Age and invisibility

angels

Little is more sexually humbling than advancing age. That creeping feeling of mounting sexual inconsequence, being invisible like a worn-out shoe strewn in the back of a crowded closet, the loss of being admired and desired in everyday flirtations, oh, yay. Bring it on.

If you ever wonder how pervasive sex appeal is in everyday life, even when sexual activity is not part of the agenda, try getting old. There’s much truth to the saying getting old is not for wimps.

Some people welcome this stage of sexual anonymity as a relief. They are happy to get beyond the era of sexual performance pressures. I am not one of those people.

But since I have reached the Medicare years, it is what it is, and it is actually not as bad as my fantasy previews told me it would be. Even when I endured the height of sexual loneliness with no lover on the radar, I found some interesting new awareness.

Much of my life over the last few years has been about unhooking. During that period I said good-bye to both my parents who were off to explore a heaven they weren’t sure existed. In large measure I also unplugged myself from TV, focusing my viewing instead on Netflix, YouTube, and HBO streaming. The course of life events also unplugged several important friendships due to death, estrangement, distance. In some ways it has been like a big time out, and suddenly I am five years older, five years closer to the end of the game.

NEW PERCEPTION

In a strange way, having next to no physical sex (and I should add a minimum of hugs as well) in five years put most of my input in a virtual reality realm. I would talk or write about sexual relationships. I would sometimes have great experiences in my dreams. I would see sex in movies. Yet it was like being in some laboratory in a comfy form of solitary confinement.

While removed from sex by habit or as a relationship routine, I would look at what passes for sex in this culture and I would wonder how various foreplay activities even came into existence. For example, suckling nipples. I had gone so long without licking anyone’s body parts that the idea of doing it actually seemed strange. You do what? I found this fascinating, oral gourmet that I have been. Over the years, women friends have asked me what’s so compelling about female breasts, and now I was asking myself much the same question! There were days when that once-cherished and deeply familiar activity seemed like visiting a distant foreign country.

What’s so compelling? The answer sounds dull to explain it. Consciousness. The suckling activity opens an inner doorway to what for me is a spiritual connection. It’s like a walking meditation or some other sensual activity that begets an energy connection on a primal, intimate level with another person or with nature in general.

When consciousness is the reward, so much of the taken-for-granted old school standards of beauty seem to vanish. Looks pale in comparison to personality. I clearly feel my own disappointments of the changes that aging makes on my own body, so I get it when women express dismay over what they see as loss of (physical) beauty in them. Yet the sags and wrinkles and other lamentable changes do not matter to me, and sometimes are more attractive to me than the woman realizes or that the beauty culture assumes.

How? Why? It’s because I see both objectively and symbolically. I believe we all do. We see through the filters of our personal histories, our aspirations and desires, our fears and hopes. An aging woman’s body reflects back to me my own history, and I treat her as I wish to be treated. I love her for who she is in the here and now, and I hope for the same in return.

I’ve discovered that what most draws my attention to a potential lover (real or in fantasy) is mental and emotional. It’s consciousness. It’s the energy zap that we build together. Making bedtime deeply satisfying goes way beyond physical looks.

SEX IS CONSCIOUSNESS

In the dominant youth and beauty paradigm, the young and the beautiful have all the advantages. Unfortunately, even when they have all the genetic advantages, their culture has not provided them with instructions about the soul of sex. The user manual comes primarily in the form of mass media indoctrination about all things physical, all the helpful products and services they should buy—marketing, marketing, marketing. Very little about consciousness.

When I think of my most satisfying sexual memories, rarely has it to do with someone’s youth or beauty, how a body looked, etc. It was so much more about mental chemistry, what the encounter meant, the feelings that were stirred up, the fun we made for each other.

The deep satisfaction mostly came from the message “I care about you” expressed in a multitude of ways. Kissing that cares about me. Hugging and stroking that cares about me. Words and tone of voice that show caring about me. Facial expressions and glances that show caring about me. Caring about who I am and what I think and how we fit together. Even sexual hunger that shows caring about me like how a light bulb cares about its power source.

Society, as I probably do not need to tell you, is often cruel. As an example, Hollywood has ridiculous standards of beauty, rarely showing women my age in full sexual readiness, charmed and eager, unless it’s done for laughs. Well, guess what impact this has on old men, let alone old women? We become ashamed of our passions because society has put it off limits and made it a subject of ridicule. One reason it does this is society pushes sex as a physical pleasure, and omits the part about sex as consciousness.

Sometimes mean-spirited people or entertainment will insult someone’s looks by saying, “S/he has a great personality.” For me, personality really does matter more! Intimate sharing of personal stories, empathy, the willingness to be vulnerable, intelligence, and a fertile erotic imagination make for a more interesting bed partner than someone who looks delicious but whose brain is on perpetual stand-by.

THE BEST OF SEX

Over the years, my most satisfying sexual experiences were ultimately not linked to my idea of physical perfection. Here are a few of my favorite sexual traits and you will notice that they do not require youth and beauty.

Mind play. When a lover plays well with my mind, anything physical enjoys the consequences. Communication during erotic play accentuates the joy. Mind play happens in different ways—surprises, revealing secrets, sharing juicy fantasies, stoking the fires of passion with a well-chosen vocabulary.

Attitude. Intimate times are markedly influenced by a person’s general attitude in life. Someone pessimistic and deep in victimhood will be different from someone optimistic and filled with happiness. One’s attitude about sex also plays a big part in how a meeting of minds and bodies goes. Harmony of attitude works so much better than disharmony.

Sensuality. While sensuality is primarily experienced as physical, the driver of sensuality is the mind. The mind chooses what to do and how to do it. A person with sensitivity and empathy will perform differently than a narcissist or someone just going through the motions. Similarly, the recipient’s mind controls how the input is interpreted, with eager delight or with defenses up.

Energy channeling. The practice of energy exchange during lovemaking is not well-known in our porn-saturated culture, but once you are familiar with it, nurturing it becomes a priority. Some people give energy and some people steal it. Building energy together is tremendously satisfying and paradigm-shattering, especially once you experience full-bodied energy orgasms. It re-set what I look for in a mate and re-defined my personal definition of beautiful.

Fun in bed. Are those times in bed enjoyable? True fun? Was there laughter?  Did time fly by? What happens sexually is secondary to the fun quotient.

This is not to imply that it’s wrong to enjoy physicality or that physical beauty is not worth appreciating. Rather, it’s noting that beauty manifests in different ways and it’s short-sighted how our culture largely ignores that. The over-emphasis on youth and beauty is a recipe for inevitable unhappiness in later life unless and until we liberate ourselves from that prison.

LIFE CHANGES

It both breaks my heart and infuriates me when I see snide remarks about how someone is aging poorly. I hate that so much of our media culture promotes this kind of mentality. It’s almost as if hurting people has become a new national pastime.

Yet I also know that there are people like me who see a different vision of aging. Sexual experiences can be beautiful and profound at any age. For me they become more delicious when it’s understood and appreciated how much of a role consciousness plays in creating deep fulfillment.

Friends with benefits — yay or yuck?

Friends with BenefitsOne positive feature of aging is the long-range perspective that it offers. You can see the birth of good ideas, and then watch their fate as society grabs it. With enough time, you can witness ideas pass in and out of social favor. Sometimes that time period isn’t very long.

Friends with benefits is one of these ideas. In my world, it began as something of a fun, optimistic, and cheery entity. Even the word usage felt zip-a-dee-doo-dah happy. Friends with benefits. How fun — like winning an unexpected bonus prize.

It meant that the bonds of friendship could open wide to embrace sharing sensual or sexual affection. You could give each other pleasure as a pure act of friendship. It was a variation on that mythological goddess called free love. Friendship seemed like a good enough reason to give each other some joy.

Traditionally, relationship commitments involve practical matters such as career concerns, finances, family ties, and so on. You based giving the green light for sex on your negotiations about creating a life as a couple. While dressed up in romantic imagery, it was, in essence, a business deal.

Friends with benefits, often written as FWB, stood in stark contrast to “just friends.” The latter was often heard as the sterile kiss of death for someone aspiring to break through the curse of an unrequited love. “Let’s just be friends” meant that an iron gate of rejection had been clanked shut against any possibility of romantic or erotic love. Forget about it. Ain’t happening.

To me, friends with benefits was comforting. It was mutually beneficial. In the most optimistic flavor of free love, it often led me to feeling good about humanity. When the joy of sex still meant something, it allowed me to feel joy.

Little did I realize then how pathetic it was going to get as time marched on.

FRIENDS WITH MEANINGLESS SEX

It wasn’t very long before the term friends with benefits was also being uttered for all of its negative implications. For many people it became synonymous with meaningless sex. It became more about benefits than friendship. The glimmer of warmth and fun from the original idea had worn away from its chafing with dumbed-down, pornographic versions of what sex was.  It morphed from a term of endearment into a term of shame.

There was a loud gong of implication that anyone who considered FWB as a positive lifestyle choice, even temporarily, was of less than stellar character. Males seeking FWB relationships were cast as sexual predators or immature playboys. Females were cast as sluts. Just as happened with the term swinger, FWB came to stand for “having a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved.” It also came to mean that people who didn’t have the balls to commit to a relationship would sit on the fence for awhile.

Originally for me, friends with benefits was something like a vitamin pill or medicine intended to bring comfort and joy. I loved my friends. I wanted the best for them. Friendship was the power concept and benefits was an add-on extra for an already thriving emotional connection. It was not sex without friendship, sex without caring, or even sex without love. For me it always felt like a gift in the power of now.

WORD HABITS

In heated discussions, words and phrases are often tossed about habitually without much thought given to the richness of their meaning. Sex is one of those words. Friends is one of those words. Sex with friends can be a double whammy.

Sex can mean anything from a loveless physical activity among strangers to a deeply fulfilling sacred encounter. Friends can mean anything from barely known casual acquaintance to  cherished soul mate. Sex with friends can mean anything from an act of desperation with an acquaintance (no time limit on friendship required) to a spiritually transformative encounter with a lifelong friend.

People who use FWB as a term to judge or insult are clearly defining their terms in the most negative way. Cheap sex, shallow friendships. People who have a happy relationship with FWB (and possibly with sex itself) define their terms in more complimentary ways.

Much of the terminology here is confusing. You have the previously mentioned “just friends” which is a red light to sex, red-light districts excepted. Then there is “more than friends,” which is supposed to imply green lights for sex but in a way that is beyond friends with benefits. More than friends implies lovers. Lovers implies an emotional bond.

I have noted that sex frequently does not get its due as something magnificent, a treasure for humanity. As an institution, marriage legitimizes sexual relationships, and yet it seems more like establishing property rights than holding sex as sacred. I don’t hear many people conceiving of marriage as entering the temple of exquisite beauty to share the ecstasy of God’s gifts to humanity.

With sex routinely trashed as a brainless activity, something for dickheads, predators, whores, and losers, it’s much more difficult to envision friends with benefits as sweetness and light. As the term comes more to imply loveless sex among relationship wimps, I often wonder exactly what the benefit of FWB is supposed to be.

Empty, vapid, mechanical sex? Oh, boy, where do I sign up?

FWB Scenarios

In my world, friends with benefits emphasized friendship. Sometimes circumstances made a marital commitment or a declared committed relationship unwise or impractical, but the desire to share pleasure was still very strong.

I was raised in a time and place where “free love” was idealized as joyous. I was around for the Summer of Love in San Francisco and the Northern California counter-culture of the 60s and 70s. Alternative lifestyles were common in my circle of friends in my neck of the woods. I grew up prizing intimacy, harmony, and creativity. I conceived of sexual sharing as a way for two people to connect more emotionally. A deeply felt sexual connection would inspire my desire for relationship-building.

In my case, I was a struggling artist for much of my life. As such, I was not a good bet for a woman seeking financial security in a mate. However, I made a loyal friend and was a sensitive lover. Swinging never appealed to me. I liked emotional involvement even when it did not include living together. I was a go-to person when someone wanted a good listener who gave honest feedback on hard-to-talk-about subjects.

In the world around me, I saw different FWB arrangements. Some situations created too much mobility for stabilizing a relationship. Students might attend different universities, often beyond commuting range. People in the military or those whose jobs involved extensive travel often had relationship difficulties because of it. Sometimes people were reluctant to “settle down” because their life was inherently unsettled.

After a brutal break-up or a lengthy period of loneliness, a FWB relationship could be a true blessing. I’ve had times where they were hugely healing, a positive morale boost for climbing out of the pit. If both people are on the same page that this is a gift of mutual affection and not a commitment to build a new relationship, they can help ease the pain of a troubled heart. (If they are not on the same page, it can be the beginning of bad day.)

Friends with benefits seemed to particularly benefit those of us who were not A-list specimens in looks, wealth, power, or other mainstream status markers. A-listers are more accustomed to getting what they want, and you could say they have more bargaining power in the competition for mates. As a B-lister, I was grateful for the intimate encounters I had with friends. We may not have had it all, but what we had felt special. I think B-listers excel at appreciation and innovation just because we have always had to find ways to feel loved in a world keen on sorting, ranking, and rejecting.

Aging also presents plenty of obstacles not encountered as much in youth. For example, singles in their later years often have to deal with where to live. Whose residence becomes the chosen one? Does that mean that one of them sells a house? Are there extended family issues with that, such as adult children of seniors who strongly object to Mom or Dad’s choice of a new partner? Or maybe after a couple of serious betrayals, someone does not want to immediately put a new love partner on-board as a co-owner or beneficiary. Friends with benefits is good enough, at least for now.

Sometimes medical conditions and other recovery scenarios make friends with benefits an attractive option. Life throws us many curves. Sometimes we find ourselves very alone in dealing with these curves, and it is a great blessing to find any semblance of love and support during these ordeals. FWB is not just about wild sex. It is also about more sedated forms of compassion and caring. Cuddling, hugging, empathizing, laughter, free speech, and energy exchanges are also benefits friends can share.

Alternative lifestyle scenarios also figure in here. While this is (fortunately) changing, GLBT people were legally forbidden from marrying, often creating the situation where what amounted to FWB relationships became the most practical choice. Then there are people who simply and unapologetically like being sex friendly and don’t buy the premise that making love with a friend is not emotionally meaningful.

People sometimes say that FWB relationships happen because people can’t make up their minds about committing. It’s also noted that sometimes people start off as casual bunkies and then unexpectedly fall in love. This could be a problem if one one of them wants a deeper involvement. The friendship portion could shatter if rejection or jealousy feelings rear their ugly heads.

A MORE INCLUSIVE WORLD

Having had some morale-saving FWB relationships over the years, I find it most irritating how the idea has been corrupted from when I first encountered it. I think that anything we can do to make life nicer for people, especially those needing a lift, is a good thing. I also hate to see the beauty of sex dragged down into the morass of shame, ridicule, and mainstream trivialization.

I have great empathy and also sorrow for people who suffer loneliness and rejection, feeling excluded from the good life. It’s not that they necessarily are excluded, but they feel that way, and that’s just as bad. Although it is definitely not a surefire answer, a sex-friendly friendship can be a blessing.  It has saved me on occasion.

I was and still am a sex-positive idealist. I thought that lovemaking was healthy for the body, mind, heart, and spirit. I thought that if we humans moved more toward loving intimacy regardless of the form relationships took, we would be better off as a species. For me, intimacy always inspired caring about the welfare of the person I was intimate with. I thought others would feel that way, too.  At least a few did.

Friends with benefits — yay or yuck? I still say yay, but I would ask more questions.

Real conversations

SONY DSCHave you ever had a break-up conversation? Most of us have at one time or another.

They can come at different times. Sometimes it’s the announcement that this new relationship is not going to fly. One of you wants it but one of you doesn’t.

Sometimes it’s after a substantial trial period. Again, one of you wants to keep on trucking but one of you is ready to take the next off-ramp.

It could come years later after a relationship or a marriage has been pursued. It runs out of gas or one of you loses control and drives off the road.

So you have the break-up conversation. Sometimes it comes as a relief that a decision is being made to cut the losses and change course. Sometimes it is the talk from hell where accusations and torrents of anger fly like stinging yellow jackets.

And yet I am curious: how true and intimate are those conversations? How much inner truth do we offer at the end, and is it better or worse than what we offered at the beginning? Or do we instead work on damage control and political expediency and say something phony? Or do we retreat and plot revenge and punishment?

DEATH AND DYING

Another conversational abyss for many people is the topic of death and dying.

I have been around so many people, including my parents, who did not want to share their views about the end of life. They did not openly philosophize about what happens after they flatline. Is there still juice at the end or are we completely dried out and crumbly?

When people keep their feelings and opinions locked up tight inside themselves, it creates some real issues during the end-game. For one thing, it makes it hard for the caregivers and survivors to know exactly how to please those who are dying. If you gave no special requests, you get what you ask for.

For the people dying it means that they suddenly have to confront their fears or beliefs unassisted. Maybe they can no longer communicate. If it was too scary to discuss during the healthy days, when things were normal and death was not imminent, imagine it now.

People are afraid to talk about death, as if openly discussing it might bring it on faster or freak the dying person out.

When there are conversations with a dying person, how truthful are they? Is there any reality to it or is it fluff and show? I know that if I was on my deathbed, I would want to discuss my future and not pretend that I was going to get well soon. I’d like to talk about the death that will happen when my ride from heaven comes.

Death is a taboo topic. Hospice chaplain and author Terri Daniel called it the new sex. “Launching a public dialog about death in today’s world is similar to how my generation — the Baby Boomers — broke through the taboo about discussing sex prior to the sexual revolution in the 1960s.”

SEX

And so yeah, then there is sex.

A lot of people are under the illusion that we’ve outgrown our culture of secrets, shame, and lies about sex. I don’t think so. I think a lot of conversations that could be intimate aren’t because they never occur.

Sex has often become things we do to each other, not so much things we feel. We often make love to people’s bodies, overlooking making love to their minds. We jump into erotic habits and rituals because we have been conditioned to do it that way, but it’s often taken for granted or conducted on auto-pilot.

Often people do not share their feelings about what they like and don’t like sexually, much less converse about their deepest feelings of what this dance means to them. Yet as someone who has written about sexual relationships, both in fiction and nonfiction, I am frequently aware of hidden motives, conflicts, and passions that are not communicated to partners for a variety of reasons.

Can you communicate that you feel alone during a sexual experience? Do you share with your spouse or primary partner the fantasies, hopes, or desires that are most meaningful or exciting to you? Can you share your erotic personality without censoring or playing it safe?

WRITER LESSONS

As a creative writer, I have often written scenes about how relationships form and sometimes how they end. I’ve written about death (and afterlife) and I have written about sex.

Fiction may be pretend, but fiction also allows authors to explore deep insights. You don’t have to worry about libel or slander or credibility of your sources. So as I mastermind scenes in creative writing, I bear witness to each character, their motivations, their aspirations, their fears. I sometimes know them better than they know themselves.

I watch characters lie. I watch them dodge from expressing their true selves. I watch them invent cover stories to hide and protect their most vulnerable parts. I watch them injure people and in turn I watch them get injured.

In the meantime, I have my own well of experience to draw from. I have real-life exit scenes, some horrible, some amicable. I have my own relationship with death and dying and sex, which are frequently not held as sacred by the mainstream.

Through it all what fascinates me the most is all the stuff that people do not communicate. It’s what we don’t say. And, yes, I am guilty of it, too.

JUST LIKE GOVERNMENT

We learn from so many of our government and social institutions that people inform us of decisions, developments, and policies without telling us the real truth. They focus instead on their politically correct, organization-sanctioned stories.

When government or corporations announce anything, they have been overwritten by PR professionals and often lawyer-vetted.

The logic often gets all convoluted. They announce a price increase and claim it is a benefit for us “so we may serve you better.” They don’t say, “We’re just greedy bastards.”

And just think of how various companies handle disasters like plane and train crashes and industrial explosions and recalls and financial collapses.

And we learn through countless repetitions of this process that fudging is how the game is played. We learn to lie. We also learn that being secretive is somehow better for us than frolicking in an orgy of truth-telling.

Government often explains and excuses manipulation of data and the truth as being in the public interest. They are protecting us, they say. Aren’t they great?

EARTH SCHOOL

If we all believed we were in Earth School — that there was a purpose to life on Earth and that it was to continually learn lessons about love — we might realize that speaking our unvarnished, unapologetic truth leads to personal growth and social improvements. I wonder what people would say to each other under those circumstances.

How could we make breaking up, dying, and sharing sexually more intimate and meaningful? How could we make them more profound learning experiences through open and honest communication? How could we heal each other even when facing difficult challenges and decisions?

Maybe, someday, we can figure this out. I am working on my own solution for me.

Relationship currency

love-trustRelationships are all about energy exchange. It is a partnership, and as relationships form, we bank on certain things happening or not happening as part of the deal. To understand relationships that you’re in or want to create, it helps to think of the currency used and received in this energy exchange.

Currency is like money, but it comes in different forms or categories. For example, one form might be the currency of trust. Sex and affection might be another. Beauty, wealth, status, loyalty, brilliance, sensitivity, astrology, etc. could be others.

TRUST

Let’s first look at the currency of trust. When you enter into a relationship, you consciously or unconsciously consider the value of trust you can place in your partner. This consideration continues throughout the relationship.

How much do you trust this person? Would they take advantage of you if they could? Would you trust them in an emergency when you were incapacitated and they were managing your care? Do you believe the sickness promise of “in sickness and in health?” Do you trust this person with your possessions, your finances, your food, your love? Do you trust this person with your feelings, your personal history, your desires and aspirations? How many of your secrets would you trust this person to keep confidential? Do you trust his or her advice?

Trust is pretty fundamental to life and relationships. You want to be able to trust a mate. At times it could mean survival itself. Great trust in someone would mean having a high-valued currency. If that person is not so trustworthy, it would mean pennies on the dollar in worth in the trust department.

PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS

Especially high in our youth and beauty culture is the currency for physical attractiveness for both genders. Those who have it know the power (and the burdens) that it brings. While much of it comes naturally via genes, much of it also means keeping up with current styles, flaunting it in certain conforming ways, and putting up with the unwanted attention it attracts.

As with any currency, the value of yours is based on what the other person thinks. Some people value physical attractiveness very highly, others not so much. In relationships I had with exotic beauties, I experienced the time, energy, money, and angst that went into maintaining that beauty. It became less valuable to me. I especially disliked it when women would seem to blame me — as in all men are created equal — for all the pressure they felt to keep up with their beauty regimen and male expectations. I became much more focused on mental and emotional beauty, with high marks for humor and sensitivity.

So currency reflects not only what you feel about it, how much you value it, but what other people thinks it’s worth. Physical beauty, for example, is a moving target. Maybe you look great in July, but by November it’s old hat for the beholder. The reverse could happen, too. You become more attractive over time.

SEX AND AFFECTION

Another popular form of currency, especially in new relationships, is affection. This usually embraces sex. Nature designed this one, but society plays a huge role as it sells conformity to stereotypes. Often the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone contains a sexual component — an implicit agreement that lovebirds will always do what lovebirds do.

The value of your sex and affection currency depends highly on what the other person wants from it. Are you on the same page and wanting something similar, or is there a huge difference in how each person views and values them? It often requires good communication skills to pin the tail on this donkey.

Sex in a relationships sometimes peters out creating a sexless marriage or platonic, roommates-like relationship. It could be because other currencies have been negatively affected. Maybe the trust currency took a huge dive after an affair or some other crisis or blow-up, and not tonight honey became more frequent. Then came separate bedrooms.

CLASSICAL CURRENCY

Years ago the classic currency between husband and wife was that husband was the income provider and wife kept the home and raised the children. The value of the currency was based on how skilled they were in the designated roles and responsibilities.

Ward Cleaver provided income for the family doing God knows what and June Cleaver kept the house running smoothly. Dr. Alex Stone was a pediatrician and his TV wife Donna Reed kept the house and family running smoothly.

Those roles have changed to the point where we often share them now. We look at our partner, whichever gender, and ask if he or she is a good income provider or if he or she handy is around the house.

ON THE SAME CURRENCY PAGE?

We have have many forms of currency to offer, but we usually don’t want the same things, especially in the long-term. When relationships form without studying this, shocks often occur. Assumptions prove to be inaccurate. Deficiencies in the fair exchange reveal themselves.

Yes she may be great in bed, but can she make a decent blueberry pancake? Yes, he is a hot lover, but is he responsible with the family checkbook?

Relationships often form where Person A eagerly seeks one form of currency, like everlasting sexual bliss, yet is blasé about other forms of currency Person B offers. Person B might be upset that Person A never appreciates those other skills and gifts. Person A is simply not in the market for that skill. It holds little value.

For example, I like good food and appreciate skilled cooking, but even so I am nowhere near gourmet in my appreciation. If my mate was a Martha Stewart clone, she might be upset that I enjoy simple meals or don’t go all ecstatic with her extra efforts. Maybe her zeal for cooking meant she expected me to have the same sensitive tongue and appreciation for nuanced cuisine. Maybe she was perpetually too busy cooking to share other fun activities.

Another example: Some people are very stylish. They want their environment just so. They get picky, even disoriented if their environment is disorganized. I pay vastly more attention to my inner world. I crave intriguing mind food. My currency on the external is not as high as for the internal.

Some people base their relationship choices on one or two major priorities on their currency desires list. They may not consider the rest of the picture, often until it is too late.

THEN THERE’S CHANGE

To complicate matters, life is a moving target. We change our needs and desires over time and as circumstances dictate. We go through cycles in life with differing needs and desires.

In younger years and relationships, travel and adventure may be more important than who takes out the garbage. A person’s televiewing and music listening habits may be of little concern. A spiritual connection may not be as important as the accumulation of wealth or the pursuit of sensual pleasures.

Often, unforeseen circumstances rupture smooth sailing, and change happens. An illness, job loss, pregnancy, natural disaster, extended family challenge, or other event throws everything off kilter. The new circumstances shift our priorities, and our currencies change dramatically.

YOUR CURRENCY

What currency do you value? What are your priorities? There can be many different kinds.

A good way to determine it is to think about somebody who either is or was intimate with you (does not have to be romantic intimacy.) As you think about that person, make a list of the things that you like about that person. Also make a list of the things you dislike about that person.

Doing this will lead you to identifying your currency. Currency is both what you offer and want to receive. Some things you offer to someone are things you hold high in value. The same is true for things you like to receive. Sometimes you and your intimate will have similar currency values. Sometimes you won’t.

There is no right or wrong attached to currency. It is just an indication of what you value. Thinking about currency creates a great method of working through the relationship issues that inevitably come up.

What happens in the minds of lovers?

Minds-of-loversThe word itself has never much excited me, but I have always been raptly interested in consciousness for lovers. Yep, consciousness.

Whether I have written love stories or erotic stories, or just lived my life, the juiciest part of lovemaking for me is what happens within people’s minds. What motivates them to do what they do? What thrills them? What do they want? What thoughts do they have? What do they say to each other during one of nature’s most creative experiences?

Sharing consciousness is the stuff of intimacy.

INTIMACY — NO YAWNING

When I look at so many media portrayals of romance or erotica, the picture that emerges is that sex is what we do to someone or what someone does to us. It’s usually not depicted as a co-creation, as two people joining equally in a duet. The seducer seduces or the chaser takes charge and does something — usually a physical act. Mouths and other body parts crash into each other in hurricanes of passion.

Yet intimacy is not what we do to someone. It’s what we do with someone! Intimacy is equality in action. It’s a duet.

Intimacy is vastly underrated. It often sounds lame, especially to people trained to be intrepid, hot men or women of action. Intimacy often sounds as exciting as contemplating one’s navel. It’s usually portrayed in G-rated bunnies and duckies terms. Men are frequently taught to put up with intimacy as a step to “get to the good stuff.” Little do they know.

I think intimacy is top-drawer, the best. It makes the rest juicier, more meaningful. It’s where connection happens, friendship expands, love boils, lightning strikes. True intimacy is like a closely guarded secret, an out-of-bounds topic. Out of sight, out of mind.

Heavily exploited by porn but also distorted in mainstream depictions, sex has often become increasingly like stupid pet tricks. It’s about doing more outrageous activities, pushing the envelope on quirky-kinky. Be wild, be daring, be fearless. Show off better than the last person. It turns sex into a circus show like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West — thrills & spills and rootin-tootin fun. That’s exciting, but it’s not connecting.

Sex also often becomes much ado about playing roles. You are sub and I am dom. Or you are slut and I am lucky bastard. Or you are whatever and I am whatever. Roles can be very steamy to play for those with creative imaginations, but usually it’s much more mundane. This is especially true when playing roles does not create emotional connection to another human being.

GETTING REAL

Truly adventurous sex would be entering another’s mental and emotional world unarmed. That’s a place where all our memories dwell and all the emotional firing pins are hidden yet cocked.

Have you ever made love soul naked? Have you ever been able to shed all the cloaks and disguises of your real self and share love from that mental space? Yes, it can be exceedingly scary to be so open, but with the right partner, it can be incredibly profound and satisfying.

Nothing draws me closer to someone than sensing their realness. When I feel they’re meeting me with their true and uncensored self, I become most present. I listen respectfully as they share their fears or sadness or rants or (yes!) their joys and aspirations, too. And with all this input, we make love with more depth and caring. It changes everything.

Lovers as objects are supposed to play the right roles, say the right things, follow the expected scripts. Real lovers are not objects, they’re people, and real sex is about real feelings. Only lovers willing and able to be intimate with each other can feel the difference.

Lovers as objects have to look right in every way possible. Wear the right shoes, the right naughty fashions, the right do. There’s also a long list of skin and body conditions to avoid — to be cosmetically perfect is the ideal. I have read some blogs and have had some personal correspondence with women who feel more like hunks of furniture for their mate’s pleasure than they feel included in any co-creation of beautiful experiences.

Loving people see beauty in so many different ways. Many of those ways are nonphysical — intelligence, creativity, sensitivity, enthusiasm, passion, compassion, humor, spice, oh, so nice. Intimacy is an exploration of whole people co-creating. Yet where in our culture does anyone learn co-creation? I think long and hard to come up with examples.

HIGH ADVENTURE

It’s worth it to reflect for awhile on what mating really is (or could be.) We enter into love relationships as hunks of history, programmed with agonies and ecstasies. We could provide a healing sanctuary for one another, neutralizing emotional wounds from the past from our mutual love.

The minds of lovers are really dealing with more than the mechanics of sex, even if much is not conscious. Most of us yearn to be loved and accepted. We yearn to have someone care about us. Sex is a way people measure how they’re doing in life. A truly fulfilling sex life boosts happiness, especially when it generates loving feelings, self-esteem, and relationship health. When sex is unhappy, it’s often because it lacks intimacy.

For the sake of intimacy, I like to deliberately make love mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Making love mentally is sharing ideas without censorship. That means much more than talking dirty. Sex can provide a bonding experience rich with thought. Permission to shelve inhibitions often lets more good stuff surface. Unfortunately, many people feel too intimidated (for lots of reasons) to speak their truth even to their mate — sometimes especially to their mate. Most everybody has learned the hard way that sharing without editing can have dire consequences. It can also create peak experiences.

Making love emotionally is sharing feelings. Thoughts and feelings are different. Feelings often don’t have explanations or rationale. They may not be logical. They may be dreamlike. Sharing feelings freely and openly is relatively rare in a society that encourages secrecy, shame, guilt, and mistrust. One example is saying “I love you” spontaneously without running it by the analyst in your brain.

Making love spiritually is recognizing that people are much more than their bodies — that they are spirits inhabiting bodies. Spiritual awareness can have a surprisingly powerful affect on lovemaking including energy play, harmony with God/nature, a deeper appreciation for spiritual love, and transcendent sexual experiences (I’ll write about that sometime!) Spiritual lovemaking takes a great deal of emphasis off superficial beauty and re-focuses it onto cosmic beauty.

JUST THE BEGINNING

Becoming aware of how you might make love mentally, emotionally, and spiritually can be very enlightening. It can shift your focus in fascinating ways just to consider how you might do that.

Seed planted. Let me know what blooms!

Sexless marriages and relationships

LonelyThanks to the Internet and blogging, I became more aware of the plight of people stuck in the quicksand of sexless marriages and relationships. I followed one blogger’s trail of breadcrumbs to several blogs on the topic and read some riveting accounts of this particular kind of loneliness.

It’s tempting to take first impressions and believe that this is just about, well, sex — or lack of it. For many it’s about much more. Sex can be complex, much more than erotic activity. It reaches deeply into our mental, emotional, and spiritual worlds as well. The end of sex often brings about the withdrawal of affection, cuddling, flirting, playing, even communicating. The Ice Age cometh.

Right now I am neither in a marriage nor in a relationship. I am just sexless period. I am also 64, an age where many have already put their sex drive out to pasture.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

Whether it is psychologically healthy or not, most of us are conditioned to look to others for a mirror image reflection on how we are doing in life. We are taught early on to seek approval. How people treat us becomes a navigational device we depend on. When people are excited to be with us, especially in the context of love, those bright eyes and promises send out signals to us that we’re doing just fine, thank you. New love relationships can be so intoxicating because we get fresh reflections on our desirability. Someone thinks we’re fabulous!

When a partner withdraws sexually, however, it sends a signal for many of us that we are not wonderful human beings anymore. We’re damaged goods, last month’s news. When we are systematically avoided sexually, it’s hard not to feel rejection. Social conditioning frequently tells us that when things are going well in a relationship, happy sex follows.

I’ve been involved in several relationships where sex halted. Each time I was assured that it was not about me; it was about them. They cited a dramatic curtailing of sex drive and lack of interest in things erotic. While I could accept this information as their truth, I still felt that their withdrawal had something to do with me.

Rationalizations flew fast and furiously: 1) Maybe they were just too nice to say what really bothered them; 2) Maybe my enthusiasm for sex was just natively way beyond theirs; 3) Maybe they were hiding  deep-seated hostilities from their past (child abuse, spousal abuse, sex history abuse); 4) Maybe I had turned disgusting and all those “dirty old man” clichés were true after all; 5) Maybe I had blundered again in my relationship choices by choosing someone not into the joy of sex, emphasis on joy.

The blogs I saw were, ironically, all written by women. They appeared to be in their high thirties and forties. Most appeared to be mothers. I felt great compassion to note how lack of sexual interest from their husbands ate into their self-esteem. In their writing they shared various strategies they used to put the adventure back into their relationships — new lingerie, mood enhancement, porn, confrontation. Seduction strategies went nowhere and were often rebuffed with insults.

MAKING UP FOR THE LOSS

In many cases, sexless relationships exist because there are nonsexual reasons to stay coupled. One of the most common is “for the sake of the children.” A break-up would hurt the kids. Economics play another huge role in keeping couples together. One or both could not afford to go it alone, so they hang on. Sometimes health issues have intervened turning an otherwise healthy relationship into a sensual desert, especially for the one left behind. It’s only the lack of sex that is extremely hurtful. Sometimes a supportive friendship or business partnership are the glue, even though the romance has gone.

The problem comes in trying to fill the emptiness created by a sexually disinterested partner. People invent all sorts of polyamorous (honest) or stealth-filled (dishonest) solutions to try. Unfortunately, most solutions turn out to be Band-Aids. Finding a lover (or for some, a fuck buddy) often ends up creating a fractured, compartmentalized lifestyle.

A new love relationship may sizzle out of the gate. It may seem like the perfect solution for a month or two or three. Eventually, however, if sex is great with the new partner, the hunger for more is born. More togetherness, more intimacy, more consistency. This is largely because sex is more than just sexual activity. It’s a seed that grows a love bond. When a new love bond flourishes, the old one usually weakens.

But even that scenario presumes that someone is lucky enough to have found a suitable lover. People ensconced in sexless relationships have the unenviable task of trying to find someone who desires to experience the joy of sex without commitment. NSA (no strings attached) relationships may work for some, but others (like myself for instance) crave emotional content with their sexual expression. Emotional sharing is arguably what makes sexual passion fulfilling. The bottom line, especially later in life, is that far fewer people are satisfied with or are even willing to try alternatives to monogamy. They want all or nothing.

I have noticed in myself a whole ego string of beat-myself-up ideas that flow through me from involuntary celibacy. I walk with less of a spring in my step. I feel incomplete. I feel uninvited to the party others take for granted. I burn up creative energy overcoming these negative feelings using the consciousness-raising, love-yourself tools I know. It’s not that I have a bad time by myself; it’s that I have a better time when I am in love.

THROUGH THE EYES OF OTHERS

I’ve witnessed great sadness and frustration embedded in the lives of others of both genders as they attempt to deal with their deeply unsatisfying sex lives. I have friends stuck in sexless relationships they say they would like to leave if it only weren’t for whatever they’re holding up as their rationale. Sometimes I think that this is a problem not given much sympathy or importance in society because it sounds so trivial — that is until it happens up close and personal.

Please share your thoughts and experiences!