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

    When Their Turn On Is Your Turn Off 

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    “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.

  • nmw 14:04:34 on 2017/04/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , divorce, , , relationship, , reliance, seduce, , ,   

    If we see Cuba as a representation of our essential human need for connection, it’s clear that loving and leaving someone still happens in person 

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    even though we live in a digitalized world where our screens are glued to our hands, human connection is all-powerful: at some essential level we still need to meet someone, to talk to them, to interact, especially in order to seduce them.


  • feedwordpress 22:34:52 on 2017/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: , Anger, Bickering, , Chronic Criticism, , , Happiness, , relationship, ,   

    Video: Stop Bickering. It’s Killing Your Relationship 

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    “We bicker all the time, she’s so critical of me and I don’t feel like I am doing anything right. What should I do?” – Anthony, Boston

    The artist Louise Bourgeois once described her tumultuous experience as a child at the dining table listening to her parents fight in this way: “To escape the bickering, I started modeling the soft bread with my fingers…. this was really my first sculpture.” And while conflict may have lead to great art for this artist, in most cases, it can be the constantly replaying soundtrack of a distressed relationship.

    Anthony’s question is powerful because it is so common.

    I think of bickering as low intensity chronic warfare. Ongoing criticism can lead to the demise of the relationship. And if we criticize as a way of asking to be loved, well then we will often produce precisely the opposite effect of what we seek: to be loved and to feel good about ourselves. If we spend much of our time feeling lousy, unloved, devalued, inadequate and inept, we are on the wrong side of the tracks. So what can we do to reset this negative pattern?

    Pay Attention to What’s Working

    When I went to school in Belgium, the teacher would mark our mistakes in red pen. Our mistakes were highlighted; our achievements rarely noted. When our relationship is in distress, we tend to overlook the good and overemphasize the bad.

    To counter this, try keeping a daily list of everything that your partner does that is positive, everything that you appreciate, everything that you can be thankful for. Do this for ten days in a row.

    Each note can be as simple as: “Made me a cup of tea” or “Locked door on way out”. Instead of elevating the annoying, elevate the minute details of your partner’s generosity and thoughtfulness.

    Focus on what is working. Pay attention.

    The ratio of appreciation is crucial to a good relationship. Take the log one step further and make a big deal every time the other person does something positive.

    This will kick you out of a defeating cycle of negativity. And will motivate your partner towards acts of kindness.

    Let Yourself Be Vulnerable

    What’s important to understand about criticism is that it sits on top of a mountain of disappointments of unmet needs and unfulfilled longings.

    Every criticism often holds a veiled wish. When your partner says to you, “You’re never around”, what they may actually mean is “I’m lonely, I miss you when you’re not here.”

    When Anthony’s partner tells him he never brings her along when he goes hiking, what she is also trying to tell him is “I wish we would go hiking together”.

    I recommend that Anthony and his partner both say what they want and not what the other did not do.  

    Often I suggest this to couples and they complain, “But I already did exactly that and I got nothing”. Try again.

    It is tempting to launch into anger instead of experiencing the vulnerability of putting yourself out there, asking for something and waiting for the possibility that you won’t get it.

    For many, anger is easier to express than hurt. Anger can feel like a confidence booster and an analgesic. Yet the more we communicate through anger, the more anger we get in return, creating a negative cycle of escalations.

    Reflect & Take Responsibility

    If you have ever done any breathing exercises, or yoga classes, you may have noticed that there is a space at the end of each inhale and exhale. A moment to pause. Similarly, economists and psychologists often encourage this moment of pause before making a large purchase.

    Instead of shifting into instantaneous blame, take a moment to shift from reaction to reflection.

    Why are you angry? What do you want? Instead of going for the jugular. Take responsibility for what you feel and state it.

    When couples come to therapy and they are in escalating cycles – things change when each person begins to take responsibility. This is true for both Anthony and his partner.  

    How do you experience chronic criticism in your relationship? I would love to hear your personal stories – feel free to leave a comment below. And next week we will take relationship conflict one step further and explore how confirmation bias can affect our partnerships.

    The post Video: Stop Bickering. It’s Killing Your Relationship appeared first on Esther Perel.

  • feedwordpress 08:00:02 on 2017/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: , Conflicts, , Fighting, Kitchen-Sinking, , Q&A, relationship, Relationship Conflicts,   

    Video: How to Avoid Kitchen-Sinking Fights 

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    “Every time we fight my husband and I keep bringing up all kinds of old, dirty laundry. How can we fight better” – Nora

    When my son was a boy, he once said to me, “Mom, if you’re upset with me, just tell me, you don’t have to list every single thing I ever did”. Out of the mouth of babes comes wisdom. His request perfectly addressed what I like to think of the Kitchen Sink approach to fighting.

    The well-worn journey to the Kitchen Sink usually starts with one dish, or in one criticism. And then leads to another dish being piled on top. It often starts with an innocuous complaint: he didn’t take out the trash, for example. It then continues on to the last time he did the same thing, how he doesn’t seem to notice that you’re sharing an apartment which is typical because his family is completely self-involved, to which he might reply that your family is self-involved and on and on it goes. Until you have both started piling up of grievances that have happened to you for the last five years.  

    One innocent dish has started the fight and a pile of dishes has been stacked on top of it. And when you pile up all the dishes, the situation has built into an impossible stack of grimy plates to tackle. When each issue is heaped on another, we find that we are unable to discuss anything in particular – the argument has no focus. The initial complaint has become a deluge and whatever irked us in the first place has become irrelevant. Not only does this pull us towards the past, over which we have no control, but also destroys trust. As Clifford Notarius and Howard Markman write in We Can Work It Out, “kitchen-sinking is an excellent foul-fighting ploy that can drag down a conversation in no time at all.”

    Living with someone is one of life’s great joys and challenges. As Alain de Botton points out, in none of the “19th-century novels about love does anyone ever do the laundry, does anyone ever pick up the crumbs from the kitchen table, does anyone ever clean the bathroom.” But these are the tasks we are faced with when we live with the one we love. So, we have chosen our partner in the war against household grime, now how can we stop repeating these patterns and fight better as a couple? I can’t promise you these tactics will always work but I do know that the Kitchen Sink approach will always fail you. What do you have to lose?

    Stick to the point at hand

    Let’s say you want your partner not to slop water on the bathroom floor when they shower. Instead of framing it as an accusation, you can ask for what you want. For example: “Would you mind drying the floor after you shower?” You might find, for once, that your desire is met. Instead of drilling down on this point and adding to it, stay with the first issue. Don’t pile on dirty dishes about the past, the future, your children and the laws of physics which prove it’s not your fault that water flies around bathrooms. Life at home, you may find, is less slippery when the floor is dry.

    Focus on behavior, not character

    Not taking out the trash or arriving home late are actions. They are not the proof of the kind of person your beloved is. Behavior describes something a person has done. Be careful you don’t confuse actions with the essence of who the person is as you will find yourself unraveling into an escalating barrage of accusations.

    Love the one you’re with… and let them know

    If you can convey to your partner that you like them, even though you don’t like the behavior they have enacted, then you are giving them something dignified to hold on to. And they can begin to take responsibility for their actions. For instance, “You look cute in a towel but I don’t like it when you splash water on the floor” is very different to “You always make a mess”. It may be hard to summon feelings of kindness when you are faced with someone else’s peccadillos but remembering that you like them will also have the effect of neutralizing or transforming the situation into one where humor, lightness and ease are possible.

    I would love to know what kind of kitchen-sinking conundrums you and your partner get into. Or how have you found a way out of conflict. Leave me a comment below. And next week we will delve further by exploring how we can go beyond bickering.

    The post Video: How to Avoid Kitchen-Sinking Fights appeared first on Esther Perel.

  • nmw 10:57:01 on 2017/03/01 Permalink
    Tags: choice, choices, choose, choosing, , , online, , , , relationship, ,   

    You may find glorious freedom on the other side of a decision 

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    It is easier to make a choice when you acknowledge that there isn’t just one person for you, nor is there just one relationship and one life we can lead. We simply pick one.


  • nmw 14:09:13 on 2016/07/05 Permalink
    Tags: , cheat. cheating. infidelity, , , , , relationship, ,   

    Happy Couples, Marriage + Infidelity 

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    We talk about:
    – Why do happy couples cheat?
    – The language of infidelity
    – How modern marriage is evolving
    – My definition of an affair


  • nmw 10:56:14 on 2015/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: , lust, relationship, ,   

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    Like Rachel, many women need to start by getting to know the guy, see if they like him, if they enjoy his company. That is quite different from gauging if you are attracted to someone or making sure that he is attracted to you. Discovering your similarity of interests and values, the sense that he is interested in you, the person and not as a means to an end – all of these are better predictors of qualities that lead to having a relationship.


  • feedwordpress 16:45:09 on 2015/03/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , relationship, ,   

    How Infrequent Sex Can Still be Good 

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    Does infrequent sex equal a failing relationship?

    No! Complainers sometimes want more, but they always want better. They want to reconnect with the poetics of sex. There is a real pressure to have sex in a measurable way. It used to be that you were ashamed because you had too much sex before marriage, now you are ashamed because you have too little, too much pressure. People will experience that desire ebbs and flows, but it’s important to focus on how to bring it back. How do you engage each other erotically? There are plenty of warm, affectionate relationships and if the sexlessness is mutually accepted, then there is no problem.

    So the quality is more important than the frequency?
    Yes, people want to feel alive. If there is a spark between you but it only happens every few weeks, that’s okay. The renewal, the connection, the playfulness is what most people are longing for.

    When do you know if you are in trouble?
    If it’s months, or when you say, “I’m living with my brother,” or, it’s like, “I’m married to my best friend who I’m not attracted to,” then the way you perceive your partner has become desexualized. When you feel this couple has become family and the desexualization is not about tiredness or stress. When the gaze is never on you. When you go for months and you never think of it except to hope your partner does not think of it either.

    Must both partners agree to the amount of sex?
    Yes – If both people are fine with the frequency of sex. What is the erotic connection between two people? If the passion is there, infrequency is only a problem when it becomes active avoidance. Desire discrepancy is often a problem, but it is not the difference between the partners as much as how it is deal with.

    The post How Infrequent Sex Can Still be Good appeared first on Esther Perel.

  • nmw 15:39:16 on 2014/04/24 Permalink
    Tags: , betray, betrayal, cheat, cheated, cheating, moral, morality, morals, , , partnership, partnerships, relationship, ,   

    “No” to the status quo 

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    I would like to invite you to imagine that sometimes you need betrayal to upset a wrong social system. We think sometimes that other forms of betrayal have the moral high ground. I have a lot of people who come to my office who think that they are the virtuous people because they haven’t cheated. They have just been neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting, but they haven’t cheated. But betrayal comes in many forms. Betrayal is a breach, the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence. While it is always involved in an affair, in most cases it isn’t the motive of the affair. An affair may be about completely different things but it implies betrayal. That is the context in which I’m looking at infidelity.


  • nmw 17:02:54 on 2014/03/22 Permalink
    Tags: , frustration, gratification, long term, long term relationship, relationship, , tease, teasing, term   

    What some women know about how to build up (more) desire 

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    Some women are very good at teasing — to wit:

    if you haven’t known frustration, it’s hard to know desire.


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