An Alternative View of Labels

Like one of the authors of the articles below I have always wondered if labels concerning human sexuality do us more harm than good. I think there are arguments for both sides and I find the interplay of ideas particularly interesting.

Here are two stories of people who though they were stalwart adherents to a particular way of being until someone special helped them discover an unexpected truth about love.

I Came Out as A Lesbian – Then Fell In Love With A Man

How My Sexuality Changed When My Husband Became My Wife

As you can see by the titles, the first story follows a traditional view of relationships while the latter has a more non-traditional story arch. I hope you enjoy them and whoever you love now or come to love in your life, I wish you the greatest happiness.

Fighting In A Relationship Again? – Do this next time instead

So here’s a little discovery I made recently that may help you deal with some relationship problems. When something happens in your relationship and you place blame on the other person for doing something wrong take a step back and try to consider the situation without any blame at all for your partner.

This will force you to view the situation differently. You will still want to come up with an explanation for what occurred but you won’t be able to resort to blame. Because of this it should help change your focus in two ways.

The first is that it will cause you to try and understand why your partner did whatever it is you’re upset about. This is super valuable because you may find that there is a sufficiently valid reason for what happened and that your frustration is misplaced entirely. This way when you see them next the conversation can shift from one of blame to one of reflection, understanding and ultimately support.

The second thing likely to happen is that you will start to question whether you have any blame to shoulder. That’s right, this is a rigged game and while you can’t blame your partner it is perfectly acceptable to look for fault in yourself. This is not a double standard. Remember this is an exercise that is designed to change how you look at particular situations. People don’t generally seek to blame themselves, but you likely have a role to play in this however well-meaning your intentions were.

If you think you found something you have done wrong then own it. The great thing about taking responsibilities for your actions is that when you talk about this with your partner, which you should totally do, they will see that you are capable of self-reflection. This means that they won’t always have to be the one to point these types of things out to you. You are capable of doing so yourself.

Once you start to see things in a new light it’s the perfect time to ask your partner for even more information. Have them help you understand more about what they were feeling and what they feel caused the problem. Together the two of you (or more for you poly folks) can help minimize the impact of similar situations when they occur or even prevent them all together.

So I called this a little discovery, but I think it can actually have a huge impact on the health of your relationship. If you have any experience with this or additional thoughts about this I would love to hear them.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

In his TED Talk entitled, “Relationships Are Hard, But Why?” Stan Tatkin takes an approach you may not have considered previously. Relationship difficulties are largely because of how our brains function. That and because we’re wrong pretty much all of the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xKXLPuju8U

So learn how to help cope with that crazy shit you think by starting with his speech. It’s helped me immensely.

A Tale of Three Loves: Personal time and relationships

When I was dating the woman who would become my first wife. Initially, I wanted to spend every moment with her that was possible. However, early on (like the first week of us dating) she established Friday nights as the night we would spend with friends. That was a big deal because at the time it established one of the three nights we had available to us for her own interests. After spending the first few nights at home alone hoping she would somehow change her mind, I got my ass out of the house and started making plans with my friends. I realized that Friday night was for my interests as well. That independence was one of the best gifts she could have given me. It allowed me to avoid being one of those people who shed all of their friends as soon as they had a significant other and it caused me to define myself outside of another person.

This led me to develop cycling as a hobby. I established new friends statewide, started racing with some success, co-founded and ran my own race team and helped build and maintain the first mountain bike trail system in a neighboring county. I was one of the people who actually contributed to the growth of the sport. These were good times.

Flash forward a bit (18 years) and I was going through a divorce from my first wife and had started dating my second wife. I was in the best shape of my life and had just completed my first race of the year. It was my best finish ever which was an excellent way to start the year. It was also my last race for almost three years which not coincidentally was nearly the length of my second relationship.

You see my new love expected more of my time than I was used to. While I didn’t mind the idea of spending more time with her I didn’t like that it had to be at the expense of my other interests and even who I was. She leveraged her idea by saying, “This is what couples do. You didn’t spend time together in your last relationship because you two had problems.”

It sounded legit and as it pertains to the tail end of my first marriage it was correct. However, for the first 13 years or so having our own time and space worked remarkably well. Time apart wasn’t what ended my first marriage, but I didn’t really connect those dots at the time. I desperately wanted to please this new person. There was also a practical aspect to the situation. I was using every dime to pay off my debts from my first marriage and racing is an expensive proposition. The money I saved could be put to good use paying bills.

So, I stopped racing, only did trail building a couple of times, gave the remaining interest in my race team to my friends and pretty much just checked out. By this time I was living in a new city which further isolated me from my main source of pleasure and friendship.

Then I moved again, this time 1000 miles away. I played hermit my first year and didn’t make a single friend. When I tried to carve out time for cycling or photography I was made to feel guilty about using some of my time off to do this if she also had the day free. I became completely beholden to her schedule and could only feel good about going out if she was also out. I don’t think either of us were really conscious of this dynamic as it was occurring. She was just speaking to her needs and I was trying to meet those. In reality, I’m sure both of us were acting on our insecurities.

However, I eventually realized that this wasn’t working for me. I started to change the dynamic by saying I wanted more personal time to explore my interests. It took a number of conversations, but eventually we agreed and I did go out. I started working on my photography and throwing a leg over the top tube of my bike again and it was wonderful. It was just like old times and I was having a blast. I felt like I had a small part of the real me back again.

About six months later my second marriage was over. I don’t really think that my newly established independence was the cause of it. If anything, my willingness to give up my time and her desire to garner the majority of my attention was likely the symptom of a deeper flaw. We were just trying to bandage it with being together, both being afraid of what would happen when we weren’t.

Now that I have some distance from that scenario though I can see the mistakes I made. I used to be self-made and independent. I was ashamed of that needy insecure person I was at 17. All it took to reverse my fortune was a new relationship. It renewed my insecurities about a partner’s fidelity which most likely hinges on my perception of self-worth. Even though I didn’t want to relinquish my personal space I let my fears dictate my actions. I gave up the balance that made me who I was. The conversation, and subsequent compromise, should have happened much earlier in the relationship. Maybe I couldn’t afford to race, but just going out to ride or do trail work takes little money.

There’s a practical aspect to this as well. When you give the itinerary of your life over to another person and that relationship ends then you are essentially left with nothing; a place where your life should have been, but isn’t. You are more than just your partner and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s wonderfully healthy.

I read stories about parents who balance work and home life so that they can each go out and go for a run, bike ride or to hang with their friends and I appreciate that. It’s something I need to learn more about and definitely something I have trouble with in a new relationship. When everything is fresh in a relationship and comfort and trust have yet to be established my insecurities can kick in when I’m apart from someone. It’s one of my weaknesses to overcome.

I know that I’m happier with time set aside for myself. I just need to make myself strike that balance until I’m finally comfortable with it. That’s going to take time and tackling a few of my demons (again). To that end, someone bring me a tall glass of beer and a cute priest.

State of the Relationship Address: 4 pointers for dating and beyond

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of these State of the Relationship articles. This is mainly because things have been going good for me as of late and sometimes it’s harder to know what to write in exceptional times as opposed to those of turmoil.

For the last six months I’ve been dating one person and I’ve learned so much from the experience. I’d like to talk about a few of those things here because I think that people don’t do this enough and it may be as helpful to you as it was me.

1. Push Your Boundaries

It helps to keep an open mind when you are dating or in any relationship. If I had stuck to my old habits and deal breakers I would have never met the person I am with now and trust me when I say that I would be poorer for it.

Obviously, there are boundaries you don’t want to cross. Dating someone with a recent history (or maybe any history, though I think people can change – see note 3) of perpetrating abuse on another is one that immediately comes to mind. I’m not asking you to step over that boundary. That’s a healthy one to have.

Take a look though at which of your deal breakers and boundaries are built upon biases and assumptions. Challenge them head on. I went against what I thought was my better judgement at the time to date the person I’m with now. I’m so glad I did because not only did I stumble (I can be inept despite my best efforts) my way into a relationship with an amazing person, but in exploring her personality traits that I thought were deal breakers I discovered that things weren’t at all what I had imagined them to be. Learning about my partner helped me understand her better. It helped me discover things about myself even and created some wonderful bonding moments for us. I don’t think these things could have happened had we not both pushed our boundaries and taken the time to understand one another.

2. Being Open Doesn’t Mean Being Completely Open

So I’m pretty much an open book. I have no real secrets and in a normal day to day conversation (I’m not sure I really have these, I tend to gravitate to deeper topics) I might tell someone any number of things about me that some people are guarded about. I’ll talk about my sexual proclivities, the fact that I cross dress and how it makes me feel and pretty much anything and everything else.

This helps people see who I am and it generally allows them to feel as if they can open up to me. Most eventually do and I love sharing that experience with them.

However, I’ve learned that there is a limit to this. I’ve always said that being open and honest is not an excuse to be cruel. Now I have another caveat to add to this, which is that it also doesn’t mean that I can share the details of other people’s lives without consideration. I thought that being open and true to myself meant that I had to be completely open about everything. I’ve since realized, with some help, that this should only extend to myself.

At first, this felt like a betrayal of everything that it meant to be me. How could I be open if I had to keep some things in reserve? Then I came to realize that having people open up to me was a measure of trust and that with this came responsibility. Now I realize the importance of privacy and to be truthful, I like the balance so much more. Some people need greater levels of privacy than others and navigating the differences in respect to the needs of my friends seems much more responsible

3. People Can Really Change

We’ve all heard the mantras about how humans don’t change who they are. Whether it’s “once a cheater always a cheater” or whatever other label you want to put in that cliche. The truth is though, some people change certain behaviors and some don’t. There is no rule that spans across humanity in general. The key is finding those people who want to change while trusting and helping them to do so.

Reading through the second item on this list should have been a really good example of how someone can change. Being open is a defining characteristic of who I am and changing that in any way was painful to me. However, through some talk with others and introspection I came to see that there was a better way of doing things and that it didn’t mitigate my need for openness or change who I was in any negative way.

The human experience deals us a mixed bag. Most of us have those personality traits that we can recognize as beneficial and valued by others. All of us have insecurities (or anxiety, ADHD, depression, etc.) and sometimes those insecurities or states of being lead to behavior that isn’t generally approved of by others. Knowing this about yourself is a good thing because the extension of this is that it is also happening to everyone else around you.

If someone is trying to tackle their obstacles head on then that’s pretty fucking huge. Give them some slack. Better yet, talk with them if possible to understand their situation and see if there’s any way you can help. Don’t expect to be their savior, you can’t be, just be there for them and do your damndest to understand what it is they’re telling you. These are the people that are capable of change and they deserve a chance to show you how awesome they really are.

4. Understand Before You are Understood

I had forgotten this little gem of wisdom, passed down to me by my grandmother, but her words came back with importance as of late and I’m glad they did.

So often I’m so concerned with making sure that someone knows where I’m coming from that I forget to really listen to what they are saying. I just want to make sure they aren’t hurt by something I said, but my inattentiveness can hurt even more. However, when I calm my mind and listen to their feelings I get a better understanding of them. That’s pretty valuable for obvious reasons. I really do care about them and taking the time to listen and understand them first is a way to demonstrate that. When I do this, the usual outcome is that I end up addressing some need that I hadn’t thought about before. This is an emotion that would have gone completely unattended had I not taken the time to understand my partner. I also learn how to better express my feelings to ensure that we are both talking about the same thing. This is relationship gold folks and you have my grandmother to thank.

The End: Be Prepared to Stop

So there you have it. Some things I learned about myself that I hope you can apply to your life. What are some positive things you have learned in your relationships to others? Please share those or your thoughts about this article in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you either way.

Orlando, You Have My Heart

I can’t fully explain to you what the shooting in Florida means to someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Even though this country has taken a number of positive steps recently to show us a measure of respect, legal measures do not constitute social acceptance.

Night clubs such as the one in Orlando are sanctuaries. Places where those of us in the queer community can seek the comfort of like individuals. Even if we’ve never walked in the door there is something reassuring about knowing those places exist.

Now that feeling of safety is shattered. The camaraderie we seek and need has been used against us. Everyone in the queer community across America has the same sick feeling in the pit of their stomach today.

To my gendered and agendered family you are not alone in your pain or in your hope. The same desire for togetherness and community that brought us together in Orlando on that fateful night will see us through this tragedy as well.

My heart goes out to all of you in Orlando. My heart goes out to all of you everywhere. I love you.

Sometimes Love Isn’t Enough: State of the Relationship Address 3

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I just had a two month relationship end and I’m heartbroken.

I never thought this would happen to me; that I would be so in love with someone and them with me but that ending the relationship would be the best way forward for me. It’s kind of like a movie where there are irreconcilable forces at work which drive two lovers apart. Except at the end of my story there’s no metamorphosis which causes one or both people to change, making them get back together and live happily ever after. Real change is hard, sometimes it never happens. Reality can be shitty like that.

A general statement of why we separated would be that our relationship consisted of a continuous cycle of highs and lows. The highs were amazing and those moments led me to believe that we would have a wonderful future together. The lows on the other hand were unbearable to the both of us, but in very different ways.

This high-low cycle would repeat itself every 4-7 days and I struggled emotionally and intellectually trying to cope with the varying circumstances and the different treatment I would receive with each mood. I tried to handle it, but I couldn’t.

Instead I started to break. One moment I felt like I was allowed to be happy and the next I wasn’t. I felt like my every move was being acted out under surveillance, my every word transcribed and analyzed to be used against me. I started to doubt my own experiences and my thoughts. I lost who I was as a person and I felt like I was sinking. One day I realized that the happiness that took me two years to build was gone. I knew I had to stop the cycle while there was still enough of me left to do so.

And yet, I love her. Does that sound weird? Fucked-up even? It no doubt reads that way and yet if you’ve been in a similar situation you’ll probably understand. In fact, maybe that’s the only way to really comprehend it all. You see, it’s not that she wanted to do any of those things to me or make me feel that way. Rather, she was gripped by fear and insecurity which led to our ruin. The effects it had on her were no picnic either I’m sure. No . . . we didn’t mean for it to go down like that, but it happened nonetheless.

It’s hard for me to go through this knowing that we could likely still be together if I wanted to (or so it was at one time). I miss so many things about her. I miss the way things seemed natural and easy with us in a way I had never experienced before. I miss her caressing my body as if she were worshiping me. She had the darkest brown eyes I had ever seen. So wonderfully dark and glossy that it was near impossible to tell where her pupil stopped and her iris began. I’ll never get to gaze deeply into them again or kiss the spot where her nose meets her forehead. I’ll miss all those funny expressions she made when we were goofing around and the way she jokingly said she “was very serious.” I miss the life we had begun to lay out together and the feeling that it had the very real potential of being the best relationship I ever had. I will miss so much more of her than anyone else will ever know.

Yeah . . . this really fucking sucks. I want to go back and tell her I’m sorry, I made a mistake, we can start over again and that I love her. Only two of those things would be true. She tells me I gave up on her and maybe I did, but it was to save myself. It wasn’t a mistake (I wish it was) and I can’t go back no matter how much I want to.

As of this writing, it will be a week since we went our separate ways. This is also the day that I’ve hurt the most.

Between the pouring of tears (of which there were many writing this) there are a few glimmers of hope. Every now and then I find that my happiness is reemerging. I’ve also started to work on my dating profile. I have no immediate desire to start dating again, right now dating feels like doing a disservice to what we had, but the fact that I can see a future where that can happen is a promising sign for down the road. The profile is just a small step among many.

For now, I’m healing through hurting in that cathartic way that only pain can sometimes do. While I know that this will eventually pass, I also know that this is something I must experience. It’s where my head and my heart currently reside and that’s okay.

 

A postscript to my former lover: If you read this I hope you know that I love you very much and that I’m extremely grateful for all the wonderful moments we shared. I’ll never forget our time and what you meant to me. With all my heart, I thank you.

Dating Will Break You

I was going to write something about how I’m in love with dating. I’m sure I still will pen that article, but I wanted to take a very brief moment to share something else. Something almost the opposite of that. It’s not edited or poetic. It just is.

At times dating will break you. I had a date tonight that was pretty good, but at the end of it she said, “I’m not romantically attracted to you.” I was fine with this, thanked her for the honesty and said good night. Later at home it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I want to be with someone in a meaningful way and it seems like I’m so far away from this. I want to have someone to love and I want to be loved. It’s such a simple thing but yet so hard to achieve.

Tomorrow, I’ll dust myself off and jump back in with both feet. I’ll eventually find someone that will have made the struggle worth it.

For now though, I’m going to cry and that’s okay too.

State of the Relationship Address 2: Growth hormones

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I’ve been enjoying the freedom of being single as of late. With that relationship shift came a greater leeway for dating, which meant new sexual partners and experiences as well as personal growth. It has been good to find out that there is a dating scene for someone approaching 40 (that’s me) and that there is a whole group of people out there who find me desirable. Until now, I had no indication that any of this was the case. It’s been a lot of fun but there’s been something missing and I’m starting to wonder if the lack of a strong emotional component has something to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been seeing (just as good a word as any I suppose) someone for a couple of months and when we’re together I’m definitely encountering some emotions, but they’re a product of the intense physical connections we’re sharing and not necessarily centered around romantic love. I know she would say the same of me in return because she‘s super fucking cool and we openly discuss stuff like this without any reprisal.

When we’re together in the throes of lust I find myself wanting to tell her that I love her. Now I do love her, but it’s in a platonic way not a romantic one (I’ve told her this too). Thankfully I didn’t say anything, but I noticed that when I thought about saying I love you that my level of arousal would increase.

It’s possible that I have the need to say I love you in order to put the experience in familiar territory since most of my sexual experiences have happened while I was in love. I think maybe there is something more at work though which is simply that a part of me wants to be in love.

In the past, I’m pretty sure that in both of my relationships where I have expressed my love that I initially said it too soon for that very reason. Thankfully, both of those relationships lasted long enough to where that hasty sentiment became a very real emotion.

Regardless, this realization has left me longing for the prospect of something more significant from my dating experiences. This all happened in pretty short order and that was something I wasn’t expecting. However, I can tell my slutty phase (and I mean that in the most positive way possible) is in decline because of it. I’m sure I have space for other hookups if the proper person comes along, but I can feel the urge building to accept something a little more serious should a relationship move that way.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t progress through the stages of life so quickly. Whether you want to call it a rebound, sowing my oats, sexual liberation or what have you it’s only been two months since I started sleeping around. I wonder if I should be moving on from this place in my life so soon.

I had a friend tell me once that she was always impressed by how readily I accepted what was in front of me and just logically worked through it at a superhuman pace. While part of me wants to say that she is prone to exaggeration, I’ve had proof that this really is the case.

When my second wife and I decided to end the marriage portion of our relationship (meaning we’re still friends) I experienced almost no jealousy or anger. I had worked through most of those emotions when we opened up our relationship nine months prior. Instead, I spent most of my time working on making sense of our conversations and understanding what had happened. Again, my friends remarked on how well I was doing. Apparently this had been a subject of conversation where they had marveled at how I was handling things. The result of my self-work and evaluation was that a month after my marriage had ended I felt perfectly comfortable dating.

I would say that I’m lucky except that I’ve been working on becoming this kind of person for the last twenty years. It’s not been an accident nor has it been easy. It’s taken an enormous amount of emotional work and some pretty deep soul searching and confidence building. This is why I have very little trepidation about shifting my relationship focus.

After all, it’s not like I’m going to be proposing to every man or woman that I go on a date with. Statistically I’ll be going on quite a few more dates before I find someone for the long term. However, I am ready to select my partners in a way that doesn’t necessarily undercut my chance of long term success which is something that I couldn’t say before (self-sabotage anyone?). Somehow this feels like a healthier place to be. Time will tell if I’m meant to be here. For now there’s no pressure, this is just another part of my story.

A Different Take on Sexless Marriage

I always tend to first imagine that a sexless marriage is a dysfunctional marriage. This is mainly because at the end of my first marriage we were both phoning it in and so a lack of sex was just the natural outcome.

However, this woman casts the scenario in a different light. It does seem like there’s some hurt behind her story though  which I think is need enough for her to address the situation with her partner.

What do you think?

http://www.prevention.com/sex/what-sexless-marriage?cid=SOC_sp_PVN