Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How Empathy Helps Your Sex Life

One idea I've found helpful when getting to know a new partner is thinking of sex as a process rather than an event. So instead of thinking of it an either/or situation--sex/non-sex--imagine it as an ongoing physical conversation.

This silent, physical back-and-forth conversation is what makes developing empathy so important

Empathy gets devalued these days because we tend to relate it to kindness or 'niceness' which we equate with bland, boring, or that you're being a pushover.  Certainly, It's not as sexy sounding a word as dominance, mysteriousness, attraction, or confidence.

Empathy is something that helps us relate to other people. It helps us know when people are angry or afraid. It helps us soothe each other in times of grief.

But before you write it off as something that is just for nurturing, remember this: It ALSO helps us recognize when someone else is attracted or turned on. Not only that, it helps us recognize HOW attracted or turned on they are, which is important for getting sex, but also really really REALLY important for having GOOD sex, especially with regards to tension and release which is something we've explored in previous columns

There are three broad components to empathy.

1 - Intellectual/rational empathy: Being able to read or listen to what someone is saying and understand their point of view.

2 - Physical/emotional empathy: This is more non-verbal. It's noticing people's voice tones, breathing, body language, etc. Often it's about noticing HOW they say things rather than what they say. It might also involve noticing more behavior stuff and things people AREN'T saying.

3 - Developing a system of how to 'test' what we are  seeing/reading/hearing. We need to find a way to double check if what we are picking up in 1 and 2 are correct.

A lot of people labor under the misunderstanding that empathy is successful when we correctly know what another person is thinking or feeling and if we don't then empathy didn't 'work.'

It's okay to be wrong about what someone is thinking or feeling. It's also okay to not know. Empathy isn't about being right in any one moment. Empathy is what allows us to have the conversation.

The good news is empathy can be practiced and developped without a sexual partner or even without being on a date. You just have to work at it.

A couple quick ways to practice.

- When you're reading the internet trying to recognizing points of view other than your own.

- People watching. Watch their posture, their movements, their faces. As well as listening to their words, pay attention to their tone and breathing. What do you feel watching/looking at them?

I realize these Practices might not sound super-sexy. We'll get there either on this thread or another, but for me, empathy is the foundation you need to start from. It's sort of like fencing--everybody gets so distracted looking at the sword, it's easy to forget how important footwork is.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reader Feedback: Dealing With Frustration in Dating

Had a long chat with a female friend yesterday and she told me she didn't understand and was frustrated at my dating troubles as "you're (me) doing all the right things". And this is someone who regularly critiques me when I'm not.

  This is a problem which has frustrated me for years: what, exactly, is stopping me from dating? Why does there seem to be a block stopping me from doing what other men I know can do even if they don't seem that bothered about dating, where to take their date etc.

I do not consider myself to know all things so I took advice and feedback from women and from men. And the current feedback from the women I know is that they can't see what I'm doing wrong. And these are certainly women who would not spare my blushes to tell me.

I don't come across as self obsessed, delusional or angry in real life. The only theories available are that I haven't found the right woman yet or that I'm just unlucky in dating.

I want to date.  I don't think I'm entitled or owed anything. It's highly unlikely there's a lack of charm there given the number of friends and social engagements I'm invited to these days. Indeed, it's weird because this is the first time I've been socially popular in my short little life so far.

I know I'm far from being the only one feeling this frustrating. Honestly, it makes me feel like half a man. Several people have remarked my confidence has improved over recent years but even that doesn't seem to have helped. The only thing that's seemed to help is a style update that now sees me going around the place in fashionable clothing that suits me.

If things matter more than looks, why won't those things work for me. If it isn't looks stopping me, then what is? 

I've been doing all the things you talk about. But I'm still not getting results.

It's normal to be frustrated. It sounds like you're putting a lot of effort in, and you aren't getting the results you're hoping for.

I can't help you with the results thing without knowing you, but I have a few thoughts on the frustration aspect.

1 - Sometimes we just get frustrated. Give yourself a couple days and see if you're still feeling the way you are now. A lot of times these feelings tend to pass on their own.

2 - This is just a moment in time. Measuring yourself by how things are going now is like a basketball coach measuring how his team is doing by looking at the scoreboard in the second quarter. THE GAME IS NOT OVER YET. Instead of looking at points, it makes more sense to look at what the team is doing: Are they executing? Are players tired? Does he need to adjust his gameplan? Or is his team doing everything right but shots are just not falling?

3 - Reading your post, I see a lot of references to either what other people think or what you THINK other people think. You mention that your friend thinks you're doing everything right. You talk about 'upsetting and annoying other people with talking about looks' and how 'other people have remarked on your confidence. You talk about how you 'come across.' You talk about asking for feedback from women and men.

I think it's great that you are looking for feedback, but it strikes me that you are conscious of a lot of people's reactions. And different people are going to have different and sometimes contradictory reactions--your friend says you're doing everything right, but for medical student it wasn't what she was looking for.

As long as you're using other people's reactions as a measuring stick, it's natural you're going to find yourself confused and frustrated because different people are going to have different opinions and reactions.

The two directions I might consider exploring are a) making peace with being frustrated and confused and/or b) adding options for measuring your progress that are i) within your control and ii) don't depend on the reactions of other people.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

BS Dating Advice: Trust Your Feelings

A lot of people misinterpret this advice.

Trust your feelings does not mean blindly obey your feelings.

We experience many surface feelings over the course of a day. Hunger. Attraction. Boredom. Loneliness. The urge to tell our boss to go to hell.

Sometimes we feel like we will die if we don't act on them.

And most of the time we know better.

 Yet somehow, when it comes to sex, romance, and dating all of that goes out the window. We text  people we shouldn't be texting. We believe people who have let us down before because it feels good that this time they promised they'd change.

If you've ever had the Bad Girl/Bad Boy Experience, you experience feelings all the time. But they are emotional empty calories. It's stimulating, but it never nourishes. All it does is leave you wanting more.

This doesn't mean ignore your feelings and reactions. It certainly doesn't mean burying them and pretending you aren't feeling what you are.

Your feelings are messengers. They are excellent at telling you that something is happening that needs attention...and terrible at telling you should be doing about it.

Recognize the feelings. Acknowledge the feelings. Admit to the feelings.

Don't trust your them though. Or more specifically, don't trust the message they tell you about what to do or shouldn't do.

 Trust the truth.

Sometimes I think women in our culture have it hardest in this respect. They seem to be exposed to the message that a) they are responsible for other people's feelings and also b) external things are responsible for THEIR feelings (that book made me sad, that man makes me feel safe, etc).

It also seems like our culture takes a perverse pleasure with women by simultaneously stimulating anxiety (Are you at risk for these 3 common household killers?) and then offering escape from those emotions without actually dealing with them (You deserve a treat, Spoil Yourself).

On the other hand, I suppose stuff like this gives women opportunities to experience dealing with their feelings. Guys don't get as much of that so when an emotional situation happens, they're less experienced at recognizing and dealing with it.

It doesn't matter one way or another. Those last three paragraphs are idle speculation on my part. They aren't important.

This is the important things.

Paying attention to your feelings does not mean obeying your feelings.

It means noticing and paying attention to them...and then comparing those feelings to reality.

Over time your feelings will become more trustworthy. You will recognize "when X happens, I often feel Y" and you will be able to respond. Perhaps you feelings will even become more accurate and more manageable as you teach them what is important to your happiness and what isn't.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How To Buy A Candy Bar

The next time you're at a convenience store buying something--a candy bar, a lighter, a pack of gum--try this.

Instead of looking it as an exchange--"I give you this, therefore you're obligated to give me that"--try seeing it differently.

Give them the money, as though you are just giving them money.

Receive the chocolate bar like it was a spontaneous gift they just gave you.

Notice how it feels.

Do you notice a good feeling at giving something to another person? Do you notice a swell of gratitude at receiving what they give to you? Do you notice that this simple, everyday transaction that you might not even think twice about somehow becomes more...meaningful?

Experiment with this.

When you're ready, take this idea into your dating and relationship life.

Online dating, write the best message you can and send it as a gift, with no expectation of getting a return message.

If your date gives you a  compliment, accept it with gratitude without feeling like you either don't deserve it or that you owe them anything in return.

Rushing around with your partner on winter mornings, tripping over each other's stuff, while negotiating little things like who makes the coffee and who sweeps off the car--even if it happens on an unspoken level--acknowledge those things. Those aren't the stupid things that are getting in the way of your relationship. Those things ARE your relationship.

Be there for it.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Friday, December 26, 2014

Diary of a Gateway Boyfriend: The Promise

You know what I miss from pre-cell phone days?

Exchanging phone numbers with a sexy stranger in the bar. It was all very noir-ish and romantic.

She'd hunt through her purse for a pen...I'd look for something to write on...the back of a coaster? The inside of a matchbook? The hunt was on.

Later, when I got home, I would pull it out of my pocket and hold it in my hands like a child with some found treasure.

There aren't many things in this world as sexy and full of promise as a name and phone number in feminine handwriting on a bar napkin.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Check out this link for information on how to get Dan's Dating for Shy Guys ebook.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

You Are Complete

All those things you think you‘re missing…they‘re right here right now.

You don’t have to take a course or mend your broken, evil ways. You don’t have to find the right person to get them. You don’t have to earn them like an Olympic gold medal and--because you already have them--no one can take them away.

They’re here as you read these words, as you fill and empty your lungs, as you react to the thoughts and feelings that are coming up right now.

Yes, even that thought. Even that feeling.

Let it go. Let it go and breathe

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Some Encouragement For Those Of You Just Starting Out...or Starting Over

Not everyone has a lot of dating experience. Some of us missed out in high school. We prioritized careers or education. We were shy and nobody seemed interested so we gave up. Maybe we married someone early. The choice was made for us, so we never really had to make the decision for ourselves.

Maybe time has passed and change has happened and we're ready or willing to start dating.

And we're finding ourselves lost and overwhelmed.

Dating is hard when you first start doing it, especially if you're starting late. Every date was a mystery; every conversation was a mysterious exchange; every moment was fraught with decisions I didn't know how to make--when and how do I try to hold her hand? When do I ask if I can see her again? Do I walk her to her vehicle or is that creepy?

One of the many unfair things I noticed was the most unwinnable situations happened at the beginning of my dating experience--when I was least equipped to handle them. As I grew in experience, empathy, ability, and judgement, not only did I get better at handling those situations, I found myself better at avoiding those situations in the first place.

It reminds me of stand-up comedy. The hardest shows you do are always at the beginning of your career. The lighting and sound are terrible, people are indifferent or heckling and it feels like you're being set up to fail. Not only that, because you're new, you don't have the ability or experience to know how to deal with those things. As you move up the ladder, your comedy improves to the point where you get booked on shows with better lighting, sound, and venue security.

But when you're starting out, hearing someone who is doing better than you say: "Try not to get put in that position" or "Pay more attention next time" or "just keep plugging away--things come together with time" is discouraging. It feels like it's easy for them to say because they don't understand.

Looking back now though, the people who told me those things were 100% right. There's no secret they were holding back.

I think that it's also helpful to remember that things change. Just because you're experiencing something now doesn't mean it will always be that way.

Regardless of how the first few dates or encounters turn out, you are doing a good thing. You are investing in yourself and making an effort to try something new.

So I hope you can be patient but persistent with yourself. Progress will happen. Maybe not as quickly as we like or the way we like, but it happens.

-May All Beings Be Sexy