marriage issues

Bora Bora

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Rob picked the movie last night. He’s a big Vince Vaughn fan but we’d ended up taking Couples Retreat out of the library because Rob had gone searching for Jon Favreau films because the guy is responsible for IronMan. We’d watched IronMan 2 the other night – and it was time sucked from life that we’ll never recover, nevermind that Robert Downey Jr. plays narcissism like a Stradivarius. But, Couple’s Retreat. I think Vaughn is one-dimensional on his best day of acting but I’ll watch Jason Bateman in anything.

The premise of the film is that a group of friends travel to an exotic island to a resort that combines holiday and couple’s counseling. Bateman’s character and his wife, played by Kristen Bell, are on the verge of divorce after a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive and they need the others to come along on this last-ditch effort to save their marriage because the resort offers a reduced rate for groups.

Mostly, it’s not funny. All the couples are in various states of dysfunction or relationship neglect. How that is funny escapes me, but there was a tantric yoga scene that was hilarious.

Yoga can be … intimate. Even when it doesn’t mean to be.

Tantric yoga though – is trying hard to be … cozy.

Along with yoga, there is the prerequisite counseling sessions with a shady looking bunch of therapists, dubious skill building activities and painfully unfunny dialogue

Ultimately, however, there is a happy ending. All is well. Unsurprisingly it is when the couples simply talk to each other that they are able to work through the issues that threaten them. Talking? Who knew? Apparently, a lot of people or why would the idea of couple’s therapy be cliché enough to make a rom-com about it?

It’s progress that the most stereotypical unlucky in love single in the movie is a guy and not the proverbially desperate white female of a certain age (that age being shockingly young anymore). And again, the problem was a common one – not copping to what you want, need and just being who you are – because honestly, that should be good enough if someone really loves you.

And that’s where the happy ending was to be found in Couple’s Retreat. In being one’s self and not accepting another person’s crap for your personal layering. Lesson being this – it’s only when you understand who you are, what you need and that you will be okay if taking action to be and get causes upheaval in your life – it’s then that everything will be okay. And more likely, people will still love you.

Just saying.

Modified version of Image:Arnold Schwarznegger...

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver , the former Mr. and Mrs State of California, announced their separation the other day. News of the split splashed the web with typical “omg! how can a famous couple walk away from a marriage that doesn’t have to be measured in dog years to be an impressive run?”

They have a point. 25 years of marriage and 34 total (they dated 11 years* prior) is considered laudable anymore because in a society where most never make it to the altar at all, it bestows an air of powerful voodoo relationship magic on them that seems to elude the majority.

Maria has a YouTube stream – she was a reporter once and is a writer so its existence can be attributed to more than the usual narcissism that drives people to babble on personal YT channels. A recent entry asks her viewers to share how they deal with transitions. What spurred them? How did you cope? What do you wish you’d known going in? All the angsty good stuff.

Apparently what bothers her most is the end of busyness in her life. She isn’t a reporter anymore. Her kids are grown or nearly so and presumably able to function without her hovering over them. Her husband has left office, which effectively puts her out of a job too. And though he has projects in the offing, she does not.

Some of the news reports speculated that she is resentful. After all, she didn’t want Arnold to run for governor and it derailed her professional and personally when he did. She threw herself into her role of First Lady of Cali but that’s over now too.

Like her marriage.

I’ve been thinking about transitions. Why not? It feels sometimes like I have been swirling down river, bounced through the rapids or languidly floating for a good eight or nine years now. Never really getting to close to the banks and pushing off again when I do.

My personal life has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined and it pleases me to no end, but that “career” thing I am supposed to want desperately and apparently need in order to be personally fulfilled – according to my feminist sisters – dangles above me like the apples over Tantalus. Unlike him, I don’t reach up. I just lie on the tire tube and marvel at the shadows they cast.

One of the last comments on Maria’s stream reminded her that it’s perfectly okay to just “be”. A yogi, I suspect. Because it is okay to “be”. Be content. Be still. Be aware. Be grateful. Be with yourself. Be with those who matter most.

I wonder if it’s possible for some to just be happy with life as it is? Are we so programmed to search and conquer and begin the process again that we can’t dwell in the space we call “transition” without feeling guilty about it?

Taking a break from Care2 has reminded me that there are other options – neglected ones and those just occurring to me – to explore. Transition at its core is really about exploration. I don’t mind that. Research and planning have always been my strengths. Execution maybe not so much but when it counts, I stack up with the best.

My advice? Be. And be mindful. Don’t worry so much. Take it easy on yourself. Forget about perfection. Don’t fret if you fall short or the goal line shifts from time to time. They say that life is a race, but it isn’t. They say that what we do defines us, but it doesn’t. They say to follow your bliss and you will be successful, but that’s not true if your definition of success is grounded in the material or rooted in competition and comparison.

If you are lucky enough to even be able to ask yourself how to transition, you are in a far better place than 98% of the others on the planet.

* I am highly suspicious of marriage length daters. It speaks to issues and ambiguity.

Couple bridal bed Louvre Myr268

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And by “in bed” I mean “sex” and by “what happens” I am referring to the infamous “orgasm gap”.

You know, that gray area that exists between how often a man thinks his woman cums and often how she actually does.

Yeah, that.

Apparently, because life in the United States isn’t sufficiently bleak and terrifying enough yet, someone had the time and the cash to conduct an extensive survey of the sexual landscape of Americans. What emerged was that the time-worn notion that women fake it more than men realize still holds up quite well since the days of Harry and Sally.

The reason behind this is lack of communication. Couples simply can’t discuss sex as easily as they can engage in it.

Reasons vary, naturally, but one researcher suspects that it starts back in kindergarten when the genders typically segregate themselves during play and this natural preference for same gender friendships is reinforced by formal sexual education that takes place in all girl or all boy settings.

I don’t argue with the first premise. We do clan up as small children. The second theory though doesn’t hold a lot of water for me as a former educator because sex ed was taught through Home Ec or Family Consumer Sciences and classes were co-ed as far back as when I started teaching in 1987. That’s a lot of generations of kids who learned about vaginas, wet dreams, venereal disease and where babies come from in each other’s presence to make me scoff a bit.

However, I won’t dispute at all the idea that couples don’t talk. But I think that most couples don’t talk about anything of importance – sex, money, life’s goals, grievances – so the problem is more than just “he pokes; she fakes”.

I’m a bit perplexed by the faking aspect. I don’t recall it coming up in formal sex discussions in school (though with my teachers being nuns about the only thing that was discussed were “monthlies” and why good girls used pads instead of tampons).  But I can’t remember ever having a girl-fest gab where faking was on the topic agenda either. Though, truthfully, I haven’t had a frank sex discussion among female friends since my college days. We partner up, have babies and somehow fall into euphemisms. The last really in-depth convo was with my BFF as we shared notes on dealing with men of substantial size.

But returning to the art of “faking it”. Okay, Meg Ryan did it, but she’s a real actress and doesn’t just play one between the sheets. Is the average woman capable of such a feat?

Granted, men reach a point of total … um … focus?… at some point and the building could easily collapse about them and they wouldn’t be aware, but even the thickest (skulled that is) fellow has to realize when he’s being given the signal to “hurry up already because I am no longer feeling it”.

I have never faked it. Seriously. Never. If it’s just not going to happen, I say so. There’s no shame or fault. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. For me, it tends to coincide with certain times of the month. Hormone levels rise and fall depending on where women are at in their cycles. Exhaustion. Illness. Stress. All factors. For men too. What’s the big deal with being honest?

My favorite quote from the article on the survey, however, has to be this one:

For example, Reinisch explained, the reasons men might ask for oral sex aren’t just about the physical feeling.

“The penis has incredible meaning, way beyond that it feels good, in terms of the sense of self, goodness, lovability and being loved,” she said. But women can’t be blamed for not fully appreciating this. “If you talk to men as I have in my career, they don’t think about how much it means, they just know they like it a lot and protect it with their lives. But when it is honored by their partner it makes them feel better about their whole selves…It’s quite amazing. I don’t think women understand the power of honoring that little part.”

(Note to women: calling it “little” probably isn’t a good way to honor it.)

I am sure many women will feel differently about oral worship after reading this, don’t you think?

Joking aside though, it makes sense.  Men are very invested in their organs and if a woman’s sense of worth stems from the physical (weight, perceived attractiveness, etc) then wouldn’t men’s? Because it’s not like they worry about weight or perceived attractiveness – unless it has something to do with their hair.

Actually, I think that everything that makes women insecure pales in comparison to the worry and fears men have about their penises.

But everything leads back to the all important “communication”, does it not?

It’s not about sex ed classes being single-sex or co-ed. What we don’t teach our children to do is to speak up, ask questions, listen to answers without hysteria or judgement and participate in real give/take in terms of relationships.

Is it poor modeling? Lack of instruction? Or both.

Instruction on an age appropriate level is the current running theme for us with Dee now that her oldest sister has moved in with her beau.

We visited Edie and Silver recently for a tour of the happy new home. While Silver took Rob on the man’s tour – which means they talk renovation rather than storage, lighting, space and color schemes – Edie, Dee and I eventually found the kitchen and snacks. As we munched and chatted, Dee turned to her sister and asked,

“So where does Silver sleep?”

Blushing, giggling and stammering ensued while I munched raw veggies in interest.

Dee had already sprung this question on Rob and I, and I knew she knew perfectly well where her sister’s beau slept. Rascally thing has been angling for more information regarding the goings on between men and women for a while now and thought she saw an opportunity to pry withheld facts from Edie.

Knowing that Edie didn’t know how to proceed, I reminded Dee that we had already discussed this and that Silver slept with Edie, just like Mommy and Daddy slept together.

Which isn’t at all what she wanted to know but she’s just eight and has only an inkling of what it is she is seeking.

Edie looked grateful and the conversation moved on, but the topic is merely delayed until the whole pg/baby thing pops up. And though Rob prefers not to think about it, that’s not as far away as it used to be.

Cluelessness is learned, a bit, but it’s probably a form of shielding – from embarrassment or shining light on festering issues. It’s a way to control. There’s control in ignorance so long as you aren’t the one without the needed information.

Here’s what’s at issue with “faking it” as far as I am concerned: transparency. Hiding anything in relationships just cannot lead to good things.