Over the last few days I watched 3 very strange and very different movies about sex.
First I watched one about a teen girl who moves to a small town where she seduces her teacher. She then ends things when she realizes that they are both just using each other and that she is developing a real connection with a boy from her class. She then has to deal with the drama that comes with those choices.
Second came the story of a couple in their late 20’s navigating an open relationship when their relationship begins to unravel as they lose their connection, intimacy and communication. They each get more engrossed in their outside relationships, and are in denial about the fact that they no longer have much of a relationship with each other.
Lastly I watched a highschool girl begin a babysitting prostitution ring; stumbling into becoming a madame for her peers. Trying to stay afloat in it all as it begins to crash down on her.
What struck me as I pondered these stories was the common themes of desire for control, power and freedom. All three think at the beginning of their tales that their choices are leading them to those things, but by the climax of each film it is clear that not one character actually feels like they have achieved any of them. Why do we think that sexual freedom makes us free and means we are in control of ourselves and our lives?
Here is one of my theories. People so not actually think about what it means to them to be free and to have power or control in their own life. Add to that societies simultaneous taboo and obsession with sex and one can see why people get so confused.
Let me address something about sex and our society. Sex is very powerful. It is one of our biological drives. When you realize what that means, the power and influence that sex has over us, it is staggering. We don’t have to be run by our biological drives any more in our modern society, but we often are. I believe this is mostly due to us not acknowledging the fact that they are powerful forces.
It’s kinda like the whole elephant in the room thing; the more you pretend it isn’t there the more impossible to ignore it becomes. If we actually wanted sex to have less power we would need to acknowledge that it is powerful and then make conscious choices not to give in to the drive. Instead we pretend that we are more evolved now so the biological effects of sex and our drive for it no longer affect us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen how well that works out for people.
In all three stories you observe the characters going from feeling empowered to lost and overwhelmed. It seems as if they can’t imagine how they got to where they are. All of them do or say they are ok with things that don’t really work for them. American culture tells us so many contradictions about sex it isn’t surprising that things happen the way they do.
Real power and freedom come from being true to oneself no matter what it looks like to others. Easier said than done, I know.
What would happen if we checked in with ourselves about how we really feel about our choices and then acted based on that? Moment to moment. One thing at a time.
There is no rule saying what we chose to do yesterday dictates how our today has to be. Why do we let it? Why do we wait till things get so bad that we can’t stand it, to take action towards what we actually want? Who does that do any good for? Why don’t people believe they are worth more than that?
There is always a choice. How often do you make the one you actually want to make? The one that moves you towards what actually works for you and what you want in your life?
Hello people of the internet. I haven’t posted in a while. I realized that part of the reason why, is that while I like answering questions, I was feeling really limited by doing only that. Which brings us to now. Right now I want to talk to you about things that have been coming up a lot in my life. Both for myself and for a lot of my friends. Most recently, that is the subject of risk. Lets start with a little story.
My friend Taylor is newly single. Taylor has decided to focus on reconnecting with friends and making new ones in this time of transition and healing. A problem has arisen with Taylor’s new friend Payton. Most of the time they have fun and Taylor is enjoying the friendships development. However, every now and then Taylor gets mixed signals from Payton. (Mostly when alcohol is present. Shocking, I know.) This is complicated because Taylor does have some interest in Payton in a “more then friends” way, but most of the time Taylor thinks Payton is clearly not interested in being more than friends. Taylor has asked me, “What do I do?” This question is impossible to answer properly without knowing what Taylor wants. Thing is, Taylor doesn’t know either. Taylor then asked me, “What if Payton doesn’t want what I want?” This is where risk comes in. Good things rarely happen without it, but taking risks, takes courage.
I will continue using Taylor’s situation as an example to frame my thoughts on the matter. Of the possibilities I can image for Taylor, the one I find pertinent is that Taylor decides the friendship is what is most valuable and that risking it on the possibility of something more isn’t worth it. Here is what I would advise in this case. I would tell Taylor to have a conversation with Payton and set boundaries. This would only work if Taylor was willing to actually reinforce them and give up the confusing, yet fun and exciting, mixed messages. Taylor’s side of the conversation would then need to go something like this:
“Payton, I love hanging out with you and I am really enjoying the friendship we are developing. There is one thing I am having a bit of a hard time with though. When we are partying and you do (the behavior) I get confused about whether all you want is friendship. To me, people don’t do that with their friends. I know that may not be the case for you and that is totally fine, but I need you to try not to do those types of things with me because they make it hard for me to be friends with you and I would be sad to lose your friendship. Is there anything I can do to help you with that and is there anything you need me to clarify?”
Then Taylor would need to be in partnership with Payton in this endeavor. In that case Taylor and Payton would need to talk about what they each need to make this work. This would include possibly reminding/ pointing things out to Payton if the behaviors continue, and enforcing the boundary Taylor asked for by not participating/ initiating in the questionable behaviors. All of this can be accomplished from the position of working together. Nobody has to be “wrong” for not doing things perfectly, right away. Understand there will be a learning curve.
Now, I know that for most people this would be a very risky and vulnerable thing to do, and it is. The thing most people don’t realize is that, the risk factor here doesn’t make it a bad choice. Instead, it is actually a step toward self confidence and growth as a person. Not that it isn’t uncomfortable. This kind of conversation takes courage.
There are a variety of ways Payton may respond to this. Payton may say something like, “Well, I think you are right about not doing those things with friends, I am sorry that I sent you mixed signals. I value our friendship too and I am happy to work on not doing those behaviors with you.” In this case the friendship is only strengthened. Both people feel like they can trust the other and that they and their needs are respected.
Another possibility is Payton saying this, “Wow Taylor, that’s ridiculous. That is just how I am with my friends and if you aren’t ok with it then I can’t be friends with you.” To most people this seems like the worst scenario. I strongly disagree. It is upsetting, painful, and disappointing, yes. But it is very valuable. If they are not compatible friends why not find out? Ignoring and not addressing this problem isn’t going to make their friendship actually work, and it isn’t going to have Taylor be in less turmoil than ending the friendship, or in trying to pretend the behavior isn’t a problem. Instead both parties get valuable information about the other person and about themselves and their friendship style.
The last possibility I am going to address is Payton saying this, “Taylor, I know we have said we are just friends, but I am interested in more than that with you.” In this situation, Taylor gets to decide if they should explore moving beyond friends. Assuming they decide to do so, Taylor has already set the stage for them both to set boundaries, speak honestly, and make their needs important while being in partnership. Taylor has also deepened the trust and intimacy between them.
So, while risk does seem very scary and difficult, it is usually worth it. At least that is what I have found to be true for myself. Every time that I take a risk by telling my truth, I feel empowered and like I am valuing myself to the level that I want to be valued. You can feel this way too, it just takes time and practice. And yeah, its a never ending journey, but it gets easier, trust me.
Well not really, I am always here for you. Feel free to say something here or email me your thoughts, questions, comments, or what ever I love hearing from you.
I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for about 11 months now, and it is pretty serious. He is such a sweetheart and it has been going great, excluding the usual bumpy times that most couples have gone through.
He respects all my friends and is so kind-hearted. He will help anyone in need, as long as they have and will respect him. Since he has a gas station/auto shop he has worked on my friends’ cars and even discounted the cost by so much! One of the reasons I love him is because he is just so giving and does not expect anything back, like me. We are both the type that will give and give, but only wish to be appreciated and to hear a “thank you” when needed.
Unfortunately, I have had to deal with something I have really never had a problem with in my previous relationships. One of my closest friends, a girl who I think of as another sister, has always been awkward around him. As in, she disrespects him by not even saying hello or trying to start a conversation, nor even making him feel comfortable by continuing a conversation he tries to start. Since day one, she has been this way for no apparent reason. Also, all my friends enjoy his company and have told me they like him, except for her.
I just don’t know how to handle this anymore because she has no legit reason to dislike him and to disrespect him, because he has been nothing but nice to her.
Since she has not changed, I have some theories as to why she won’t let go of it…maybe she is jealous because of how amazing he is to me, compared to the previous boyfriends she has had? I don’t know.
Now it has gotten to the point that my boyfriend is FED UP. He feels so disrespected especially because he is so nice to her that he can’t even stand to be around her anymore. Therefore it makes it SO awkward for me.
Thank you sooooooo much for taking the time to read this. I know it was lengthy but I felt it was better to explain the whole thing. I have been dying to tell someone who doesn’t know my boyfriend or my friend, to be able to give me unbiased advice.
Caught In The Middle
Dear Caught In The Middle,
I know personally how tough these types of situations can be. It is so disappointing when someone close and dear to you, doesn’t get along with your boyfriend or girlfriend. What I recommend you do is ask each of them when you can set up a time to have a conversation one-on-one. You will basically be telling them the same thing in slightly different ways.
Lets handle the friend/family scenario first. In your case it’s kinda both. Tell her you want to talk to her about something that has been bothering you and ask her if she is willing to just listen for now. This is not the time to bring up why you think she may be acting this way keep the conversation focused on your relationship with her not how she has been acting towards your boyfriend. I would start with telling her how much her friendship means to you, how important she is in your life and how you really appreciate how much she cares about you. Then talk about how the interactions between her and your boyfriend are affecting you. Focus on how you feel. How sad it makes you and the stress it adds to your life. The final part is to ask her if she is willing to adjust her behavior around your boyfriend. The key here is to emphasize that you are asking her to do this for YOU, not your boyfriend. Tell her that you aren’t asking her to be fake or pretend she doesn’t feel the way she does, you are just asking her to be polite and courteous, the way she would want to be treated.
Having this type of conversation takes courage. Be brave! Being vulnerable like this feels risky, I know, but it can lead to great things.
Depending on how the conversation goes you may consider mentioning that if she feels she can’t change her behavior or is unwilling to it will affect the relationship you can have with her. Be clear that this is not a threat. You are just telling her honestly that there are negative effects on your friendship when you feel you can’t include her in parts of your life without stress.
The talk with your boyfriend should be a bit simpler. You are going to ask him for the same thing. Make clear that you aren’t saying he needs to ignore the way she has been towards him and that you have talked, or will talk, to her about it. Then tell him that she is important in your life so you would really appreciate him continuing to be polite to her, for you.
I am not saying that this will be easy. Even if all goes well and as planned it won’t happen overnight. Be patient. Most importantly of all remember that these are two people who love and care about you.
How would you recommend handling grown kids that
do not communicate often, yet when they do, it seems all is really
fine and they look forward to talking and visiting, etc?
I am disappointed I do not hear from my kids, biological and from
relationships where I dated their moms. How do I encourage them to
call, email, etc, more often?
Dear Wondering Dad,
Thank you for your question. Family interactions can be so tricky and I think it’s great that you want to improve your relationships with all your kids. Sadly, you may not like what I have to say. I think that it depends on what type of communication you are wanting. If you are just wanting to feel connected and included in their life, and something as simple as a “hello” or “been busy but wanted you to know I was thinking of you” text or email would be enough let them know specifically what you are hoping to receive from them. And even more importantly, begin to model the same type of friendly, low key contact without expectation.
If what you are looking for is the email or call that updates you about what they are up to and how things in their life are going I can pretty much bet you that you aren’t going to get more of that than they are already giving. You may just need to take responsibility for being the one who has to reach out and ask for the contact if having a more communicative connection is your goal.
The main reason you aren’t likely to have them call you, to tell you how things are going, is that it is a pretty stressful conversation for a young person to have with a parent. It doesn’t matter if you are the most understanding, accepting, non-judgmental parent in the world. It is rarely the type of conversation a child looks forward to (no matter their age) and more often, one done out of feelings of obligation or guilt. People in their twenties are in the process separating from their parents and becoming independent individuals. Keep in mind that if circumstances are such that you don’t see each other in person on a regular basis you are likely to get even less communication initiated by your kids.
One factor that changes things a bit is if we are talking about a family that went through divorce. Especially if you are a parent that moved away from your kids. I have talked about this subject with a variety of sources, both professional and peer, and the general consensus is if you left, then maintaining the relationship is on you. While it may be subconscious, more often then not there are feelings of abandonment so most kids will just wait for the parent that left them to reach out to them. Putting energy into building a better relationship with a parent who left may just feel like to much work or too painful to someone already spending their energy on growing up and getting their life on track.
I want to address the child relationships that aren’t biological separately. Consider how your relationship with their mother is; if you are on friendly terms you are more likely to have a relationship with her kids. Even if you are on good terms with your ex I would recommend asking the kids if you can have a conversation with them about your break-up with their mom. There may be some kind of strain or stress that happened that is effecting your potential relationship. When you have the conversation ask them how the break-up was for them and if there is anything they want to say or ask. Be sure to let them know that this is a safe space where they wont get in trouble and that you just want to know so that you can understand them and be closer. Then take the time to tell them what you are hoping to get/have with them both in a relationship now and in the future. With these young adults it is even more important that you make the effort to maintain the relationship. While biological children know they have certain rights and expectations to their parents, a child of a woman you dated is not going to want to assume anything, and will be concerned with being a bother or over stepping some how, especially if you have your own biological children. You need to reach out to them.
As you know from parenting, actions speak louder than words. Good luck and enjoy the ride.
My ex and I have been broken up for almost 5 years now, and every now and then he calls me to catch up. We’re on good terms- but nothing too personal anymore. Last week, he sent me a friend request on Facebook. Should I deny or accept?
Dear Facebook Dilemma,
The answer to this depends on your personal use/ relationship to Facebook. Are you the type that is only friends with people that you talk to and see on a semi-regular basis or are you friends with every acquaintance you come across or that sends you a request?
I am pretty causal when it comes to Facebook so accepting a request like this from an ex I am on friendly terms with would be no big deal to me and wouldn’t really mean more personal contact with them then the occasional check in we had before.
Before making your decision consider the following questions. Does the idea of this person having more access to your information and life make you feel uncomfortable? Will having them as a friend on this site add any strain, stress or up-set to your life and/or relationships? Would you be adding them from a place of obligation or guilt, or a place of genuine interest and friendship?
Trust your gut. Only you know what is really ok for you. Don’t let yourself get caught up in what other people think or how things might look to them.
What advise would you give to all those single ladies out there who always seem to end up someone’s fuck buddy or best friend but never seem to end up in the romantic interest category?
Fuck Buddied Out
Dear Fuck Buddied Out,
If I could only tell you one thing it would be to be as up-front, and honest about what you want, as you possibly can. Now, let me elaborate a little bit on the how and why behind this statement.
What would happen if you started talking to a guy and after a little small talk and flirting between you, you said, “I am looking for a committed, monogamous, relationship. What are you looking for?” Most women fear that something like that would send men running for the hills, and honestly it might. Just consider this, if that is what you are looking for and it would send the guy you are talking to running, don’t you want him to eliminate himself for you?
Being blunt and honest with men, like I described above, is something that in my experience they respond to in an extremely positive, surprised, and even grateful way. Once you’ve told them what you want it’s totally reasonable to ask them, if that is something they are looking for too. Once you both know where you stand, stick to your principles and what you are looking for. If you don’t see them as a potential partner, only as a friends, and they see you as a possible love interest, let them know. You would want the same honesty from them right?
If you are honest from the start, there will be no getting blind-sided by the friend-zone or lost in just being lovers.
The friend-zone thing, basically means they have no romantic interest in you but still like you and appreciate you as a person. I personally think that they either decided a while ago that you were only friend material, only you didn’t know they decided that, or they don’t know what it is you are wanting from them. Try telling him what you are wanting and ask him his thoughts. If friendship is all he desires, you can decide if it’s something you are interested in and then take action from there.
The “fuck buddy” scenario is a bit trickier, in some ways, because our hormones get involved and they are some powerful chemicals; especially for women. Once a woman is sexual with a man, and especially when there are orgasms, oxytocin bonding happens. Basically, biologically, you think you could be pregnant and for the cycle of about 28 days from each time you have an orgasm with him you will feel the need to be in as much connection as possible with the man who may be the father to your potential child. You can no longer be logical about who he is, who you are, and your potential relationship together. You are to hooked in to pretzeling yourself into who you think he wants, so that he will protect you and your theoretical children. You will not really act like yourself anymore and you are more likely to ignore how you truly feel about things. I think the trick here is, keep the chemicals out of it. That means if you want more than a sexual relationship with someone, do not go beyond kissing them right away.
If romance and partnership are your goals, start with dating, and be deliberate. Being deliberate means be very clear and direct. If you have said you are looking to date and he asks you to “hang-out” ask him what that means. Make sure to establish that you are spending time together to see if you have romantic, long-term, potential. Do not “just hang-out as friends, and see where things go.” There is nothing wrong with going on dates with someone, to see where things go and the intention for a romantic relationship is much more clear.
I am not saying never sleep with them. I am just suggesting that you give some time for romance to develop before you do, how much time that should be is a personal thing you will have to decide for yourself. (Although I am more than happy to make suggestions :p. It just depends on what it is you are wanting at the moment.)
What should I do about gifts I’ve received from an ex, especially one I’m no longer on good terms with? Should I still wear jewelry/clothes/etc. When I might come across them?
The first thing I like to do with emotionally charged gifts is get some space from them. I recommend putting them in a bag or box and then off into a closet or drawer. Give it at least a couple weeks, but a month would be better. Once you have some distance from the break-up and more perspective bring out the bag or box; it’s time to sort.
First, put aside anything that still has a really big emotional charge for you, like that special surprise anniversary gift. We will come back to those. Now when you are looking at what’s left, things should be a bit clearer. Those items you just love, and are glad to see again, I say keep and wear them. They were given to you to enjoy; why not honor the good times you had with that person by acknowledging that you still like the items.
You will also probably see some things that you liked at the time, because of who gave them to you, but just aren’t really things that fit who you are. If you can, give them away, donate them or re-gift them. If you just aren’t ready to banish them from your life, that’s ok, put them back in the box and re-evaluate them after some more time.
Now for those really triggering items ask yourself what will serve you the most? Do you need to get rid of it to have a symbolic separation from the person/relationship? Would you feel better keeping it to honor that phase in your life, and just put it away with other things from other times? Take a deep breath, look at each item separately, and remember that what you decide is right for you in the moment.
If you are worried about an ex seeing you wearing a gift they gave you, don’t . I know that if I saw an ex wearing a gift I gave them I would feel a pang of sadness, but then I would be happy that they still enjoyed it. I would feel like they weren’t just throwing away our time together even though it may not have gone as planned. Honor the good that you had, and the things that you learned, but remember that staying true to what feels right for you is the most important thing.