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From my column in Body+Soul
Question: "I’ve recently discovered my husband is having an affair. But I’m not upset about it – I’m glad. Glad because I haven’t fancied my husband for years, and this affair means the pressure to have sex has ended. Our love life was good at the start. Three children later though, and the chemistry just isn’t there.
Why don’t I leave him? I like our life together. He makes me laugh, he’s kind, and brilliant with our kids. We live in a nice house and have a buzzing social life. I don’t see why I need to end a perfectly good marriage just because I don’t find him sexually attractive. And I’m not prepared to wreck all our lives for the sake of his bit on the side.
I do feel uneasy though. I’m worried that he might admit his affair (and I’d have no idea how to react), or even worse, fall in love and want to leave the marriage himself. So, what’s my best move here – do I keep looking the other way? Or do I talk to him and work out a new ‘arrangement’ that keeps our marriage solid but our sex lives separate?"
The LoveLife Blog: guidance on mindful, bodyful, soulful loving!
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If you want to be healthy you know there are some basic things you need – like regular exercise and the right amount of vitamins and minerals. Without these, you’re not going to be in great shape.
It’s the same with relating well, there are some basic things you need every day to stay loved-up and connected. Let’s call these ‘vitamins for your relationship’. These practices will help keep your Couple Bubble strong. Without them you’re going to be pretty wobbly as a couple.
Here are the two key ‘relationship vitamins’ that I believe are vital, and that I prescribe for all my clients: one that you ‘take’ four times a day and one that you ‘take’ once a day.
1: Mini Couple Bubble Top-Ups
The first type of vitamin is what I call Mini Couple Bubble Top-Ups. These are focused, brief connections when you meet and part. Usually these are at four critical points of the day: when you wake up, when you part in the morning, when you greet in the evening and when you go to sleep. (Obviously those times are different if you’re both at home or are shift workers, but the same principle applies.)
Our brain is such an interesting thing. It stores away memories and impressions, and then when we are met with a similar situation, it immediately
goes ‘oh that old thing’ and presents a pre-formed idea based on the past. Which means it’s easy to get complacent in our experiencing of life, including
our experience of our partner.
When we first meet there is so much newness and excitement – our brain is bedazzled by our new object of interest, we find this person fascinating. Our brain is engaged and releasing lots of dopamine and the endorphins and oxytocin are flowing in our body. It feels sooo goood! Often this is fuelled by pre-existing beliefs around ‘happy ever after’ and ‘finding one’s soul mate’, which enhance the interest and positive feelings.
But, over time, that person is no longer new. They become a bit ‘same old same old’. Our brain gets used to them, we no longer see them as new and interesting, and often this is exacerbated by beliefs around sex and love getting boring with time, and maybe memories of our own parents’ complacent marriages mixed in. We go into automatic mode with our partner, with our impressions and expectations of them. We get... read more
So often I hear my clients say that they still love their partner but are no longer in love. Often this is given as the reason for wanting to end an otherwise good relationship. These clients always make this claim with some despondency and with a sense of finality, as though once it’s gone it’s gone.
This is understandable, as it’s a common belief that there is the exciting, passionate ‘in love’ honeymoon period and then there is dreary ‘loving’ companionship ever after. But is this fact or myth? Is loss of ‘in love-ness’ inevitable or can we keep it going?
Well, it’s a huge topic and I’d need more than one blog post to go into details, but essentially the answer is yes, you can cultivate that feeling. The key word here is cultivate. It doesn’t ‘just happen’.
Nothing good in life ‘just happens’, nothing good lasts without focus and attention. You don’t stay fit and healthy if you don’t focus on it, you don’t become wealthy if you don’t pay attention, you don’t develop a good career or business without on-going intent to do so. Yet for some reason when it comes to love and sex, we think it... read more
The fairy tales got it wrong. Two do not become one and live happily ever after. Two halves do not make a whole. Rather, two complete people come together and form a third entity, their coupledom. You, me and us. Not just us.
'Two becoming one' is co-dependence. Two becoming three - two self-reliant individuals and a strong bond as a couple - that's what gives security and freedom in life.
That requires self-reliance, the ability to self-validate, not requiring others to judge you from their own worldview and to decide if you’re right or wrong, good or bad. In intimate relationships in particular, people too often require the other person to make them feel good. They get into the relationship through their own sense of lack and needing the other to make them feel... read more
I was in session with a couple recently, looking at some challenging aspects of their relationship, when one of them said: ‘I guess you have to wade through your shit to get the insights to make change…’ and I responded with: ‘You’re not wading through it, you’re composting it!’.
They loved the analogy! And it’s a good one. We’ve all got our shit – defences, traumas, fears, confusions, resentments - that has accumulated over our history. If you don’t deal with it, it ferments and turns bad. But if you do deal with it, you are composting it, turning it into fertilizer for new growth.
Too many people put huge amounts of focus into other parts of life – work, health, friends, family, hobbies – and then wonder why they don’t have a good relationship. It has become a withered garden, dying from lack of nurturance.
You can live life to the full or you can sink into dreary monotony. You can mature with vibrancy or you can grow old and tired. You can have a relationship that continues to explore and grow or you can have one of complacency and dullness. You can see your parenting role as one of keeping under control or as growth and delight (for you and your children).
It’s a choice. There is nothing ‘inevitable’ about how life turns out. The only thing inevitable is that life mirrors your attitude and beliefs. If you believe life, relationships, anything is all downhill after the early flush, it will be. If you believe life can continue to open up and bring new and interesting experiences, it will.
Flat-lining is safe, if dull. Flat-liners live safe, dull lives and their sex, if any, is flat and dull. Sex mirrors life.
Flat-liners sit on the beach and watch other people surfing the waves. They might do it timidly, wishing they were brave enough to pick up a board and go... read more
Sometimes couples split up at this phase, thinking that they’re not right for each other. That might be true, but not always.
Phase One: Two Become One
When we fall in love, there is so much newness and discovery that it’s very easy to feel like ‘two become one’, you feel you have so much in common! It’s just like the fairy-tales and you feel that you really will ‘live happily ever after’!!!
This is the ‘symbiotic’ phase of a relationship. It’s a very important part and builds a strong foundation.
Symbiosis or Fusion?
However, inevitably, you start to realise that two have not become one, two are still two. The cracks start to appear, your differences are more obvious and unsettling. I call this the ‘aargh’ phase of a relationship.
Others pretend it’s not happening, they don’t talk about the differences. These couples tend to lose the singular pronoun and talk about ‘we’ and ‘us’ exclusively, and their relationship becomes more and more limited. They are not game to push boundaries, make suggestions, try new things, for fear of creating ‘conflict’.
Others recognise the differences, and blame the other! These are... read more
At the end of my last Couples Retreat, one participant, who’d had quite a challenging time of it, declared with a big smile and evident relief that she realised that prior to the retreat she had not been relationship-oriented.
I see this a lot, in various manifestations.
In some couples, one declares they are quite happy in the relationship and so their dissatisfied partner must have their own issues to deal with. Well, no, I’m afraid that if one person is not happy then there is something wrong with the relationship not with only one of the individuals in it. Thinking otherwise is not being relationship-oriented.
I see other couples where they might both be feeling dissatisfied in the relationship, but one claims to know what the problem is, and the problem is the partner, who needs to sort out ‘their’ issues. This person is also not relationship-oriented.
And frequently I see couples where they have both done a lot of individual personal development and growth and so are puzzled as to why they are having relationship issues.
In all these cases, one or both of them is seeing themselves as two separate individuals, rather than as a two-person psychobiological unit.... read more
The secret to a strong relationship is that you merge your love and sexual energies within you and share that constantly. This creates a unique vibration between you, like your own radio frequency. It’s a frequency that has the warmth and support of love yet with a zest, a frission of the sexual. It is a potent energy.
This frequency manifests in myriad small ways throughout the day - in looks, touches, comments, tokens (gifts, surprises, services). I’ve described this in other blogs as sharing ‘quanta of deliciousness’, maintaining the 'mmm' factor, and focusing on the 'beforeplay' .
When you keep this frequency strong it creates a depth of connection, a profound intimacy. It makes it both easier to move into genital sexual connection, as you are already so connected it’s not a great jump (important for people who have resistance or difficulty being interested in genital interaction), and paradoxically genital sexual connection becomes less important because you already have a strong sexual energy flowing between you (important for those who have a strong need or urgency for genital interaction).
- #321: Consent From the Inside
- #320: How to Say No Without It Feeling Like Rejection
- #319: The Benefits of a Great Love Life Part 3: Sexual Transformation
- #318: The Benefits of a Great Love Life Part 2: Relational Transformation
- #317: The Benefits of a Great Love Life Part 1: Personal Transformation
- #316: Take Your Partner Off A Sexual Pedestal
- #315: Finesse Your Expertise on Each Other
- #314: A Lingering Sense of Each Other
- #313: How Do You Know When You're Having Good Sex?
- #312: Conflict is Inevitable So Learn to Prevent, Manage and Repair
- #311: The Bridgerton Effect
- #310: Cuddle plus – an essential phase of the affection-sex continuum
- #309: Moment-by-Moment Consent
- #308: How To Give (and Receive) An Erotic Spanking
- #307: Three Types of Sexual Communication: Chit-chat, In the Moment and The Debrief
to LOVELIFE News for regular inspiration on sex, love and intimacy!