Hi everyone! And a Happy Belated Valentine to you! Hope you had a nice one! Sorry I haven’t been in touch before this but, as Life would have it, my work with couples has kept me pretty busy lately- and happily so!
This past weekend I gave one of several workshops I offer called Sex onthe Menu to a group of 6 married couples. The main course: Love, Sex and Marriage. What else, right?:) My chef team: Gilda and Marisa whipped up a delicious gourmet dinner which consisted of: a balsamic-dipped sausage & grape amuse-bouche, sweet potato soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, beet and goat cheese salad on a bed of greens, butternut squash ravioli in a sage cream sauce, spiced rubbed pork tenderloin in a jalapeno pesto and roasted brussel sprouts in pomegranate…. and for dessert: a raspberry tiramisu. To die for, or what?? I know!!! And, not only was the food delectable, but so were the discussions! I began the evening by sharing a quote from one of my all-time favourite therapists and authors: Esther Perel:
“While marriage dates back to biblical times, the institution has undergone a dramatic transformation in the modern era. What we call marriage today barely resembles its past profile. Formerly, matrimony was about economic sustenance, partnership, companionship, social status and children. Today, marriage is considered a romantic arrangement, a commitment between two, equal individuals based on love and trust. Spouses are supposed to be confidantes, friends, and passionate lovers. There is an expectation that one person will provide what an entire community used to offer. And, for the first time in history, we have linked marital happiness to sexual satisfaction. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all.”
So, as the wine began flowing, so did our conversations. And, let me tell you, it didn’t take too long before it escalated into a “he says-she says” dinner debate. All of a sudden the topic of egalitarianism became as hot and spicy as the pork tenderloin…caramba! In a nutshell, women were trying to get their men to understand that love was more about communication and connection, that they needed to feel loved, respected and paid attention to. Naturally, some of the guys went on the offensive, feeling attacked, criticized and diminished (and understandably so) especially when a couple of women joined forces and voiced their unwavering opinion of how ignorant and inept men can be at loving and making their women happy. Juicy!
Before they even had a chance to hurl food at one another:-), I quickly intervened with my own blanket statement of “love comes in many languages”, and that although modern society may ascribe relationships to the egalitarian model, the marriage mindset of 50-50 is probably more of a myth, anyway. An ideal, rather than the norm. And, why the heck did we even have to aspire to a certain way at all? Wouldn’t the notion of complementarity work best? Is peace and harmony only attainable “if only the other would change”? Aren’t there way too many unhappy marriages where one partner tries to change the other to be more like them? Is this love? And, how’s their sex life, by the way? Wouldn’t it be best if we each took care of the things we were better at, or had more time for? Couldn’t men still bring home the bacon and women fry it up in a pan? Couldn’t we just trade off tasks? Shouldn’t people be able to define the constructs of femininity and masculinity for themselves? Wouldn’t the “job”- and life– get done more efficiently this way? And, why couldn’t we adjust to the reality of our situation -as it changed- and be ready to renegotiate, if need be? Isn’t variety the true spice of life?
Enter the sorbet palate cleanser….and just in time, too! Followed by a few nods, some blank stares and a big pause for reflection. Food for thought:-).
I continued to say that challenges are the nature of human existence; without them, we would never really be able to learn, grow and evolve. Marriage is no different. Oftentimes what we fight about in marriage has more to do with our own personal issues than anything else. We tend to pick a partner whose proclivity seems to coincide with our own vulnerability, whose natural knack for rubbing our emotional raw spots is really more unconscious than we think and only develops later in the relationship, usually once the fog of infatuation lifts and disenchantment sets in. We like to think of it as “opposites attract” but it’s really called the “flip-flop” factor. Think back to when you first met your partner, what qualities were you first attracted to? Or did you first fall in love with?…Was your partner the “life of the party” and fun-loving? Or quiet and mysterious? Predictable and reliable? Did you “flip” for these attributes? Or have they “flopped” and now you somehow resent your partner for these qualities today? Has “life of the party” become “too loud and overbearing”? Is “quiet and mysterious” now “boring and detached”? Did “predictable and reliable” ever become “passionless and routine”?
Ask yourself which things you find annoying about your partner? Now, ask yourself what does this reveal about you? Do these traits- perhaps- somehow represent a disavowed part of yourself? Do you lack these qualities or envy them in any way? Be honest.
For myself, what I had always respected about my husband was his predictability and reliability as well as his work ethic and responsibility, but over the years grew irritated by his lack of adventure, passion and spontaneity. Flip-flop! It wasn’t so much because my husband had changed as it was about me having had imposed my own double entendre on the same behaviours: one moment loving the security and structure he represented for me, the next feeling hemmed in and bored by it. What took me a while to understand, however, was that when I looked back at my childhood, insecurity was a huge theme for me. My dad died when I was only six years old and my biggest fear was that I’d lose my mom as well. My mom worked very hard at keeping her family afloat, and hardly ever really enjoyed life. I think she was too afraid. She would always say things like, “don’t get too excited, don’t have too much fun because it could all change in a second and you could be crying next”. Obviously, she didn’t trust in pleasure. And, neither did I. Half the time I lived life like I was waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under my feet. My husband, however, became my emotional anchor. The very fears I had about being abandoned (insecurity) were the things I found solace and comfort through him. It wasn’t until later when I looked into my own personal issues and discovered that, by owning both discipline and playfulness, I would help transcend my limited self.
The evening finished off on a positive and satiated note with the host and hostess reiterating just how important compassion is to both communicating and living well together in marriage….that all couples should be willing to be open to understand life from their partner’s perspective.
And, maybe that’s what 50-50 is truly all about!