Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Points of Contact: Have Other Things In Your Life

A while ago I was going through a stressful time with the person I was dating, and I wasn't sure what to do.

I went to the comedy club, stepped onstage and by the time I got off, I couldn't remember what I'd been worried about.

Sometimes you don't have to do anything.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is something else.

Not talk about the relationship. Not break-up. Not renew your commitment. Not think about it or fight about it or figure it all out.

Sometimes you just have to go about your life and let things unfold as they may.

That's why it's important to HAVE things other than your relationship in your life.

For some of us, it's easy to get swept away by our relationship status. The excitement of dating new people. The satisfaction of maintaining a relationship and working as part of something bigger than ourselves. It can be a high like no other.

It can even be easy to get caught up in bad things. The frustration of trying to make something unworkable work. Or being single and dwelling in loneliness, wondering when someone will come into our lives and make it good.

Even the downs can be a kind of a high.

And for some of us, nothing else in life comes close to that. Nothing seems as important as how our sex, dating or relationship life is going.

It's still important to do other things though. In fact, for those of us for whom relationships are a priority, it's even MORE important.

For me, I have comedy. There's still nothing for me like the feel of a crowd in front of me, a stage beneath my feet and a microphone in my hand. It's a space for me, and just for me, where I can float on the rhythms of my own voice and the crowd's response, a selfless place where everything but the moment melts away.

All of us have those things. If you haven't found yours yet, keep looking. It's there.

And even if you haven't found something that matches the high you get from relationships, do things anyway whether it's cleaning, staying in touch with friends, or joining clubs and doing activities.

Truthfully, they don't have to get you high. They don't even have to be that fun. Some of those things can feel downright onerous at times.

Do them anyway.

Doing other things isn't about trying to get high as it is about staying grounded. Each non-relationship thing is like a tether that keeps us attached to the ground. The more of those points of contact I have, the less likely it is for me to end up getting blown away like a runaway kite when relationship stuff gets heated.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reader Questions: Why Does Lighting Strike? It's Over, But I Want To Understand

I am a 19 years old university student. I am not very experienced when it comes to relationships or people.

This  I met a girl in the library who seemed to be a lot into me. Early on she did most of the "pursuing" side of getting to know me, and early on I wasn't super attracted to her but as we went on and kept meeting and talking I realized I was intently looking forward to meeting her in the intermediate times and developed an intense connection to her.


This coupled with a degree of physical escalation that also felt unusually natural  and positive signs from her that felt completely obvious, I was sure I'm gonna get in a relationship with her.

 A few days after this escalation, she suddenly out-of-the blue rejected me. I still do not completely understand why it happened but it did, and as I said I was 120% sure the relationship will happen for good reason.



We agreed to stay friends. In retrospect this was a big mistake, but I really didn't want to lose her and at the time this feeling was mutual. I guess I figured I'd be powerful enough to handle it and it was worth it but I overestimated my capabilities in this regard.

The following months were very drama ridden. By early december she attempted to broke ties with me and threw some rather ugly stuff in my face. I took the blame for it fully and spent two months wallowing in guilt and self-loathing.

  In mid- january, she "came back" to me. We reconciled, pretty much both apologized for what transpired and decided once again to be friends.

 Our friendship was very up and down. Sometimes she just "froze out" for what I perceived as completely petty reasons  and during these times she went full passive-aggressive, refusing to communicate and refusing to say anything clearly.

 This went on and on, and it slowly slowly destroyed any stability and force of will I had left until early june after a smaller freeze-out of her I got to the point where I completely honestly think I was nearing a mental breakdown and snapped at her, which meant after she refused to answer to me.

I had several talks with her after this where she once again refused any sort of normal communication but the ties were severed from here on. She said she didn't hate me or anything but this whole "friendship" was "pointless" and she did not want to deal with it.

She didn't believe in love and sometimes told me how she didn't really love anyone at all in , this was tied with significant self-esteem issues, like she often felt insignificant, useless and worthless, didn't really believed she needed anyone in her life to the point where she often refused to deal with people's annoying habits  and just ran away from them.

 But this is the part where I am really in doubt. I rarely drama with my other friends and I have never ever lost anyone like this besides her. 


 I totally have no idea what perspective should I have on this all. Sometimes I am angry at her. Sometimes I feel resentment. Other times I just miss her despite her being so...toxic. She was right though that this friendship was "pointless" since if I stayed in it, I would have just withered while she lived her life, but I still do miss her. 
I also tried to get to know other people and do something with people that interest me, but none of them ever gave back any similiar feelings I have experienced with her.
 
I cannot decide if she was a bad person or not. I mean, she did all this, but also she kept struggling a lot with guilt, even for reasons she should not have felt guilt for. Sometimes in her weaker moments she admitted many things, how she felt she was a bad person, and how she desired the love/caring of others but she felt she could never give back any of it, so she sort of "manipulated" other people to make them love her. Sometimes I just feel for her and wish I could help her.

So what do you think of this all? Was this really an abusive thing? Is she a bad person? What after-perspective should I have on this all?


I'm glad you wrote.

We've talked before about people like this. It's very easy to get sucked into their lives and very hard to get out. Interestingly, they aren't always romantic partners. They can also be friends, family members, or co-workers.

It's not your fault. This type of person (men can be like this too) are very good at what they do because it's all they know. They have a way of making everything feel like it's your fault, that if you'd just done, x,y, or z differently you could have saved the friendship or relationship. Just as you think you're out they'll often come back and leave you thinking you have a chance at salvaging things.

You find yourself doing things you wouldn't normally do. You feel ashamed for it.

But as much as it feels like your fault, if you aren't having these problems with others in your life...well, that's a sign that the problem isn't all with you. You might be a participant in it and you may have to do some soul-searching as far as learning new boundaries and managing your own feelings and behavior, but it isn't your fault.

These types of people tend to love inspiring strong emotions in people and they don't care what emotion it is:.anger, frustration, lust, love-they'll feed off it until the other person is depleted, hollowed out and empty.

But they are also exciting. Not only that, often things were great in the beginning and sometimes there are still moments when you feel close to a genuine connection.  You just need to try a little harder or work a little more...and the temptation is to keep going back to them because of the memory of those good times, the belief that you can be the one to change things, or the thrill and excitement of not knowing what's going to happen next.

Faced with all that intensity, t's hard to move on,. Not just because we're invested, but because other people don't give us that same rush; they seem boring by comparison. 

And parts of our brain get addicted to it, because we're constantly trying to figure them out. In my experience, it feels awful, but it's really hard to pull away. We may  not even LIKE the person but we keep going back. Even after they're gone they haunt us.

We may not want them back in our lives but still we want to UNDERSTAND.

But sometimes understanding is not possible.

Sometimes it's better to be okay with not understanding. Because when we're still expending emotional and thought energy on her after she's out of our lives...well, she still has power over us even if she isn't around.

For our own sanity, it's best once we recognize this type of person to cut them out of our lives as completely as we are able. No Facebook. No returning texts. No Contact.

This is a hard thing to do. They know our weak spots. Or we feel 'rude' if we don't answer their texts.

Resist the urge.

It's sometimes helpful to remember these people do not really see you as a human being. You're just a source of emotion for them. Which means they have no problem dropping you when you've served your purpose and coming back when they need more.

As you mentioned, there are times when they are aware of what they're doing. They feel bad about it. They feel guilty and it's easy to want to support them or help them fix themselves.

Ultimately though, it's important to remember their feelings are not our problem.

As for the feelings you're describing, they are totally normal. After things are over, or even in the thick of things, it's totally normal to be filled with self-doubt, frustration, shame, or self-loathing. It's normal to be questioning yourself. These feelings do pass though once you're free from the person's influence.

Think of what you're experiencing now as withdrawal symptoms. They are hard, especially when you don't have a lot else going on, but they will pass the more quickly and completely you cut her out of your life and the more you can find things to do that get your brain thinking about other things.

As for why she latched onto you or why she did the things she did...I don't know. It's like asking why lightning strikes one house and not another. There may not be an answer.

The questions to focus on are ones where you have some control: How can I recognize these sorts of people sooner and avoid getting drawn into things? What can I learn about myself? What are ways I can figure out who is safe to trust and who isn't? What about me is drawn (or attracts) these sorts of people?

Good luck. The big takeaway I would leave you with is 'this isn't your fault.' At the same time, the more you learn from it, the better able you'll be able to recognize such people and keep yourself away from them.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dating Ecology: You Are Not Responsible For Someone Else's Feelings...And They Are Not Responsible For Yours.

I spent a long time being angry at a woman I loved for not breaking up with me.

It was a frustrating relationship. I loved her much more than she loved me, and we both knew it. But when I suggested breaking up, she resisted the idea.

I resented her for it.

I was angry because she didn't respect me enough to break up with me, that she didn't think I was capable of handling my own feelings.

It made sense if you thought about where she came from though.

The guy she dated before me frequently threatened suicide, told her she could do whatever she wanted (with the unspoken understanding that what she wanted better be what he wanted or he'd be emotionally devastated), and generally manipulated her into believing she was responsible for his emotional health and that if anything bad happened to him, it was All Her Fault.

Don't be a part of this.

Don't do it. Don't accept it from others.

Refuse to be a part of relationship hostage-taking, emotional blackmail, manipulation, or guilt-tripping.

By taking responsibility for our own emotions, we build trust in ourselves and confidence in our ability to handle whatever emotions come up in a relationship. We learn that we can be fearful, angry, or insecure in a relationship and still be able to handle those feelings while still being respectful to ourselves and without lashing out at the people close to us.

By allowing others to be accountable for our own feelings, we keep from taking on things we have no control over. We also give our partners the gift of trust. We let them know we believe in their ability to handle their own feelings.

 We can--and should--be supportive. We can be open to feedback and learning to change our behavior if the situation calls for it, but we don't need to lose ourselves or feel guilty for how someone else is feeling.

We help ourselves and our partner by doing this.

By avoiding these pitfalls and refusing to be sucked into them ourselves, we help our own relationships. And while that would be good enough on its own, we also do something more.

We help the strangers that our partners will date next if things don't work out.

And let's face it: many time things DON'T work out.

But by taking responsibility at least we are able to go forward knowing we've minimized the pain we've caused to ourselves and to the other person, that the next person we (or they date) won't find themselves trying to stop the bleeding from wounds we've committed.

Vampires create vampires. Zombies create zombies. Dating means exposing ourselves to the risk of meeting a monster or two, but we can keep their numbers lower if we stop biting each other.

We can complain about the toxicity of the dating pool all we want, or we can make it clearer and cleaner for everyone by not dumping our own toxic chemicals in.

-May All Beings Be Accountable To Themselves

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Addiction In Relationshp



"'I'm trying something different,' I told him. 'I'm thinking I need to, you know, learn to trust my instincts.'

'You're an addict,' he said. 'Your instincts are always wrong.'"
--paraphrased from Lighting Up:  How I Stopped Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved in Life Except Sex, by Susan Shapiro


 When we hear the word 'addiction,' most of us think of substances like drugs or alcohol. Often we think of it as a physical or chemical addiction like cigarettes or heroin.

It doesn't have to be that way. An addiction can be any behavior or substance we're powerless over, especially to the point where we're dishonest about it with ourselves or others.

There doesn't have to be a substance involved. Your relationship might be free of drinking, drugs, gambling, or anything else and still be addictive.

In fact, it's possible your relationship IS the addiction.

As David Richo points out in 'How To Be An Adult In Relationships:

"Both rejection and acceptance fire up our adrenaline, so both are equally exciting to the addict. Thus, adrenaline hooks us both coming and going; we are still hooked when we are breaking up. We can get a fix from our partner even as we leave him."

Below are some characteristics of addictive relationships. If you're seeing a lot of these in your own relationship(s), it might be time to think about making a change or talking to somebody you trust.

Remember, a relationship can be free of physical, sexual or other kinds of abuse and still be unhealthy. Also, things do not get better on their own in an addictive relationship. In fact, they tend to get worse. The only way for change in the relationship is for one or both people to leave or to get help.

Trust your intuition and don't be afraid to reach out for help.

CHARACTERISTICS OF ADDICTIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Black and White Thinking: Things are either one way or the other with no options in between. You'll hear things like "either you trust me or you don't." or "You'll do this for me, or you don't really love me."

 Perfectionism and Focus on the Internal: Everything must look perfect to others. To the outside world, the relationship looks perfect; to the people in it, it's a complete horror show.

Constant crisis: There is a lack of stability. Instead, the relationship lurches from emergency to emergency with no chance to look at the big picture or underlying patterns

Avoidance of feelings: Certain feelings are not allowed. Anger, fear, doubt--some or all of these are not permitted either by the other person or ourselves. They're dismissed as being wrong, irrelevant, or irrational.

Using Healthy Behavior in Unhealthy Ways: In other words, instead of resolving things, attempts at healthy communication seem to only drag things deeper in the mud

Fixation on the past or future.Using the good times of the past or promises for the future as a way of wallpapering over how bad things are in the present.

Denial/Distraction/Forgetfulness/Confusion: Whenever things get uncomfortably close to the truth, something suddenly comes up. Or the other person or you 'forgets' about something important. When confronted with the truth, you or the other person claims to be "confused."

Blame: Sometimes it's stated, sometimes implied, but the message is  that things would be fixed if the other person would JUST CHANGE.

Ignoring anything that might threaten the status quo. Refusing to let new information in or twisting it to support what's already happening.

Indirect and Ineffective Communication: People don't say what they mean. Hints. Innuendoes. Vague promises as opposed to concrete plans. When other people are involved there is a lot of communication between go-betweens as well as taking sides. Gossip. Secrets.

Isolation: The bad things in the relationship become "our secret." The couple works together to keep their unhealthy dynamic invisible to others. There's physical or emotional isolation from friends or family.

Progressive: Things are steadily getting worse. There is the feeling of constantly having to lower the bar on expected behaviors or hopes for the future.

Unhealthy Dependancy: The couple depends on each other for each others needs to an exaggerated degree OR one person needs to be needed to the point that they are taking care of the other person.

The Cycle. The Cycle is in full swing. There may be a steady pattern of make-ups and break-ups with each break-up more severe and each make-up less satisfying.

Focus on the External: Judging ourselves or the relationship based on how people outside of it perceive it.

-May All Beings Enjoy Healthy Relationships

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The "It Just Happened" Defense Is Not Your Friend

In the dating and relationship world, the Road to Hell is paved with the words, "It just happened."

Sometimes those words help us feel better about our choices. Sometimes the people affected by those choices find "it just happened" easier to swallow than the truth, but using those words comes with a price.

By choosing to use those words and believe them we give our power away. We don't take responsibility for ourselves.

"It wasn't my fault. It just happened."

I can see why it's tempting. A woman of my acquaintance and I nearly ended up hurting a lot of people this way via a game I like to call "Plausible Deniability Chicken." Neither of us was escalating things, but if the OTHER person moved things forward a little, we wouldn't stop them either.

Consequently, we ended up baby-stepping towards the abyss.

Wisdom prevailed, but it could have been a lot worse. Fortunately,  we opened our eyes instead of pretending not to see where we were going.

Now matter how comforting it may seem, the "It Just Happened" Defense is not your friend. 

In addictions we talk about the importance of  'Seemingly Irrelevant Decisions' and how they affect relapse. An addict doesn't decide to drink, but he does decide to stop by the bar 'to say hi to some friends.' The person on a diet doesn't decide to stuff his face with doughnuts, but on his afternoon run he might decide to take the path that leads him past his favorite bakery...you know, just for a change of pace.

A person doesn't decide to get back together with a person they know they should stay away from, but they might answer a text message...you know, just to be nice.

A person doesn't decide to cheat on their partner, but they might start checking online dating sites, just to see what's out there. And in order to see other people's profiles, OF COURSE, you have to create one of your own. It's not for meeting people. It's just for getting on the site.

The strangling vines of It Just Happened sprouts from the seeds of those Seemingly Irrelevant Decisions.

Don't plant them.

PRACTICE:
Think about the steps that lead to high-risk situations or behaviors in your own life. What do you notice leads up to that behavior? Is it an emotional state, such as loneliness or boredom? Do they begin with something small like the sending or replying to a text message? Is it someone else's behavior such as crying or telling you they need you? Take some time to examine the thing you want to change and the little decisions that take you up to that point.

How can you use this knowledge in the future?

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Monday, March 10, 2014

Approaching: Assume They Already Like You

When I first started working to get over my shyness by approaching strangers, one of the big worries I had was, what if they don't like me?

What if they think I'm being stupid or inappropriate? What if they look at each other and make faces and roll their eyes? What if they feel creeped out or uncomfortable?

What if...what if they're mean to me?

The advice I got was this:

Pretend you're already friends with them. Pretend they like you already.

It's good advice. I have to say it works pretty well. Certainly it helped me to stop overthinking the details (Which angle do I approach from? How close should I stand? What should I do with my hands?) and relax. I could think about the way I approached the same way I would approaching anybody else I was on good terms with...that is to say, I didn't need to think of it at all.

The more often I adopted this strategy, the easier approaches got.

Give it a try and have fun.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Thursday, March 6, 2014

(Fiction) Hush


Hush

He was tall, strong, and consistently the best student in his class. He played football and volunteered for half a dozen campus charities. He carried himself with an easy smile and an friendly but authoritative grace that gave him the appearance of owning whatever space he happened to be occupying. But the library was the only place he felt truly at home.

Five floors of shelves so high that even at six foot two, he needed a stool to reach the top row. The smell of dust and paper. A silence so deep and thick it felt like being wrapped in a blanket. The sounds of rustling paper and shifting weight were his only human contact; the quiet gave each cough and footstep the richness of an exhale after a held breath, a comforting reminder that he could have his solitude without having to be alone.

He didn’t like to be alone.

A squeak caught his attention. He looked up and saw the girl at the end of the aisle with her ancient metal cart loaded with books. He’d noticed her before, mostly because she seemed to try so hard not to be noticeable. She wore no make-up and her dark hair hung straight down past her shoulders which curled forward protectively around her . Large, black rimmed glasses shielded her downcast eyes. She wore long skirts and shapeless blouses that shrouded but couldn’t quite hide her full breasts. She looked like she was doing everything in her power to keep people from seeing who she really was.

If that was the case, he thought, then they had something in common.

He turned so as not to stare. To his left a sign on the wall read: Quiet Please, a message to which he often thought gratefully in reply, Quiet. Thank you. He traced his fingers along the books in front of him, volume after proud volume of the History of Agriculture in 18th Century France. It took him a moment to notice the girl wasn’t putting books away.

She was looking at him. She had, he noted, also taken her glasses off and was placing them on the shelf.

He started to smile and her eyes slid away. For a moment, she seemed to shrink into herself. Then, as though committing herself to some internal decision, her eyes came up to meet his, and she walked boldly towards him.

He took an instinctive half-step backwards and found a wall of books behind him. She kept coming, and then stopped directly in front of him. Her eyes never left his as she slid her hands into the waistband at the front of his pants. He felt his cock begin to stiffen.

Her lips darted forward lightly touching his ear, breathing on his neck as she raked her hands up and then back down his chest. Heat pooled in his balls at the sensation of her fingertips pressing into him through the cloth of his shirt, mixed with frustration that the shirt was there at all. He wanted her hands on his skin.

A moment later, they were.

She ran her hands upward under his shirt as she sank into a crouch. Looking down at her, he saw a couple buttons of her blouse were undone revealing the pale swell of her breasts. He wanted to bury himself in their softness. He took her shoulders to pull her to her feet to kiss her but she stopped his wrists with her hands.

Her eyes sent him a message: I’m doing this my way.

And behind that, another message, one she probably didn’t realize she was sending: Please. Let me do this the way I want to.

Strength hiding uncertainty. His heart swelled, recognizing a kindred spirit.

He gave her shoulders an understanding squeeze and took his hands from her shoulders, trailing his fingers across her face and up through her hair before severing contact. His hands didn’t like it. They wanted to touch her some more. He curled them on the shelf behind him willing them to stay put.

Her hands were moving too, unzipping him, finding his cock and pulling it out. She smiled up at him and took it into her mouth.

Oh. God.

Warm wet suction. His head went back hard enough to bang against the books behind him hard enough that had it struck the metal shelf the impact would have been audible across the entire floor of the library. He inhaled with pleasure and as his eyes rolled deliriously upwards, they raked across the sign on the far wall: Quiet Please.

The rasp of his own breathing sounded anything but quiet.

And now her hands were on him too, working in concert with her mouth. He was lost in a world of heat and friction. He was drowning in sensation as her lips squeezed and released in a perfect, pulsing rhythm. And then her mouth was gone, just the tip of her tongue gliding, teasing, making an achingly slow journey along the bottom of his shaft, stopping just long enough for his balls to clench in frustration before finally licking the tip.

Her mouth came back and it was like a warm tide washing over him, the pleasure in his cock radiating outwards to fill his entire body. He didn‘t know anything about this girl, this stranger he knew only as an shy silent presence in the stacks, but in this moment he belonged to her completely. Everything he was had flowed out of him, centering in his dick melting away under her ministrations leaving him empty of everything but pleasure and the need for release.

Release. Oh yes, he was coming. He felt a cry rising in his throat to match the rising pressure below.

Then her mouth was gone, and her hands squeezed him tightly, stopping his orgasm. Pleasure and pain collided. The pressure was so unbearable. Her mouth was at his ear and he smelled himself on her breath as she whispered five words into his ear.

The pressure eased. His muscles began to relax. Tension left him that he didn’t even know he’d been carrying. He felt like he was living in a new body, a body free from the anxiety that lived buried deep in the old one.

He met her eyes, and she saw everything he wanted to say in them. She blushed shyly, an irresistible contrast to her boldness of just a few seconds ago.

Then she lowered her head and took him back into her mouth.

This time the pleasure felt different, flowing smoothly through his newly relaxed muscles like a river connecting cock to torso, torso to limbs, heart to soul. It was a cleansing stream of sensation, free and pure and perfect.

This time when he came there was no stopping him. There was no holding back the orgasm and there was no holding back the cry that burst from his throat; he barely got his hand up in time to scream his pleasure into the meat of his own arm. It seemed to go on for ever, contraction after contraction, and when it was over it took him a moment for his senses to reorient themselves to the floor beneath his feet and the bookshelf at his back.

She rose. Her fingertips were at his collar. She leaned over to lightly kiss his cheek.

Then she was walking away.

He wanted to go after her, but he had no strength. He leaned against the bookshelf, catching his breath.

It was a few minutes before his legs would support him again. They shook like a newborn deer’s as he made his way through the stacks towards the exit. He kept an eye out for her, but she had disappeared. She may well have been a ghost, a fantasy. All that was left was the delicious, drained throbbing in his balls and the memory of those five words she had whispered in his ear to keep him from crying out.

Shh. You’re in a library.”