The more I thought about updating and revising “How to Fall Out of Love”, the more excited I got about the project. So many of my techniques have been vindicated by new discoveries in neuroscience. We know so much more about how the brain works now on a cell by cell level.
So now that phrase from the beginning of the book “if you can learn to unlearn what freedom” is backed up by the new science on how the brain works. You can’t wish for change to make it happen. You can’t just tell yourself to stop thinking about someone who you have been thinking about constantly for months or years. But you can unlearn. And that’s exactly what “How to Fall Out of Love” is, a step by step program to unlearn those obsessive thoughts about someone. And a way to think about them differently.
Sex without commitment is losing its appeal for both men and women. The idea of waking up with someone we don’t know or trust or would not even choose as a friend is far worse than having no partner at all. If women were ever lured by casual sex, it was our way of overcompensating for past repression, of breaking out the Victorian closet with the advent of the Pill. To be sexually unrestricted was considered Nirvana; it was our total declaration of independence. We could finally enjoy the privileges men had enjoyed all along, including the right to “sleep around”. But the emotional casualties of the new freedom were very high.
The reason: Early conditioning and deep-seated values cannot suddenly be erased by fool-proof contraception and adopting even the most liberated outward behavior; they can’t be easily overcome by progressive or radical social trends. The resulting conflicts experienced by many women in the throes of the sexual revolution manifested itself in a variety of ways. The failure to feel or respond, a sense of numbness, the inability to get aroused, and most frequently to have an orgasm were among the consequences. (Without romance, without intimacy, feelings are going to inevitably be dulled). But probably the most dramatic outcome was the appearance of performance anxiety. A perennial male problem, it began showing up in women in the late seventies. (I’ll go into that in tomorrow’s blog.)
Yes, women are more assertive, opening up areas that were closed to them. On the other hand, some women focus on orgasms, and emphasize performance as much as men do; and can miss out on the sweetness, intimacy, love, joy and pleasure of great sex.
And men, while they’ve been relieved of some of the male burden of always having to take the lead, are often confused. Their old macho role has been discredited. But they still focus on performance — rushing to bed and rushing to intercourse, as if that were the goal of making love. If they haven’t learned sensitivity and tenderness, men don’t know what’s expected of them in lovemaking. Sometimes a man is the target of a woman’s anger when what they both need is empathy. Sure roles are changing, and there’s more sex — but sexual communication between men and women is still stuck back in the 20th century.
What I see now is sex without intimacy, sex without pleasure: people trapped in destructive, repetitive habits, doing things they don’t want to do, uncertain and afraid to try the things they’d like to do — men needing to know more about the sexuality of women, women needing to know more about the sexuality of men.
What do you think? Is sex without commitment losing its appeal for both mean and women? Is the idea of waking up with someone we don’t know or trust or would not even choose as a friend far worse than having no partner at all? Send me a youtube link of your thoughts and I’ll feature it on this weeks blog!
This is where risk and reward become tangled together. Because being vulnerable means risking pain as well as love. You are more easily hurt by someone who knows where your soft spots are. So there is wisdom in going slowly, disclosing just one vulnerability at a time (“I feel shy with you,” “I need more time with you,” “I sort of fold up when I’m criticized”). See how the person reacts. If your vulnerabilities are met with advice, criticism, moralizing, or hostility, you will have lost a little, not a lot.
And you can stop.
But if each step of disclosing a vulnerability (“I’m not very brave,” “I am lonely for you”) is met with kindness and warmth (“I’m glad you told me that,” “I know what you mean,” “I want to be with you when you cry, not just when you’re happy”), you can venture another step. Incidentally, when someone tells you his or her problems, you don’t have to fix those problems for them. What you can do is listen and empathize.
Wait, wait, what about the making love part, you ask?
And I would answer all of your life with your partner is making love. That’s an ideal sure. But a better and happier and sexier one than trying to appear perfect.