Most people entering long-term, committed relationships (LTRs) have very few if any relational skills. A good relationship, like any other endeavor worth pursuing in life, takes practice, skill, time, and determination. We are told from early in our lives to focus on finding our soulmate; meeting, courting, and marrying, and absorb all the attention of every fairy tale, chick flick, and romance novel. We are led to believe that what happens next is a rosy haze of romantic fantasy. However, the reality is getting there is the easy part, but staying there, requires constant, daily attention. Two people come together with a full complement of baggage from families, prior relationships, needs and unspoken expectations. How are we to blend each dynamic effectively, then constantly flex to stay current with each other as both individuals traverse a long developmental trajectory, meanwhile dealing with life (children, losses, careers, crisis, relocations etc.)?
We are led to believe that, with the “right” person an intimate partnership just happens, and magically remains fulfilling and happy “ever after”… What a load of b@llsh!t that is! A good partnership requires daily communication, negotiation around every issue from frequency of sex, to division of chores, to where to set the thermostat. Infinite issues can snag us, creating resentment and disappointment as we inevitably fail to meet each other’s expectations and end up hurting each other.
The best part of all that is that we can talk about every bit of it. If we can set aside our ego, pride, and unrealistic wish that our partner could magically read our mind, we have a chance. If we can accept the fact that we are not always going to be able to please our partners because we also must be selfish, we have a chance. I believe that every relationship is a cross-cultural experience, and should strive to learn each other’s languages of love, anger, fear, sensuality, vulnerability, and learn to translate these accurately.
Alfred Kinsey, the famous sex researcher says, “the only universal in human sexuality is variability itself.” As varied as sex can be, equally varied are the ways it can go awry between two people. Sex. Such an important part of every relationship, yet so hard to talk about. Many things keep us from speaking freely about sex: fear of hurting someone’s feelings, shame, doubt, inhibition, anger. As a society, we alternate between slut-shaming and promoting sex with every ad and then each of us has his or her own individual sexual legacy shaped by our family’s attitudes toward sex and our own experiences, feelings, and thoughts.
Feelings about other aspects of the coupling are often played out in the sexual arena. A person who feels his or her partner is not attending to emotional needs, not carrying half the burden of chores, or not addressing conflicts may find it difficult to forget all that when joining physically. Differences in libido, feelings about sexual practices, and deep feelings about ourselves can all conspire to upset the sexual balance between two people. Having children always disrupts the sexual equilibrium, and some couples struggle unsuccessfully for years to reestablish it.
We know touch and talk are the two great roads to intimacy. In pair bonding, we seek deep connection above all else, that connection which buffers the harshness of the outside world, the connection that reassures us we are not alone on life’s journey, the connection that softens into the embrace with our partner. All of these, root in attending to the health of the sexual connection, and its importance cannot be overstated.
We are all vulnerable in the sexual arena, and feelings of self-consciousness, inadequacy, or self-doubt often muzzle us. Let me help you find the courage to speak your truth, to share with your partner the whys and wherefores of both of your behaviors, so that armed with mutual understanding, together you can chart a path back to each other.
Whether you are in the process of deciding about abortion, or are addressing the fallout afterwards, I consider abortion to be a couple’s issue, because there are two people involved. While I 100% support the woman’s right to choose, I feel there is also room for men to be heard. Many men feel that they are not given the space to express their feelings before and after an abortion. This can leave unresolved resentment and grief that can affect your relationship.
Abortion can be a complex emotional experience for both the woman and the man involved. Some people have emotional, personal and/or communal struggles post abortion. Many things influence a person’s reaction to an abortion, such as; how much control they feel they had over the decision, religious, political, and familial backgrounds, the nature of the relationship between the two people involved etc.
I offer you a neutral, nonjudgmental, space to explore your feelings about this event. As a hot-button issue for so many, personally and politically, it can be hard to find a quiet space to simply focus on how you feel and what is best for you individually and as a couple. Let us have an open conversation to help you sort through your feelings and find a way to live with your choices peacefully and without residual emotional tumult.