Tag Archives: monogamy

What Makes a Great Relationship?

cute penguin couple - exploredIt seems that everywhere I go, every conversation I choose to engage in, the relationship issue shows up as the central theme. If I thought monogamy was a hot topic, it seems relationships are a crackling wildfire. Generally, the feedback I’ve been getting, is that good relationships are few and far between. And, the longer people have been together, the more challenging it appears it is to stay together. How very sad to me.

I recently told someone (a somewhat disheartened woman in a 30-year marriage whose spouse’s hip pain had put out his fire), that I was finally ready to be in a great relationship. She smiled and said she admired my optimism, but our conversation made me quickly realize that I’d be wise to take off my rose-colored glasses and take stock of what’s going on out in the real world. If a good relationship is almost impossible, a great one, although an admirable pursuit, may not be attainable. I’m determined to keep hope alive though.

I admit I’ve been on my own, relationship-less, for many years. My principal relationship has been with myself for all those years. The obvious reason was for my own physical healing (most thought I would not be here to even tell my story). I was so far down that frankly, the only way was up. It was, even more importantly, about my personal spiritual growth.

I’m trusting this concept of personal spiritual growth isn’t big news to anyone anymore. It is part of our human challenge and condition. Anyone who ever watched Oprah might agree that she offered a great service by bringing these kinds of topics to the everyday consciousness. I believe it is an ongoing conversation that needs to happen for our human species to keep evolving. I’m sure this means different things to different people, but I don’t think we can easily ignore it anymore.

My personal belief is that all of us are here to experience and learn through relationships. These opportunities come to us all the time. With parents, children, friends, business associates and even the casual stranger we meet and connect with. Every interaction with another, offers us a chance to be in relationship.

No man is an island.” John Donne.

For me, I’m most curious about the one on one personal and intimate relationship. I remember many years ago reading Gary Zukav define the concept of a “spiritual partnership”. In his incredible 1989 book Seat of the Soul, he says, “A spiritual partnership is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.” I know this is what I want, but wonder where do I find the other who is ready for the same thing?

Zukav goes on to brilliantly explain his four “c’s” or guidelines for a spiritual partnership. Briefly, the guidelines are: commitment, courage, compassion and conscious communication and action. It is well worth reading their full explanations here. I learned much from his wise words and know these are what I see as keys to putting the “great” in a relationship.

I’ve actually heard that people make “lists” of the things they are looking for in their ideal partner and stick by that list until they’ve ticked off all the boxes. This seems like somewhat of a futile exercise to me. Personally I’m more about another person’s energy, than a list of must-haves.

I’ve also discovered many people say they are ready for a relationship, but in actuality may not be ready. I smiled when I got a recent Hugh MacLeod Gaping Void daily email. Subject line: Forever. Graphic and Message: It took forever before I was ready… to find you. The piece went on to say:

And as we all know, Mr. or Mrs. Right isn’t just floating out there in the ether like some abstract, platonic ideal. You too have to be ready. You don’t get the person of your dreams ’till you’re ready to be the person of their dreams first. The giving precedes the getting, always. It simply has to.

We do all know this, right? Thank you Hugh!

I’ve been asking for interesting, intelligent, creative, and spiritual men to come into my life, and I admit a few have bravely shown up lately. Age doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. Not to me anyways. I know that in our youth-obsessed culture, if there is to be depth and meaning, it has to be about something more than just the external, the physical.

I was shocked to read that 96 per cent of all adults say they would change something about their appearance if they could. This is one of the factors that led philosopher Jonathan Zap to say,

Suffering associated with body image has reached such epidemic proportions in our culture that it must be counted as one of the greatest spiritual plagues ever to be visited upon mankind.

My recent observations would lead me to agree. A culture that has lost it’s ability to age gracefully, looking for the fountain of youth, hoping to find it using fillers, injections, implants, surgeries and more. It’s not even that hard to tell who is keeping it real anymore. Somehow, it is no longer okay to get older and look it too. This isn’t only a women’s issue, as men are playing catch up in this arena as well. There are lots of statistics, if one cares to check out who’s doing what to themselves in the name of staying young. Perhaps I might need to explore this more fully in another piece.

In regards to the every changing way we do relationships, it is sad to see that current statistics show 50 per cent of all marriages end in divorce. But, the actual statistical breakdown I found, shows even more startling results. The range of results indicates that divorce rates might be anywhere from 50 per cent of first marriages, 67 per cent of second, and 74 per cent of third, depending on the source. The odds seem to clearly be stacked against the possibility of successful marriage.

Enough to make me re-examine how a future relationship might look to me. As one of my men friends recently said to me, “Marriage is a contract two people try to make work.” And I tend to agree. Sometimes for all the wrong reasons if the statistics are correct, and with very discouraging results.

Many years ago Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.” And they are. Many of the institutions we have clung to for so long, including the traditional concept of marriage, are changing. And quickly. I feel grateful that I’m at a place in my life where I have total freedom and can take responsibility for every relationship I choose to be in.

I admit I’m still the little girl who believes in happily ever after, but I’m aware how that must start with happiness from within instead of looking for something out there to “complete me.”

If I can take anything from the brilliance of Marianne Williamson’s lecture “Relationships and Spiritual Adulthood”, it relates to this one line: “It is our job to affirm a person.” She explains, “It’s not our job to change a person. It is our job to celebrate a person. It’s not our job to imprison a person. It is our job to free a person.”

I see a bright and hope filled future in this. The more I do my own spiritual work, I can only draw closer those who are doing theirs as well. Somehow in my own seeking, I continue to trust I will be found.

We all deserve to be seen and loved for who we are, not a media ideal we will never attain. It is our individual responsibility to continue to explore and reveal who we are both as individuals and as a species. This will be the key to attracting the other who themselves is doing the very same work. As the Beatles said, “All you need is love.” Sound too simple? We all deserve to give and receive love. In many ways I believe it is that simple if we allow it to be.

So, let me ask you, what have you found makes a good relationship? Okay, dare I take this up a notch… What makes a great relationship?

Please visit me at:  www.beverleygolden.com

 

Originally published November 2011

Trade Gender Roles and Fall In Love Again

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.18.25 PMSaving your relationship could be as simple as switching roles. Gender roles often lock us into predictable, repetitive arguments where no one makes any changes because who is listening anymore? A new sociological study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as published in the journal Gender & Society interviewed married couples who were affected by the recession with a gender reversal: Men who lost their full-time jobs (some continued to work part-time) stayed at home running the house and taking care of the kids while their wives brought in 80% of the income. The result was greater compassion and appreciation for each other.

Men who stayed at home could now fully empathize with what their female counterparts had been doing all along. And women who worked full-time outside the home although still psychologically involved with their households now better understood the stress of office politics and job pressure to keep production high that their men had experienced. Interesting, the economic downturn actually caused relationship recovery.

7 ways to transform your relationship by changing your perspective:

  1. Switch places for a weekend by taking over your significant other’s typical duties. You will now have the inside view of the other side.
  2. Establish a good credit rating at home. This means you don’t have to jump and do things your significant other wants you to do the second the command is uttered. However, if you promise to get to it later, make sure that you do.
  3. During a disagreement tap into your opponent’s value system and summarize his or her point of view to show respect. Then you can state your opinion.
  4. Keep on experimenting – especially as you grow older. Don’t be afraid of acting silly or awful. Take your cue from actors who often unleash their wild side on screen and get awarded for it.
  5. Create a safe haven in your home for open expression, allowing your beloved to discuss what’s bothering him or her. Don’t expect anyone to change their nature – they are not you.
  6. Connecting and showing compassion to your partner does not mean that you become a doormat or a low priority on your list. Make sure that you are in harmony with yourself and so, you can be in harmony with another person.
  7. Plan ahead for arguments and practice responding differently. Rehearse and revise the dialogue before the negative situation arises, so you don’t fall into those repetitive arguments going nowhere fast. You will now be able to address those “should have, would have said” statements.

 

Originally published September 2011.

6 Tips from Business to Make Your Romance Last Forever

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 12.19.40 PMBusinesses that have longevity are well-run. They are constantly updating and growing because if they don’t, they won’t just be standing still, but will be going backward or worse – they’ll be defunct. The same holds true for a loving relationship in your personal “business,” where you are a solid team. If your relationship is less than optimal, it’s time to take your cue from a well-run business.

For most of us relationships conjure up romance. Business and money matters smack of distaste and seem asexual in nature. However, if you want a monogamous relationship to go the distance, you have a lot to learn from strategies of the client-based business world.

Here’s what successful businesses do:

  1. Focus on building and strengthening the bonds of your relationship. Businesses place value on more than a one-time-deal which seeks to get the best out of a client. Instead, they nurture a long term relationship with clients by focusing on their needs. What can you do for your significant other?
  2. Develop listening skills and make this a top priority. Businesses evaluate: What are the problems, disappointments, or the good things their customers are experiencing? Listening helps them achieve solutions to problems or strengthen what is already working. Without interrupting, what surprising bit of information have you learned by truly listening and not merely waiting to speak?
  3. Ask not what the consumer can do for you, but what you can do for the consumer. As a result, businesses will reap a whopping profit. Similarly, try to release the egocentric “I” voice in your relationship and replace it with the “we” mentality.
  4. Make it a priority to keep the consumer interested. This means coming up with new ideas, experiences, and dialogue to keep the client actively engaged in the relationship. Novelty does wonders for a long term romantic relationship; constant communication averts a simmering resentment due to self-suppression.
  5. Keep your message short and sweet, the way businesses use public relations companies to brand themselves. Similarly, the person you live with should be able to identify you by a phrase known to only the two of you, a signature accessory, or a look in the eyes and vice versa.
  6. Make sure to get your rhythm in sync. This means don’t pounce when you are all fired up. A successful manager asks a client, “Is this a good a time to speak?” Similarly, gauge your mate’s mood. Just because you are ready to speak does not mean they are ready to listen. And most importantly, don’t let a disagreement degenerate into a shouting match. Change the location like going to another  “conference” room to change up the energy or revisit the discussion later when both of you are calmer.

Is Monogamy Killing Women’s Sex Drive? The New Drug That Might Help.

Blue Moment Pt. 1“Women are programmed for monogamy” goes the conventional understanding we’ve clung to since Victorian times. After all, they have a finite number of eggs, which means the pressure to secure a viable mate and reproduce is more pressing for them than for men, who produce limitless sperm over the course of a lifetime. It’s a tidy package that, ostensibly, helps maintain societal order and respectability. Let men do a bit of wandering and experimenting – because “boys will be boys,” after all – but women will always maintain the hearth and the family unit. Well, hold on to your wives because new research is painting a very different picture of women’s sexuality.

The story begins with a young, broken-hearted Dutch university student, Adriaan Tuiten. Adriaan had been in love with the same girl since he was 13-years-old, and then in their mid-20’s she unexpectedly broke up with him. Fast-forward thirty-plus years, Tuiten is now the primary inventor and researcher behind the new female sex drugs Librido and Libridos. That experience of losing the woman he loved sparked a lifetime fascination – dare we say obsession? – with women’s sexuality and romantic inclinations. “I was shocked. I was suffering,” Tuiten told the New York Times reporter. “I’m a little bit — not insane. But. There became a need for me to understand my personal life in this way.”

And what has he come to understand? For one, women are no more “programmed” for monogamy than men are. If anything, research suggests that sexual desire drops over the course of a long-term relationship more often for women than it does for men. Menopause and other hormonal changes may be the culprit, as well as the effects of antidepressant medication (which millions of American women are on), but as we all know, sexual desire entails more than just physiology. What’s at the heart of sexual desire and intimacy is still a mystery.

The extended New York Times article addresses many facets of this new perspective on women’s sexuality: Maybe women are just bored. Maybe love, intimacy, and desire are all separate categories that become threatened when mixed. Maybe society teaches men to be unbridled sexually, whereas women are encouraged to contain their desire – the effects of which create real neural responses to mirror these learned beliefs.

Either way, Librido – which is designed to address both the physiological and emotional/psychological issues of desire – is up for F.D.A. approval. Research trials have shown significant rates of success, and for some this may seem like the answer to a lifelong struggle with sex drive. Ultimately, though, we don’t really know what causes desire, what makes people fall in love, what sustains long-term intimacy, or any of the other nuances of romantic love. It still seems fairly archaic to assume something inherently different between women’s and men’s sexuality – but hey, everyone has to figure that out for themselves.

What do you think of this new research on women’s sex drive? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

Image credit: Dennis Brekke

Is Monogamy Natural for Humans?

On a recent visit to my local library, I ended up in an unfamiliar aisle on a shortcut to somewhere else and a book almost leapt off the shelf at me.  The title all but screamed out “read me”.  I looked at the books surrounding it and realized I’d ended up in the human sexuality category, not somewhere you’d generally find me.  Because I believe in serendipity, I listened as the book kept asking me to take it home.  The book, The Myth of Monogamy, seemed an unlikely subject to ever attract my attention.  My believe, up until this moment, was that women were hardwired and generally monogamous by nature and men, well, not so much.  How little I know.

Needless to say, the book came home with me and I was in for what became an informative and interesting read.  The authors, psychologist and zoologist David P. Barash and psychiatrist Judith Eve Lipton get straight to the point.  Page two and I’m already reading, “..there is simply no question whether sexual desires for multiple partners is “natural”.  It is.  Similarly, there is no question of monogamy being “natural”.  It isn’t.”  Okay, I’m hooked and curious to find out more.

First up they explain social monogamy, the ability to share a one on one relationship  based on social norms; living together, nesting together, foraging together and having sex together.  However, when it comes to sexual monogamy, the findings offer an entirely different perspective.  Research using DNA fingerprinting technology, (used in courtrooms to test DNA in humans), is now used to test parenthood in animals as well.

The results are surprising.  Both male and female animals in nature practice sexual sharing with multiple partners, even in species previously believed to be monogamous.  Like talk, sperm is cheap, so generally males of the species like to ensure their seed is spread around to guarantee that their lineage survives so they partner with many females. Females, to ensure they produce the strongest offspring possible, engage with multiple partners too.  Hmmm.  Social monogamy, yes.  Sexual monogamy, no.

The research shows that sexual monogamy is much more an ideal than a practice.  Across the species range, from birds, (who have always been considered mates for life), to chimps that closely resemble humans, sexual monogamy is not the norm.

Researchers have found that 10%-40% of all bird chicks were fathered by males who were not the mother’s social mate.  Research also shows that females are equally likely to engage in extra pair mating.  The reason is the same:  evolution.  Wanting to produce the best possible offspring, they each adapt their own ways to achieve this.

Scientists have studied 5,000 species of mammals and found that only 3 to 5 percent are known to form lifelong bonds with one mate.  Among this small group are beavers, otters, wolves and foxes.  And, even the species that do pair and mate for life, occasionally have flings on the side and are quick to find new mates if their old one dies or can’t perform sexually any longer.  So much for “forever.”

There are three types of monogamy scientists now refer to based on their animal studies.

Sexual monogamy –  the practice of having sex with only one mate at a time.

Social monogamy –  when animals form pairs to mate and raise their offspring but still have flings on the side. (extra pair copulation in science talk)

Genetic Monogamy –  when DNA testing confirms that a female’s offspring all come from one father.

For us human beings, social and sexual monogamy generally go together.  This is not always so in other species.  Studies now estimate that 90 percent of all birds are socially monogamous, living and raising young together, but frequently having sex with other partners.

As scientists continue to uncover clues about why certain animals stay loyal to a partner, the underlying reason for monogamy remains an open question.  The most commonly accepted explanation is that monogamy evolved in situations where young are more likely to survive if both parents are involved in raising them.  This might help explain why humans tend to be monogamous.  No question that human children do take a long time to mature.

By nature it seems that humans are naturally polygamous.  Although polyandry, a marriage of one woman to many men is rare, polygyny, the marriage of one man to many women is widely practiced in human societies. Humans, in fact, possess certain characteristics typical of non-monogamous species.  Monogamous species are also monomorphic – meaning both males and females are the same size.  Polygamous species are dimorphic- the male is larger than the female. Guess what comes next. Because human males are typically 10 percent taller and 20 percent heavier than females, it seems that humans have been mildly polygamous throughout history.

So, why did the authors write the book?  Not, as some may think, to say that because it isn’t natural for humans to be monogamous, it is okay to have affairs and have multiple partners.  The real reason, which they state over and over again, is to shed light on the fact that monogamy is difficult.

Since it is not natural for humans and our instinctual desires have a tendency to lead us astray, we have a responsibility to put in a conscious effort to practice what we have committed to.  Monogamy requires work.  If we continue to pretend it’s natural, it’s easier to be led down the path that often leads to infidelity.

Adultery is undisputedly a hot topic, just check the media on any given day.  In the last few years, there have been very public new cases permeating the news.  From Arnold Schwarzenegger for his love child revelation, to Ashton Kutcher and Tiger Woods for their infidelities, the media attention continues to confirm that monogamy is an emotionally charged issue.  Rarely is the biological perspective included as a way of understanding it.

The authors leave us with the following. “This is not to say that monogamy – even happy, fulfilled monogamy – is impossible, because in fact it is altogether within the realm of human possibility.  But since it is not natural, it is not easy.  Similarly this is not to say that monogamy isn’t desirable, because there is very little connection, if any, between what is natural or easy and what is good.”  (1)

I’m happy I found this book, as the insights shared might help empower people in their efforts to stay monogamous.  I personally believe in monogamy, and one partner at a time is perfect for me.  I’m not convinced, based on my own personal experience, that all of us are meant to find one mate to last our entire lifetime, although I have great admiration for people who do successfully mate for life.

What side of the monogamy fence do you live on?

Visit me at:  beverleygolden.com  or follow me on Twitter: @goldenbeverley

References

(1) Barash, David P., and Judith Eve. Lipton. The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People. New York: H. Holt, 2002. Print. pg. 191

Originally published in 2011

Would You Give Your Significant Other A Hall Pass?

 

To the fellas out there, imagine the following scenario. Your wife is in Vegas with her college friends for a girls’ weekend. She calls you at 1:30am, wakes you up, and with a bit of slur says the following, “Hey honey, listen, remember that conversation we had about the Hall Pass?”

“Wait what? What time is it?” you ask in a half-stupor.

“Well, ah, um, I wanna see how you’d feel about my using my Hall Pass tonight. I’m at a club with the girls, and you’re never gonna believe this but Alexander Skarsgard totally has a thing for me,” she tells you excitedly…and disturbingly.

“Alexander Skarsgard? The guy who plays for the Rangers?” you inquire, confused.

“No he’s an actor, the guy who plays Eric from the show True Blood.  Very sexy, has a great body. I’ve had this recurring dream of him rubbing lotion all over me…but that’s beside the point,” she tells you.

“What the f—k? So he wants to hook up with you? He told you that?” you grumble.

“You’re never gonna believe this but he told me he wants to take me back to his suite at the Wynn and make love to me all freakin night long! Can you believe it? How awesome is that?!” she shouts with the sound of her friends high-fiving her in the background.

“Awesome?? This is a joke right!?” you scream.

“Listen honey, forget the diamond earrings you were gonna get me for our anniversary.  Just say it’s ok for me to be with Eric from True Blood for one night and that can be my anniversary, Christmas, and birthday present all wrapped as one…and…you totally have my permission to hook up with my friend Jill Uberstein who I know you have a crush on.”

“Jill Uberstein? Your friend with the hairy face and mustache? You think I have a crush on her? Oh my God seriously?!?” you ask, dumbfounded.

“Ok honey, gotta go, thank you so so so so so so so so so much. Love you!”

*****

Truthfully, I could never pull off the Hall Pass exchange. I couldn’t imagine my beloved in the arms of a yoga teacher, pro athlete, rock star, or actor. Does that make me weak and the guy who can pull off the Hall Pass exchange strong? Or is this whole thing about monogamy really just a joke and 10,000 years from now, people will scoff at marriage as a social relic?

Scientists are putting increasing emphasis on a mysterious creature in nature that suggests a life of polyamorous loving might actually be better for society. The Bonobos are a type of ape with whom we share 98% of our genetic code. Bonobos are remarkably harmonious and caring,  with no intergroup killing, let alone any instances of hostile or violent behaviors toward one another. Scientists attribute 2 main factors to Bonobos’ peaceful nature:  a matriarchal society… and non-monagomous, polyamorous, widespread sex.  

Hmmmm, sounds interesting. Should you choose to go the way of the Bonobos, let me know how it goes. While the idea of multiple partners is fun to talk (and fantasize) about, and while I do love the show True Blood, I don’t love it (let alone anything or anyone…even copious amounts of sex) enough to let another dude dip his fang/s into my girlfriend. Actually, my fiancée. Got engaged yesterday. The shot below was taken by a photograher hiding in the bushes (:

 

Infidelity Rules

USA TODAY reported that approximately 24% of men and 14% of women have had sex outside their marriages.  According to media therapist and author Dr. Ava Cadell, monogamy is not a natural human phenomenon  — it is a choice that we make when we want to make a commitment to someone. In this article — https://www.loveologyuniversity.com/LUPages/InfidelityRules.aspx?a_aid=sward — she talks about moving beyond infidelity and healing your wounds. She also offers suggestions for avoiding infidelity.

Don’t miss Dr. Ava’s radio program, Sex Drive — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erm7m-_Zx-4

Visit Loveology University for More Information — http://www.loveologyuniversity.com?a_aid=sward

The Politics of Love: We Are Elizabeth. We Are John.

 The same dynamic is at play in our national and private yearnings. We want the same illusion of moral constancy in our politicians as we do in our marriages.

 But we inevitably find our leaders have feet of clay. And it’s common for couples to not even know what’s going on in their very own relationships.
 
I’ve heard these sexual secrets with regularity in my 20 years of practice as a psychoanalyst; I can reflect on stories of infidelity from my small puritanical home town that have dribbled in over the last 40 years, long after the fact, often after somebody has died (just like with Deep Throat); I know of their existence in the family in which I was raised; and they’ve been repeatedly disclosed to me by my friends as they’ve grappled with it. Naturally, I also see it played out in media coverage whenever a story breaks. 
 
It’s omnipresent and we don’t want it to be.
 
We can consider the sexual acts of others so stupid and hubristic we can’t even believe they were undertaken, and we think that would certainly never happen to us. Or we try to keep our concerns at bay by joking our partner has no time to have an affair, or we ask them if they’ve been untrue and they say “No, honey”. Sexual love over time can be tricky. I don’t know who said it first, God or Bono, but this line comes to mind: “Love is a temple; love the higher law. You ask for me to enter but then you make me crawl.”
 
No matter what we do to try and protect ourselves, this is the problem: rationality plays no role in desire. They operate in separate spheres.   
 
To prove we’re all susceptible, here’s a list of just some of the jumpstarts to affairs:
  • Too much narcissism
  • Not enough narcissism
  • Stasis
  • Tragedy
  • Grief
  • Wanting to ride the wave of happiness by riding someone’s curves
  • ADD
  • Illness
  • Augmenting great sex at home
  • The absence of great sex at home
  • Sexual disorders
  • Sexual ease
  • Falling in love with someone else
  • Wanting compartmentalized un-emotional sex with someone else
  • Too much money and grandiosity
  • The absence of money and the wish to not feel it
  • Having children
  • Not having children
  • Because you’re young and don’t know better
  • Because you’re old and know too much
  • Because your partner’s your best friend
  • Because you can no longer stand your partner
  • To get back at your partner for betraying you
  • To get your partner’s attention
  • Because the couple steers into danger consciously
  • Because the couple drifts into danger unconsciously
  • Because it’s so not what people believe you’re capable of that no one would suspect you
  • Because it’s what everyone expects of you
  • Because the Madonna/Whore split is alive and well
  • Because you’re human.
 
 
Our trust doesn’t extinguish our partner’s sexual desire; their trust doesn’t extinguish ours. In fact, our wish for trustworthiness exists in part because we have such a well-earned fear for the power of desire. The same is true of those we vote into national power. Our hope for true leadership guides us in our search, but it doesn’t guarantee finding it.
 
I believe we’d have a better chance of weathering the foibles of our own humanity if we’d reconceptualize intimacy in a way that plans for the high possibility of infidelity. I suggest this because betrayal is hard enough without the additional shame we heap on it with our clanging response of shock each time we hear of another couple in crisis.
 
The same could be true for how we see our leaders.
 
There should be no cause for shock in the case of something that happens with great regularity. What?! A politician lied to cover up hypocrisy? What?! Someone strayed? What?! You ordered the chicken again?

Image by John Edwards 2008 via Flickr

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