Many people have trouble talking about sexual topics, including me. Thinking about how to recognize and overcome some of the following obstacles might help you develop an ease and vocabulary for having meaningful sexual conversations in your relationship or with your kids.
Archive for the 'Air' Category
‘We are all androgynous, not only because we are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed of a man but because each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other — male in female, female in male�. We are a part of each other.’ -James Baldwin
The discrepancy between the male and female forms of communication is the topic of hundreds if not thousands of books. Since John Gray’s, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,’ the discussion and awareness of the biological imperatives that drive human communication has been dissected and examined over and over again. We know, for instance, that conversation serves different purposes for the male and the female. We also know that men and women have different comfort levels with personal conversations. Finally, we also know that conversation does not equal intimacy for both men and women.
Despite these findings being expounded upon in new books and magazine articles every month, the biological experience of falling in love continuously tricks us. We believe that loving someone should or will make them communicate, behave and think like us. This is one of those erroneous beliefs we can’t seem to let go of. We insist, to the point of destruction of the relationships that we cherish, to expect our partner to be us. Partly this is because the mirroring and connection that we share in the early phases of falling for someone diminishes the space between two people. For a brief and euphoric time you feel totally together, united. It is a sad awakening to the reality of living and loving someone after that initial connection fades. Many relationships don’t survive it.
Holidays are challenging times for many people. Rather than a storehouse of loving memories, for many of us holidays serve as annual reminders of the dysfunction and pain that characterized family life. As unique as the stories are between families, the feelings of loneliness, disappointment and worthlessness associated with a history of failed holidays is universal. I have spent much of my adult life breaking the ties to my past by building rituals around the holidays for my own family. Yet, I am still caught off guard, each time the holidays come around by the persistent small voice in me that continues to miss out on the fantasy of warm extended family gatherings and feeling twinges of envy for my friends whose families come together year after year.
Perhaps it is because of the bittersweet nature of my childhood holiday memories, but I have long been intrigued by the endings in life. Although my fascination with endings was probably initially sparked by fear and insecurity, I have come to value my need to ritualize endings as a gift, one that serves to continuously remind me to be grateful even in the face of difficult relationships. The truth about life for all of us is that things are continuously coming together and falling apart. When you pay attention, every day offers opportunities to acknowledge the endings that capture this flow of connecting and letting go. They are the turning points in life that are easy to miss, but have the power to create and carry heartfelt meaning in our days.
Perhaps the most challenging listening that we attempt in this life is learning to listen to ourselves. We know our inner voice well in childhood, but often lose touch with it as the opinions of others dominate our life in adolescence. It is tragic really, how we are trained to not listen to ourselves, to believe that other people know what we want to become or do with our lives more than ourselves. Listening for this inner voice is sometimes referred to as listening to our instinct or to our heart. It may be all those things, but even more importantly, it is the voice of what is genuine in us.
Steve Jobs once said, ‘your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out you own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’ The chief dreamer of Apple products has clearly lived by his own advice and yet why is it so hard for so many of us to listen for and believe what is in us?
I have been talking a lot about listening lately, hence, I have been wondering how to listen more and talk less. For any of you who know me, you know this as a life quest. Then as life would have it, I was presented with another chance to learn how. My seventeen-year-old son has been learning some hard lessons in the gentlest of ways recently through the eyes of his new girlfriend. Of course, I want to talk to him about it, but today in his blinding frustration and fear, I actually just listened. I thought I knew what he would say but once I stopped thinking and expecting what would come next, I saw him and heard him in a way that is rare between us.
My problem, and one that I share with many, is that I often get stopped at the words, when in fact real listening happens in the spaces beneath the words. Peter Senge describes it eloquently when he said, “You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light, which the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed and hear beneath the words to their meaning.”
I am not sure if there is a more challenging aspect of relating than communicating. It is the currency of all relationships, personal and professional, and reflects us in the world more deeply than any other part of who we are. Professionally, it is not uncommon for less qualified applicants to get a job over more qualified competitors based solely on their ability to communicate. Our personal relationships thrive or fall victim to our willingness and capacity to disclose and listen to the people we love.
An ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus once commented that, ‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.’ For all of my work on loving relationships, I have never been a good listener. In my earliest childhood memories, my capacity to articulate and charm almost landed me on TV and kept the peace in my dysfunctional home. I learn about my thoughts by speaking them; not surprisingly I married a strong, silent type who makes a living listening to people.
Language is the metaphor we use to communicate our deepest feelings. A couple’s sexuality is the most profound vehicle of communication of all. The words we use and our physical language of love define our love experience.
Penetration is the word often used to describe the culminating act of sexuality. It’s a word I often use when describing the best use of good lubricant. But it was just this week after using the word in conjunction with the act, that I wondered what I was saying. The verb “to penetrate” has six different definitions in the dictionary and as in the power of any metaphor, the meaning one attaches to the term may deeply influence our relationship to the act.
Serious scientific inquiry has proven this quote to be true. By all measures of health and well being, the single most significant predictor of life time happiness and longevity is being involved in an intimate and loving relationship. It is true across seventeen cultures and in longitudinal studies of historic events that the people who fared the best even through traumas like war and the Great Depression were the people in stable partnerships and families.
Yet even with all this evidence of the power of loving bonds, we are caught in a culture that throws away relationships as though they were used up convenience foods. What is the deal? Are some people just lucky in love? Some of it may be luck. If you grew up as a wanted and beloved child of someone then the chances are good that a positive and secure romantic style is on your side. If you didn’t have these advantages then chances are you fall into the avoidant or anxious romantic styles. All of these profiles or personality traits are linked to a child’s ability to attach early in life. New research suggests that these early childhood patterns go a long way in explaining people’s life long struggles with relationships.
The expo closes down and in minutes, the scenes of so many natural product companies become crated and ready to ship to the next business conference. Three days of meeting new people and greeting old friends goes by in a blur, our senses are overloaded with new tastes and smells, and we are caught continuously in conversations with fuzzy lines between important product education and perfect marketing pitches. Every now and again we connect, truly, deeply and without question with someone we have known briefly or someone we really needed to meet.
Finding those connections is the gift of our work. They make all the follow up calls meaningful and make sense of the drive to close the sale. We realize in these moments that the goal of the work is more than the bottom line results, and/or that the bottom line results are often the fruit of the real connections that we make. So many people have now tried our Good Clean Love products and been inspired by our sustainable love newsletters, that I felt more at home in this community than ever before.