THE CROCK-POT MARRIAGE: TASTY LOVE IS SLOW-COOKED

crock pot

“You Can’t Hurry Love” sang The Supremes in their 1966 hit, covered in 1982 by Phil Collins and in 1999 by the Dixie Chicks.  Love that’s instant is often short-lived, more lust than length.  To await the outcome of something not ready in a jiffy is the practice of relationship . . . love at its most tasty.  While many of us search out the searing heat of newness, turns out successful love is cooked in a crock-pot. 

That familiarity breeds attraction has been a theme celebrated for at least a century, from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion as inspiration for the Broadway hit musical My Fair Lady to Oscar-nominated Bridget Jones’ Diary.  Guys might not worry about big girl panties, but it’s not just plus-size gals who love the possibility that love conquers looks. 

Despite what mom said about a good personality and a great smile, it seems the pretty ones have a shapely leg up when it comes to finding a likewise gorgeous mate; in evolutionary terms it’s called “high mate value”.  Notwithstanding friends with benefits, turns out mate value increases the longer people spend time together before dating.  In other words, the more you get to know someone, the more attractive you find them. 

Turns out mom was right.  

It stands to reason that the perception of mate value might also increase once people are permanently paired, irrespective of the amount of time spent getting to know each other in a non-romantic way. 

Several factors may be key:

Realistic expectations might mean having few, if any, expectations at all.  Of course that means that long-term togetherness is best viewed as a box of chocolates; understanding that the twists, turns, and adventures of even one life are unpredictable that double goes for any couple.  Shared values can feed into the predictability that increases the more that’s known about each other.  An acquaintance’s behavior doesn’t carry the same weight as that of someone we’ve committed to, probably because the expectation of a friend’s behavior doesn’t matter as much even though the behaviors might be the same.  For example, when a friend gets drunk it may be humorous; when a mate does, not so much.

No one has a plan for change, even though change is on the short list of life’s certainties.  The story of the spouse who left when the other developed cancer is apocryphal but is only a segment of our fear that when we’ve grown older, rounder, or more wrinkled our mate value is lost.  But the more you know someone, really know someone, the less likely change is upending.  True as well is that knowing and planning require learning and practicing.  Despite a feeling of instant connection, relationship is, well, work.  Just when a couple feels the hard part’s behind them, then whammo change happens again; it’s not so much planning for particular changes (as if that were even possible) it’s having the ability to have a plan for change in general.  As difficult as it might be to achieve, couples who can reach consensus about a plan of action are couples who are successful at riding out change together. 

Communication is about more than talking and listening.  Communication that works is an active process that builds on itself over time.  Attentiveness, thought, understanding, and active involvement are marks of partners who continue to know each other.  Think of friends you’ve had, male or female, to whom you felt comfortable talking about anything.  Expectation, judgment, and vulnerability seem to increase with romantic closeness when the truth is that you may already have trusted a friend with lots of the same things.  The effort each of us puts into “communicating” seem inversely proportional to time:  listening and talking to new mates is more intense than listening and talking to new friends; while the same behaviors are more intense with older friendships than with long-standing mates.

Each partner’s vulnerability to the other is possibly the most telling feature of mates’ mutual value.  Belief in the relationship incorporates the needs for trust and safety we all have.  With vulnerability (and the acceptance of it) there are no surprises, no hidden agendas, and not much left unsaid.  Respect is a key element of mutual vulnerability; knowing that your partner – or your friend — will not seek to harm you intentionally.  Both have a serious effect on self-esteem and our beliefs about our place in the future of others.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice who specializes working with couples.  Cooking with a crock-pot every chance they get, she and husband David have been married for 29 years. Together with their 2 hooligan cats, the Skinners live in Colorado where they teach Couple Communication Workshops.

Copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

A FATHER’S DAY FANTASY

hefner and twinsFantasy’s a powerful thing.  It fuels the head trip of desire and compels the illusion of feeling good, even when there are no hands on.   Multi-billion dollar industries – from publishing to prostitution to porn – start here first.   

But how does the brain distinguish between what’s real and what’s imagined?   Scientists’ hypotheses point to the involvement of different areas of the brain and the multi-directional processing among them.  

Sexual fantasies are a solo adventure usually leading to release through orgasm.  For some the mind’s eye is enough to induce a significant physical event like orgasm.  Actual visual stimulation is so powerful that doctors’ offices getting sperm samples provide men with sexually explicit magazines as a way for patients to get it up and over with.   Humans are not alone:  Species that are down the evolutionary ladder from us also purposely seek out ways to feel good “down there”.  Elephants rub, monkeys twiddle away the hours masturbating, and male dogs lust after people’s legs.

Sometimes fantasy goes wild and boundaries are blurred, creating a new “reality”.  One example is the substitution of social bonds created by in-person interaction with texting, sexting, and hook-up sites.  We’ve always looked for love in the wrong places but it’s easier now; you don’t have to take a shower to “chat”.  Carried to extreme, fantasy never becomes reality:  the lure of being anyone you choose, often without consequence, is a strong inducement to stay impersonal.

It’s long been known that our brains are hardwired for pleasure, with specific neural pathways acting as highways.  As with anything pleasurable, the possibility of overindulgence, abuse, is possible.  While most brains have stopping, or surfeit, mechanisms, other brains are glitched to go wild.  Especially worrisome is the effect on young brains of unrelenting and ever-more-present societal messages about sex.  Young brains are not yet equipped with that Jiminy-Cricket-battle between the super-ego and the id; with this age group (and for some adults), the id wins almost every time.  Understandably there is concern for young people among parents, educators, and the mental health community.

The mental health and medical communities are concerned about the rise within the broader population of sexually identified mental health diagnoses as well as the rise in sexually transmitted disease.  It’s no longer unusual to know someone with herpes; it’s even been authoritatively predicted that in ten years over half of women and 40% of men will have contracted genital herpes.

Fantasy enables our addiction to the belief that if we can imagine it, we can make it real.  It sounds snappy when Sony says it, but those are dangerous words.  Not only because that’s not always true, but because it shouldn’t always be true..  Powerful as it is, sexual fantasy is just that.  Many of us are still hanging with Freud rather than updating our belief that it’s abnormal not to fantasize when bringing about orgasm. 

In praise of sexual fantasy: 

  • Leads to sexual activity, conjoint or solo, and that’s a good thing;

  • By inducing orgasm the body rids itself of stale sperm, an evolutionary advantage;

  • Orgasm reduces blood pressure, aids sleep, counts as exercise, lowers heart attack risk, lessens pain;

  • Can infuse a dulled relationship with newness;

  • Takes us on a journey we probably otherwise wouldn’t be capable of;

  • Stimulates creative thinking;

  • Enables us to practice social skills;

  • Offers an escape from criticism that may induce self-consciousness or an inability to function sexually;

  • Makes us feel good about ourselves, powerful, potent, and desirable;

  • Enhances relationship;

  • Mostly, sexual fantasy Is fun.

Sex is the adult version of play and fantasy is our way of looking forward to playing.  As thinking beings we need fantasy, daydreaming, and imagination as a pathway to our best self.  Fantasy is a pleasure in itself. 

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist whose private practice focuses on couples, especially those whose relationship is impacted by visible or invisible disability or illness for whom sexuality is often a significant issue.  It’s probable that childhood exposure to an overly enthusiastic dog is the reason she’s a cat person.  Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  With their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, she and her husband David live in Colorado Springs where she maintains a private practice and where she and David co-instruct Couple Communication Workshops.  

Copyright 2015, Being Heard, LLC

HOW CAN PARALYZED BE PRETTY?

Photograph of Rachel and her husband Chris on their wedding day.

Photograph of Rachel and her husband Chris on their wedding day. Photo credit: Martha Manning Photography

I blog for the government’s disability website, Disability.gov   If you haven’t visited, do so; it’s cool, comfy, and inspiring.  At a recent look-see, I plopped into a story about Rachelle Friedman, written by the person who knows her best — herself.

You might remember her story.  Last year, at Rachelle’s bachelorette party, a friend’s playful gesture resulted in a spinal cord injury when Rachelle was pushed into the swimming pool.

The wedding was as sweet as weddings always are; maybe even bittersweet. By necessity, the wedding was delayed until Rachelle was recovered enough physically.  Because of the weight she lost, Rachelle’s wedding dress fit differently.  And the couple’s first dance brought the guests to tears.

At her age, Rachelle has had to face, career-wise, what is usually faced much later in life.  Changing careers is generally a choice, but not for her.   As a Program Coordinator, Rachelle planned and taught classes like line dancing and aerobics to seniors.  She calls herself an “unreliable employee” now, one who can’t be counted on as a 9-5 employee because of low blood pressure and nerve pain.Re-focusing, this young woman looks to doing more speaking.

Unsure of a definite direction, this young woman wants to make a career out of public speaking, maybe relationship coaching (which is how we got acquainted.)  Not surprisingly, judging from her first career choice, Rachelle’s into helping others.   She still wants to be inspiring and educating to others.

What happened to Chris and Rachelle is one of those “out of time” things; being disabled young is like a long prison sentence — no choice but to serve it out.  Besides the emotional disruption, the financial cost been significant, too. Being disabled isn’t cheap, and earning potential all but disappears.

So much of this couple’s future can’t be imagined, and is one that certainly wasn’t planned.  While they don’t yet know it, this couple’s future will be different in another way, too:  the love and compassion they have for each other now will be small in comparison to what it will one day be.

Next time, I talk with Rachelle about  marriage, sex, and the fishbowl of being a disabled hero.

Visit Rachelle at www.facebook.com/rachelleandchris and on Twitter at @followrachelle.  Watch for her book next year!

Kathe Skinner is a Relationship Coach, Certified Relationship Expert and Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado where she conducts k-cropped-4x6communication workshops for couples, pre-married’s, the invisibly disabled, and the over 50 crowd.  Kathe enjoys collaborating with other professionals in order to reach more relationships affected by hidden disability.  She sits on the Executive Board of the Invisible Disabilities Association, is a regular contributor to Disability.gov., and is an ardent-and-natural-teacher-without-a-classroom.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 30 years.  More about Kathe at www.BeingHeardNow.com.