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

    A Man’s Secret: Performance Anxiety 

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    “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 18:39:59 on 2017/04/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Emotional Intelligence, Relationship Dynamic, sexuality, Trip, Vacation, Work   

    Love in The Age of Cuba 

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    I have just returned from a trip to Cuba with my family. It was partly vacation and partly work. As Cuba reinvents itself after 60 years of socialism and teeters on a precipice about to plunge headlong into capitalism, I noticed some interesting contrasts between their culture and the US.

    I don’t want to sentimentalize the Castro regime and all that has happened in the past but much of what I saw spoke directly to my work with relationships.

    Here are a few observations about Cuba that we can learn from:

    Instant Gratification vs. Emotional Depth

    I live in New York City where the corner deli, Amazon Prime Now, Uber Eats, etc. can deliver every desire, at any hour of the day. The consumer culture of the West is intensely focused on immediate gratification, on achieving, on owning things.

    In our atomized and digitalized society, when we want something (or someone) it appears before us in an instant – often for purchase on a screen.

    But Cuban society has existed for over half a century without advertisements, internet connectivity, and without instant gratification, which has created an environment in which people develop sophisticated social and emotional intelligence.

    Cultivating Inner Joy

    When you watch Cubans move down the street, you can see they have cultivated what Chen Lizra eloquently describes as “sabrosura” – an inner joy. In the US we are constantly bombarded with ads while Cubans, on the other hand, were bombarded with indoctrination. No signs of Apple, Gap, or Pepsi, instead, endless slogans about the revolution, and pictures of Che and Fidel.

    It’s interesting to note that we think of the messages Cubans received as propaganda and our blinking billboards as the glorious free market. This lack of advertising in Cuba has changed the way people move and interact. Women in particular, in Cuba, have not had to measure themselves by exacting standards of beauty – so when they sashay down the street, it’s not the size of their backside that matters but their inner radiance.

    Human Connection is Powerful and Unavoidable

    I went to a party with over 300 people in Cuba – as we moved through the energetic crowd, the people around us were looking at each other, talking to each other, dancing with each other.

    My son and his friend who are in their 20s immediately turned to me and commented that – unlike their friends at a party – no one was tethered to their phones. It struck me that 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. And the fact that dating is not second job, but a game of intrigue, surprise, and playfulness – swiping has turned the intrigue of meeting people into bored shopping for humans.

    In Cuba, they are doing this the way we were 15 years ago – as they gather in the streets and stroll the malecón – and because of that they have more finely tuned social skills.

    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.

    Sexuality is Self-Expression

    In a totalitarian regime like Cuba, where historically the state controlled people’s lives, partners, sex and marriage have become major areas of individual expression and autonomy.

    That is why I found that discussions around sexual infidelity were far less taboo on the latin island.. Infidelity is one of the few areas of individual freedom; transgressing in this way is not controversial.

    Notably, Cuba also has one of the highest divorce rates in Latin America.  Why is that so? It’s simple to get married, and equally simple to divorce. In  a society where no one accrues wealth or owns property or things, it’s much easier to separate – there is no division of belongings.

    In a similar system, in the Soviet Union, women initiated 97% of divorces.

    In Cuba, marital relationships emphasize emotional fulfillment and there is barely any economic reliance. “If one is not met emotionally, why be married?” explained one of the local female psychologist. Without the need for another’s economic support, why stay and continue doing their dirty laundry?

    Have you travelled to Cuba? Or do you have thoughts about what relationships were like before social media and smartphones? I would love to hear your thoughts below.

    The post Love in The Age of Cuba appeared first on Esther Perel.

  • feedwordpress 20:00:07 on 2016/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: , Cross Cultural, , cutural, Differences, , ethnic tension, , religion, sexuality   

    How To Address Cross Cultural Differences 

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    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” – Ethics of the Father, Hillel

    Whomever you voted for, most likely, you were surprised by the results.

    This is a good moment to take stock. What does this election mean about me, and how do I connect to others?

    Working with broken relationships between people who are unable to relate to one another is central to my work as a couples therapist. I help them listen, acknowledge their respective experiences, and communicate across divides.

    We are experiencing a severe polarization. New conversations around the world are in dire need, and creating a safe space to dialogue is more important than ever.

    When faced with otherness, we can respond one of two ways: with fear or with curiosity. The “other” may refer to your partner, sibling, neighbor, or fellow citizen. Depending on how threatened you feel, your mind and body will either contract or expand.

    Many of you know me through my work on sexuality. What you may not know, is that before writing Mating in Captivity, the first 24 years of my career I was a cross-cultural psychologist, primarily focusing on race relationship, ethnic tensions, cultural and religious intermarriage, immigration and acculturation.

    For decades, I have worked with groups and couples to bridge divisiveness and conflict. In Montreal, I worked with teachers and students in public schools on the tensions between the Haitian students and the Quebecois. In Belgium, I led workshops on Jewish identity which brought together a spectrum of Jews from the ultra-Orthodox community and the secular community. In the US, I worked for a decade with rabbis, educators, donors and families helping the Jewish community to open it’s doors to interfaith couples.

    While we can not be knowledgeable about all cultures, we can learn how to approach those that are unfamiliar to us and understand their essential features. How can we all develop a more cultural way of thinking and increase our understanding of the multifaceted meanings of race, culture and religion?

    I think we can all start by asking ourselves these four questions:

    1.  What are the messages you received at home about “the other”? Were you encouraged to get to know them? Or were you taught to distrust or ignore them?
    2. Did you grow up in a neighborhood that was primarily racially, ethnically, economically, religiously homogenous? Or did you grow up in a mixed neighborhood, as you see it?
    3. Today, are you more likely to emphasize how others are similar to you, or how you may be different?
    4. What has been your experience when you’re in the minority, vs. when you’re in the majority?

    How do these questions make you feel? Are the answers what you expected? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. I ask you to be mindful of the varied views within our community, and I hope this is a productive and respectful space for us all.

    The post How To Address Cross Cultural Differences appeared first on Esther Perel.

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