I have been taking Yin Yoga classes which focus on holding the poses for a long time so you learn to surrender into the stretch. The teacher was talking about how usually when we start to feel the discomfort of a stretch, we meet that with struggle, trying to push against it. In struggling, our nervous system sends fear signals to our mind and our body tenses against the stretch. In Yin Yoga, we learn to relax into the stretch, to not effort, to teach our body and nervous system to calm down so that we can stretch more deeply.
This made me think of the couple’s therapy work that I do and how people meet discomfort in relationships -whether it’s a difficult conversation, a relationship that is changing, finding out something about your partner or yourself that is painful. So often when challenged in a relationship we immediately tense and go into fear. And we try to push through it by having conversations when we are too emotional or trying to make a big decision without having time to think. An important part of couple’s therapy is helping people to learn how to calm themselves down enough to face a challenge. There are ways to direct the nervous system and our minds to slow down, rather than to react with fear. And from that place, we do a lot better job of addressing relationship conflicts or changes.
So the next time you feel challenged by a surprise or even a long-standing irritation in relationship, take time to notice - how are you tensing against this thing that is stretching you? Can you slow this down, not reacting immediately but waiting until you can take a deep breath and let your body unwind a bit? Rather than trying to solve this or turn it into an effort, is there a way you can first surrender to this experience of discomfort? Can you be aware of it without fighting it, just for a few minutes? Can you find your own solid ground, your own capacity to tolerate being stretched, before approaching your partner? Just start by taking a deep breath. You may be surprised how different things look when you ease off of the mental struggle against it.
There is a lot of talk in the media about how to attract a partner, how to get a date, how and when to have sex, but when it comes to commiting to one person long-term people often feel like they are figuring it out on their own. In this article for YourTango Experts, I write about some of the foundational aspects of successful monogamy. Read it at ...
March 14th has been declared Steak and Blowjob Day, according to a group of men who are obviously comfortable asking for what they want. This holiday is being presented as a counterbalance to Valentine's Day being traditionally more focused on women's ideas how someone should show their love. I personally find the idea of creating a holiday that really addresses your wishes charming and invite all of you to think more creatively about how the world, and your partners, could best show their love and appreciation for you.
So before any of you turn this in to a gender battle of what men want versus what women want or think "oh how dare they!", imagine this - what if it was totally okay to ask for elaborate celebrations of you? What if everyone got to design a day full of things that make them happy? What if there was enough affection to go around and so we could all say what we want without feeling guilty? What if we felt a sense of freedom and generosity about doing things for our partners and inviting them to do things for us? What if asking for sexual pleasure was embraced as part of building joy in our lives? And once you have pondered that ask yourself, why isn' t it like that?
So in honor of Steak and Blowjob Day (aside from the more obvious ways to celebrate, if those appeal) I suggest this - design a holiday for yourself. Be extravagant. What is it that would really make a day feel like it was all about you? If you have a partner or partners share it with them. Maybe you can pick a date for National ______________ day. If you feel at a loss or too shy to have a day all to yourself, may I suggest Ask For What You Want Day. That should get you started.
Think back to your first memory of seeing two people in love and expressing that love. This couple may have been your parents or grandparents, or maybe your next door neighbors or an older sibling and their date, or a friend's parents. Write down the story of what you remember from watching them. How did they show their affection? What did you witness? How did you feel about seeing this? Were there other people there - what did they do when seeing this affection? Was it approved of or not approved of? Were you witnessing a private moment or a public display of affection?
After writing the story of what you remember, ask yourself how this moment shaped your beliefs about love at that time. Did you decide something about how people express love? Was there judgement about what you saw? Did you want that for yourself? What were you feeling as you watched them?
Let yourself think forward to other interactions or stories about these two lovers you witnessed. How did their story unfold; do you know? Did their story cause you to develop beliefs about love? Did it impact how you feel about displaying affection now?
And now ask yourself, is there anything about this memory that you want to let go of now? Any childhood beliefs, formed from this memory, that you want to question now? How do you want to show love and affection? What, if anything, is holding you back?