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?”
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.
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.