Life Beyond Therapy
Keeping it good (Part I of II)
Published Thursday, 26-Aug-2010 in issue 1183
You meet someone you like. You go out (or hang out) for a while. You get to know each other. It’s going well. Before you know it, you’re in a “relationship”. Time passes, and the relationship grows and deepens. It’s good. Hooray! More time passes, and, uh-oh, things aren’t so perfect anymore. The glitter has worn off. You still love them, but it gets harder to keep the good stuff going. Once you’ve created a loving relationship with a terrific partner, how do you “keep” it good? There are (literally) thousands of books already published on this topic, so let me just share some ideas with you and give you the kinds of questions I offer my clients:
How’s your sex life?
Bored with your sex life? Maybe it’s time to explore other ways to turn yourself and your partner on. Organizations like Body Electric focus on helping GLBT men and women explore new aspects of their sexuality. Don’t give up on having a lively sex life, reinvent it for the two of you: keep what you enjoy and replace the rest with something new. Let go of your Tired Old Morals (what good did they ever do for you?) and get explore erotica, movies, and new ideas of sexuality and sensuality…why not get an erotic massage together or hire an escort for an interesting threesome? Free your mind and your libido will follow. Consider these questions (on your own or with a partner):
What’s great about your sex life with current/past partners?
After months (or years) of a relationship, many experts tell you that it’s okay if your sex life fades away. I say: no way! Sex is a crucial part of a healthy relationship. When we find ourselves too busy, stressed out and/or not emotionally connected with our partner, sex is one of the quickest and most pleasurable ways to reconnect. There’s nothing like a shared orgasm and happy, post-coital glows to improve your outlook on life and remember why you love that woman/man you’re with. A good sex life is part of your mental health: hold it as a priority and make it happen. Consider these questions:
What are your obstacles to a great sex life?
Describe the best sex you’ve ever had: what made it so great?
Keep your relationship youthful
Some people would literally rather die than change how their relationship work, and they do. For other people, their relationship just gets better as it ages. Are you flexible and easy-going or rigid and a perfectionist? The latter will age you and make your relationship tense and unpleasant. Can you both, as a couple and individually, experiment more with your life? Consider travel, trying new things, taking up new interests, going to new places and meeting new people. You want to stay young? Keep doing new things and your brain pathways will thank you for the stimulation! You want your relationship to thrive? Keep reinventing it. A friend of mine told me, “I’ve been married to the same man seven times. Each time it feels like a new relationship.” Your relationship can grow and change and stay fresh too.
Here’s an exercise to try:
Sit comfortably, close your eyes and imagine you’re in an alive, stimulating relationship. Now think of being in a stagnant, dull relationship.
Open your eyes and write down what you noticed.
Feeling really brave? If you are currently in a relationship, tell your partner about it. No partner? Tell a close friend what you’ve discovered. Feeling even braver? Do the exercise with your partner/close friend and compare notes.
Acceptance and forgiveness
How good have you been at acceptance and forgiveness? Oh, well, join the club. It’s HARD. No matter who we’re with, we’re going to annoy them and vice-versa. What do we do with these feelings? It’s not useful to blame our partner for our own unhappiness. We can take responsibility for our part in a problem, even if it’s only 5% and their part is 95%. We need to discuss problems with our partner, find a mutual solution, forgive our self and our partner for any harm we caused, and then move on.