I imagine we all have those moments when we feel unloved. They are not fun. In this time of year, when we are meant to be showing our love for the people in our lives, it is especially painful to feel like you are missing something. There are quite a lot of internal tantrums this time of year, things along the lines of, “why can’t you love me the way I want you to? Why can’t you see what I want?” It’s painful when love doesn’t come to you in the way you imagined.
But that is often how the real world works. Love comes to you in its own unique and mysterious ways from unique and idiosyncratic people. Sure, we can ask ourselves, am I getting the love I want? But perhaps what is important to ask yourself is, are you recognizing the love that is coming to you – in the forms it comes in? Are you open to the weird, subtle, silly, and clumsy ways that people are showing that they love you?
Think about gift giving. Instead of thinking of the list of things you want this year, things you are wishing other people give you, think hard about what people ARE giving you. Did your partner pick up your favorite snack from the store? Did they send your mom a birthday card from both of you? Did they make sure the front porch light was working so that you came home to light? Did they send you a funny video or share a song with you? Did they come home early so that you could go out? Did they run their hand along your arm as they walked past? Heck, did they leave the seat down so you don’t have to put it down? These things are not the stuff of romantic moments, I know. But they are bits of love that many of us forget to harvest. We forget to take in and store up the little signs of love. We ignore the many ways that people in our lives are thinking about us, making our lives easier, bringing sweetness.
So don’t miss that harvest this year. Take time to notice the people that are loving you. Make a gift to them of your graciousness about the awkward and personal ways that they show love. Love is going to come in a different package than the diamond commercials will lead you to believe. Are you ready to receive it?
What do you want to ask?
The day after Thanksgiving, usually devoted to holiday shopping, has been recreated by StoryCorps as the National Day of Listening. They invite us to sit down with a family member or friend and get them to tell you a story about their life, or several stories. I agree with their premise that listening is the most meaningful gift you can give someone. And I know from the incredible expansion and gratitude I feel from listening to my clients’ stories, that this is a gift for yourself as well.
So rather than feeling frazzled, let yourself slow down enough to connect with someone in your life. Maybe you want to hear more from a parent or grandparent. Maybe you want to hear more from your partner. Surely there are questions you wonder about. Take the time to ask them, while you can. The website for National Day of Listening recommends some starting questions, and I will recommend some of my own – Conscious Sexual Self style. How about asking an elder, “how did you learn about sex? What did people tell you that turned out to not be true?” or “what has it meant to you to be a man/woman? What did people tell you it was supposed to mean?” Or ask a parent, “what has been the most surprising thing about sex or romantic relationships?” Or ask your partner, “tell me about your first crush.” You can start the listening with any question. Just take the risk to ask and quiet yourself, be present, and be curious about the person in front of you. Something we should do more than one day a year.
Imagine this scene…The lights are low. You have just taken a shower and your skin is tingling from the hot water. You smell good. You put on some music and minimal clothing. You are in the mood. You go to find your partner. You walk, no you sexy thing, you strut into the room. Your partner doesn’t look up. They sit slack, eyes glued, face illuminated by the screen. You say, “hey” (very smooth by the way). Their response is barely comprehensible as they are typing and speaking at the same time. You consider throwing something at their head, no, the screen. You are no longer in the mood.
Sound familiar? Maybe a little bit? Possibly you have played both roles in this scenario. Honestly the biggest sexual problem I see couple’s having these days is that they have so many distractions that they let sexual opportunities pass by unnoticed. Let’s just admit it, it is very unappealing to initiate any attempts at seduction when you are competing with the numbing allure of a screen. I am not talking about porn here, which actually might be easier to interrupt with a real life sexual invitation. I am talking about TV shows, video games, Facebook, work emails, Awkward Family Photos and, oh damn you, Pinterest. All great distractions. But we need to be careful that they are not distracting us right out of having an actual vibrant physical relationship.
It is time to be honest with ourselves that sitting in front of screen entertainment is not us “being available”. Making time for sex requires freeing your attention. It means being aware of your body, your partner, the shifts in energy between you. The best thing you can do for your sex life? Plan to unplug from any distraction besides your partner. Do this regularly and often. Be vigilant about looking up from other things and taking in the person sitting next to you. Remind yourself that sex can be relaxing, rejuvenating, and entertaining too. After all, sexting doesn’t let you feel their breath on your earlobe or see their eyes widen. I promise you Facebook will be there tomorrow. Then you can post with a smile on your face and your partner on your mind.
Studies looking at teenagers use of condoms suggest that 70 % of sexually active teen boys say they use a condom “occasionally”. The problem is occasionally doesn’t work. If you are effectively aware of a female partner’s fertility cycle, occasionally using a condom may provide some protection against pregnancy, but is still risky. But for use against STDs occasionally just won’t cut it. Age us up a little bit and those same people who have been “occasionally” exposed to STDs are still not using condoms very often. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, only 18 % of single women aged 20 – 40 are regularly using condoms.
There are over 24 sexually transmitted diseases that we can be exposed to and many of them are asymptomactic – but still can be spread from partner to partner. And we are spreading them. In the US, one on five people has Herpes. Nearly 50% of sexually active people will contract HPV in their lifetime.
STDs are so common, they are a fact of our sexual lives. It is time we stopped thinking of them as a moral issue or as something only certain people get. The most common excuse I hear for not having safer sex is that the partner seemed safe & responsible. Of course they did – because normal, healthy people have STDs, many of whom have no symptoms and have not actually been tested for any STDs because they didn’t think they needed to be. We need to accept this reality and still do what we can to reduce our chances of being infected. Getting STD screenings can be a part of the new relationship milestones for those choosing monogamy or to be fluid bonded, but for people with new sexual partners using a condom is still the best protection you have. In Victorian England they used to believe that only the “dirty poor” got certain illness, until they found that bacteria causing it was in water and impacted everyone. We don’t assume only certain sloppy people get colds. STDs are easily transmitted, it is time we see that everyone can get them - even that perfect new partner you have your eye on.