Here is a quickie on things that may be interfering with your sex life within a relationship. Some pretty standard stuff, but probably worth considering. I think people forget that keeping a relationship sexual actually usually takes a deliberate effort. By being mindful of what can interfere with the sex within a relationship can you prevent losing the sex from your relationship.
I have sex many times, sex begats sex. Don’t let the sex slip away and you will never have to work toward bringing it back in–bringing it back is much harder than keeping it in. Foster sex in your relationship BEFORE you need to.
In social science research we have a technique called “meta-analysis,” in which numerous studies on the same topic are all compared at once. I ran across a piece on Huffington Post Divorce today which is an informal “meta-analysis of the advice that has been dispensed on there for the last few years. I am truly impressed with this summary. I felt particularly good that so much what I try to teach clients is included in this summary.
The outgoing editor of this section of the Huffington Post touches upon some major key points–overall a thorough and balanced perspective. She even recognizes the need to re-consider affairs and monogamy and endorses non-traditional arrangements. I am glad to see her reject the myth that you ought not go to bed angry. She also tackles the myth that one’s spouse should be “everything” to anyone–this is relatively new notion (of the last 60 years or so) which has proven to be very dangerous in relationships. She also touches on the importance of cultivating passion/romance and sex within the relationship and to be mindful (weary?) of the appealing aspects relationships which lead to a loss of passion.
One thing which I teach my clients which was not included, but is consistent with the advice given, is that love will involve heartbreak. Usually people think of this in terms of the break-up. I don’t. You partner will unintentionally and thoughtlessly eventually hurt you–and you will likewise unintentionally and thoughtlessly hurt your partner. We are a flawed species whose survival instinct occasionally leads to selfishness. One needs to be able to endure being heartbroken occasionally–and be capable of forgiveness–in order to maintain a relationship. The trick is knowing when the rewards of the relationship are worth the heartbreak and when they are not.
I received this fortune in a cookie the other day and it reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In common discussion the basic needs are discussed as “food, water, and shelter.” And I suppose this is true to a large degree. But really all the body needs to subsist is food and water. Shelter prolongs life, but we can endure exposure to a lot of “the elements” before it kills most of us. We tend to have a shorter life span (and certainly a lower quality of life and poorer health) without proper shelter, but most bodies can survive most elements well enough
Social support (also known as “love”) also prolongs life (and improves the quality of life and health). However, we rarely refer to love or social support as a basic need on par with food and shelter. There is abundant research that shows that people with social support have better health and longer life spans than those without social support. It is largely considered that the presence of social support is one of the factors contributing to married people and people who are involved in churches having longer life spans and better health. One of the most remarkable (and earliest) studies is known as “Harlow’s Monkeys.”
In this study Harry Harlow studied the effects of separating infant primates from their caregivers. The most famous of this series of experiments had infant monkeys choose between spending time with a wire surrogate mother which provided milk and another surrogate mother which was made of a soft cloth but did not provide milk. The infant monkeys clung to the cloth mother and climb on her, going to the wire mother only for sustenance and then immediately returning to the cloth monkey. He also discovered that lack of meaningful interaction with an adequate mother figure left the infant monkeys with social dysfunction throughout childhood and into adulthood.
When I teach General Psychology at the university I teach Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Within his theory he divides his sets of needs into “D needs” and “B needs.” B Needs are the needs that make us human and fully actualized, but are not considered basic for survival. The D Needs are the needs which he claimed without fulfillment we will fail to thrive. I have never seen a text book which put Belongingness-Acceptance-Love-Support as a B Need, but rather in the category of the more essential D Needs.
It would seem intuitive that social support is essential for “survival” of primates, yet this is something that almost runs counter to the “rugged individualism” of American culture. We have fostered a general value of self-sufficiency, including emotional support in many people’s minds. I continue to be amazed by the number of people who come into my office and when I ask them “who do you turn to when you are upset” respond “no one” or “myself.” However, not one of these people has expressed that they do not want to experience social support—many of them do report of fear of (depending on) it though.
I have learned through my practice that one of the best gifts one can give another is to quietly sit with that person when that person is in pain. Our tendency is to deflect or try to problem solve. But there is great power in just sitting. There is great comfort in knowing that we can be vulnerable, weak, or sad in the presence of another and they will not reject us for it. It simply fosters a sense of acceptance—also known as love.
There seems to be a perverse tendency of people to not reach out of support from others out of fear of rejection. I say perverse because one chooses to not have support (by not reaching out) than to risk not receiving social support. This basically boils down to assuring the worst outcome option through not trying. Failing to reach out actually rarely prevents us from experiencing a sense of rejection anyway. I acknowledge that reaching out for support is full of pitfalls, but not reaching out is simply a pitfall of sorts in itself.