love.
  4. A turning of our anger inward, we believe that we must be inadequate.

These were interesting to hear from Freud because they’re hard to argue. How many of us have felt as though we were losing the grasp on something by a real or imagined force? These four steps also compare quite well to the stages of grief.

Then of course there is the Darwinian perspective, which I’ve written about before re: evolutionary psychology. Men are more influenced by the physical or threat of, women more influenced by the emotional or threat of. For instance: a woman may be jealous if her partner has been talking to another girl off and on even if in his mind “nothing has happened so there was nothing to tell” – because, for her, the talking in itself is an emotional connection worth sharing. For him, her attraction to or desire for another man is more threatening. From the evolutionary standpoint it is based in the idea that men want paternal assuredness (know their child is theirs) and women want a mate who they know will stick around (help tend to kids.) It’s all about furthering the species, and you can take it or leave it as a plausible theory.

Two types of jealousy (Ayala Pines) — Acute (situational) and Chronic (all the time.)

There is an idea that whatever made you fall in love with the person you’re with is what is threatened when you feel jealous. I’m not sure I connected to that or agreed with that, but it’s definitely a great point for thinking about where the feelings come from.

What felt better for me, though, was jealousy as a fire alarm. It doesn’t mean your house (relationship) is on fire, but you should pay attention and see where the smoke is coming from.

Har har, clever, right?

Rather than the idea of what made you fall in love with someone, I liked the idea of picturing an encounter with your partner + someone else. It’s likely not the idea of your partner with someone else that hits the jealousy button, but one or two things in particular about it. Whether it be them sharing something special that is just for you (a favorite restaurant dinner date, kissing, oral sex, taking vacations together, wearing each others clothes, whatever!) those one or two things might be trigger points.

You can then decide if you want to follow the engineering model (avoid the triggers that set off the jealousy by making new boundaries) or the phobia model (expose yourself to the jealousy to remove the emotional trigger.) The second one is much like flooding therapy.

What is important is breaking down what jealousy really means: anger, fear, hurt, betrayal, anxiety, agitation, sadness, paranoia, depression, loneliness, envy, coveting, self-loathing, feeling powerless, feeling inadequate, feeling excluded, etc. If you cannot break down your emotion to explain where the feeling comes from, you’re leaving your partner (and yourself) with a surface feeling, and a surface explanation, which will not aid to finding a fix to the problem.

What do you do if your partner is the jealous one? – Equally (or more) important to knowing how to communicate your feelings/experience clearly is being able to handle your partner coming to you with emotions. I really like how she laid out how to deal with a jealous partner.

1. Listen to your partners words, non-verbal, and actions.

2. Do not interrupt, but help them articulate what they’ve said when it’s your turn. (I would add “mirroring” to this – say what they said back to them, and ask them if it’s correct.)

3. Ask if their jealousy comes from fear, anger, sadness…

4. Break down those emotions more.

5. Tell them that you’ve heard and understood them, acknowledge their emotions. Even if you don’t agree with them, or find that they are over-exaggerating. Let them have their experience. Let them know that you can see they are in pain and that you know how they got there.

6. Validate their emotions. Don’t try to fix them, make them go away, challenge the rational, or minimize.

7. Take responsibility for any part you might have played, apologize where necessary. Find where you could modify your behavior.

8. Do not be defensive or argue. Do not justify your behavior.

9. Ask them if they will listen to your feelings and your perspective.

10. Let it blow over – talk more afterwards.

She refers to it as a jealousy attack, comparable to an “anxiety attack” – just like you can’t tell someone to “just breathe” you can’t tell someone to “just calm down” – it is a better idea to let them experience the attack while you are there, listening, and then speak more after the attack is over.

To prevent jealousy and find satisfaction it’s important to know how much personal privacy, autonomy, control over life, intimacy, togetherness, and merging of lives you and your partner want. On a scale of 0 (24/7 freedom) and 10 (joined at hip) where do you want to be, and where does your partner? She says anything 2 and below is not a relationship, really, and anything 8 and above is going to be suffocating. If you are a 3 and your partner is a 7, there is going to be a struggle.

You are also going to likely misinterpret each other if you’re looking for different types of relationships in terms of freedom/togetherness. If you are a 7 and your partner is a 2, you might feel that they don’t care to see you. On the other hand, your partner might deem you to be possessive or controlling.

These misinterpretations can lead to unstableness in the relationship, and can lead to breakups if each partner can’t find a balance between their needs and their partners needs.

Marriage Maintenance Affair: — This is actually something Dan Savage has talked about and seemingly supports. An example would be if you are married, want to stay married, but you really really like BDSM and your partner doesn’t. Your partner also does not approve of you going outside of the relationship. You have a MMA and occasionally (not minimizing nor taking from your marriage) have these needs met elsewhere, and in turn you are a better husband (father/partner/etc) and your marriage is able to thrive. This is a controversial one because it encourages infidelity as a means to an end.

Lastly, NRE: New Relationship Energy. In open relationships when your partner finds someone new that they want to spend a lot of time with, this can be difficult on the other partner. What is important to remember is that the “shiny new toy” only appears to be so because you have not yet learned their faults. They are put on a pedestal. A partner might feel demoted (I am no longer the one and only) – displaced (the outside relationship is crowding the primary one) – or intruded (my time should be my time, don’t tend to outside relationships when you’re with me.) Remember that it might take time for your relationship to adjust to these new factors, and your partner is likely not trying to upset you. Give them get out of jail free cards while they learn to balance your primary relationship and the new interests they have.

If you are “the other” in an open relationship, it is important to create your own full life, and to find satisfaction. Possible seek other relationships if being a part-time partner with someone in an open relationship is not enough for you.

/end notes

Continue Reading