A recent tragedy of domestic violence has highlighted the dark reality of many relationships, resounding to us that mental illness isn’t an excuse to be cruel or destructive.
What recent marital tragedy am I referring to? That would depend on where you live and when you are reading this. Unfortunately in every country at any point of the year, there are so many tragedies in relationships and marriages. Domestic violence, emotional or psychological abuse, and intentional cruelty ran rampant across our world today.
In the search for a partner, could you be pushing away the man of your dreams? Here are 7 things which push the good men away.
There are a few re-occurring seasons of life that put extra pressure and awareness on the state of your love life. Valentine’s Day is the obvious one, where every corner of marketing is covered in love (or anti-love, which still puts just as much pressure on). Christmas and birthdays are another time where the togetherness of others reminds you of whether or not you have a bae to call your own. New Year’s Eve, milestone events and achievements, season changes – all these things can be stabs in the heart with regards to a stunted love life. If you’re reading this one, it’s likely one of those seasons is pushing your buttons, or you know someone who’s experiencing this frustration.
Through the ups and downs of the year, one thing is clear – 2019 has been a classic example of the constant struggle of expectations vs. reality.
The end of the year is one of the most reflective times in our calendar. Please join me in looking back on my year with a lot of “oh yeah that happened” and “oh wow that happened?”, and hopefully in finding something useful reflecting on your own.
Call it narcissism, call it selfish, call it TPS – we see it in our society, but can we see it in our connections? Tall poppy syndrome is killing your relationships.
We’ve recently been rewatching Seinfeld of all shows. One that came on today was where Jerry, doing quite well financially, decides to buy his father a new car. Unfortunately for Jerry’s dad, it attracts the ire of some very jealous and sour people who see it as a status symbol and they vote him out of an important position as a result. This is a pretty good picture of exactly this reality that I’ve had in mind for a few weeks recently – that tall poppy syndrome is killing relationships all over the worlds today.
No two couples are alike, but we have more in common than you might think. Here are 8 ways all marriages are the same.
Marriage is the joining of two individuals together. If you’ve ever met two individuals and known them for any length of time, you would know that despite how similar even the most similar people are, they’re still worlds apart in a lot of ways. As such, you look at any couple, and you’ll see areas where they are vastly different from other couples – how they spend their time, what they do with their money, who earns more than who, who does what for the kids and the home, differing family circumstances, career pressures, physical location preferences, culture in the home, views on faith, and conflict resolution techniques… just to name a few.
As time goes on, relationships get harder, and your heart becomes more unsure, is it ever okay to cheat on someone?
If you’ve clicked on this, you’ve done so for one of three main reasons:
You’re a friend of my wife or I and are concerned Matt is about to do something stupid
You’re in a long term relationship and you’ve started contemplating other options
You’ve been affected by the fallout of someone cheating on someone else
Rest assured, number 1 is absolutely not the case. I even gave my wife a heads up that I was going to write this one so there wasn’t any alarm.
But you know, this is actually a real concern and a real pressure for a whole lot of people in the worlds of love and sex.
When I used to have Foxtel, there used to be entire blocks of TV programming dedicated to 3 or 4 different types of shows all about paternity and faithfulness checks. We’ve all seen the GIFs from the Maury Povich show where young men would get absolutely lit and burst out in the best prepared breakdance they knew how when the DNA test would come back and they would hear that “you are NOT the father!”. Usually the lady (but sometimes the roles are reversed on these types of shows, dunno why, probably stereotypes of infidelity) would be blaming this dude for the whole show about his women on the side and his various side hustles. Then when the truth came out that she was actually the cheater, it would be on for young and old.
Now this sort of stuff is fairly entertaining for a large variety of people, but when you’re the one worried about infidelity, whether someone else’s or your own, it takes on a whole different context.
People do cheat in shorter term relationships, but I think the real damage and the real concern is around cheating in long term relationships. A University of Chicago study which asks about affairs every year for the last 30 or so years has turned in that about 10% of people have cheated. That’s a lot of people.
So, is this ever justified? Is it ever okay to cheat on someone? While the answer should be obvious, I think it would be more pertinent to look at some of the reasons why people do what they do.
Look at all those options
As I’ve written about before in When Nobody is Good Enough For You, I think one of the most difficult struggles in modern relationships is the amount of choice, or at least perceived choice, that is out there. On the topic of cheaters and adulterous affairs, one of the most infamous events in recent history occurred when “life is short, have an affair” website Ashley Madison was hit by a data breach. This threw multiple relationships and individuals into mass panic as they scrambled to try to cover up their activities via the website that were now exposed for all to see.
I’m not so sure if Ashley Madison could even be considered the main site that people would use for hooking up outside of their committed relationships. That may even just go to the social media platforms of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. I mean, look at all those options out there, or at least perceived options. When people aren’t happy in their current relationship, all they have to do is scroll through their feed and see those seemingly available men and women that may accommodate them in ways their current partner isn’t.
Options are the greatest enemy of commitment. This is true in every area of our lives, but especially in our relationships with a partner. Whilst many are now turning to the idea of open relationships, ie. cheating with permission, the cheating options even in these types of relationships are still capable of eroding the initial commitment of the circle of people.
Failing to resolve the conflict points
When we were doing our pre-marriage counselling before we got engaged, the goal was to identify areas of our relationship that we seemed to have strong disagreement on, or hadn’t yet talked about. During the sessions, you would then talk about any differences or oversights and make sure you were on the same page about an issue, or had discussed how you were going to handle disagreements around it. I’d recommend such a course to anyone thinking of tying the knot, or even after you have if you haven’t done something like that before.
I think everyone would be familiar with a variety of different conflict management and resolution styles in the corporate world, but often we’re not well equipped to handle conflict with rings on. Our society terms irreconcilable differences as the breaking point of relationships, where what has occurred is refused to be dealt with by one or both parties. It only takes one person in the relationship to decide they no longer want to try for the relationship to break down, or even for a secret (or public) affair to become a viable course of action.
All the more reason for us to get good at resolving conflict. If we don’t learn to resolve it, it will take us out. Fortunately, there are heaps of great resources out there for how to fight fair and to resolve those issues that seem to keep us apart.
The unspoken destroyers
I was looking at some of the statistics for reasons citing it being okay to cheat on someone, or at least for the thought being present. What was very interesting about an Australian study was that men and women equally responded with the same reasons in relatively the same percentages, with both genders citing emotional disconnection as by far the number one reason for an affair. Our stereotypes would probably try to tell us that men would be doing it for the physical pleasure, but it just goes to show that there is a level playing field in the human heart. We really do desire the same things.
But we don’t often say what those things are.
What are you struggling with in your relationship that no one knows about? It could be someone’s sexual addiction, a fight that just has no end, a mental illness that derails or dominates every conversation. It could be that thing that you just will never ask your partner for, whether it be physical or emotional. It could be that you have a dream that you’ve never fully expressed and you now harbour resentment towards your partner for their inability to make it happen.
People aren’t mind readers. We are grown men and women. We have to learn to get good at saying things out loud.
And especially with the person we’re connected to. I’ve watched time and time again where someone will just up and leave or suddenly announce they’re dating someone else because of something they’ve never told their partner. I heard an amazingly accurate quote from a marriage seminar that turns out to come from Stephen Covey in The Speed of Trust – “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviours”. We blame our partner for what we do see against what they don’t see.
We may be feeling like cheating is justified based on how we’re feeling inside, but we don’t make the same allowances for why the other person in our relationship may have acted a certain way. Something I’ve heard and read from counsellors and psychologists is that if you write down on paper what has happened as if it were a story book, it can really help see what’s real and what hasn’t been spoken yet.
A first century Jewish rabbi threw a spanner in the works when he began to talk about infidelity and it being okay to cheat on someone. He said that adultery was pretty commonly accepted as being wrong and destructive, but took it one step further and said that anyone who lusts after someone else has already committed adultery in their heart. He later would say that “porneia” is the destroyer of relationships.
You’ve probably seen the word pornography – this is the word it comes from. Porneia is a powerful word that isn’t just someone looking at pornography or explicity having an affair, but it’s actually marital unfaithfulness.
This highlights the real challenge of long term relationships, in that it is any unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant that is problematic.
We have our standard in our heads that cheating means abandoning our partners or having multiple women on the side or having that Ashley Madison account or hitting up all the hotties on Snap. And while those are forms of cheating, these definitions show us that cheating is a heart attitude before it ever translates into those bigger actions.
In my relationship, am I being faithful? Am I being the best husband I can be? Am I attentive to the needs and concerns of my wife? Or do I let myself wander, disregard what’s close to her heart, make it all about me?
That is the true moment when you and I are unfaithful. That is the great equalizer for all of us in loving relationships, that we are to be faithful in the big and the small.
So, is it ever okay to cheat on someone? I haven’t explicitly said it yet, but of course the answer is no. But you already knew that. That’s why I thought it would be more worthwhile to look at those factors behind cheating, and the higher standard that’s been put to us that faithfulness is a position and attitude of the heart before it is a laborious or blown out series of affairs and infidelity.
And hey, if you’re struggling with any of these things, you need to involve someone. Your partner for one. If you can’t work it out, maybe it’s time to involve a professional or a trusted mentor. Deal with it before it deals with you.
How about you? Do you think it’s ever okay to cheat on someone? How would you address these sorts of challenges in life long love?
Mother Teresa called feeling unloved and unwanted the greatest poverty. Whether with your spouse, partner, friends, anyone, or everyone, do you struggle to feel loved?
No matter how different we all are us people – in race, creed, faith, geography, history, whatever – we are all fundamentally the same in that we all want to feel like we are loved and wanted. There isn’t a single person out there who wakes up in the morning and says, “I can’t wait to feel like I don’t matter today”. We’re all looking for somewhere to belong and to find rest.
Oscar Wilde certainly wasn’t wrong when he said that a life without love is “like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead”. If you look around you, you’ll see that people will do all sorts of crazy things to try to find acceptance and love wherever they can find it. And when we can’t find out, we wither, we shrink, we die.
The struggle to feel loved is one that all of us are on the journey of. I’ve learned that there are so many factors involved in how loved we do or don’t feel. And it’s a terrible thing when you don’t feel loved in a marriage, a friendship, by God, or with any other person or group of people in your life. What can be done?
I thought I’d have a look at some of the factors involved in the struggle to feel loved, and what sort of things can so easily get in the way. At a high level, people in our lives either love us or they don’t. At a more detailed level, let’s have a look, as things may not really be as they seem. Here are some things that stop us from seeing the love in our lives, and reinforce the often incorrect view that we are unwanted and unloved. I would like to submit to you that nothing could be further from the truth.
#1: Unloving actions
The first thing that goes without saying that can make us feel unloved are the unloving actions of others. If you’ve been neglected, overlooked, trodden over, ignored, cut off, broken up with, or had someone be cruel or dismissive to you, you’re going to get the sense that you’re not loved. Dr David Augsburger in the book, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, said that “being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable”. When you’re not heard or received, it’s dreadful.
And perhaps the person or people who have hurt you the most truly don’t love you. Perhaps they genuinely have no sense of value for you. We see this all the time in the world of marriage and relationships, where people so frequently use and abuse people for their own gain, say and do awful things, then permanently leave. That can definitely leave scars that don’t heal easily.
The unfortunate reality is that we can do nothing about the actions of others. We can’t control what they will and won’t do. We can’t make a person stay, we can’t stop them from saying or doing what they will, any more than anyone could control us. All we can control is how we respond. John Maxwell says that “life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it “. How will you react?
#2: Unmet needs
I think all of us have had times where our needs have gone unmet. Whether it’s by well intentioned or malcontented people, we can’t always deliver to others what they need, nor can they always deliver to us what we need or want. You’re in a real dire situation, however, when you have absolutely no source in your life for having your needs met.
And this is where we can get stuck. What do you do when you’re married to someone who isn’t fulfilling all your needs? What happens when you’re not getting what you need from the friends you have? What happens when you get disappointed or let down by that person? If you have no other source for need fulfillment in your life, you’re going to feel like the person in question doesn’t love you, or even that no one loves you, because you always feel like you’re going without. It must be their fault somehow.
I’ve learned in life that you have to go after what you need. When I was a child, it was up to others to make sure I was fed. Now that I’m in my 30s, imagine if I was still sitting at home alone complaining that no one loved me because no one was trying to feed me. I’m a grown man, it’s now up to me to go after the sustenance I need.
In the same way, do you know what you need? And do you know how to go get it? Doctors Tim Clinton and John Trent in The Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counselling urge people to consider across multiple situations and seasons of life what any individual is capable of doing themselves. Whilst we could be a victim of things that are happening, they encourage proactively going after support, fulfillment, and a multitude of healthy relationships. That is something you have full control over. With multiple sources of input in your life, you are less likely to feel like the world is ending when you reach the limitations in one person or a particular group of people.
#3: Expectations over effort
Doctor Gary Chapman famously wrote and put forward the notion of five love languages. His research which has been well received by the larger community suggests that people have a particular way of expressing love and of receiving love. He notes that we may not always be feeling loved because we’re expecting love in a certain way that other people may not be providing.
I have seen that we can very unhealthily apply this wisdom in a way that puts pressure on people and allows us to build contempt and resentment against others by expecting them to only ever speak in our language. The balance to our desire for what we want needs to be compared against whether or not a person is actually making an effort in the way that speaks the loudest to them.
Could you be in a struggle to feel loved by someone or a group of people simply because you’re obsessing over what they’re not doing, and failing to see what they are doing? The antidote is to live a life of gratitude for what you are being given, rather than bitterness over what isn’t. It’s amazing how much more obvious the love in your life becomes when you’re able to see it.
#4: Feelings over reality
I’ll always remember a time when I was in a men’s mentoring group where our mentor got us all to close our eyes. He asked us to think about the worst experience we ever had in our life. The tone of the room became somber and somewhat depressing, and some of the guys even started crying. He then asked us to think about the happiest time in our lives. Smiles appeared all round, and some of the guys even started laughing. He then said, “Look at that, you completely changed the way you feel in a span of a few seconds. Why do you let your feelings lead your life?”.
Feelings reflect our perception of our life, and they don’t always align with what is actually true. We may feel like a person hates us or those people don’t love us, but it may simply not be true. It may just be the perception based on unmet needs or our expectations not matching how things are. Do you have an accurate perception of reality? If you’re ever not sure, write down what you wish someone was doing, and write down what they are doing. You may even discover that they’re already doing all the things you wished they were, just perhaps not the way you were expecting.
#5: Failing to recognize or accept a season change
People are seasonal. Let me prove it to you with your own life. How many primary school friends did you see this week? How many people from high school? How about university? Your last church? Your old gym? Does that mean they don’t love you any more? Does that mean you don’t love them any more? Of course not – your seasons are now different.
And so, perhaps you’ve had a family member grow up and decide to move overseas for work. You may be tempted to think that means they don’t care for you anymore, but is that actually the case? Those friends you used to catch up with every week no longer see you because you’ve changed your weekly schedule. Does that mean you’re unloved? Of course not. You have a life, they have a life, we all have lives, and we all have things we are supposed to be doing with them that don’t always put us in the same place at the same time.
You can seriously damage your relationships when you expect them to be like a previous season, and especially if you start blaming people for that not being the case. But this is a failure to accept the reality of life that not everyone who comes into your life is going to stay, and everyone who does stay longer in life will maintain exactly the same relationship with you over longer periods of time. How you react to that reality is up to you.
#6: Dwelling on negative thoughts
Joyce Meyer rightly says that a negative mind will never build a positive life. You just can’t do it. When you expect that everyone in your life is working against you, when you obsess over that one moment of disappointment, when you stare at the rear-vision mirror instead of looking through the windscreen in front of you, you’re not going to enjoy your life, and you’re going to struggle with feeling loved in your relationships.
Once again, I think we need to focus on the truth. Does this person love me? Does this group care for my wellbeing? Am I looking for problems where they don’t exist?
This can be a tricky one. If you’ve lived your life expecting the worst, and especially when you’ve been proven right in that viewpoint more than once, this can be a hard habit to break. But if you don’t, nothing good will ever be able to compete with the view you have already decided on.
#7: A self-fulfilling prophecy
When you’re feeling unloved, you tend to push people away, isolate yourself, or dwell on the negative. A consequence of this can be that it makes it harder for people to love you successfully. This in turn can serve to reinforce your feeling that no one cares for you. This may lead you to decisions or behaviour that makes it even harder for people to reach your heart. This in turn…
Watch out for that cycle. Only you have the power to break it in your own life. Is there any reason a person may be or may have been finding it harder to demonstrate love for you? Is your husband closing off because you kept cutting him off? Is your wife unable to get through to you because you keep blaming her for things? Is that friend holding back from you because you always take their comments as negative? Is that group struggling to support you because you doubt every good thing they do?
Break the cycle.
#8: Failing to see all the love around you
Man, how many thousands of people are around you in your life? How many hundreds or thousands of people have you met? How many people have tried to be your friend? How many positive words have people spoken over your life? How many times have people come to see you, or tried? How many support groups and networks are around you, waiting for you to just say what’s going on in your life? How much stuff is your house filled with from birthdays, Christmases, graduations, celebrations, accolades and moments where someone has tried to express their gratitude that you’re alive? How many messages have come through your social media? How many cards have you got sitting around the house with encouragement from people?
You might not have all that you want, but have you looked around and seen just how much you have? Even if you don’t have the relationships you want, look at the potential that you’re surrounded with. Look at that brilliant woman or that strong man in your life who puts themselves in your world to the best of their ability. Look at all the people out there who open their homes and hearts to accept and hear you out. Look at all the tangible things that people have done for you that confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that you matter.
How wrong we are when we tell others or we tell ourselves that we’re not loved. We cry ourselves to sleep because we’re surrounded by thousands of people and hundreds of opportunities every week for connection and happiness, but don’t connect. It’s like going into Woolworths or Walmart and dying of starvation. The problem isn’t the lack of food, the problem is perhaps in how we partake in it.
You may have looked over your life and determined that no one loves you and that no one cares. I would urge you to look again. Allow yourself to receive the truth.
#9: Building a life on fallible love
I’ve talked a lot about the love we have for one another, and the struggle to feel loved in our human relationships. But no matter how perfect and wonderful our human relationships can be, there are going to be times when people let us down. They just will. They’ll lose their patience, they’ll say the wrong thing, they’ll be unrepentant, they’ll be closed off, they’ll steamroll you, they’ll brush you aside, they’ll fail to live up to their end of the bargain. And to base your life on such shifting sand can leave you extremely vulnerable.
Build your house on the rock. See the love in your life that has been there from the very beginning, and the love that will never leave you. The love of God is unchanging and unending. We all have an opportunity to respond to that love. We can be dismissive or ungrateful of it, or we can open our hearts and let it in.
When the unshakeable love of God is your foundation for life, what people do and don’t do won’t matter as much. Yes, it’s still important to have healthy relationships with others. Yes, it’ll still hurt when people betray us or let us down. But the strongest way that life and love can be experienced, shown, and received, is from a platform of living in God’s love.
Then it doesn’t destroy my world so much when you don’t love me, or I can’t see how those people care for me, or I don’t know if anyone really cares. Because I know I am always cared for and always accepted. And from a foundation of acceptance, I am much more empowered to see how others have accepted me, and also negotiate the difficulty of when they don’t.
What will be the foundation of your life? Will it be the fallacy and the frailty of human effort? Or will it be knowing that you are always accepted in the heart and the plans of God?
I look around in life and in all the reading and talking I do with people around the world of relationships, and I see how truly distraught we can be in the struggle to feel loved. I hope that some of these observations help you negotiate your current relationships and help you see that you’re more loved than you realize – perhaps even more loved than you’ll ever truly know.
How about you? Do you struggle to feel loved? Have you felt that way before? What have you done in that boat?
Everyone wants a great sex life, but not everyone would describe their sex life as great. Here are 9 obstacles to sexual utopia.
Mature written content warning, reader discretion advised.
Sex is a massive part of a person’s life. Whether it’s the sex they have or the sex they don’t, so many of our decisions and much of our life satisfaction is centered around how we’re feeling in this department. You don’t have to look very far to see how pervasive sexual issues and identity are in our world today, especially given the current political climate, the renewed discussions around gender and identity, and the state of the entertainment industry.
It makes up one of the most powerful and influential mechanisms we have for relating to one another. It makes us feel good, it relieves stress, can increase connection between two people, it can help you lose weight, it can allow you to communicate and reveal your deepest feelings, and it is the foundation on which all of society is built – no sex, no human race. You are most likely the product of a sexual encounter, or at the very least a sexual release.
For all the good things about sex, there sure are a lot of obstacles to sexual utopia. We all dream of relationships where the sex is amazing, fulfilling, sufficiently frequent, and only ever a source of joy. The truth is that it’s an area many people are frustrated, confused, confined and isolated about.
I’ve always had a keen interest in the topic, and being a married man, even moreso than ever. But I think that’s true of all of us. No matter what stage of life we’re at – young and old, single and not, contemplating the state and health of our relationships and personal wellbeing – sex is something we are readily open to look at and seek out. I mean, just look at how massive the sex industry is, how intricately “sex sells” is still ingrained in current marketing methodology, or even how quickly you clicked on this link.
I’m no expert, and I have much more to learn, but my current travels have led me to some fascinating and helpful material on the topic that I thought was worth sharing and discussing. I think if anyone were to become a true expert on the topic, they wouldn’t be for long since sexual experience changes as much as two lives do, minute to minute, week to week, decade to decade. So, how do you have that great sex life? Here are 9 obstacles to sexual utopia.
#1: Medical Issues
I would be remiss to write a blog about the obstacles to sexual utopia without first acknowledging just how many medical issues out there impact your sex life. There are multiple conditions which can make sex painful, such as vaginismus in women or phimosis in men. There are multiple drugs that impact libido or sexual performance, such as antidepressents. Periods of illness and mental health difficulties can also influence your ability to have a good time in the bedroom.
Hats off to our GPs out there who are so well versed in helping people deal with issues such as these. I think if you’ve been having any difficulties whatsoever, or even just for a general checkup or questions, your doctor is a good first point of call. I know 10 minutes with a doctor greatly helped me personally.
#2: An obsession with singleness
It’s amazing that our society is so sexualised, while at the same time, having such a preference for singleness. More than ever, concepts such as monogamy are old fashioned and old hat, with so many diverse new forms of sexual expression and experimentation around. You can even be asexual now!
The problem is that it’s very hard to be sexually fulfilled in the right ways without a partner, and yet so many people push the search and openness for a partner far out of their own reach. Career, busyness, and temporary relationships take up the place of something substantial and truly sexually fulfilling. And so, the sexual component of one’s life is often addressed in emotionless, mechanical, and empty ways. A recent peer-reviewed study showed that pornography use is more accurately represented at at least 60% of all people, meaning that a majority of people are trying to feel loved by a screen that could never love them back. In Japan, some experts believe the birth rate is declining due to the increase in use of sex robots over real partners.
The Gottman Institute produces some fantastic material and I would recommend their work to anyone who’s looking to make their marriage relationship better than it already is. I’ve particularly enjoyed their CardDecks phone app which has some really good single line ideas for a whole variety of aspects of your relationship.
They also have a lot of material on sex and have many success stories to back up their content. Dr John Gottman says that great sex can be summed up by doing two things: staying friends (love is friendship on fire after all), and making it a priority. “They don’t leave sex as the last item on a long to-do list of things they need to do”, he words it.
It’s the same as anything in life – if you make it a priority, you’ll get to it, and you don’t make it a priority, you either won’t do it, or you’ll do it with the scraps of energy you have left from your life.
#4: A lack of a definition of “normal”
How often does the average couple have sex? This is a question that has multiple answers. Dr Kevin Leman, author of Sheet Music, says that couples should at least try for two to three times a week. In Wanting Sex Again, sex therapist Laurie Watson cites that their industry thinks about once per week is typical (although not necessarily recommended by her). Others have differing definitions but a common enough defiition of a sexless marriage could be defined as two times a month or less.
So, the jury is kind of out on that one.
Next question, and more relevant to you and your life – how many times should you have sex? Twice a week? More often? Less often? Okay, and is that intercourse, or getting handsy, or just spooning naked for a while?
And what makes your sexual encounter successful? When the man gets off? Or the woman? What if neither does? Or both do?
And how long does that take? If a guy has premature or the rarer delayed ejaculation, it could be two to sixty minutes before he’s calling for recovery time. And what if she never gets there, or gets there first?
The point is, normal and success do not really have a common definition. The only common definition of sexual utopia you’re going to be happy with is the one that you and your partner settle on. And that’s going to change over time, but more on that later.
In the early chapters of Laurie Watson’s book, she points out that half the problem is that only sex therapists like her truly get an accurate sense of what normal may look like, or what the trends may be. In the average relationship, you’re only going off the “sense” you get from other people, or what the media portrays as passionate, hot and heavy, successful sexual encounters and frequency. And so, you may be feeling pressure or naive ignorant self-righteousness based on a feeling that you’re just vibing from out there somehow.
Gotta be careful where you get your view of normal from, because it may suppress or depress one or both of you.
#5: Commitment issues
I think it’s amazing that our “progressive” society has such a negative view of marriage nowadays. We say, “oh there’s commitment there”, “there’s love there”, and there likely is.
But the same people and the same world will spend inordinate amounts of money on fitness trackers and wear them proudly to convey their commitment to their health. They’ll spend thousands on looking after the appearance of their cars to demonstrate their level of commitment to their vehicle and image. There are so many flaming hoops and legal commitments you need to make before a bank will even consider you for a home loan to buy a house.
And yet we’ll get all weird about the idea of committing to someone for life before getting in the bedroom, even though sex is meant to be one of the highest levels of expression a person can make. You wouldn’t get the most out of a home that you didn’t fully commit to. Likewise, I’m a firm believer you’re not going to get the most out of your sex life until you do like Beyonce wants you to do cause if you liked it then you shouldda put a ring on it.
And commitment isn’t a one-off affair. It’s a daily decision. Are you committed every day, or just in convenient times when you want something from your spouse?
#6: Being unready for seasonal changes
Dr Kevin Leman and a number of other sexologists across various podcasts and resources highlight that a lot of sexual frustration can be resolved by simply being ready for the changes that are going to happen over the course of your sexual relationship.
Bodies change. The amount of sexual stimulation required changes. Vaginas stretch and penises need a lot more work to stay strong. The appearance of your partner will change over time as weight is added or lost, wrinkles form up, and life takes its toll, for better or worse.
More than the physical, your partner will change emotionally. She might not have wanted sex as much before, but her drive may increase and you’ll need to factor that in. He might start to want it less. The acrobatics may not be helping your partner feel so loved anymore and they just want to be close. Or further away.
Sexual utopia is definitely a moving target, and I think all of us need to be ready for it. What’s okay today might not be so okay tomorrow. Are you ready for when that happens?
#7: The Ghost of Christmas Past
In the same way Scrooge was haunted by memories of the past, so too our past sexual encounters or even non-sexual encounters may linger around while the two of you are in the bedroom.
It’s hard to be with your husband or wife when your ex is still in your head. Or the lack of support you’ve felt from your friends or family. Or the rejection you felt in that other relationship. Or what she said about the way you look. Or what he did about the way you felt.
I listened to a great podcast listing out all the ghosts that can float in during a sexual encounter, or may even be preventing one. And they said it well that we have a choice what to do when that happens – will we tolerate the ghosts, or will we deal with them before they ruin our sex lives? Only you have the answer.
#8: The pressure to perform and be accepted
Does she want me?
Does he love me?
Am I worthwhile?
Three of the biggest questions in the bedroom. You both want answers, and you’re both under a lot of pressure to find the answers, as well as to convey the answer to your partner with your body.
Whether it causes performance anxiety for men or a lack of libido for women, or vice versa, the challenge of sex is to answer the deepest questions of the heart in amidst all the other voices in life that have had things to say about those areas of your life.
One sex therapist said the trouble with these is that they can cause a snowballing effect in the relationship. As such, they need to be addressed as soon as they appear. You might need to swallow the pride and seek some help on a few of these issues, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.
#9: A spirit of withholding
Sexual rejection can have a profound impact on a person’s wellbeing, especially in a marriage relationship. It can make someone feel like their partner doesn’t want them or value them. You’re telling your partner that their needs aren’t important to you.
Remove the word “sex” from that previous paragraph, and you’ll have exactly what the marriage bed represents in physical form, which is an outworking of the attitudes you may hold towards your partner – negligence for the needs and desires of the one you say you love.
Scripture advises marrieds not to withhold (or deprive their partner) sexual relations, even for the most spiritual reason you can find. It’s not so someone can domineer and take whatever they want (and it shouldn’t be), it’s so that your attitude towards your partner isn’t doing the least you can do, but being generous with your life with the one you love.
And hey, I don’t blame some people. So many men especially but all sorts of people really complain about their partner withholding sex from them, but they in turn withhold love, safety, a listening ear, a coffee in the morning, a sense of value, the protection of their heart from their partner. And then they complain their partner has difficulty giving their body and being compliant when you haven’t considered his or her needs at all.
The power struggle that destroys so many sexual relationships is “what’s the least I can do for you?”. Instead, I love the attitude of the Shulamite woman and King Solomon in the Song of Songs. She says that she’s a garden that’s specially prepared for her husband, and wants the wind to blow through the garden and invite her lover in. She’s not talking what the minimal effort she can exert is, she’s open whenever he needs or wants it, enticing him to take and receive what he needs. He is generous with his words, his time, his body, and all he is. He’s not domineering or crass or demanding of his own rights (he knocks but doesn’t barge down the door), but is completely open to her. He even helps her see herself in a new light and gives her the confidence to stand up for her own sense of value.
I wonder if your husband or wife can say that you’ve done that for them.
You have what your partner needs. Whether it be sex, love, time, emotional support, whatever. The question is, do you have a withholding attitude towards your partner? Are you depriving them of what they need because of some reason that you think is more important? Your husband or wife needs sex to hear that they are valued by you. Your spouse needs your best support. They need your heart. They need your love. They need to see you regularly. They need you to not be behind a closed door all the time. Generously, not begrudgingly, not hesitantly, not “okay I guess if it’s really that bad let’s get it over with”.
You can’t control the generosity of your partner, but you can control your own. And it’s a heart attitude. What can I do for you? How can I serve you? With my body? How about my time? What do you need from me emotionally? The bedroom is just playing out what two hearts are really trying to find.
And then you find it. Sexual utopia. He is loved, and so is she, and they both know it oh so well.
This is obviously a very involved and layered topic. There are so many different opinions and other factors involved. Pornography use can help you get aroused but to someone who isn’t your spouse, so you’ve invited someone else to the bed at the expense of your partner. Sexual abuse can cause flashbacks and severely limit your comfort in the bedroom. Libido can go up and down like a yo-yo if you’re not giving it some proper consideration. Doing it by yourself at a time you could be doing it with your partner robs you of a shared experience.
I think finding sexual utopia is close to the heart of many of us, and hopefully you’ve found something in here that resonates that’s made you think, whether you agree or disagree.
How about you. What are some obstacles to sexual utopia you’ve found in your life or in your journey?
When things don’t go the way you hoped, breaking it off with someone seems to be the most viable option. Here are 7 things to consider before throwing your relationship away.
Source: Focus Features (and a brilliant move on this topic!)
I’m writing this towards one of the most reflective times of the year – Christmas. Like birthdays and New Year’s Eve, it’s one of those repeated items of the calendar that make you think about this time last year. It’s one of those times you reconsider everything in your life – your work life, how close you are to achieving your dreams, the decisions you’ve made this year, and – yes, of course – your relationships. David McCandless did a study for a Ted Talk whereby he found that one of the most common times of the year to breakup is the two weeks leading up to and including Christmas. Continue reading