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  • feedwordpress 19:00:24 on 2017/06/30 Permalink
    Tags: aggression, aggressive, androgynous, assertive, , communication, , feminine, , , , , , roles   

    A Man’s Dilemma: Assertiveness vs. Aggression 

    “How do I assert myself as a man without coming across as too forceful?” – Carl, Washington DC

    In evolutionary terms, men had to be decisive and fearless because they were hunters. Aggression was key to masculinity. Men were expected to protect themselves from others who attempted to put them down or push them around. However, in our western urbanized lives, masculinity is being redefined.

    Breaking down Carl’s question, I think what he is asking is: how can I be assertive without being aggressive?

    Asserting yourself without aggression is particularly key in a relationship. Frequently men worry about how to listen to the smart, accomplished women in their life without feeling like they’re being walked over or they’re not holding their ground.

    I would like to tell you, Carl, that the ground is moving constantly when it comes to modern masculinity. The good news is that you have opportunities to be a man in ways that are more expansive than your father and grandfather. You have the opportunity for self expression, emotional openness and self reflection that would have been considered “weak” and “feminine” in the past.

    Of course, weakness has long been seen as the repudiation of the masculine. Manhood has traditionally been predicated on a sense of autonomy, on self reliance and not depending on others. But to negotiate with another person, without defaulting to an aggressive stance, you have to be willing to NOT know the answer.

    So instead of using aggression to get what he wants, how does Carl assert himself? How can Carl express confidence that isn’t arrogance? Firstly, let’s define our terms.

    What is Assertiveness?

    Assertiveness is confidence. It is knowing what you want. But it is also a dialogue that allows for input from the other person. Assertiveness is power.

    What is Aggression?

    Aggression is power in order to protect myself. It creates an unyielding barrier between myself and the other person. It is a battle, which must be won.

    So… What Now?

    The answer is not either/or. I encourage Carl to allow himself to be influenced while maintaining groundedness, connected to others without losing himself. In psychological speak, we call this a healthy sense of differentiation.

    Also, rid yourself of the burden that you have to know everything to be a leader. Asserting yourself with confidence will come from being open to others.

    Carl, engage in a conversation. A conversation that allows for negotiation and doesn’t need to end with winning. Battle is about dominance. Make a decision where two people are heard and recognized. You’d be surprised how much power dialogue allows.

    How have you found ways to assert yourself as a man and allow for other’s input? I would love to hear your thoughts. 

    The post A Man’s Dilemma: Assertiveness vs. Aggression appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:31 on 2017/06/02 Permalink
    Tags: , communication, , , , imagination, , pleasure, , sexual fantasy, shame, woman   

    When Their Turn On Is Your Turn Off 

    “My husband and I started talking about our sexual fantasies the other day and I was shocked and disgusted. What do I do now?” – Stephanie, Milwaukee, MI

    Stephanie’s question resonates with many couples because very frequently one person’s turn on is what turns the other off.

    One of the great mysteries of fantasy is that we don’t know why certain things are a turn off and others are the opposite. We don’t understand the preferences of others or ourselves. Sure, we can examine the biography of a person but fundamentally we are in the dark.

    So let’s say you want to know what your partner’s fantasies are, like Stephanie. But what if they leave you feeling inadequate, disgusted or just plain turned off? Here are some things to consider and try out as you open up the fantasy conversation:

    Fantasy is not reality

    Children may play-act that they are in jail. But if they were in jail, they wouldn’t be playing as a prisoner. The first thing that I would say to Stephanie is that fantasy is play, it is not reality, and it is not what her husband wants in the cold hard light of day.

    Stephanie may also be asking why her husband has these fantasies? My colleague Michael Bader aptly said that a good fantasy states the problem and offers the solution. In other words, whatever cultural obstacles or prohibitions you encounter in life, you are allowed in the realm of your imagination.

    The imagination, of course, is not always politically correct. For instance, a rape fantasy is just that: a fantasy of forced seduction. In a rape-fantasy you never experience the dread that accompanies violence, instead you are subverting the idea and transforming the meaning of that experience into a source of pleasure and excitement.

    Don’t play to the shame game

    Stephanie has asked her husband what his private turn on is. And in turn, he has invited her into his secret garden. If she is openly disgusted, she is effectively slamming the gate and running off into the wilderness. By closing off the conversation or reacting with disgust, we induce shame and guilt in the other.

    The erotic mind is very sensitive to censorship and it knows when it needs to go into hiding. Stephanie’s husband may promise never to have these thoughts or voice them again but you can’t eradicate someone’s preferences because you don’t like them.

    So, if your partner reveals himself or herself to you, don’t shut them down. By shutting down the conversation, you are in effect saying: “I want you open up but only on my terms”. Which becomes a power dynamic that is far removed from the inner erotic sanctum.

    Be why-curious

    I have a friend who doesn’t understand why people like to eat pickled octopus. Like taste, fantasy can induce the ick factor for others. But instead of turning away with revulsion, and worrying about the implications of a partner’s fantasy, I encourage Stephanie to remain curious.

    Stephanie can reopen the conversation and ask her husband: what is it about it your fantasy that is pleasurable? Is it that you get to be passive? Ruthless? Give over power? By remaining curious and open, we are asking the other: who are you? We don’t have to understand them, we can simply find out more about who they are which creates space, acceptance and room for play.

    Try something new

    A woman once told me her partner’s fantasy of being seduced in a clothes’ store change room by the attendant. His fantasy made her feel inadequate and cuckolded: why did he have to imagine another woman? But when they tried playing out the fantasy at home, with her playing the attendant, she found that there was pleasure to be had in playing out fantasy. She could bring her own imagination to it so that they both owned the game. Taste, like our palette as we grow from children to adults, can evolve and change. Be open to trying new flavors, you may find something you like.

    Are you ready to get to know your partner? Let me know what you find out and how these conversations change your relationships. I’d love to read your comments below.

    The post When Their Turn On Is Your Turn Off appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:23:44 on 2017/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: Audible, , communication, , iTunes, , , Where Should We Begin   

    My New Podcast: Where Should We Begin? 

    It’s been an exciting week. I am very proud to announce the launch of my original audio series, Where Should We Begin?.  A co-production with Audible Originals, the series is perhaps my most creative project to date.

    Too often couples live like isolated islands.

    We think what we’re experiencing in our own relationship is unique to us, and we don’t know that our neighbors and friends are experiencing the same longings, laments, deprivations, and disillusionments in their own lives.

    There is no school for relationships — no place for us to learn the tools for rebuilding and repair, to learn to straddle the many contradictions that roil in all of us. Where Should We Begin? is a way for me to create meaningful, deep, and open conversations.

    As you listen to these intimate, unscripted sessions between real-life couples, I think you will find the language you’ve been looking for to have conversations with the people in your own life.

    Listen to the entire series (with new episodes every Friday) for free through mid-July at audible.com/esther.

    On a personal note, I am incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support of our community. It takes a village. There are so many people behind the scenes helping to make this happen. We wanted to create this show to give people a language to understand themselves and their relationships, and it’s humbling to see people responding positively.

    The series is currently #4 on iTunes. You can read more about the behind the scenes of the series in this interview with Vogue. Or a clinical perspective on how listening to other couples’ sessions can help your own relationship on Psychology Today.

    For additional listening, enjoy my wide-ranging conversation with the one and only Tim Ferriss about sex, love, and commitment on The Tim Ferriss Show. And lastly, check out This American Life episode #617 where host Ira Glass listens to two people trying to break through what’s going wrong in their marriage.

    With gratitude,
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Esther

    LISTEN NOW

    The post My New Podcast: Where Should We Begin? appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:28 on 2017/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , communication, , Female, , Gender Expectations, Gender Norms, , , , Language, , , Understanding   

    Breaking Free from Gender Expectations 

    “Why does gender still play such a defining role in our society?” – Nicolas, Copenhagen, Denmark 

    One of the oldest origin stories in our culture lays the ground for our binary system of gender: Adam and Eve. The Old Testament set up this duality of man and woman. And old stories are deeply rooted in us.

    From the very moment a woman is pregnant, we ask: is it a boy or a girl? We create two categories with very little room for anything outside of these prescribed definitions.

    My colleague Jean Malpas who studies transgender children, and will speak about his work on the TED stage in May, explains that gender is one of the fundamental ways we humanize each other. By assigning gender we turn something abstract (a fetus) into a concrete concept that will accompany us throughout our entire life. Gender is story. The story that culture has bestowed upon us – a legacy that comes laden with expectations. Expectations of how a man and a woman must be, must think, must act.

    You and I know these stories well. For instance: men are described as rabid biological creatures always looking for a sexual outlet. But for women, it is expected that sexuality is more subjective, that desire is complicated and conditional. These are just a few of the narratives we have learnt. But if you look closely at yourself and the people you know, you will find these narratives are riddled with contradictions and that individuals are far more nuanced.

    So what happens if you don’t meet the cultural narrative of your gender? If you are a woman who doesn’t like clothes shopping, for instance, or don’t use “feminine” gestures. What if you are a man who hates sports? You may feel in conflict. You may feel deficient, insufficient and incomplete.

    So how do we approach gender today? One of the greatest challenges is that we have seen gender as being consistent with the body and the sex that we were assigned as a baby. But we are finally beginning to understand that gender is not an assignation, that biology is not destiny. Or as transgender man Sawyer DeVuyst aptly describes it: “Gender is who you go to bed as and sexuality is who you go to bed with.”

    As I talked about in my Language of Gender piece, the gender revolution has arrived. We have a whole new lexicon to choose from. And with it, freedom for self-expression. So, let’s turn the page and create a new story for ourselves.

    What stories about gender have you learnt that have accompanied you throughout life? In what ways have they shaped, helped or hindered you? I would love to know your thoughts. Please comment below.

    The post Breaking Free from Gender Expectations appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • nmw 10:31:28 on 2014/10/18 Permalink
    Tags: communication, , direct, , , , intelligence, , plain, real, speech   

    Emphasis on egalitarian and respectful sex — purged of any expressions of power, aggression, and transgression — is antithetical to erotic desire, for men and women alike 

    Ironically, some of America’s best features—the belief in democracy, equality, consensus-building, compromise, fairness, and mutual tolerance—can, when carried too punctiliously into the bedroom, result in very boring sex.

    http://www.estherperel.com/cultivating-erotic-intelligence-in-couples-therapy/

     
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