Contempt–The Kiss of Death

I shared a post on Facebook today regarding infidelity and the profound impact that our response can have toward our capacity for creating healthy relationships in our futures.  And I felt that the intensity and amount of responses deserved more time than a simple reply.  Ultimately, I’m honored to be sharing in the dialogue with so many passionate, well-educated people who are willing to dig a little deeper, look a little closer at something that impacts us all on a profound level.

The post was this:

Consider this: If your partner (or an ex-partner) has cheated on you and you have, in response, bad-mouthed that person, the research on relationships would say that your actions are actually MORE DAMAGING than the act of the other person. Difficult to grasp, right? And you might think, well, I don’t care because I wouldn’t want to be with that person now anyway! And yet, statistically speaking, that “emotional habit” of yours puts you smack dab in the middle of a group of people destined to continue to have unsuccessful relationships. So…. How’r them apples??

I appreciate all of the passion and emotion behind this dialogue!  I had a feeling it might ruffle some feathers!  The best conversations do, right?  And I love the variety of opinions, the support being offered, the challenge and wisdom behind so many of your personal experiences.

That begin said, I’d like to offer some food for thought.

Number 1)  Let’s consider the difference between “someone who’s cheated” and “a cheater.”  Right off the bat, the idea that someone has cheated immediately calls to mind (for many of us anyway) the most disrespectful kind of person.  And the facts just don’t support that.  The people who cheat are….  Well, “all of us.”  Certainly there are the “serial cheater” types—those who use infidelity like they do any other addictive behavior or drug—as a means for avoiding life and intimacy.  However, most people who cheat, or who have cheated, are people just like you and I…  they are people doing their best to live happy, productive lives.   They are the next-door neighbor, your kid’s school teacher, your best friend, the woman who sings in your church, the lawyer, the student, the house wife, the doctor, a parent!  People—real people, good people—cheat.

And that doesn’t negate the intensity of emotions that you’re all sharing and that so many feel when confronted with this topic, let alone the embodied experience of betrayal.  Infidelity–Sexual betrayal–can wreck us at such a deep level.  It can break our hearts and tear open our lives.  It can take us to the edge of who we are.

So often, either working with someone in therapy or simply sharing intimate dialogue with a friend, I’ll hear the words, “I would NEVER cheat on my partner!”  And those same people, sometimes, are eating their words a few years later.  Not to say that everyone has or does ever cheat on a partner but I’d challenge that most of us have either been cheated on, have cheated at some point in our “not-so-resourced” lives, or know someone very well who has cheated or been cheated on.  And of all “those people”…  “they” are not all despicable, right?  They are not all “worthless human beings who don’t belong on this earth.”

The significance of this statement, however, is more about the foundation–and ultimate potential–of the core emotional habit and what science claims it represents in a person’s “relationship potential.”  Whenever a person has the feeling that they simply “do relationship” better than their partners, that belief represents contempt–And what science has found, over decades of research, is that contempt is The Kiss of Death for relationship–like one person stated in response to my post, Contempt is like Relationship Kryptonite!

Sidenote:  To point to one difference in perspective—cheating means different things to different people.  For some, it is actually cheating only when one is married, or only if one has vaginal intercourse.  (Oops, now what about those in same-sex relationships?  Different rules?)  For others, if you’re in a partnership—on-line sexting equals cheating.  There are no hard and fast rules, right?  Is emotional infidelity as damaging as physical?  Some would consider it almost more so.  And so when we have black-and-white opinions about who another person IS, based solely on an idea of that person “having cheated,” a little caution and self-reflection might be in order.

The Reality of Infidelity

Very often, when people cheat, it is because they are absolutely CoupleFighting4“at their end.”  They are miserable, done, and don’t have the coveted resources—or strength, or understanding—to know how to ask for what they want.  And often, they don’t have the strength to walk away. And maybe, just maybe, there is a profound opportunity in their staying.  Research shows that we choose our mates based on internal qualities of equality–meaning we tend to choose people who have equal capacity to “show up,” to be emotionally attuned and available.  And while some people’s bad emotional habits are easier to see, more obvious, we tend to contribute just about 50% of the damage to our relationships.  This idea, for many, is a hard one to grasp.

Does that excuse infidelity?  Absolutely not.  In fact, infidelity is at the top of the list as one of the most damaging things that one person can do to another, within an intimate relationship.  This is an act that is clearly wrong (in most people’s opinion).  However, it is not “the kiss of death.”  And actually, the odds that a partner will feel remorse, or conversely, that the partner would commit a similar act in the future, are both directly related to the response given by the person who was betrayed.  What’s also determined by that response is the probability for the betrayed person to experience a similar betrayal in the future, by their current partner or by someone else.

Here’s the tricky part—those people who have had happy relationships for eons…  the ones whom researchers have looked at and said, “what are you guys doing differently, that we could all learn from?”  Those folks actually have some infidelity in the mix as well!  In successful, happy, long-term marriages, infidelity has sometimes occurred.  In fact, for some, it provided the necessary turning point that made their relationship success a  possibility!  So….  Clearly, infidelity is not the end-all-be-all issue for everyone, right?

The thing is, one emotional habit these folks do really differently than the folks who don’t ultimately have successful relationships is that when their partners screw up, and when the screw up is “that bad,” they respond without contempt.  Meaning—they don’t make their partners into horrible people for having made a mistake.  They look at what they were also doing to contribute to the downfall of their intimacy.  And …big one here:  They stop business as usual (Atkinson).  They don’t just cow down and play like the innocent victim.  They take ownership of both what they’ve done as well as what they want—and they put a stop to what they won’t tolerate.

Sometimes infidelity ends relationships.  And for folks who’ve had unfaithful partners and choose to leave—without contempt—those people are set up for future success, at least in that regard.  However, not more so than the people who stay but ultimately do the same thing—put a stop to “business as usual,” take responsibility for their own part, and don’t make their partners into bad guys.

What We Think is More Powerful–And More Important–Than What We Say

Here’s my number 2)  The things we’re thinking about our partners (or our friends or our children’s other parent, or, or…) are much more powerful than the words we use.  I’ve had so many clients and friends say critical or sometimes “mocking” kinds of things about their partners and then say, “But I’d never actually say that to him/her!”  And I challenge them with the very real facts that our internal voice comes out loud and clear.

Research shows us that there are universal forms of body language and subtle facial expressions that we are reading, literally every nano-second.  We have strengthened these skills since first entering the world—knowing how to read the subtle non-verbal cues of others is a survival mechanism.  So…  do you not think your partner knows exactly what you’re thinking when you say, “Oh, nothing’s wrong honey,” when inside you’re fuming because, once again, he’s left all the condiments out on the counter or because, just like “always,” she’s nagging about everything you didn’t do?

Contempt is TOXIC

—Weather spoken or not.  Actually, it can be much more damaging when we hold it in, as it will find it’s own way out…  somehow and someway.

Most of us have been taught to have contempt for most of our lives.  This is an unconscious teaching—not many of us would actually admit to being contemptuous, right?  Consider some of the phrases we’re given throughout our lives when faced with certain challenges:

  • Be the bigger person
  • Don’t lower yourself the his/her level
  • Take the high road
These statements are really the epitome of contempt.  In fact, to share a bit of personal history—I was a master for most of my life at being the victim…. And being the victim goes right along with having a contemptuous attitude.  The wrongdoings of others were so “obvious” that how could I have done anything different?  (This was an unconscious attitude).

About eight years ago now, I did my first post graduate training with Dr. Brent Atkinson, a leading researcher and psychologist dedicated to helping people rewire emotional habits in their intimate relationships.  As I was learning all about contempt, for the first three days (I’ll humbly admit) my primary attitude was, “Wow, my partner really has a lot of contempt for me!”  (!!!)  Midway through day number three, it was like I got slapped in the face with a brutal truth—my own contempt became glaringly clear.  And wow, that was one of the most painful–and rewarding–“aha!” moments of my life.

The thing was, I hadn’t been willing to see it before because being a victim served me.  I got my friends involved, I felt justified and vindicated and supported and assured.  And I was still “doing my work” but that necessary piece hadn’t yet come to the surface.  I feel that now, in my work as a partner, a parent, and a therapist; I am constantly practicing getting clear on how contempt can quietly creep into my thoughts and take up residence.  I still have some hardwiring to work through!  And I’d put the challenge out that most of us do.

In fact, the research out there states that only about 1 in 4 people have actually developed the habits necessary for really creating healthy, thriving relationships.  These habits include being clear on how powerful contempt is, and how to avoid it.  I’ll be getting to other skills in future posts!  And the beauty is that the habits and skills necessary for cultivating a positive response from our partners is all stuff that can be learned!

My final thought:  Number 3)  Remember my initial post

Consider this: If your partner (or an ex-partner) has cheated on you and you have, in response, bad-mouthed that person, the research on relationships would say that your actions are actually MORE DAMAGING than the act of the other person. Difficult to grasp, right? And you might think, well, I don’t care because I wouldn’t want to be with that person now anyway! And yet, statistically speaking, that “emotional habit” of yours puts you smack dab in the middle of a group of people destined to continue to have unsuccessful relationships. So…. How’r them apples??

My challenge in rereading this would be this:  I’m simply stating research—not making infidelity okay, not sharing a belief that it is not an act of complete betrayal, and NOT—definitely not stating that one should stay in relationship when it has occurred.  I’m sharing thoughts to inspire all of us to look at creating healthy relationships in our futures.  I’m sharing because so often when infidelity occurs, and we look at the “betrayer” as the sole culprit in the downfall of relationship, more than likely we’re going to recreate similar situations in future relationships!  (Another fact research would support).  And so my intent in looking closely at these facts and sharing is to deepen our understanding of the power we hold in responding in ways that set us up for relationship success in our futures—whether with the same or different partners.  We are undeniably powerful and sadly, we sometimes react to emotional pain by giving our power away.

Modeling Healthy Relationships

As far as modeling healthy relationship patterns to our children?  Again, when they see us giving our power away and becoming victimized—when they see us giving sole responsibility to “the other person,” they learn how to do the same.  However, when they see us owning our own part of relationship downfall, when they see us not tolerating bad behavior and simultaneously being able to love their other parent—(we did choose them, right?  We did help to create these beautiful beings with them, right?  When our kiddos experience us making their other parent out to be “the bad guy,” they can internalize some ugly feelings toward themselves, since they are “half” of each of us).  –When our kids see us modeling the steps necessary to create healthy, authentic, empowered and passionate relationships in our future, they have the foundation to do the same.

I read about people having anger toward those who have been unfaithful, in response to my post.  And questioning whether I believe anger is okay.  (And just to point out, while I have a lot of experience and education in these areas, and a passion for understanding—I don’t claim to be the expert.  I do, however, like to share dialogue about what the experts have found!)

So…  We can get angry—anger is a core emotion and is a necessary aspect of a healthy ability to feel and to express our inner worlds.  The ability to express anger is part of a healthy emotional repertoire.  Yes!  I’d say infidelity would require some really intense anger!  I know it would from me anyway.  And like some others pointed out, there is a big difference between anger and contempt.

Community–communing with our clan, our family, our friends, sometimes especially when we feel betrayed; this is something that can bond us and help us feel “a part of” something bigger.  I believe it’s actually a very necessary process to healing, for most of us anyway.  Some, of course, need to reach out more than others.  And again, there’s a big difference between sharing with those we love–with those who can help us to hold the hurt and help us process and vent and heal, and making the other person into a villain and giving away our power.

I’d like to invite further dialogue and exploration into the sharing…  this is one way, for me anyway, of expanding my own emotional repertoire!

 

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

The Architecture of Infidelity

What woman hasn’t looked at herself in the mirror, at least for a day or so during the worst months, and become horribly critical of at least some part of her body—Sometimes even blaming some relationship woe on a “not-quite-right” physical attribute—at least subconsciously.  “If only my ass was…(fill in the blank), maybe he wouldn’t have cheated, lied, left, become a porn addict, been such a jerk…”

I cannot think of any body part—any physical attribute at all that I’ve not heard women “wishing” were different.  I was even condemning my own damn TOES the other day (short, stubby toes that would’ve been great if my Dad had ever allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming a ballerina!)  As if my damn toes have some impact on whether I can keep a man.  I swear to God that my mother used to tell me if I didn’t put lotion on my elbows (which she felt were too rough…  when I was 11) I would never find a husband!  (That, and if I never learned how to make an apple pie).  Sorry…  tangent.

Women talk about and think about their bodies—a lot.  I’m guessing women may talk and think about their bodies even more than men talk and think about women’s bodies.  However, rarely do I hear women make any positive acknowledgments of their own (or other women’s) bodies, unless it’s, “I wish I had arms, an ass, a waist (or…?) like ‘her.’”  What I hear (and have said) are negative floods of disparaging and unsympathetic remarks about legs, boobs, butts, cellulite, ears, tummies, stretch marks, vaginas, skin, noses, lines, wrinkles, back-fat, feet, hair, jiggling, wiggling, stretched out, aging, too big, too flat, too WRONG body parts!

Standing In My Skin

I work with women–and honestly speaking, I’ve BEEN a woman–with core beliefs that the way they look has a profound impact on whether or not they can “get” or “keep” a guy–that their external body is more powerful than their energetic presence.

And yet, I know women who have “that ass,” and “that skin” who are not only critical of themselves, either in that or other ways, but say the same exact things about THEIR bodies!  And get this:  Many of “them” have even been cheated on, lied to, and left; and are not any happier with their life circumstances than the woman with the sagging boobs!

So, what’s the deal?  Clearly it’s not about the ass.  Because there are women who are esthetically stunning beyond belief—who have it all put together “just right”—at least from the outside and as far as our cultural interpretation of beauty—and they seem to be dealing with the same personal and relational issues as the rest of us.   And then there are those women who have the extra few pounds, the extra jiggle, the Roman (or Greek) nose, etc… and they adore their own unique bodies, style, self.  So what gives?  “If it’s not about my physical body, what’s so wrong with me that he would choose to go elsewhere?

Cheating Hearts

Relationship dysfunction—the guy who leaves, cheats, feels distant, etc…  it’s not about the details, then, is it?  It’s not about the cellulite on my ass.  Could it have anything, however, to do with how I TALK ABOUT THE CELLULITE ON MY ASS?  Could it be that my not liking myself—not engaging with my guy from a place of appreciating my own uniqueness in a way that ignites aliveness in my expression toward and with him—could have something to do with his waning interest?  Hell yes, girls!

How interesting and exciting is it to be in relationship with someone who doesn’t like the way they look?  Who is constantly putting their bodies down, wanting them to be different?  It is each of us who provide the template for how others learn to treat us.  It is the positive acknowledgment that I authentically allow myself to feel internally, that gives others the freedom to acknowledge and appreciate me just the way I am.  And how incredibly interesting to be with a woman who, for example, makes statements about adoring her imperfect body, the stories it can tell, the life it has lived… owning and using every curve and jiggle?  Yes, now that’s attractive!

Now, here I go making it seem like when a guy strays, it’s still the responsibility of his feminine partner.  Wrong!  My solitary point in sharing the challenge above is to acknowledge that we (meaning each and every man and woman in relationship) has a responsibility for maintaining aliveness–LIFE!–within our intimate partnerships.  No, it’s not your fault if he or she cheats–And, you play a powerful role, part of that being how you show up in your own skin.

Filling the Gap

Most often, my guy’s wandering eye… or, other wandering extremity, is really not about “me” at all—it’s about him.  It’s some gaping hole in his own psyche that doesn’t have the foundational strength to step into the masculine role of either asking for what he wants or owning who he is that drives him toward someone with whom he can at least pretend to own those strengths–and who will recognize and adore the characteristics in him with which his partner has lost touch.  He’s seeking aliveness!  He craves adventure; awakened, spirited connection, enticing him to engage.  

In the vein of David Deida, the masculine seeks a feminine partner who completely trusts in him—his strength and directionality, his nature.  He craves a woman (and let’s allow our minds to be somewhat flexible when I use “he” and “she” in general terms–gender roles might be completely different than the hetero- scenario I’m painting) … who trusts who he has grown himself to be and trusts his intentions.  Whether or not he completely believes in himself, even, to be trusted by the feminine can be the inspiration the masculine needs to step fully into powerful ownership of his own life.  The masculine thrives with a feminine partner who can openly express being unabashedly taken by him.

The opposite is true as well—when she cheats, when she’s not able to be present to her amazing guy, it’s not because he doesn’t have a big enough cock!  I can assure you.  It’s not about how much money he doesn’t make, or the hair on his back, or that he snores or doesn’t pick his underwear up off the floor (even if she says it is).  It’s something in HER—that place in her that craves acknowledgment from someone who sees beyond the daily grind of what life leaves behind as she crawls into bed in her baggy sweats…  she wants someone to seek out the sexy, sultry; the core of her beautiful self and she’s terrified to act out her own fantasy, most often for fear of not being noticed—not really being “taken in,” or maybe fear of losing the comfort, at least, of the pattern she knows.

A woman’s reach outside her partnership is often about her aching for a depth in connection that she doesn’t know how to request, and may not even fully grasp as a valid or decipherable need.  Some part of her does not feel recognized and she may place blame on her partner rather than owning her inability to acknowledge this deep incongruence in her nature.  And so she finds someone with whom she can play out that part of her character–someone who will lavish her with adoration as she explores the forbidden territory of her sexual awakening; the pleasure centers of her body, soul, and femininity that are aching to be known. 

The feminine thrives in the presence of eyes and touch and words that ground her in her own sensuality—that see her and remind her that her body knows just how to express every thought and emotion within her, for which she has no words.  The feminine comes alive with masculine essence breathing her in.

The Body In Integrity

Rather than risk our most intimate relationships to the authentic exploration of self and other, we sometimes choose to either shut down, dismiss those parts of ourselves that don’t fit with the “proper” portrayal of who we think we’re supposed to be; or we’ll find secret, and therefore more exciting, places and people with whom to share.  Ironically, it’s risk that is often needed for us to, once again, get curious about our current partners and open to the possibility of seeing something new.  

With a new interest–someone with whom we’ve not shared any limits to emotional or sexual expression–there’s little risk, since we’re not sharing our hearts but just one facet of our many faceted character.  Here’s one downfall, however, of when we justify our straying:  Our bodies—not just our minds—have what we might call a “moral code.”  Crazy as it sounds, “right” and “wrong” aren’t simply closed-minded, right wing, black and white ideas.  There’s actually a cross-cultural, time-honored neurochemical that let’s us know, pretty immediately, when we have made well by our choices and, over time, our bodies and minds take a toll when we consistently act out of integrity with our natural, unique truths.

Of course the chemical, in this case a hormone, is Oxytocin.  That oh-so-wonderful bonding hormone that gets us feeling empathic and generous and wanting to lavish love on our objects of affection.   This chemical elixir, most well known as being connected to things like childbirth and breastfeeding, is at the foundation of our ability to trust, to be trustworthy; to feel connected and loving toward our intimate partners, our children, and our friends.

Hard Wiring and Hormones

There’s a man by the name of Dr. Paul J. Zak, who’s written a book called The Moral Molecule:  The source of love and prosperity, about this one little chemical that plays a huge role in our trustworthiness, generosity, and connect-ability.  The questions in his theoretical pocket were about the disparity between men and women and their generosity, between men and other men about their faithfulness, and so on.  Why are some of us more trustworthy?  More generous?  More faithful?

What Zak found in his research is that, pretty much across the board, human beings have a built-in meter; measuring those behaviors, interactions, even thoughts that are in or out of line with our original design of trust-ability.  This means that, once again, our ability to trust and be trustworthy are directly linked to our earliest experiences–those initial moments that allowed us to believe that our environment was safe, that we would be held, loved, cherished, etc., or not.  From the first moment of our neural map-making, our relational paths were laid out for us.

Not to pretend that further experiences along the journey don’t matter—they absolutely do!  They either affirm or cause us to question our core constructs.  But those core constructs are indelibly carved into our bodyminds like the tree carvings of carpenter ants.

The Body On Lying

You think “The Brain on Drugs” is scary?  The body on lying is equally horrific.  When we lie, our body releases catecholamines, or stress hormones, leading to increases in heart rate, breathing, and muscle and nerve hypersensitivity; simultaneously slowing digestion and systemic responses geared toward keeping us calm and present.  Over time, these responses–especially if they become patterns–can lead to things like coronary artery disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.  The consistent stress of lying can also lead to issues like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

According to the results of a November 2010 study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition by the Department of Psychology at Belgium’s Ghent University, “Frequent truth telling made lying more difficult, and frequent lying made lying easier.”  Want to begin rewiring those early constructs of integrity in the body?  Develop a practice of truth-telling.

Zak, in his research, did find discrepancies as well, however.  He found that some people are almost never generous, never honest or faithful.  In these folks, it became clear through their blood analysis that the receptor sites for oxytocin were malfunctioning or weren’t available.

When a person is less available—or seemingly not available at all—for building trusting relationships, or has an internal construct of justifying consistent untrustworthy behavior, it is a strong sign that early experiences for this man or woman didn’t lend well to building trust.  It’s a sign that he or she wasn’t “held safely” in an environment that modeled integrity and authenticity.  Sadly, that can be true even for people from wonderful families and loving parents!  What neuroscience, in particular, is beginning to teach us is that an undeveloped capacity for trust can be due to incredibly subtle events and/or relationship “mis-attunements.”

If our goal is to heal emotional wounds and even possibly generational patterns of un-trustworthiness, it requires first, objectivity–the ability to self-soothe while we look at the underlying architecture of one’s emotional body.  We need to develop our ability to hold onto ourselves and our partners without making a behavior into a person.  Then, and only then, do we have the opportunity to do the necessary work to repair that early wiring, that will allow us to re-pattern those constructs that should have had loving support in our earliest relationships.

It’s All In Our Genes

Clearly, no chemicals in the body work in isolation, so Oxytocin is not a sole culprit when it comes to a person’s (un-) trustworthiness.  In regard to monogamy, there’s another well-known hormone called Vasopressin that’s been linked to promiscuous behavior in men (of both prairie voles AND humans!)  There are longer and shorter versions of this gene and the findings have lead scientists to theorize that men with the longer version have more potential toward monogamy.  Not that many of us will be having our guys undergo genetic testing to measure their Vasopressin gene but it’s an interesting little tidbit of information!

Beyond these more organic explanations, other contributing factors related to monogamy vs. promiscuity are early environments and relationships, as mentioned before.  There’s some interesting research related to females in regard to our seeking behaviors—(Once again, we’re looking at small rodents but apparently we’re somewhat closely related in our developmental strategies!)—For example, if an infant girl has adequate bonding experiences with her mother, she develops more slowly than her more isolated counterpart. She’s also more discerning when it comes to choosing intimate partners and will be more apt to make choices that serve her long-time mating goals.  On the other hand, girls who didn’t bond well with Mama?  Those are usually the girls that will have a few more….  booty calls, you might say!

Bottom Up VS. Top Down

So ultimately, why do human beings cheat?  We can justify with “seeking something more fulfilling” based in the reality of our unhappiness, when what is truly more fulfilling can be discovered primarily from within.  When has someone you’ve known ever cheated and looked back on it and said, “Yea, man… that was a great choice!  Totally worth it!  Lost my family and life but damn, did I tap that ass!”

Not a common response, right?

Our need for creating a more fulfilling union begins with first recognizing what it is we’re actually trying to fill!  It’s taking not only a “look” but “feeling into” the chasm in both our capacity for and willingness to connect, deeply with another human being who is not our child–because that’s a different journey altogether.  We need to first become intimate with what has been empty from our earliest moments and learn to nourish that space–that aching–within ourselves, rather than simply “fill it up”–the gap, that is.

Often, we want to cure the symptom–just like the AMA doc would want to treat my son’s hives, for example, rather than exploring the systemic cause (often a food allergy), as maybe an Oriental or alternative doctor might, (please forgive my blunt generalizations).  Similarly, if I’m feeling isolated and empty, I might believe that finding the “right guy” or at least a “right-now-guy” is going to bring a sense of fulfillment–I’m seeking someone–something external to myself.  And yet sitting with my emptiness…  acknowledging that sense of isolation, getting curious about it, exploring it, maybe even “making friends” with it; might be the path to actually working toward authentic fulfillment.   It’s the quick fix vs. actual repair work.  One of them is damn hard work.  But work has it’s value in the process–not only the result.

Repairing Brokenness

And, when we have been “cheated on”…?  Let’s be gentle–with both ourselves and the ones who’ve just taken the fast track, hopefully, to transforming their relational paths, no matter how the current one may bade.

Remember to take a good look at YOU–at all that you are.  And know that you most definitely deserve honesty and integrity, no matter your own emotional constructs that could use some rewiring.  And then, when you’ve had some time to mourn, to process the heartache, to vent your anger; get objective.  Take some time to get clear on the relational system that you helped to create with a partner who who didn’t feel the openness to share whatever he or she needed prior to drifting off to the fantasy of someone else.

The research of Dr. John Gottman has given pretty clear indications that we choose people who, while our “issues” may manifest differently, have about the same capacity for “showing up” in intimate relationships.  We choose those who are equally conscious, equally available, and equally equipped.  We like to see the endings–or betrayals–in relationships as “good guy/bad guy” issues when, in reality, we develop systems together that fit some core construct of how we tend to work, what’s subconsciously “comfortable” for us.

The beauty here is that tendencies are just that… they are hardwired inclinations.  And they can be changed.  In fact, a whole lot of things–behaviors, beliefs, yes, even people, can move through profound transformations.  And we have the power to create those powerful changes in our next relationships or, hearts willing, even in the current ones that simply need to be held, healed, and restructured.  

 

 

 

 

 

Present Mama, Sexy Woman

I received a nice compliment from Lilly’s music teacher this morning….  something about embodying an authentic feminine, sexual presence while still being attuned to my child, still having a strong presence as a conscious mother.  It was a nice moment for my ego.

The conversation went on from there,  my admirer noting that she so often sees mothers—herself included—who, after having babies, lose some part of themselves.  Moms often dress more conservatively once baby cheeks arrives (especially after two!) hiding their stretched out bodies and stifling their sensual nature.

We tend to flirt less, trade in thong underwear for flowered briefs, stop enticing the men in our lives with aliveness—inviting them with our bodies and eyes.  We stop noticing the hot 20-something men in the grocery store that simply remind us that we are sexual beings; we stop dancing…  I mean really dancing…  the dancing that gets one laid.  And let’s face it ladies, shy or proper as anyone of us is (or isn’t), getting laid is essentially what got us here in the first place.

I got to wondering, what is it that turns down our sexual heat, beyond low progesterone and sleepless nights.  Because I’ll tell you, I had plenty of sleepless nights in college and I’d say most of them lead to more sex, not less!  But seriously, why do our collars and waistbands move up and our underwear elastic down?  Sexy lingerie’ turns into flannel pj’s and sneaking into any space large enough to contain two writhing bodies becomes trying to find a few moments of veg time in front of the tube.  Where as previously, our drive was as excitable as our guys, we now joke about our husbands who beg at our feet even when we’re in sweats, with green gunk on our faces.

An Appetite for Sex

Around 40-something we begin to deny the numbness of our sexual appetites and start seeking something to “fill the gap” of emptiness.  Then we are shocked and dismayed that our husbands become porn addicts or, better yet, have affairs—because, they made commitments damn it!  Yet, so did we.

Part of my commitment to my partner is to honor him.  Now honor can mean a whole load of things—one facet of honoring, for me, is to honor who my man is—how his mind and body were made to work—which is COMPLETELY different than mine!  And one thing I know about the male mind… and body, is that they need to be stimulated.  Visually.  I can’t even begin to fathom how the hell that works, because what turns me on is…  well, it’s not that.  Not that I don’t enjoy being visually stimulated but it doesn’t get my blood pulsating around in all sorts of blissful rushes quite like it does his.

I recently read in some of David Deida’s work that sex (and I believe the masculine-feminine relationship) can only move as deep as a man will take it.  And it will only be as alive as a woman will create and allow it to be.  A woman’s natural tendency is toward deepening relationships, and we become frustrated with our men for not staying present to our depth and for not taking us even deeper—not helping us to transcend our own limits.   And we can see so clearly how “they” could easily make it happen.  Yet, deepening is not the natural strength of most men.

A man’s natural strength and attraction is toward Aliveness—to the thrill, the excitement, the danger—to all that gets their blood pumping and bodyminds aroused; and when our responses to them are lifeless and dull, we lose them to other shallow, easier distractions, like TV and work… or elsewhere.

Modeling Healthy Sex

So this aspect of my rant could easily go on for hours…  days…  but there’s another side to this exploration of sexual numbness that motherhood tends to induce, and I’d like to share a little on that.

The dialogue got me thinking about what a travesty it is that our little ones learn about all that sex “is” and “isn’t” from surface level, photo-shopped media images and the shallow dialogue and overall presence of teen celebs; and their friends, who are listening to teen celebs, and their other friends who are simply bold enough to experiment and tell.  Most moms I know despise and fear this fact.  And yet….

The current trends in teen sex are (at least partially) a direct result of Mom’s who are so freaked out about their babies having any knowledge of sex, often because of their own misdirected fear and, in turn, avoid it like the plague—talking about it, expressing it, embodying it in any form or fashion.  It’s as if we become moms due to one of the most fulfilling—literally “filling”—unions ever experienced, resulting from our expression of fully owned and embodied sexuality, and then we shield the very nature of that expression from our children.  Because my God, what if they knew I was a sexual human being?

Why is it that, in some folks’ eyes, being sexual is just not okay?  It’s baffling to me, really.  Why do people not want to be seen “that way?”  Why is sex—the one act that provides an opportunity for us to be a part of the creation of life—so damn …taboo among so many?

Our children, without our open acknowledgement and modeling, are then left to forge through the masses of social media, pop-culture and trends to try and align with the most powerful model that speaks to their reptilian brain, their inner self, and their ego; something that will support and help to guide their own pulsating bodies and minds which become virtually consumed with sex at some point—because that is the way we are beautifully and wonderfully made—and instead of looking at the healthy, open expression modeled by Mom, they instead see Mom as some conservative prude who wouldn’t know what doggy style meant, let alone have some practice of Enlightened Sexuality that she’s open to sharing with her offspring.

Sexual Enlightenment vs. The Cougar

Now I’ve read a few different articles directed toward supporting a mother’s in-bloom sexuality.  Most however, sadly disregard the balance between two beautifully interwoven aspects of the mothering woman.  She is first and foremost a mother.  Ah, and yes, simultaneously first a foremost a woman—imbued with the sexual hunger and expression breathed into her form the instant she became a woman.

The sexually enlightened woman, in popular media anyway, is the Cougar—the sexual deviant, the woman who’s expressing her anger at age and her loss of self through buying bigger boobs, trotting the town in 20-something attire and injecting herself with enough young fatty tissue and chemicals to fill a sinking ship.

And sink she does–primarily in her relationship with her children, in her power to align with their growing needs, where she has the greatest opportunity to impart authentic strength; to share her instinctual, raw woman-hood; to model a healthy attitude and relationship to sexuality, and to open in unbounded love–which is the true nature of the feminine.

We want our daughters to have an empowered sense of self and our sons to honor their girlfriends and wives.  So how can we keep integrity within our parenting relationships?  How can we express ourselves openly, healthily, sexually—not slutty—sexually, and model positive sexual behavior rather than simply and naively say, “don’t do it!”

Born for Sexual Expression

Our children learn so little from our words, though we’d like to think otherwise, and act as if they do, repeating ourselves a hundred times over.  Most often, the repetition just gets them tuning out.  They learn to model their entire being, however, by witnessing us in, primarily, our most intimate relationships.  Also, by mimicking our behaviors to see if they align with their inner sense of self.

Children are equipped with a scattered version of our, and our partners’, genes and depending on their environment and stimulus, they are either activated… or not.  They are born with sexual energy. The genes connected to their sexual nature will come very alive at some point—for the first time, often when they are toddlers, in some fashion.  Then again during puberty and, of course, when they are teenagers.

I hear moms joke about simply wanting to avoid it all.  And I fear that’s exactly what they’re doing.  Then sweet pea turns 16, leaves the church, dates the rebel and gets a whole lot more active than mommy ever even dreamed (okay – maybe a little personal experience there!)  But in sweet pea’s mind, Mommy is clueless …and screwed her own marriage up because she didn’t know how to compete with the slutty secretary… or whoever it was.  So rather than having a healthy sexual model, sweet pea becomes a slutty secretary, because that’s what Dad (and probably most men) wanted anyway, right?  Who’s giving sweet pea a powerful alternative?

Forgive my digression… and healthy sexuality is not about competing with the shallow fantasy that often masquerads as sexual.  It is, however, about living out our sexual natures with our partners and in view of our children, so that we are #1) honoring our own true natures, #2) keeping our intimate relationships alive and #3) teaching our children the luscious, beauty of being sexual and present…  all in the same body.

I may be one of the few moms I know that hopes my daughter is powerfully sexual–not that she sleeps around, not that she dresses like a slut—that she’s empowered to live out her true nature as a feminine, strong, sexually alive woman.

I also hope that my now 8 yr. old son continues asking bold, open questions about how Daddy’s sperm got to Mommy’s egg to make that baby in the first place…  (yes, that was one question at 3 ½!)  …and continues to see all that is sexual as powerful, beautiful, sacred and exciting—not something shameful or shallow. I look forward to the days, and the challenges, that arise as those lovely processes in my children continue to unfold.

What do you think?

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie