People who come to my office for help are in love and in pain. I’m a behavior therapist, and I help stop the pain so you can escape from a nonproductive dream world of unreturned love. So you can love again and be loved.
I first began developing this particular program in response to Laurel, whose partner had suddenly left without warning or explanation the day before their wedding. Laurel and her fiancé were graduate students at Princeton. They shared courses, friends and vacations and they planned to be married the day after graduation and go on to be field anthropologists. The day before graduation, Laurel’s fiancé left (for his parents’ home in Nebraska, Laurel learned later) without a word of explanation. The more she thought about what had happened and why, the more she became obsessed and depressed. After two weeks she still couldn’t bring herself to apply for grants or a job. She felt isolated and felt it must be all her fault. She was so depressed she seldom left the apartment she had shared with her fiancé.
A couple of years ago, while I was clicking through Amazon’s books, I had a hunch. I clicked again and to my amazement, there it was. I was stunned. I’d written “How to Fall Out of Love” over thirty years ago. At the time it caused quite a stir. I was on Oprah 4 times, the Today show twice, five pages in People magazine, and profiled in the New York Times. But all that was so long ago. And yet, there the book was (and is) still in print.
I hadn’t really forgotten about “How to Fall Out of Love”. I’ve treated hundreds of patients, in my practice in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris who were in love and suffering because their love wasn’t returned or because they were in a dead end relationship. When I saw “How to Fall Out of Love” was still in print, thirty years later with no advertising, or PR, I realized it must be because my systematic, step by step program still works.
Of course I knew it works because with many changes and improvements, I’m still seeing a virtually 100 % success rate healing my patients with broken hearts.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Yes, the world has changed in almost every way since those days before the Internet, smart phones, personal computers, satellite TV, those long ago days when he wore bell bottom trousers and she wore flowers in her hair. But one thing hasn’t changed: Human nature hasn’t changed at all.
Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to bring “How to Fall Out of Love” up to date.
Why do people who barely know each other have sex? A huge number of single adults assume that if they like each other, they’ll have sex on the first date.
And then they wonder why they feel empty and unhappy. If the sex was any good it was a miracle because great sex is all about affection, love, vulnerability, trust and communication. You can’t conjure those emotions and skills out of thin air. Especially not with a stranger. Your chances of getting it wrong are very high. Making love to Sally the way you made love to your former girlfriend Joan is like forcing Sally into Joan’s clothes. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and, well, all wrong. Sex with a stranger can hurt either one of you or both. One of you might feel waves of affection. While the other can’t wait to get away.
Great sex isn’t an accident and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s worth repeating: great sex is the result of the trust, affection, intimacy and confidence between two people who take the time it takes to know and love each other. Some people need more time than others. Of course there are exceptions, there are always exceptions. Sex and love may not be connected. But great sex and love are.
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!
The most common problems stem from believing the childish fairy tale that one day you will find your perfect, perfect person, the one who will be right for you in every way. It’s an impossibly high hope that always leads to disappointment and broken relationships. There is no perfect person for you. One person cannot fulfill all your needs and expectations. And it is an unfair burden to expect them to carry.
A definition of love as giving and sharing means that you do not exploit the other person. It’s so easy to make demands or be critical, but less easy when another person’s needs are as important to you as your own. To be sure, there are plenty of people in love who play destructive or manipulative roles. But that’s not helpful to either partner. And usually we see one person being exploited, diminished and even damaged.
The best of love is a total acceptance of another person; an acceptance of weaknesses, mistakes and vulnerabilities along with the goodness and strengths. Accepting and being accepted means that you are free to be yourself in a relationship. You don’t have to play a role or feel you have to change yourself or your partner into someone slightly different.
So…..Love: If it hurts, it’s not worth it.
What do you feel? True or not true?