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  • feedwordpress 10:00:32 on 2017/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , family, , man, , , , Relationship dynamics,   

    What Does it Mean to be a Man? 

    “I had to quit my job because of a health issue, and now I’m home taking care of our kids. My wife has become the breadwinner. I know I should be happy that we could make it all work, but I feel like a loser.” – Zach, San Francisco, California

    Zach’s dilemma is the dichotomy of the modern male; emotionally evolved and willing able to care give, but pulled toward gender norms ingrained in us all.

    The construction of gender identity for men is more fragile than for women. In many cultures, one is born a woman — and one becomes a man. Chip Brown explores wide-ranging rites of passage into manhood from around the world in this National Geographic article.

    Often, masculinity is defined as the disavowal of the feminine inside of us. This is complicated for both women and men as we redefine modern gender roles.

    Zach, I have worked with many men in your position — lead dads shunned by moms on the playground. Men who feel inadequate because they’re not financially providing for their family (even though they are raising children). For some, pent up frustration even causes angry lash-outs at their children.

    While you cannot control what happened to your health, you can control the outcome. To paraphrase Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning, you cannot always control the conditions you find yourself in, but you have the freedom to choose your reaction to them.

    You need to feel worthy, useful and socially connected. Seek out other men who are parenting. Look into the possibility of part-time work. Speak to your partner about how you’re feeling, so you can help one another find a balance. When you’re in the eye of the storm, it seems impossible to find a way out. But know that you are not the first to encounter the shifting sands of gender. As you wrestle with this new world, know that you are not alone.

    How do gender roles play out in your household? Let me know in the comments below.

    The post What Does it Mean to be a Man? appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:48:30 on 2017/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , lack of desire, man, , , , performance, performance anxiety,   

    A Man’s Secret: Performance Anxiety 

    “When I’m not interested in sex, it makes me feel like I’m not a man. In fact, my wife wants it more than me so I came up with the excuse of chronic back pain. I think it’s easier for her to accept. What’s wrong with me?” – David, Clifton, New Jersey

    As we talk about the modern man this month, David’s question strikes me as particularly apropos given the pressures on the man. Let’s start by debunking some of our most dear assumptions about men.

    Men are under pressure in life, and in the bedroom, to be untiring, masterful and dominant. It’s assumed men are always up for sex and women’s interest is much less, and subjective. It’s time we stop this oversimplification of men.

    For many men, identity and self-esteem are bound up with sexuality. This explains why David is more likely to feel ashamed when he has no desire.

    Throughout the month we will talk about the stereotypes surrounding masculinity and the shifting roles of men. But to start, here are some tips that that I hope will help David and many men out there.

    Bring your Partner into the Conversation

    David, your wife might buy your story about back pain but underneath she is wondering about her lack of desirability. It’s time to talk with your wife. Maybe you are exhausted at the end of each day and find it hard to shift gears. Or you have worries about your performance. Perhaps you are afraid you don’t turn her on. Something is turning you off.

    Whatever it is, open the conversation, without blame or defensiveness and reveal how you feel and start talking about what turns you on and what blocks you. My post on Role Play and Fantasy can help to open up conversations about sex.

    Check your Mood

    Here is a radical revelation: men and women feel the same way about sex. If a person is anxious, depressed, distracted or feels unattractive, regardless of their gender, they are less likely to be turned on. So check your mood. David may find the answer lies there. And as I often say, sex in a long-relationship is something you have to plan for. This may help to shift the pressure of you alone and help you find playful ways to alter your mood.

    Stop Thinking about Sex

    I would advise David to put himself more into his body and do less ruminating, which takes us out of the experience of pleasure. Forget about “the act” and think about simple starting points to give the other person pleasure, like a shoulder rub. Stop worrying about whether you’re turned on in the moment. And find ways (dancing, exercise, and other physical hobbies that fulfill you) that let you fully inhabit your body.

    What pressures do you feel as a man to perform? Let me know in the comments below. And look out for next week’s post on Masculinity and Assertiveness vs. Aggression.

    The post A Man’s Secret: Performance Anxiety appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:31 on 2017/06/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , imagination, man, 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.

     
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