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)

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)

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)

 

Starter Marriages: A Great Little Fixer-Upper?

Passionate love wanes. Passionate love ultimately fades.

If couples don’t have this realistic expectation going into their marriages—knowing that passionate love will fizzle—it’s a very real possibility that when this romantic love gives way, partners (especially gals) no longer “feel” that they’re in love.

I think this is one of the reasons why we’re seeing an increase in a frightening new trend, that of starter marriages. Starter marriages—a first marriage that lasts five years or less and ends before a couple has children—are on the rise in the US and Europe.

One researcher writes about starter marriages here. The author is spot on when she says that today’s couples get sucked into “matrimania” (the planning of the gazillion dollar wedding. And shut the heck up–Bridalplasty. I mean, seriously? Bridalplasty?), and that they don’t give much thought to the marriage that comes after the wedding.

These marriages are kind of like flipping houses.  You know, the trend where people purchase a little fixer upper, pour love and attention and resources into it, and then get out of it—hoping to make a profit? Hoping to benefit somehow from the experience?

Take this from a TLC junkie: People who try to flip houses almost always discover that it’s much harder to do than they thought. Much. Harder.

Seeing young adults’ marriages trend in this direction worries me quite a bit, because these marriages aren’t benign, innocuous experiences. Make no mistake about it: These types of relationships carry lasting effects, because they etch yet another mark on the love map.

Could this matrimania/starter marriage craze be the result of passionate love? I’m betting yes.

Have you ever heard of starter marriages? What’s your opinion about them?

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)

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Attachmentis a developmental phase that we never outgrow.

Our experiences with early attachment relationships to our parents become the foundation on which all future love relationships are built—both our ability to love others, and to allow others to love us in return.

There are different classifications of adult love relationships:

·Secure attachment types: Like securely attached infants, secure adults have little difficulty seeking and maintaining closeness (physical, emotional, affectional) with another. They don’t fear being abandoned or losing their partner. They allow others to get close to them and depend on them. They experience enduring, happy, warm, trusting relationships.

·Avoidant attachment types: Avoidant types feel as though they never find “real” love. They are uncomfortable when too emotionally or physically close to another person. They show discomfort with intimacy and are hesitant to trust others. They find it difficult to allow themselves to depend on others.

·Anxious/ambivalent attachment types: Insecurity is the hallmark of this adult attachment type—it is not a matter of if a romantic partner leaves them, but when. With the constant fear or worry that the partner isn’t really in love with them, anxious/ambivalent adults cling to their partner and push for commitment. They may also withdraw and pull away before they get rejected.

What is your adult attachment style?  Take the quiz here!

Now that you have an understanding of your attachment type, reflect on how this understanding of “love” affects your marriage or your intimate relationship.

In what ways does this help you to better understand and appreciate your love map? How does it help you to better understand and appreciate your partner’s unique love map?



Photo Credit: Northern Star (flickr.com)

“No Matter What” Kind of Sex

 

Remember earlier I told you that research shows us that nearly 3 out of 4 marriages end in divorce when a woman becomes seriously ill? Other research might also help to explain why some marriages can’t survive the “worse” in those for-better-or-worse marriage vows.

I spent the better part of two years studying what happens to a woman’s body image and sexual response following a breast cancer diagnosis and/or a mastectomy. Like many other researchers before me, I found that breast cancer is intricately linked to body image in some way for most women (in 93 of the 110 women I studied).

When I did my PhD internship at a breast cancer center, I discovered that the breasts-are-sexuality-femininity connection for women is so significant that many women who needed a mastectomy yesterday to save their lives, refused to do so—primarily because they were so afraid that losing a breast (or breasts) meant that they would also lose their sexuality and femininity. Or their husband.

I vividly recall when one woman in her 30s looked at her husband in desperation and said, “Will you still love me if I’m not pretty?”

But losing a breast isn’t just about appearance and sex to women—it’s about a sense of being whole, about self-esteem, about body image….essentially, it’s about losing their identity.

(WARNING: You are about to see photographs of post-mastectomy women. Please do not read further if you believe these images will disturb you or cause uneasiness.

I include these images so that you can see the reality of breast cancer, and why recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally can be a very, very long process. I also include the images so that you can see why it’s so tough for marriages and sex to survive after an illness like this—and why teaching women to be sexual objects for their husbands can be potentially dangerous to their marriages.) [Read more...]

Everything That Comes with It

 

I admit it—I was the little girl who used to create Barbie doll wedding dresses out of toilet paper.  I was the little girl who pinned a pillow case “wedding veil” to her pony tail, and I was the little girl who, when asked by her ice skating instructor what she wanted to practice, said, “Let’s practice walking down the aisle!”

Falling in love.  Marriage.  Babies.  I had my entire life planned out by the time I was six years old.  Is it any wonder I had to have the wedding of the century (second only to Princess Diana, of course)?  My winter wedding day, complete with snow, was spectacular.  Perfect.  Flawless.  I was locked arm in arm with my dad, and the wedding planner was making sure my gown would make its magnificent statement (actually, in 1981 we didn’t have wedding planners….but I’m fairly certain he would have been a wedding planner if there were such a thing back then).

The music was just about to cue my entrance, and

It.  Happened.

As I tried to step toward the doors waiting to be opened by the wedding planner wannabe, my dad hesitated.  He wouldn’t budge.  At first I thought he was just trying to slow me down a bit (he had been, after all, telling me to be still and quiet down since I was about two years old).  In a panic, I looked at Dad and said, “Are you okay?”   He took a deep breath.

Oh. No.  I knew that sigh.  I knew that sigh always preceded a lecture, correction, admonishment.  Why now?  Didn’t he maybe kind of sort of think this might not be such a good time?  Couldn’t he have maybe kind of sort of told me what he wanted to say, oh, I don’t know, like a month before? Or at the rehearsal dinner?  Or the morning of the wedding?  The doors opened and I gave him an I’m-kind-of-busy-right-now-Dad-can-this-wait-oh-no-you’re-going-to-say-it-anyway-this-can’t-be-happening-everyone’s-looking-at-us look(s).

Gently, like loving daddies do, he drew me into his side and whispered in my ear, “When you take your first step down this aisle, you must do so as if the word ‘divorce’ does not exist–you must enter this marriage knowing that divorce is a possibility, but something that should be your very last resort.  Because after today, I can guarantee you that along with the happiness and joy you are feeling this very moment, this marriage will bring with it sorrow.  There will be heartbreak, there will be difficulties, there might even be tragedy.  Before you walk down the aisle, you must know in your heart that marriage–and everything that comes with it–is truly what you want.”

I would like to be able to say that I melted into his arms and thanked him over and over for his wisdom.  But, using my wedding bouquet to point toward the altar, all I could manage to get out was, “Ummmm….Okay.  Thanks.  Can we go now?”  And, like loving daddies do, he squeezed me, chuckled, and said, “I love you Chickie.  Let’s go get ‘em.”

Realistically speaking, none of us is equipped to tackle the “everything” that comes with intimate relationships and marriage.  We change.  We grow.  And we soon come to discover that the “everything” is actually quite different from what we expected.  In desperation, we consider divorce because the “everything” just hurts too much. It’s just too much work to make it right again.

But guess what–you can divorce proof your marriage.  You can have a marriage or an intimate relationship that doesn’t just survive, but one that thrives. You can experience a sex life that is almost never dull or boring.  You can be a terrific parent.  And you can leave your kids a legacy that no amount of money can ever buy….a foundation upon which they will someday build their own marriages and relationships.

About now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Here we go again, same-old-same-old tired marriage advice.”

Nope.  I won’t waste your time with that stuff, because it doesn’t work.

You see, the problem with existing books, TV talk show gurus, radio shows, and marriage or engagement weekend retreats is that they assume in their one-size-fits-all fixes that everyone defines “love,” “marriage,” or “sex” in the same way they do.  That’s why this stuff flops–almost always.

By writing with the notion that everyone follows the same pathway to marriage (first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes ______ pushing the baby carriage), books like The Love Dare and He’s Just Not That Into You reduce love, sex, and the “everything” of intimate relationships to something we do, instead of showing us how and why these experiences are a part of who we are.

Follow me through this blog. Spend some time with me and discover how, from the parent-child love bond, to friendships, to ex-boyfriends, girlfriends, or lovers, every past relationship writes your marriage scripts.

Come alongside and see how you can know–really, really know–who you are as a lover and who your intimate partner is.  Learn what it truly means to vow to “love” or to “honor” or to “care” for that person you’re thinking about marrying, or that person you’re already married to.  Hang out here for a few weeks, and you’ll discover how you can commit to the commitment….even when the “everything” makes it seemingly impossible to do so.

Kelly