Still

Though unspoken, they both knew that after 38 years of marriage their time together would soon draw to an end. Despite the valiant war she waged the cancer had overtaken every aspect of her being and we all knew she would not be with us when the morning came. We moved her into the family room as she requested, so she could be among her children and grandchildren, not tucked far away from them in a corner bedroom.

My father knelt beside her. Thinking he was simply bathing her (a task I myself had performed every day over the course of that week), I began to tidy up the nearby kitchen. He raised her left hand and kissed her wedding band. He began to bathe her hand, her arm, her shoulder. He stroked her hair, over and over. She was much calmer, and her breathing that had been so labored in the previous minutes seemed to become less difficult. She turned her face toward him…they were only inches apart from one another.

They did not speak. Their gaze locked onto one another. His hand lingered over her shoulder, then moved toward her chest. Through her entire illness, I had never seen her shed one tear, until now. His hand did not move. I could only imagine what each of them was thinking.

Were they remembering, were they longing? Yearning? Were they aching in anticipation of separation?

Was he trying to memorize her? She, him?

It suddenly dawned on me what was taking place just a few feet away from me. I hurriedly left the room, allowing them to be alone for the last time.

To the casual observer, the scene unfolding may have appeared to a be a sponge bath from a loving caregiver for his dying wife. But it was so much more than that.

What I was witnessing was a most tender act of love making.

Photo Credit: Man met bril (Flikr.com)

Love Him or Leave Him?

Hey Dr. Welch,

I need some relationship advice for a friend, I hope you can help!

My friend is almost 29 and she’s been married for about four years—-and she’s ready to call it quits on the marriage. She feels like no matter what she does, she can’t make him happy, she feels like she gives and gives to him but gets nothing in return. She told me she’s done trying, and so she’s emotionally checked out of the marriage. Recently, he’s noticed that she’s withdrawing and now HE’S trying really hard.

She said that she still loves him, but it’s not the love she was expecting to feel towards him so it’s really confusing to her. She wants the marriage to work but she doesn’t know if going to counseling is worth it because she doesn’t have any feelings of love for him anymore. 

The other issue is that she works with older women who are encouraging her to leave him. They’ve basically told her that she has one foot out the door so she might as well leave and put herself first.

What can I say to encourage her to stick with it and work through this rough patch? I greatly appreciate your time and thoughts!

This is such a common relationship problem. The good news: THIS MARRIAGE IS NOT OVER! Your friend is one confused gal. And no wonder! There’s a lot of background noise crap that’s making it tough for her to focus on the real issues and her real feelings. And even BETTER good news: Both aren’t ready to check out of the marriage at the same time! One partner is still fighting to keep the marriage. 

Lesson 1 from this: Never, EVER listen to the Hens who are dissatisfied with their own relationships/marriages. People enjoy other peoples’ misery, and if you give them enough time or attention they’ll eventually entangle you into their miserable miserableness. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re considering breaking off a relationship or going down the divorce path, be sure to surround yourself with people who have nothing but your best interests at heart—yours and your partner’s.

Lesson 2 from this: Your friend isn’t falling out of love with her husband. How do I know? She gave you a couple of huge hints when she told you she just doesn’t “feel” love toward him anymore and that she doesn’t have the “feelings” of love. The good news is–she shouldn’t have the same “feelings” of love she had when she married him four years ago.  Love transitions over time from the all-consuming, passionate, gotta-have-it fiery hot feelings to a calm, steady, mature love. If she wanted to leave, believe me, she’d be out the door. She needs to understand the difference between her initial drive-thru kind of love (passionate love) and what she’s feeling now (emotionally mature love)…and that this emotionally mature love is waaaaay better. She just needs to give it the time and attention it needs to take root.

When you talk to her again, remind her that while some people are telling her that’s she’s got one foot out of the door so she might as well leave, she’s also still got one foot in the marriage…so she might as well stick around and try to make it work. Counseling is a great option for this couple, as is a get-away marriage retreat where they focus on nothing but themselves and their relationship. 

This is one marriage that can be–and probably should be–saved!

dr. w 

Photo Credit: meia_lua (flickr.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Everybody’s Searchin’ for Intimacy

We are relational creatures—we need to be with other people. Even Aristotle once observed that people who don’t want to be emotionally connected to others are either “a beast or a god.”

Yep–everybody’s searchin’ for intimacy. Everybody’s hurtin’ for intimacy.

 

The word intimacy comes from the Latin word intimus, which means inner or internal, to come from within a person. In my field of family studies, we use the term to refer to an emotional closeness, mutual trust, and comfortable levels of self-disclosure shared between love partners.

And intimacy doesn’t just benefit you as a couple and your relationship. Unlike any other aspect of a love and/or sexual relationship, intimacy meets your crucial individual psychological needs…it actually promotes your own well-being and psychological health.

Through frequent, intimate communication in which your talks include personal sharing, listening, and understanding, your individual psychological needs are met by way of your relationship with your partner! As you self-disclose and share, and as your partner responds positively to your disclosures, your emotional bond to each other is strengthened and deepened—and so is your love for one another.

Developing intimacy is a process, and because it’s a process it means that it will change over time—not might, not maybe, not probably, not possibly.

Intimacy. Will. Change. Over. Time.

<Insert Realistic Relationship Expectation Here>

The intimacy you have today will not—should not (!!!)—be the same 5 years from now or 10 or 20 years from now. Just as your love matures and changes over time, so will your intimacy levels.

As you get to know your partner better, you begin to self-disclose your thoughts and feelingsThis leads to greater sharing of personal vulnerabilities and fears and hopes and dreams and wishesWhich even further deepens your levels of trustWhich gives you the freedom to share even more and moreWhich ultimately creates your own unique, private relational culture.

And that, my friends, is what divorce/affair proofs your relationship!

Oh, creating and maintaining this intimacy culture is tough work, there’s no doubt about that! This is why, when kids come on the scene—and  we’re so busy tending to their needs and driving them over half of hell’s acre to get them where they need to be—most relationships experience a huge dip in relationship satisfaction.

But your relationship doesn’t have to be “average.” You don’t have to experience that nose-dive, OMG-are-we-ever-going-to-pull-out-of-this unhappiness.

It takes work, though. Are you ready to commit to what it takes?

Start by filling out this intimacy inventory. Each partner fills this out on his/her own time…once this is done, get together (away from LIFE!!) in a quiet setting and discuss your answers with each other.

Save your responses, because over the next several weeks we’re going to build on this information and then begin to weave it into what you already know about marriage scripts, love maps, and sex scripts!

And…there’s a surprise twist at the end. You don’t want to miss it!

Photo Credit: “Affection” by Colby Cash (flickr.com)

Sexual Response: In 5…4…3…2…1…

In the 1960s and 1970s, sexologists Masters and Johnson outlined their revolutionary Four Phases of Human Sexual Response.

Through their research (don’t ask…it involved a lot of not-so-fun electronic devices, like a penile strain gauge and the photoplethysmograph, placed into a lot of different body cavities), they discovered that sex—whether it’s masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, sex with a toy, or penis-in-vagina sex—causes a chain reaction of sorts.

(Or, as my husband says, “the launch sequence has been initiated!”)

[Read more...]

He Said She Said

Okay, so by this point you get it. You get that love is different things to different people. You get that love is different things to the same couple at different times.

You get that your definition of love is under constant construction, and that your love map (and your partner’s) changes over time. You get that early in a relationship, because of passionate love, couples are eager to care for one another and they’re highly motivated to satisfy each other’s emotional needs, to nurture one another’s love needs.

You get that, as you self-disclose, intimacy levels deepen in the relationship, to the point where you and your partner become mutually dependent and reliant on each other for the fulfillment of your intimacy and love needs. You get that when your love needs are met, you feel happy and content.

But guess what? There’s one more puzzle piece we need to put into place in order to complete the picture: Men and women don’t prioritize love needs in the same ways.

Big.

Huge.

Important.

 

She Said: Women’s top five emotional needs are affection, conversation, family commitment [check out the Sexuality tab fellas, and see why this leads to a super-charged sex life], support/help around the house [see previous bracketed note], and honesty/openness.

He Said: Men’s top five emotional needs are admiration/respect [check out the Relationships tab gals, and see how this leads to deeper intimacy], sexual fulfillment, physical attraction [don’t rush out for a boob job just yet, gals], recreational companionship, and honesty.

What do you think about this stuff? Is this similar to your experiences?

Is it realistic to expect that your partner can meet all of your needs?



Photo Credit: daedrius (flickr.com)

The Kiss Still Works

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on.

The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that.

Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private.

Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman asks, “Will my mouth always be like this?”

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It’s because the nerve was cut.”

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.”

Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

What is it that strikes you most about this story?


Source: Selzer, 1978.
Photo Credit: Bob.Fornal (flickr.com)

Lovin’, Touchin’, and Squeezin’: What’s Your Sexual IQ Score?

Touching him. Touching her. Licking. Biting. Tickling. Sighing. Cuddling. Fighting. Hesitating. Giving out. Giving in.

Fighting it. Faking it. Wanting it.

What is sex?

Just like love, no two people have the same idea of what “sex” is because your sexuality is continuously under construction.

And, just like your love map, every experience—from how and what your parents taught you about sex, to boyfriends and girlfriends, to hook ups, to sexual experimentations, to looking at porn mags or flicks, to lovers, to friends, to sex ed—you create an internalized sexual rule book.

You create your sexual script, or your sexual IQ. Your script literally directs every aspect of your sex life, every belief and attitude you have about sex:

  • It tells you who you can have sex with (Same-sex or opposite sex? Older than you, much older than you? Younger than you, much younger than you?)
  • It tells you how to have sex (Oral? Anal? Missionary position only?)
  • It directs how often you have sex (Six times a week? A month? A year?)
  • It determines where you have sex (Just the bedroom? In an elevator? Somewhere you can possibly be caught or seen?)
  • It tells you when you can have sex (Before marriage? Before college? Only in the mornings? Only at night?)
  • It directs why you have sex (Love? Lust? Anger? Fun? Play? Boredom? Jealousy? Revenge?)

When it comes to sex, most of us know what goes where—and why.

But sex is so. much. more. than knowing that Tab A almost always fits into Tab B.

So.

Much.

More.

So, over the next few weeks I’m going to give you the best go-down low-down sex information that’s out there…not pop-culture information. But the truth. Can you handle it?

I can promise you this: If you stick with this, your sex life—and your relationship—will be incredibly energized and invigorated. And you might even learn a new position or two.

So, let’s get started. The first thing you and your partner need to do is determine your sexual IQ score. Take the quiz here.

Be sure to come back and report your scores so I know what your base level was before you took on this truth challenge!

 

Photo Credit: EssG (flickr.com)

What’s Your Love Triangle Score?

Do you want a marriage that lasts? Do you want to live [almost] happily ever after? Then consummate love (not to be confused with consommé soup!) is what you want to strive for!

Consummate love is thought to be the most complete form of love, the love that’s associated with “perfect couples.”  Consummate means to develop something or to bring something to the point of perfection.

A perfect marriage? For real?  Yep.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg developed his Triangle Theory of Love, which conceptualizes eight different types of love relationships. Sternberg says that love isn’t a fixed experience—it’s a process that undergoes change over time, and it’s made up of three main things:

1.Intimacy:Feelings of closeness and connectedness deepen as we self-disclose—the more we disclose about private aspects of our lives, the deeper the trust becomes (and, the deeper the trust, the more we disclose). This trust, in turn, builds respect, affection, warmth, and the spiritual bond between couples. Intimacy takes time—and nurturing—to build, but it’s a prominent feature of love that lasts.

2.Passion: This refers to the physical attraction and romantic feelings that draw us to someone. Passion is the initial driving force in relationships. But it peaks quickly, and over time, reduces to a stable level (otherwise, we couldn’t get anything else accomplished!). At the same time, though, intimacy levels rise.

[PUSH THE PAUSE BUTTON:When passion begins to fade, it’s a good sign that the love is transitioning to a calmer love—to consummate love, a love that lasts! You are not falling out of love! The relationship is not over! Do not bail out! Stick it out, talk, and watch what happens next!]

3.Commitment: Simply put: Commitment is the decision to love someone else and to maintain the love over time. Loving another person is a conscious act of will—it is a deliberate choice. It’s putting forth your best effort in a relationship. No matter what.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that developing consummate love is tough. And maintaining it is even tougher.

That’s why I’m determined to write this blog, to help you get to that kind of love that no one can compete with! That kind of love that is so crazy hot Goliath himself couldn’t take you out of it. That kind of love you see in others and say to yourself (or out loud), I want that!

Stop in later and I’ll show you how all of this stuff about love ties together. In the meantime, time for another pop quiz!  Go here to see what kind of triangle of love you have. (When it asks for forename, it’s asking for your partner’s first name. It took me a second to figure that out. J).

 

 

Photo Credit: B Rosen (flickr.com)

 

Would You Like Fries with That? Drive-Thru Love

In my previous blog I talked about the science of love, and how the brain releases chemicals that make us feel blissful and euphoric when we are first “in love” with someone. Because of this flood of brain chemicals, it’s common to feel love intensely (just like our Bachelorette).

How long does the craziness of love—passionate love—last? And why does knowing about passionate love even matter?  Don’t all couples experience passionate love at some point? And don’t they do just fine?

Ummm….no. <cough, ridiculous divorce rates, cough><cough, ridiculously high cohabitation rates, cough>

You see, passionate love experiences are only temporary, usually lasting only about 12 to 36 months.  Yep, you read me right—the I-don’t-ever-want-to-leave-your-side-make-love-to-me-forever-and-ever-and-ever-amen feelings of passionate love only last for about a year to about 3 years (at the very most).

Don’t get me wrong. Almost all of us experience passionate love early on in our love relationships, and I would venture to say that this is a very, very necessary process that draws young lovers closer together.

But let’s stop here for a little Reality 101: Passionate love does not last! The very nature of passionate love is that it will wax and wane. It will fade!

Do you see the problem?

Faaaaaaaaar too often, couples today make decisions about cohabitating or marriage while they are still in the throws of passionate love.

We’re a society that needs demands immediate gratification. And while this instant satisfaction may be okay when it comes to driving through Mickey D’s to satisfy an urge for carbs and cholesterol, drive-thru passionate love certainly isn’t a way to determine if “that” girl or “that” guy is the one we should live with or marry.

So, a huge step toward divorce-proofing your relationship is to determine: Is what I’m feeling passionate love—or love that lasts?

[This is usually the point where students freak out. They’re afraid that after passionate love fades, their attraction to their partner or their gotta-have-it sexual desires will fade, too. Nope. Not gonna happen. Come back later and see why real love is even better than passionate love!]


Photo Credit: freefotouk (flickr.com)

Mr. Happy Gets Married

The other dayI introduced you to Mr. Happy and his “Stop! Don’t use that pole anywhere near her no-no hole” sex advice.

But Mr. Happy’s “secrets of sexual intimacy” don’t end there.  It looks like a night of explosive, make-Mr.-Happy-blow-like-Mr.-Mount-Vesuvius sex starts with the wifey.

“Ladies, learn how to wrap yourself, to wrap the room in a seductive allure tailor-made to your husband.” [Observation #1: Tailor-made to my husband?? That would mean something involving snow. And ski poles. There’s no way this can end well.]

But Mr. Happy’s wife seems to be an eager beaver (oh yes I did), so let’s see what gets him going.

Meet Mrs. Headlights (I am so not kidding).

“There’s this thing we men talk about called ‘headlights.’” [Observation #2: Ummm……I think pre-pubescent boys sneaking a peak at the lingerie section of the J.C. Penny’s catalog—or Popular Mechanics—talk about ‘headlights.’ Mr. Happy: Puberty called and suggests you give it another go.]

I wonder why headlights are so important? I mean, in the bedroom, not on the highway.  I’m sure Mr. Happy has an explanation. Let’s find out.

“When you’re a young boy watching the women’s Olympic diving competition, you might get together with your buddies and mention one swimmer’s ‘amazing headlights.’” [Observation #3: ‘Nuff said.]

I couldn’t understand the significance of this little how-to-make-Mr.-Happy-really-really-happy-with-your-headlights tidbit, but reading on I learned this: Apparently, a guy’s explosive volcanic eruptions are at your fingertips tonguetips nippletips, gals.

“What am I talking about? Nipples. When a man can see a woman’s nipples through the fabric she is wearing…we get weak in the knees at the right presentation.”

<things your mamma never taught you>


“I don’t know anything more alluring than a satiny top being pushed from underneath by your wife’s two nipples.” [Observation #4: Wait, what? What does Mr. Happy want with your wife’s nipples?]

Apparently, here’s all it takes to make Mr. Happy blow his top tip:

“Now, here’s how you build on your presentation, girls. Let’s say your husband hears the shower running at 10:30 PM. Just the sound of the water makes him frisky.” [Observation #5: Silly Viagra makers. All it really takes is a leaky faucet, not an erection-in-a-bottle.]

<you can’t make this stuff up, people>

“When his wife walks out sporting a new nightie that conveniently displays those headlights, he’s suddenly a little boy. [Observation #6: There's something seriously, seriously wrong with this statement!]

“A lot of men would jog five miles just to see that in their own bedroom. [Observation #7: See Observation #3]. That scenario alone could bring a good number of American men straight to orgasm!” [Observation #8:Gone in 60 Secondsmuch?]

Look, I’m all for great sex advice. No matter what studies you look at, sex problems are always pretty close to the top of the list when it comes to divorce because great sex is really important to a couple’s overall relationship satisfaction and happiness.

But folks, sex advice that reduces a woman to a sexual object—using her [nipples] as an instrument (object) towards your own sexual pleasure—almost always results in regarding her as a commodity and ignores her uniqueness as an individual.

Now, there’s no problem with a guy being attracted to a particular area (or every area, for that matter) of his gal’s body. There’s nothing wrong with her being attracted to any/every part of his body.

But when a books uses four pages—count ‘em, four pages—to talk about how excited Mr. Happy gets when he sees Mrs. Nipples Headlights…well….I have to wonder how Mrs. N-H benefits?

Stop by in a few days and we’ll talk about women’s sexual desire, arousal, and response…and why Mr. Happy needs to learn what makes Mrs. Headlights’ eyes roll back in her head.


Photo Credits: “Turn on your headlights” (Nikita Kashner, flickr.com); “Roof” (Thom Watson, flickr.com)