October Update: New Series on the New Old Blog Edition

October 24, 2009

I’ll try to get to comments before posting this, but the most universal reaction was to Arwyn’s testimony, especially about her marrying me because she thought that is what God wanted her to do.

We have not discussed this, but perhaps we need to. But I’m not sure exactly what there is to discuss. While earlier in our relationship Arwyn did claim that she thought we were together because God intended it to be so, I was under the impression that there was also some underlying attraction toward me. But this seems to be a mistaken belief. Or if there was some sort of attraction, it was very tenuous, at best. Whatever attraction there was, it’s pretty safe to say that it was not a physical attraction. Lots of women have been attracted to me for my mind, my morals, or my sense of humor. But my looks? My body? Not too many, although there seemed to be a few who enjoyed me. At least I have those memories and I have no regrets about them. Being wanted just for my body might get old after awhile, but being stuck in a state of body-lessness gets old in a hurry too. I’m glad I have had times when I could share physical enjoyment for the joy of it instead of for some other agenda. For most of the life of this blog, that agenda was basically her doing me because she wanted me off her back or because was feeling guilty. Either way, not a lot of room for enjoyment there.

As for me, I was trying to get what I thought I had coming, or deserved or just trying to satisfy the proverbial itch. Not a ton of room for enjoyment there, either, as I was always left wondering how long it would be until we would have sex again. Counting and keeping score were all symptoms of that mindset. How long could a body play that game until they drove themselves nuts?
So the result is, is that my sex drive has decreased markedly over the past year. I don’t want to have sex with someone who would rather clean the cat litter box than be naked with me. That’s not to say it has disappeared altogether, but it’s a lot easier to scratch my own itch rather than bother with someone who is so reluctant to do it for me. If it’s that much of a chore, I’m not going to bother.

So I found another outlet, and have been blogging it, but not publishing it. I was wondering where and how, and now I know. Sensual Dementia rides again! Warning: it won’t be safe for work. Bad news for a lot of you, but my long suffering fans of kink are about to hit the jackpot.

20 Ways to Marriage Improvement and a Better Sex Life

April 15, 2009

My postings become ever so scarce, mostly because there has been no real movement. Well, not much. And none in the right direction.

Arwyn has effectively learned how to game the whole counseling business and keep the topics in safe territory. As an avoider, sometimes this suits me emotionally but not so much in reality. And the larger question of just how committed Arwyn is to any meaningful degree of intimacy remains to be seen. She does like to talk about selected topics, and sometimes I’m perfectly keen to engage her in these conversations about what to do for a vacation or fixing the house or about the kids. But there has been no real physical affection the last few weeks to speak of. The thing is that she seems perfectly fine with that.

We did go out of town for a few days (with the kids) and that was a trip that had fun moments but was bereft of any affection. And the few times I tried to just reach out to her were met by simple indifference or moving away. Last night, I had finally just had it. We went to bed at 9:30 (way early for me and about right for her) and I did want to just cuddle and snuggle. And yes, I would have liked some sexual intimacy with that, but I was simply starving for some real reciprocal physical touching. She was having none of it. She was in her typical inverted position and I actually inverted so we were both in the same direction although not in the same plane when it comes to covers of blankets. She complained that her back was hurting and mine has been bugging me for the past week as well. Part of my problem is the lack of physical comfort, which I need to find a way to deal or cope with. But she gradually got more irritated with me being so close to her and my breathing. I finally suggested that maybe we needed to get new beds…one for each of us. she asked me what I was talking about and I suggested that that is the way we were practically sleeping anyway. She took some offense and pointed out several times in the last two weeks when I was tired or not feeling well. As if she was keen to have sex on those days or had any intentions or inclination toward any physical affection then.

I relented and got back in my own position in the bed under the proper plane of covers. She said she was just too tired and I said that was fine. “However, you need to understand that just because I’m not pawing you all the time that does NOT mean I am okay with involuntary celibacy.”

“That’s fine.” she responded.

“That’s the problem; you’re too fine with it.”

And that is where it ended.

shit. I feel like I have bloodied myself over and over against the same brick wall. What I said last joint counseling session is more true than ever and is also a reason for my lack of blogging. I feel spent. I’m tired and tapped out. I simply don’t have the energy to keep rolling that big boulder up the hill just to have it roll right back down again.

Sure we had fun with the kids last week. But I could have probably had more fun with the kids without Arwyn’s whining and fussiness and paranoia. I could have been with my sister, a nanny or Arwyn’s mother. Yeah, these are good times just being with someone I care about. But we are essentially strangers to each other and that seems to be the way Arwyn prefers it. THAT is a very bitter pill to swallow.

Let’s see if I can list the interventions attempted in order to improve our marriage or deal with the lack of intimacy in no particular order. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in these if I were you, considering they haven’t done much for me so far.

  1. Dr. Phil’s Relationship Rescue: she bought this one for herself but never did it. But I did and did all the stuff without the benefit of the workbook. She never touched it. When I got to the part where I had to interact with her, she said she wanted to wait until she had a chance to go through it herself. And that’s where that ended.
  2. Praying together: I bought several books on this and Arwyn looked them. But this lasted less than 2 weeks because Arwyn couldn’t decide on a good time to do it.
  3. Date night: tried this several times with several permutations with the latest being a “media free night.” Some okay talking and even some decent sex happened on occasion but it was never a consistent thing. something else always pre-empted our night.
  4. Real dates: A local church used to offer respites once a month that we did at times. But they were for 4 hours and took place at odd times like 10-2 or 2-6 0r 9-1 and sometimes 5-9. The ticking clock really got in the way of feeling relaxed. But our youngest was conceived during one of those respite times. But neither of us were really into the inconsistency of this program.
  5. A raft of self-help and relationship books as well as a ton of research into various peer-reviewed journals. Many of these were good, but I was the only one reading them. It gave me dandy insights that I could share…
  6. iVillage Clashing Libidos/Mismatched Libidos or whatever it might be called now. It can be a really nice support group and it can also be a snake pit. iVillage had some really screwy terms of service as far as what was considered appropriate or not and I was forever testing limits. I probably called some stupid people stupid and got fire for it more than once. Which led to…
  7. Blogging. Here we are! My own space so I can write my own stuff and interact with whoever I want, whenever I want. Or not. All without censorship. I made some nice virtual friends and for awhile this was the place to be for relationship issues. Some of this has helped keep me moving things along through it being a sort of accountability/support group. Maybe my lack of energy is caused by less blogging on it as much as it is a result of it. Reading other folks has been a source of good ideas and inspiration at times.
  8. Chastity play. That was a major theme of this blog and the archives still bring in bus loads of kinksters. At times, it did seem to help in various ways, but when Arwyn’s interest in that venture waned, it was less and less fun to do by myself. In fact, I began to resent her more for her total lack of interest and involvement in this kink. I know it isn’t her fault if she’s not into that sort of thing, but it looks like non-interest in ME. And I’m still looking for refutation of that particular view.
  9. 2-minute intimacy. That was my own pet campaign, where I tried to just get two minutes of hugging/holding each day. It was a bit nightmarish, because I discovered that 30 seconds was the best I could get consistently. I’m sure I came off as being overly needy during this, but it was based in small part on one of Dr. Phil’s exercises (which may have come from Schnarch) which involves hugging until relaxed.
  10. Schnarch. This is not a program, per se, but his material has provided me with a good deal of insight. I would say that I did benefit a great deal from it, and have benefited from occasionally revisiting it. Basically, it is more about altering my own attitude more than Arwyn’s behavior. However, it also allows for some integrity in the midst of conflict, which is why I felt I had to let Arwyn know that I was not okay with the way things are at the moment.
  11. Individual prayer, supplication, Bible study and generally wrestling with God over this issue. Otherwise, I would have flown this coop long ago. This has been a spiritual journey more than anything else.
  12. Counseling. Mustn’t forget this! Afterall, this was a major thing that my blog readers spent years clamoring for. Oddly, most of the folks clamoring for it have never done it themselves. Or not so oddly. And about now is where readers/commenters will tell me I haven’t found the right counselor.
  13. Compromise. Yes, this is what marriage is all about, right? So when Arwyn was too tired, not interested or whatever the reason not into sex, I could ask for a handjob and she would do it more often than not. BUT it was decidedly NOT remotely what I wanted or needed. It became an emotionally sterile procedure designed to medicate me and get me off her back. At least it made me more aware that intimacy was what I wanted and needed.
  14. Money and gifts. The getting of gifts happens to be a love language of hers, so sometimes this actually works. I can seemingly buy some genuine affection for about $200, or so it seems. Cash does seem to be an aphrodisiac of a sort, which seems to be true the world over. Money can’t buy love, but it can buy something that looks an awful lot more like it than what a lot lot of people get from those who claim to love them.
  15. Extra chores, extra help around the house, extra appreciation, extra extra, extra! All these extras gave Arwyn a lot more time in order to invest in other interests. I was not one of them. I know, I should be able to do them just because with no expectation of anything in return. But the extras depleted me and added extra stress and another avenue of criticism when they weren’t done right. I’m not talking about washing the car once a week. This is floor, toilet and shower scrubbing, vacuuming type stuff. Plus the cooking and groceries that I always do.
  16. Give myself a make-over. Losing gobs of weight, stopped smoking and did more stuff with the kids. These were all major points of contention for Arwyn as far as how she viewed me. Or so she said. But honestly, these were just more conditions and obstacles. I think the “no deep kissing because you smell/taste like smoke” was the most telling. She just does not go that way, period. The above things were good, in and of themselves and make me a better person/father all ’round. But there was always a part of me that was hoping that these things would help win her over.
  17. Talking, confronting, arguing fighting. Off and on over the years, we get into it over the sex and intimacy issue. for her, intimacy = talking. For me…not so much. I’m willing to do my version and hers at the same time or switch off but sex is just important for me to feel like I’m a man married to a woman and not just a roommate or girlfriend. so we have blow ups and blow outs about it. Things might improve for a week but it slides back again.
  18. Avoiding. This is something that I’ve tried more often than not, and is definitely Arwyn’s tactic/intervention of choice. Basically the idea is to outlast the other person or outlast the problem. Either way, I get screwed and not in a good way.
  19. Solo sex. Hey, if I can’t be intimate with my wife, perhaps I can deepen intimacy with myself. Chastity play extended into this arena as well as the aneros and the fleshlight. Sure, I learned a thing or two about kinkiness and subspace and what trips my trigger, but that’s not exactly the sort of intimacy I was looking for. It certainly is not the sort of relationship that entered into my mind on my wedding day. “Wow, I’m married! Now I can stick stuff up my butt!” Right.
  20. Affair. The closest I ever got was that deal with Cleopatra a few years ago. We spoke on the phone once and it wasn’t even phone sex or cybersex, it was more like exchanging frustrations and flirtations. About the same time I got flirtatious with a co-worker or her flirting with me more like. Heaven knows I enjoyed that attention, but both women had way more issues than I wanted to deal with as if I didn’t have enough of my own! It never even got to much of an emotional level but I won’t lie. I was seriously flirting with the idea of having an affair.
  21. ENQ – I did this twice. The first time, Arwyn said she would do it, but did not. The second time she did it when the therapist assigned it. Hat tip to Joanna who brought that up.
  22. Toys. These would be toys to enhance HER pleasure, specifically some cock rings to help me maintain a firmer erection plus some added textures to hit her buttons. Initially she seemed somewhat positive about it, if not a bit reserved. But when it came right down to it, it was a disaster. She refused to even try them.

#20 is not exactly “marriage improvement” so probably shouldn’t be on the list at all, but it was something I thought of at the time as a way to cope with the constant rejection. And that’s really what keeps bringing me down. Intimacy issues and hang-ups would be a lot easier to deal with if they didn’t come bundled with so much rejection. I can not touch my wife, hold my wife, caress my wife or kiss my wife in the manner that I would like to without getting told that I can’t.

Well, there you go. I’m probably missing some things from the above list, but you get the idea. This has been a very long process. Ordeal. Journey. Whatever. It has been long spanning no less than 10 ten years and going back to the beginning. To be sure I made mistakes and have tried to own up to them to Arwyn. I have asked for forgiveness but I’m not sure I ever got it from her, but you can not compel a person to forgive you or to love you. And that’s where I am; not too sure the woman I love loves me.

Talking a bit about Chastity Devices

December 20, 2008

Okay, I’ve been too busy to post but not too busy to read and occasionally comment. I’m still alive!

While trying to keep up on my RSS feeds, a couple of articles really caught my attention. Actually a lot of them did until I read an article by one of the spice girls on the Christian Nympho blog. Cumingirl addresses a question about chastity devices, and my ears were totally up and zeroed in. After reading that, I went to visit our resident chastity expert, Tom Allen, to see if he had picked this little story up. He hadn’t, but his most recent post is certainly appropriate to the points that Cumingirl makes.

Cumingirl, meet Tom. Tom, meet Cumingirl.

Cumingirl fields a question from a guy who struggles with porn. At some point, he and his wife experiment with a chastity device in order to help him ditch the porn habit. After she loses interest in a few months, he is back to the porn. He asks what she thinks about chastity devices, and Cumingirl answers from her sincere Christian perspective, which is insightful whether you’re a Christian or not. Tom, who admits to being in the “not” category says the same thing as Cumingirl; if you have intimacy and relationship problems, no device or toy is going to solve it. A problem of the heart has to be addressed at the heart level. You can not solve an emotional or a spiritual problem with plastic or steel.

My own experiences into chastity confirm this. I was looking for a solution and while it provided a certain amount of short-term relief, it never did anything about the core intimacy issues. In fact, like Tom in his earliest forays into chastity, I ended up feeling even more neglected. Any kind of play where you are playing alone is going to come up empty and unfulfilling. It goes from being arousing to being lonely without the active and loving participation of a real intimate partner. First comes the intimacy. THEN perhaps, it can lead to higher highs.

I meant to address this back when I was posting on Schnarch last year, as I had some thoughts of how chastity played into differentiation. Basically, what I and most married guys who get into it are looking for, is more attention and intimacy but we are really attempting it through more fusion. The lock and key is an interesting metaphor for the fusion we are attempting. When attempted with a spouse who is naturally averse to greater intimacy, the result is fairly predictable. She may have some curiosity at first and perhaps some intrigue but it is mostly weird. Once she understands the concept she’ll be so reluctant that it will take all sorts of manipulation to get her to go along with it, however reluctantly. Using the idea of excessive masturbation, porn and cheating are all attempts to leverage shame, guilt or even anger into getting her to go along with something she is not really into. The idea is that once the wife gets a taste of the good life and you doting on her and doing all the chores and she gets all high on the power, that she will want to keep you locked up forever. VICTORY! Right?

No. Because at this point, some really stupid games commence. First off, the guy is going to do all sorts of stupid things in order to be punished. Or even worse, he’ll escape. Then the search is on for a more secure device. Tom really gives this myth of the escape-proof device some good treatment in his post, but it does need to be restated. There is no such thing. Some devices make escape more difficult but anyone with even a minimum amount of determination will be able to get out and get his rocks off. So security is a total myth. The IDEA of security can be immensely powerful, psychologically. But I’ll never forget the time I discovered how to pick the lock that came with the Curve. It totally wrecked that emotional dynamic. From then on, (after buying a better lock) I never tried to pick the lock again. Part of the attraction of this kink is the emotional roller coaster that Tom so eloquently describes. I really, really miss that but my wife would not be a participant in that and it would eventually lead to more resentment if I chose that path with out her active and at least somewhat positive participation.

Emotional fusion always leads to a dynamic where a person is either grasping and clutching or actively trying to avoid. Spouses tend to alternate roles, thus one spouse pursues while the other avoids until the pursuer tires and the then they switch roles. Instead of facing each other and squaring off, there is a tendency to always be facing the other’s back. So in the D/s dynamic that many chastity folk aspire to, the sub invariably tops from the bottom by some form of manipulation and the dominant (woman) may even go along with it for a time. But being differentiated means being able to live and share with someone intimately without being so enmeshed that any emotional anxiety they have automatically spills over. It’s one thing to be empathetic and supportive, but that’s hard to do when both people are going to pieces! Living with another person’s uniqueness is a really difficult thing to do, but it is developmentally crucial. Wearing a chastity device isn’t going to help at all. It can lead to temporary relief of a sort, but failing to address core intimacy issues will only result in a rebound effect that leaves even more resentment than existed before.

Cumingirl does not condemn chastity play and says it can be a part of a sexual repertoire just like any other sex toy. She admits that it isn’t her thing, but says it is okay if both partners are into it. I would extend her comments by saying that there might be a place for this type of play for Christian couples as they explore the effects of tease and denial. It can be a very powerful emotional experience for both as long as neither feels forced or manipulated into it. The most interesting scenarios I’ve read are when it is not truly a D/s thing at all. The guy knows he can get out any time he wants, but chooses not to. The woman, knowing this, also appreciates the gesture he makes in handing her the keys to his favorite toy. The key (and by extension, his manhood) becomes precious to her. She thinks of him and he thinks of her. It’s not something that is forced, manipulated or coerced. If a guy wants out, he should be free enough and willing enough to ask to be let out or at the least, safe-word out. If she gets tired of the game, she can freely opt out. There simply needs to be some understanding of each other’s needs in a way that is not destructive or that ignores other problems within the relationship.

Using a chastity device somehow in conjunction with the teaching in 1st Corinthians 7 seems like a better answer, to me. If it is by mutual agreement, it can be a tremendous time of emotional bonding where sexual tension can help increase spiritual devotion and attention. By sharing one another’s thoughts and sensations this is actually a way to increase differentiation (because the experiences are in fact unique between the one locked and the keyholder) and appreciating one another’s uniqueness and gifts without insisting they be exactly like us. I would really like to have that sort of bonding, but I do have my own issues of intimacy to deal with and work out. I do miss that psychological intensity where the chastity cage really focused me in on my wife.

Why aren’t I more like that all the time? Why rely on a $200 piece of plastic to get me to focus? For one, I’m rather thick emotionally and too full of selfishness and pride. The plastic cage does provide some amount of mental bending that leads to some extra opportunities for reflection. Like those 2 and 5 a.m. wake-up calls. Those really help knock my head into a different space. The awareness (and somewhat discomfort) make the subtleties of of my emotional neediness more blatant. Admittedly, that can get old for a woman who might be bothered by that sort of thing fairly quickly. She doesn’t need any more children and childish foolishness! But as Tom said, without the teasing the denial just turns into neglect and loneliness. I think that’s where the rebound comes into play. Once I get out from under the influence of the cage, I realize how little attention I have been receiving and get bogged down in resentment. And that’s all me, because I go into it relying on my wife to give me that extra attention. While wearing the cage I do become more needy for attention, but can subsist on smaller morsels. Hand holding takes on new and more exciting dimensions that would not otherwise happen. But I also become more keenly aware of the rejection and avoidance. And I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. There’s some comfort in numbness but there is also a lack of vibrancy, too.

Re-Tooling the 20 List

July 24, 2008

You guys are pretty awesome. Seriously, there have been times when I was contemplating something and floated it up here and you guys were able to steer me in a better direction with your feedback. And if it only happens a once per year, it still makes this whole blogging lark worth it.

I thought deeply about about this list-making exercising and about what the counselor was driving at the other day. The first half of the session we talked about our vacation. The fact that we visited with our families provided him some rich fodder for getting into all the family dynamic things he’s so into. I really dislike this particular therapeutic orientation. I can spend hours and days discussing my relationship with my dad and his relationship to my mother, but in the end I need to live my own life and he has to live his. Dad can not fix me any more than I can fix him. Yeah, yeah, yeah, insight and all that. I get it, but it is a backwards approach. Instead of front loading my relationship with my parents and interpreting my relationship with my wife through that filter, I’d rather look at my relationship with my wife and then see what issues from my past that uncovers or resolves. Working on the past in the present instead of working on the present from the past.

Back to the list, the idea is to consider things that she either does or has done in the past that I really liked. As an alternative, the article that came with it said a guy could look at what he got from an affair in order to list things that were done that had value. That’s where the second (and more complete at the time) list came from. The problem with all of those lists was that they were very dry as lists are prone to be. There needed to be more meaning attached to this exercise.

The therapist did spend some time drilling me about what it was that I appreciated about Arwyn. He basically seemed to be driving at what Cat was commenting on. Why the heck am I so hung up on getting physical with her? I needed to re-frame my list in a more positive way that would infuse it with a lot more meaning. I’ve also been thinking about making her birthday card more meaningful by being more positive.

So here is the new list:

20 things that she does for me and how it makes me feel when she does (or did) them.

1. I liked when she used to make love to me when she couldn’t sleep…I would wake up as she was pulling my underwear off.- It made me feel like I was irresistible, desired, wanted and craved like pistachio mint ice cream on a hot summer day.

2. I came home and she greeted me at the door wearing nothing but a T-shirt and and a smile – it made me feel welcomed and desired

3. Every time she wore silky, lacy sexy lingerie – it made me feel like I was worthy of being won over and seduced.

4. Every time she ever let me perform oral sex on her – it made me feel like she trusted me and welcomed me into her most precious and intimate area.

5. Every time she ever performed oral sex on me – it made me feel like she accepted me physically for exactly who I am and was eager to have me in the most intimate of ways.

6. Every time she ever let me touch, stroke, knead and kiss her breasts – it made me feel like she was allowing me to fulfill the command in Proverbs 5:18-19 and I was able to delight in the wife of my youth

7. Every time she ever made me my favorite food – it made me feel like like she enjoyed and delighted in my happiness

8. Every time she smiles and laighs at my jokes – she makes me feel like I can make her happy

9. Every time she ever opens her mouth for a long, slow, deep kiss – it makes me feel like I am someone worthy of her passion and hunger. It also affirms my efforts to quit smoking in the most powerful way possible while sometimes making me feel somewhat guilty and convicted when I do smoke.

10. Everytime she has reached down between my legs and stroked me it makes me feel like she values my manhood, enjoyment and passion intimately. My desire is accepted and appreciated.

11. Whenever we make love I feel like I am accepted and desired and welcomed inside of her as the man in her life as husband and wife.

12. When we embrace in bed and I hear her breathing in my ear it comforts and relaxes me while turning me on.

13. Whenever we have taken a shower together and we wash each other’s most intimate areas, it makes me feel like she wants to play with me in an adult and intimate way.

14. Whenever she has let me touch her in a way that turns her on sexually it makes me feel like she is comfortable with letting me share in her own intimate enjoyment and arousal.

15. Whenever she lets me see her naked, even if she’s just changing clothes it reassures me that she is comfortable with me and unashamed of me.

16.Whenever she engaged with me in chastity cage play I felt like she valued my manhood in a way that she wanted to cherish and keep me all to herself. That my manhood was valued and precious to her and that she also valued my arousal and appreciated having my full and complete attention fixed on her whether I am with her or away.

17. Whenever she thanks me with a kiss, it makes me feel proud and appreciated

18. Whenever she reads a sexually-themed book that I’ve read, or am reading, it affirms to me her interest in investing in that aspect of our lives and that she’s interested in learning more about me and herself in that way

19. Whenever we’ve ever engaged in mutual oral pleasure at the sametime (69) I’ve felt the deepest and most intimate of spiritual, physical and emotional connections ever. It is an affirmation of the ultimate comfort that we can have with each other’s most intimate body parts.

20. Whenever she curls up besides me and spoons me or we curl up and she lets me spoon her while just watching TV or talking, it affirms her comfort with me physically and comforts, warms and relaxes me.

21. Everytime she ever initiates any inimate physical contact, it helps me feel more bonded to her physically and emotionally.

22. When we can discuss our sexual issues without arguing and fighting, it makes me feel safe enough to be more emotionally available.

23. When she sacrifices to save money, it makes me feel like she is invested in our future together and our family’s security.

As you can see, the list is complete, and then some. I wanted flexibility to add a couple more to make 25 or take off a couple that don’t work. The idea, in any case is to express more of my feelings behind the things she does, she did or that I want her to do beyond “it just feels good.” Many of these things she has only done once or twice. Some things she does more often. And there might be an item or two she might not ever have done, but I’m trying to convey how meaningful things are to me.

So am I on the right track? How would you feel if you got something like this in a birthday card?


Using Your Mind

January 7, 2008

Schnarch starts the next chapter asking the question, “Where is your mind during sex?”  If you ask your partner what they are thinking about during or just after sex, they might say, I’m thinking about you.”  And they might be lying.


A wondering mind is almost inevitable just because that’s the way our minds work.  We think about all sorts of things.  Some people are making grocery lists, sorting laundry, doing taxes, memorizing baseball stats or any number of mundane things.  They may be imagining someone else who could be there instead.  Perhaps a past lover who did things better than the one poking or licking or sucking you now.  You might be worried that the kids might hear or maybe expecting a phone call or wishing for a phone call.  You might be thinking about painting the ceiling mauve.


You might be thinking about your sensations and how good a certain thing your partner is doing and hoping they keep doing it.  Or how lousy it feels and hoping they stop.  You might be worried about whether they like what it is you are doing.  Are you doing it right?  Will you last long enough?  What are they thinking?  Are they as bored as you?  Do they notice that stretch mark?  Do you wonder whether you smell or taste bad?  Do they smell or taste bad? 


Thing is, none of the above involves a lot of emotional engagement with the partner.


There’s a whole lot of stuff to think about during sex.  Is it any wonder that we seem to be happy enough just getting off?  This is one reason why we settle for routine sex.  We go with what works and keep doing it over and over and over.  It’s also why it gets boring.  So we get mad and suddenly it might not work anymore.  We fight or avoid.  And we get into gridlock.


This is the process Schnarch describes as the people growing machinery of marriage.  We are constantly challenged to grow and change and two partners can challenge each other to grow.  But this can only happen in a long term relationship.  When we abandon the fight and get a new partner we essentially abandon growth and have to start all the way over reconstructing the crucible in which we need to grow.  He also made a more profound statement:


People grow most through going through those developmental processes they are trying the hardest to avoid. 


That’s pretty powerful stuff.  The avoidance and gridlock that Arwyn and I are currently locked into is a result of our fusion.  Paradoxically, the machinery really is working.  While we are avoiding we are each working on ourselves in different ways.  But there is a showdown that is coming.  Neither of us is particularly comfortably in the rut we’re in.  So she goes to church and Bible study and step groups for her own growth.  I go to another church and read books and blog and write growing in my own way.  Neither is “wrong” per se.  In fact, one could argue that there’s a lot of growth potential through some rich cross pollinating that could take place.  But that’s the problem.  There’s no pollinating going on.  We’re missing out on some growth potential.  We’re both avoiding the pain of it.  So far we’ve been evenly matched at least that way, for better or worse.


In this chapter, Scnarch talks about different sexual styles.  The sexual trance style is more sensate-focused, which requires a lot more concentration and being free of distractions.. That often includes the partner which is why this is mostly done in the dark with eyes closed. 


Partner connection is another style that has its own levels each characterized by different levels of differentiation.  It’s what we often want on the higher levels but what we often end up doing at the lower levels.  I’m not getting in to all 6 levels, but I can see where I’ve tried various forms of both of the above styles but on very low levels of differentiation.  


On the trance level, it’s all about my body, what I feel and how good it feels.  I want Arwyn to feel good, too, but sexual trance is akin to sort of like getting high or drunk together.  It seems to be more separate than together.  On a higher level, it can be more mutual and emotionally connected, but I’ll just come right out and say I’ve never gotten there. 


Now I have gotten about half way up the partner connection ladder.  But I’ve yet to really properly differentiate enough where Arwyn is more than a reflected source of validation and borrowed functioning.  In fact, I’m just now coming to think where I can conflict with her without getting too wrapped up with anxiety.  It’s a matter of growth for both of us and that can only happen when we conflict.  We are in conflict now, and it has led to us growing…apart.  But it has set a stage for the machinery to really smoke.  At least that’s how I see it optimistically speaking.  I’m sure she won’t see it that way.


The last sexual style is role play.  My forays into chastity play could be construed as an attempt at that, but according to Schnarch it requires a very high level of differentiation to pull off because a person has to have enough confidence to pull off the role without getting totally engulfed by it while becoming a real part of it. 


According to Schnarch, the highest differentiated people can assume any of the three styles.  This is because that people-growing machinery of marriage never stops.  Boredom sets in, which causes conflict and then couples have to work through it.  But the work can eventually become less painful after doing several turns and partners get in the groove of constant change and growth.


So now I’ve gotten my mind wrapped around the idea of conflict not being as bad as what I’ve always internalized.  It doesn’t mean the end of the relationship even though it looks a lot like it.  And the whole avoidance thing has drug on so long there’s going to be pain involved regardless.  This is just what I was looking for: a direction to grow in where it doesn’t have to be Armageddon.


I have no idea if I’m making sense or not.  But I wanted to get this down so I could move on.  The chapters of this book seem to get better as I go along, and I’m sort of striving to get to the “better” ones.  A bunch of you are contemplating getting it and I would recommend it.  But you may just want to watch and see where I end up going, too.  I’ve been around this sort of thing before and it may not end up going anywhere.


We’ll see.




Kissing and Foreplay

January 6, 2008

I’m working on an entry applying some of the Schnarchian principles to chastity but since doing more reading I need some additional processing space.  So here you go.


The hugging chapter was revealing as was my little experiment which has not been repeated.  Schnarch says that it usually takes at least 2 minutes to find a truly relaxed and connected state and sometimes over 20 minutes and even then there’s no guarantee.  I found it interesting because in Dr. Phil’s Relationship Rescue program he prescribes hugging for 2 minutes every day.  And it was at that point that Arwyn decided to opt out of it for an unspecified amount of time.


Schnarch’s most famous suggestion for revving up sex is to have eyes-open sex.  And he does get to that, but I wanted to spend some time with kissing and foreplay as a sort of foreplay into actually talking about sex.  And like the hugging, there is a lot going on in the kissing and foreplay.


First off, Schnarch does chide us all for feeling perfectly comfortable demanding that our partner look at us while talking but see nothing wrong with not looking at the person we are kissing while kissing them.  Movies and television and other role models perpetuate this behavior for sure.  Everyone closes their eyes when they kiss!  Right?  In fact I remember an old song (maybe by Crystal Gayle?) that chided her lover for no longer closing his eyes when they kissed. But we really do sort of put ourselves in a position of having to practice some sort of emotional braille with this particular foreplay-like behavior.  In fact I’ve started sometimes opening my eyes when Arwyn and I are doing the perfunctory “off to work” kiss.  I’m not sure how I’d feel about have her eyes looking back but I’m willing to explore.


Kissing is one of those areas where we begin to negotiate the terms of our intimacy.  It probably means more in terms of our own perceptions than it does about our partner’s state of mind in how we perceive it.  We can’t really truly know, even if we ask.  But we usually don’t for the same reason we keep our eyes closed.  Namely, we can only tolerate only so much intimacy.  We may claim we want more but that claim rarely truly plays out in our own behavior.  We act in selfish ways and succumb to selfish interpretations in order to justify our own behaviors which usually truly get in the way of intimacy.


Foreplay is even more of a mine field.  Or mindfield.  According to Schnarch, foreplay always takes place.  It may be pretty freakin’ short, but it always happens.  It is where both partners negotiate where the boundaries are for whatever intimacies that are to follow.  He even goes so far as to describe it as a sort of pushing and shoving match between married couples as they attempt to gain whatever position.  Anyone reading me for a long enough time can attest to that as we’ve had a number of these sort of interactions.  According to Schnarch, it’s not about communicating because we are, in fact, communicating butt loads in these little slapfests.  It happens because we are so emotionally fused that there is total and absolute gridlock.  Arwyn feels like an abused victim and I feel like a rapist.  Poorly differentiated couples can not tolerate a lot of intimacy so it is not uncommon that foreplay be very short or almost skipped altogether.  What little there is is often scripted and mundane.  This is because the fused couples can not self-soothe and opt for the safety of a routine. 


For instance those of us who begin with a back rub every time.  What is your partner doing during the backrub?  Mine is lying face down and is almost always absolutely silent.  In fact, sex is a terribly silent exercise.  There is very little talking but I’m sure there is gobs of tension, anxiety and insecurity.  We’ve both gotten to the point where sex isn’t a lot of fun for either of us.  Much of it is because of all the tension around the fusion and me simply appealing to my reptilian self just to get off.  I’ve written before how I felt like a reptile and that insight was more accurate than I knew then.  Arwyn treats me like one because I act like one. 


The scripted aspect of sex is all about regulating the intimacy and finding comfort in the routine.  I know where the script is going to go pretty much every time and I don’t like most of it.  But I go along with it anyway.  I almost skipped this section to run ahead to chapter 12 where Schnarch talks about the mercy fuck.  But I’m glad I didn’t, since the section on kissing and foreplay really hit home.


Schnarch talks much about treating past issues in the present.  Psychotherapy has traditionally involved going through past issues and hurts and dealing with childhood issues.  Many times the claim is made that “We need to deal with the underlying problem before we can move forward” or “We need to deal with this past abuse or history first before moving on:”  The efficacy of this approach is pretty minimal because it simply isn’t realistic.  It’s not how life is lived.  It also involves leaving people stuck and then spending years and thousands of dollars delving into past issues that simply can not be changed. 


Schnarch uses the sexual crucible approach to deal with these past issues in the present.  So unlike a behaviorist who really isn’t dealing with past issues at all, he uses present behavior and the solutions to move forward within present circumstances.  How dependent this is on the skill of the therapist remains to be seen.


In my own case, the fear of abandonment is an underlying factor that has absolutely ruled all my relationships.  I can not stand for things to get too good because past experience tells me that it will turn to shit.  Opening up to another person involves a hell of a lot of risk and a hell of a lot of hurt.  I swore to myself that I was not going to be hurt like that ever again.  The result is this terrible gridlock we have now.  I am absolutely not any more differentiated than Arwyn who has divorced parents and an alcoholic father to contend with.  Arwyn means a lot to me but more intimacy means a lot more hurt.  But there’s obviously a part of me that really wants it.  I want to know and be known.  But only so much.


This even goes into my smoking which still rules me.  I started way back when as a way of self-medicating myself after a bad, bad emotional breakup.  I was devastated beyond words because I had opened up so much.  Truth was, this other girl couldn’t handle the intimacy of that relationship.  Neither could I, as it turned out.  So on the heels of heartbreak, smoking was my way of self-medicating.  It still is.  And this is one area where Schnarch is less focused and fuzzy.  He places a lot of importance on the skill of self-soothing but has not explained exactly what that looks like or how to do it.  In a way, smoking could be a way to self soothe but it is also a way engage that marital sadism that I wanted to skip ahead and read about because I know Arwyn dislikes it.  Why she married a smoker lends itself to a certain amount of masochism inherent in the system.  Don’t worry.  Arwyn and I both share equally sadistic qualities.  I’m just more willing to admit it at present.


I’d like to see Schnarch get together with John Gottman, who quantified anxiety and how couples reacted to each other in more concrete and tangible ways through pulse and respiratory rate and facial gestures.  Anxiety and tension do have quantifiable analogues and using single subject research designs, the effect of different self-soothing techniques could be compared. 


Okay, now I’m ready to talk about doing things with eyes open.  Schnarch actually spends a couple chapters on this, with eyes-open kissing and foreplay leading to eye-open sex.  I used to open my eyes open a lot more but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Arwyn do it.  And sometimes I don’t like what I see.  Not only are her eyes closed but there is a sort of grimace in her face.  Pain?  Could be.  Concentration?  That could also be.  The eye-open bit flies directly in the face of a lot of modern sex therapy that is sensate focused.  The therapists tell a person to focus on their own sensations which means keep the eyes closed.


Schnarch sees things decidedly different and I have to agree with him.  One of my chief complaints is that Arwyn “isn’t there” during what few sexual encounters we have had.  Her handjobs pretty much are sterile exercises.  Her kisses perfunctory.  Her fucking is scripted.  Her boundaries are rigid.  But all that says a lot more about me than her in that I’ve been willing to accept these paltry offerings until relatively recently. 

I’ve written before about how I did better during the handjobs when Arwyn and I would talk.  We’d talk about dirty diapers, laundry, finances, chores that needed to be done and pretty much what every couple talks about when they talk.  She just happened to be rubbing my cock at the time.  But what made these encounters better for me rather than her doing it in stony silence was the fact that while talking, she was at least somewhat present.  We tried it with her facing me, and I did like that but I don’t think she did.  She preferred to lay down beside me where she didn’t have to look at me.  But I do enjoy having my eyes open more than not, at least to a point. 


The purpose is to actually connect, emotionally and mentally as well as physically.  But that sort of connection can only really be made if we’ve done a lot of our own internal work where we can comfortably invite someone else in.  It represents a more authentic form of intimacy.  I’m living proof that it is possible to have sex without really connecting and I’m not sure I have ever truly connected with Arwyn during sex.  I’m not exactly an open book as noted above so I picked someone in a very similar stage of differentiation as myself.  And we really are well matched in many ways.


It is impossible to not communicate during sex.  Fact is, I’ve been getting the message louder than I would have liked.  So now I have little choice but to grow in response to dealing with it.  It may take the proverbial atomic bomb blast to get Arwyn in motion and that might be where we’re headed.  But I’m still getting a handle on my own insecurities in the meantime. 


Cat asked an interesting question in a comment below.  What if Arwyn is just honest and says she loves me but isn’t in love with me?  What that is, is a code that basically says that she wants to be nice and somewhat caring but does not want to be with me and does not want to want me.   Wanting to want and working towards making an intimate connection is an act of will at this stage of the game.  For my part, I need to be willing to deal with that possible reality.  At that point I have some serious choices to make.  Adult choices that involve my own integrity.  If I’m reading him correctly, I think that is where 2amsomewhere has come out.  He looked at the situation and saw where he was not going to grow a lot more with the woman he was with because she was unwilling to differentiate and grow.


I’m not in that spot right now and funnily enough, I don’t think Arwyn is either.  When we do speak of these things there is a fair amount of emotionality involved and my gut tells me she is more keen to working things out than she lets on.  But she has no idea how.  She longs for deeper emotional connections but not with Lizardman me.  I have some personal and self-centered issues of my own to work out in order to escape my inner reptile.


It’s a paradox that getting emotionally closer to someone else involves becoming more of myself.  This is because being emotionally fused and relying on this other person to hold me up through borrowed functioning and a reflected sense of self is inherently a very selfish thing.  It places the responsibility of my anxieties and fears in someone else’s lap when I need to be holding my own self up so that I have a greater capacity to care.  Emotional fusion places rules and expectations on the other person that are heavy and burdensome and pretty much suck the life out of desire, passion and sexual intimacy.  My pushiness with Arrwyn and trying to guilt and manipulate her into sex was sort of akin to rape.  But I was raping myself emotionally as I set myself up perfectly to be rejected and then hurt by her rejections.  That also sort of answers the chastity cage comment by Snow66, at least in part.  It was a game we were very poorly prepared for.  While it might have fostered some strong feelings by me it was still not on a human level of depth as far as intimacy and closeness.  In fact, it likely increased Arwyn’s anxiety level which would send her desire even further in the crapper.


However, I do think there was valuable and necessary growth that took place there.  Arwyn could see my attitude improvements while wearing the cage and she was somewhat open to that.  But the emotional weight of holding the key combined with the guilt factor of me kinking up probably didn’t advance things the way I had hoped.  That’s not to say there wouldn’t be any benefit later.  I think Tom over at Vanilla Edge demonstrates that good things can happen if the relationship is in a better place.  At least they’re funner to read.  I’ll think about expanding that later as I get further into the book.


It still feels like it’s taking me a long time to get through it.  I know, it’s all a process and it’s all good but it is not a fast read. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll read and reread various points.  I wouldn’t mind spending $30 on a DVD movie version of this thing.  Maybe even $50 if they had live demonstrations performed by actual couples!



A Brief Kink Update

August 13, 2007

A couple of notes upfront: I’m seriously considering responding to Trueself’s tag, mostly because there are some other folks around here in need of a good meme’ing. Or even a meme’ing that is less than good.

Also thanks to those responding to the last post despite the rather depressing content. I can take some small comfort in the knowledge that there are others who have suffered worse for a lot longer.

But I do feel the need to at least give some slight treatment to my kinkier subplot, mainly chastity play. Suffice it to say, I have not been doing any cage play and have not felt like denying myself. I still richly enjoy reading Altarboy’s site and the contributions by those who are practicing, but motivation for me is about nil. I could probably enjoy some subspace but in the sort of relationship that I am presently in, the rebound on the backside is hardly worth it.

But the other morning it did sort of come up.

I usually buy all the groceries because I do most of the cooking. Plus during our leanest financial days I kept my hand tightly on the pocketbook like a seaman on a tiller during a storm. But now that storm has mostly past and I’m perfectly okay with Arwyn taking a check and going and buying whatever food she wants. She was a bit surprised at this, but I told her that as long as she was open and honest and not hiding stuff in the trunk of her car, things would be okay.

Arwyn then insisted that I must be snooping in her car. No, I just know how she operates. But she continued to protest that she knew I had been in her trunk. If I had remembered, I might have pressed her harder for how she knew, but I was not going to argue. I don’t go snooping in her car, ever. I figure I’ll find whatever she hides soon enough.

But later on, it finally dawned on me the source of her conviction. A couple of weeks ago, she came in the holding a small black box she found in her trunk. It was magnetically stuck to the first aid kit in her trunk. Can you guess what it was? She asked if I knew and I told her I had put it in there a long time ago. Maybe over a year ago. I told her to open it, and she slid the cover back and there were a pair of very small keys.

It was the discovery of that box that led her to believe that I was forever snooping. The fact is, I had all but forgotten about them. I have one key in the Shurlok, and that’s all I needed. But keeping a spare set in her trunk meant she could still get me out in an emergency and made her an unwitting keyholder. I’m not sure what she did with that box now that I think about it. It had fallen from the trunk lid to the first aid kit otherwise she may never have seen it.

She also found, while doing a bunch of cleaning, a key to the very first lock I had; the one that came with the original Curve that was on a necklace. She gave it to my youngest son to wear around his neck, which I thought was just not right. Never mind the key was now worthless, but it did still hold some symbolism. So I traded him a sticker or something for it and stowed it away.

Chastity play just is not attractive to me right now. I like to have some support during the process in the form of holding, cuddling and hugs. It helps me get into subspace instead of just getting pissed but she hasn’t the time or inclination, and neither do I.