Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dating in a Community, Part II - How the Community Polices Its Own

Yesterday, we talked a bit about the benefits of having an open community that is willing to give you frank advice about people they know. Today, I would like to explore this topic a little further, looking at how the community can create a comfort level that allows a relationship to happen and how open discussion can help reduce or prevent sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault.

Candy says: I run in the kink and poly communities, communities where people are pretty open about things and everyone seems to know everyone. I met this guy through Fetlife, and he seemed pretty cool, but he was a bit older than me and lived a ways off. At first I wasn't sure, but then I saw that we had common friends,  so I was able to ask around. People knew him and told me he was a good guy. I felt more comfortable and agreed to meet him. It turned out awesome, and we had a great relationship, but I would have never gone ahead with it if I had not been able to check him out with people I trusted.

Because Candy lives in a community of people who are open and willing to talk honestly, Candy was able to develop a level of comfort needed to develop a new relationship.

There are other benefits to discarding the none-of-my-business mindset. I am not saying that one should poke their nose where it does not belong, and one should not treat their friend's love lives like their own private editions of the National Enquirer. What I am saying is that people should feel comfortable sharing information that they feel is relevant.

Dan says: In the kink community that I run in, STDs and domestic violence are almost unheard of, not because people don't talk about them, but because people do talk about them. People don't pry, but everyone understands that if they do something improper, word will get around, not as rumor mongering or as people trying to move up in the pecking order, but as public advisory.

Because of this willingness to talk openly about sexual matters, the whole community is made safer. Even if an individual is trying to hide and STD, someone will figure it out, and when they do, they will make sure to warn everyone else. Knowing this, people are encouraged to be very careful, the best way to avoid having to deal with people knowing you have an STD being not getting on in the first place.

This is even more true around issues of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a disease with lives in darkness and silence. It goes on because victims are afraid to speak out. In communities where people "mind their own business," an abuser can abuse one significant other, leave that person and then go on to start a new relationship with another person and abuse them. The second, even though they may have social contact with the first, may get no warning about this individual. Silence insulates the abuser from the consequences of his actions.

In an open community, topics like abuse are discussed openly. People openly discuss their discuss with abuse and people who perpetrate it. This sends a message to potential abusers that such behavior will not be tolerated, and it sends a message to one who is abused that their community will support them, and, if necessary, defend them.

This is not a new concept. In medieval cultures, the gossip network among housewives who gathered at the well would keep abusers in line. If a man beat his wife, she would mention it to her friends at the well, who would tell their husbands. The abuser would find his reception a little cooler at future social encounters because most men really do find abuse objectionable.

Communication is a theme that comes up again and again. Communication among significant others, among friends, among communities. Almost without exception, most situations are improved by more communication rather than less. The challenge is breaking down the walls that encourage silence.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dating in a Community, Part I - Sharing Information without Drama

In every part of my life, I have found that it is about people, connections and community. In my professional life, it has always been about networks, and in romance it is much the same.

Suzie says: When I meet a guy, I always wish that there was some way to know if he's a good guy or not. Everyone puts their best face forward. I can look at their Facebook and whatever, but that's usually just the good stuff unless the guy is a total psycho.

Suzie's experience is very common. Society has become very spread out. People work far from where they live. They no longer do business in their own downtown with their neighbors. This problem exists as much in business as in romance. There is just no way to know about the person you are encountering.

Even when you do know people in common, people are often hesitant to give an accurate picture of the person. They don't want to be seen as spreading rumors or causing drama.

This is, however, very polar thinking: the idea that a statement about a person is good or bad. It is possible to share this information in a way that is non-judgmental but which equips your friend with information to make an informed decision on how serious to get with someone.

Let us consider how one might speak of some of our Smart Love friends...

Dominick is an arrogant jerk, and that is just how his play parters like him. They want a man who is confident enough to walk through fire. So, if your friend met him and was thinking about getting involved with him, you might want to let her know about this. Here are three ways you might express this.

Nasty, drama-filled way: Dominick is an arrogant ass. I would stay away from him if I were you.

Even-handed way: Dominick is a great guy, but he is a bit arrogant. However, that kind of arrogant makes him a fantastic dom, and some of the women he's played with love his attitude.

Positive way: Dominick is awesome. Some people say he's arrogant, but really that's just dominant. He can control a scene like you would not believe.

It's not that you want to warn someone off of him. You just want to make sure that she knows what she is getting. If she hears that he is arrogant and is okay with that, it's great, but that is not something you want to be surprised by. In fact, whether she is okay with it or not, things might still turn out better for the information.

Casanova is very charming. He is honest, but he has a way of de-emphasizing aspects of himself that might be less desirable. There are plenty of women who would love to have a night of appreciation at the hands of the well practiced Casanova, but if they go into it expecting that attention to develop into a long term relationship, they will find themselves sorely disappointed, possibly even heartbroken.

Again, ways you might explain this:

Nasty, drama-filled way: That womanizing asshole? I wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole!

Even-handed way: If you are looking for one night of great sex, Casanova is your man. Just don't expect him to remember your name in two weeks.

Positive way: If they gave PhDs for lovemaking, that man would be Doctor DeMarko! Sure, the chances of him seeing you twice is small, but, the way he does it, once is all you will need.

With many traits, there are people who would be perfectly happy to be with someone who exhibited them, as long as they know what they are getting into at the outset. You are doing to a favor to everyone involved as long as you are even-handed in your explanation. You are doing no favors to Casanova if you let him get together with a woman only to have her badmouth him all over town because she mistook his attentions for expressions of true love.

Tomorrow, we will look further at this topic, including looking at how being in a community can make starting relationships easier and less stressful and how community helps to stop domestic violence.

Virtual Communications, Real Connections

In my recent post on OKCupid, I put my foot in it a little bit by saying that online relationships were not "real." This was not what I meant, so I thought that it would be appropriate to take a closer look at online relationships.

Clark says: I love meeting people online. I don't have to worry about how I look, or even knowing the right thing to say. If I'm not sure, I can always take a quick moment to collect my thoughts or even to Google the answer.

Candy says: I had the hottest relationship online. The guy was a dom who could rock my world with his strength, but he lived hundreds of miles away and was confined to a wheelchair. But, I tell you, this guy was so good that his words were more than enough to get me off. Well, that and my own skilled fingers.

There is an old saying that "on the Internet, no one knows you are a dog." The great strength and weakness of online communication is the narrowness of the communication. In person, you have a great deal of information about a person: what they say, their vocal inflection, body language, pacing of speech, clothing, appearance, etc. Online, the communication is much more limited: words, sometimes pictures, voice if you choose to do so.

This means that the impression that you get of someone might not be entirely accurate. This is a problem if you eventually intend to meet them. I'm sure we've all heard the stories of people who meet and fall in love online then travel halfway around the world to discover the Prince Charming is not necessarily as charming as you thought. After all, no one leaves the toilet seat up or forgets to shower on the Internet.

On the other hand, if the relationship is purely online, what's wrong with an inaccurate picture? When you connect online, you bypass the physical form and connect directly, person to person. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you can do. The other person will often fill in the gaps with what they want to believe is true, and, often, what you might wish were true. I am not talking about being dishonest, just letting yourself believe what you want to believe.

Candy's case is a great example. In chat and talking by voice, her online dom could do things that he could not do in person because of his medical situation, but, for her, he could do things that most other doms could not do even able bodied and in person. In the unreality of the Internet, their connection could be more real than it could ever be in the harsh rigors of the "real" world.

Like many other things in the world of relationships, the answer to the question "what is best?" is "what is best for you?" Casanova would find online relationships entirely unfulfilling as he seeks physical connection. Someone looking to connect on an intellectual level who doesn't want to worry about physical issues and complications would find an online relationship delightfully fulfilling, connecting, and real.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Smart Love Movement

You may have noticed that introduction to Smart Love enjoins you to join the Smart Love Movement. That means more than just reading the blog, although I certainly appreciate you doing so. Later in this post, I will issue a challenge to all of us to kick start the movement.

Clark says: I really like Smart Love. I used to be a lonely guy who knew nothing about relationships. Now, I am a better educated lonely guy.

Our culture is tragically sheltered and afraid to speak openly on topics of sex and relationships. The media treats it like a game to be won, rather than an experience to be shared. It is my ambition to use this platform to educate people about all the wonderful things that can happen when they free themselves of their own limitations of what relationships can be.

My role in this is writing Smart Love, but I am not the movement, you are! I need your help to spread the word, provide feedback, give me article ideas, and share links with me.

Dominick says: Power comes not from one man but from those who will follow him. The leader is only as great as his followers. You, the readers, are the power of Smart Love.

Your Part
Here is what I need from you in order to turn this from a site where I pontificate into a tool to help people to grow in their relationships. Many hands make light work, especially if those hands have fingers typing on keyboards of the Internet. It is not difficult. In fact, most can be done right in front of you computer... which is probably where you are right now!

Join the Facebook/Fetlife Group
The first thing you can do is join the groups on Fetlife and Facebook. Once you have joined, invite your friends who might be interested as well. If you bring two friends and they bring two friends and they bring two friends, we'll have all the rice in China by the end of the month, or perhaps have many, many members of the movement..

Comments are important for two reasons. First, they let me know you are reading and that I am not talking to myself (which I do plenty of while walking down the sidewalk), which encourages me to keep writing. Second, it lets other people know you are reading. People want to be where everyone else is, so seeing comments tells them that this is a happening site to read.

Following is important for the same reason as commenting. It shows people that people are reading this site and that they should too.

Suggest Topics for Articles
Is there something that you would like to know more about, or a topic that you think is so far missing from the Smart Love discussion? Let me know. If it fits, I will write it for you.

Use Our Articles as a Teaching Tool
My greatest dream for this site is for it be used as a tool for you to educate others. Do you know someone (besides me) who is a bit of a know-it-all and it hurts their relationships. Send them a link to the post on the topic. The best thing about this is you don't have to be confrontational about it at all. You can just say, "hey, I read this interesting article. You should check it out." It works better than saying, "stop being a know-it-all jerkface."

Need an article to explain something that I have not written about yet? Just email me and tell me what you need me to write about, and I'll put it into the queue and write it as soon as I can. I love getting topic suggestions. It is better to write about something that I know someone wants to read about than to sit here in my luxuriously appointed office trying to guess what people want to read about. Help me help you help me, or something like that.

Read the Site
This is the obvious one that I felt should be mentioned anyway. If you do nothing else, keep reading. Even if you never share a link, perhaps you will learn something from an article which you can share in your day to day life, or even learn something to improve your own relationship.

Jenny says: For a man, Michael sometimes has some good points on Smart Love.

The August Challenge
I am very pleased at how fast the readership has grown in the first few weeks I have been writing, but now it is time to step it up. Every time I talk to someone who is unsatisfied with their relationships and wishes that there were a better way to do things, I know that there are thousands others like them. Good people who have been trapped in the mainstream relationship style of us-and-them, suspicion, jealously, and bad sex caused by bad communication and bad assumptions.

This site is your resource to make a difference. Together, we can help people to improve their relationships, but I need your help.

The goal is to increase readership by a factor of 10 by the end of the month of August. It is entirely possible, if we all work together. How do we make this happen?

For my part, I will post a new article every day during the month of August, starting with a three part series on polyamory on August 1-3.

For your part, I need you to spread the word. Send links to your friends. Invite people to join the FB and FL groups. Suggest topics and share the articles that result.

Information is power: the power to make people's lives better. Join us in getting that information to those who need it... which is everyone!

Casanova says: Even I can find valuable insights into my interactions with the fairer sex. One who seeks to live a life of love and joy as I do can learn a great deal from Smart Love.

Please comment on this post to let everyone know that you are joining with the Smart Love Movement to make the world a more loving place.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

OKCupid's Arrow

I put out a call on the 'Nets for requests for topics, and someone asked me to speak on the topic of online dating sites and OKCupid in specific.

Candy says: I've been on OKCupid for years now. I get a lot of messages from creepers... and mean a lot, but sometimes I hear from some pretty cool people.

Dan says: OKC is a pretty cool site, although I don't tend to meet a whole lot of people there. Many women just never respond, no matter how well thought out my message is, but it's worth taking a look at now and then.

I will speak specifically about OKCupid as that is where my specific experience lies. Much of what I say will extrapolate to other sites as well.

OKCupid established itself as a leader in online dating because many years ago it was more of a social networking site, with more meaningful friends networks and events. People would be on there even if they were not on the dating market. Since then, the site has come to focus more specifically on hooking people up, eliminating events and limiting the networking functions.

The experience on OKC is very different for men and women.

Women find themselves deluged with agramatical, poorly written spam-like messages from men who think that quantity will beat quality in their approach. However, if they are willing to slog through the sludge that fills their inbox, most women will usually find that OKC is a good way to meet a variety of interesting people.

Men will sometimes receive messages, but, more often, it is the men who must initiate contact. When a man sends a message, it is important to make sure that the message is specific to the person he is contacting and well written. Text-speak is highly inadvisable if you actually want to get a reply to your message.

The important thing to remember when on a dating site is, as I say often on People I Meet, connections made on the Internet are not real. Only connections in real life are real. You can talk to all the people you want through OKC-mail, but unless you actually get together with someone, you don't even get to hold hands. If you are just looking for someone to talk to online, that's fine, but there are much more effective venues than dating sites to find online penpals.

With this in mind, before approaching a dating site, consider if you would be willing to meet someone in person who you came into contact with on the site. If not, then make sure to say so in your profile in order to save everyone a great deal of time and effort. It is my opinion that any online connection like that should have the eventual goal of meeting in person (or determining that this person is not someone you want to meet in person).

This is not to say that you should message someone saying that you want to meet immediately. A little foreplay is important in this one if you want to actually get a reply. I think that at least three rounds of messages is a minimum for how much you should talk on the site before thinking about meeting. However, it does eventually become time to take the plunge and meet.

When considering meeting someone, keep two things in mind. It is more likely that you will electrocuted by your own computer than it is that the person you are talking to is particularly dangerous. However, it is still wise to be cautious. Meet in a public location, look the person in the eye before deciding if you want them to know where you live, to be alone with them, etc.

(Read my post on People I Meet entitled When Opportunity Knocks, Don't Be Afraid to Open the Door on the topic of irrational stranger fear.)

This was a quick overview on my thoughts on OKCupid. I believe that it is a fun site and worth using. It is one of the better dating sites available, but as ways to meet people go, dating sites are a very hit-or-miss proposition. Good luck, be yourself, have fun. You'll find what you're looking for when the time is right for you to.

No One Cares What You Know Until They Know That You Care

The title for this post is actually a common saying in the sales world, but it is just as applicable in the world of relationships, as I have learned through long and terrible experience. Below is some advice that, on a good day I take, and on a bad day I lose relationships for failing to abide by.

Joe says: If I know I'm right, then why beat around the bush. I'm just gonna come out and say it. Not my fault if she's not willing to listen to reason.

Jenny says: I have a right to my opinion, and I will say it however I please.

There are two reasons why one might say something that is true but known to be in opposition to what one's partner is saying: (1) that one wants to be right and their partner to be wrong, strengthening their own ego, or (2) that one wants their partner to be right by having information that he or she did not previously have, strengthening their relationship.

Very often, when a person in a relationship disagrees with their partner, it is for the second reason, but their partner hears it as being the first reason. Why does this happen? People tend to take great pride in things that are theirs: their hair, their appearance, their house, their pet, and their ideas. The ideas become a part of their identity, and if you suggest that an idea that they have is wrong, then they feel you are saying that they are wrong.

Candy ran into this problem with a woman that she dated named Justine. Justine believed that it was okay to go one payment behind on any bill, including credit cards. This is factually not true, as credit card companies, unlike utilities, report late payments to credit bureaus immediately, but Justine had heard somewhere that she could get away with it, so she believed it and acted on it frequently. Candy was worried about Justine's credit, so she informed her that she was mistaken. This bit of unwelcome advice turned into a heated discussion, which turned into a fight. Recriminations flew and names were called.

Ultimately, this led to stress in the relationship. They eventually broke up... and Justine still lets her credit card bills go a month behind.

So, what should you do if you think your partner is wrong? First, there are two very important questions you must ask yourself: "Is this important enough to make an issue of?" and "Are you sure that it is your partner who is wrong?"

So you have decided to go ahead and bring it up. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

You may be wrong
It doesn't matter if you are discussing the atomic weight of cobalt or the current weather outside the window. Even if you are standing there sopping wet from the rain outside trying to convince your boyfriend that it is raining outside, always approach any such situation from the standpoint of "I could be wrong, but I believe that..."

What this does is give your partner the space to also give a little. This shows that you are not trying to be right, just that you are trying to help your partner to be more awesome than she already is. If you say that you are right and she is wrong, you create an adversarial dynamic immediately. It is head to head, win and lose. For you to be right, she must be wrong, and who wants to lose and be wrong? On the other hand, if you admit that you could be wrong, then she will feel more comfortable admitting that she could be wrong, creating the space in the conversation to move and find the correct answer... which may be what you started with, may be what she started with, or may be some entirely different answer (e.g. it was raining, but it just stopped a moment ago and is now sunny - happens all the time in New England.)

This issue is less important than our relationship
When one gets heatedly into a discussion, one can lose perspective. Was Justine's bill paying habit a critical element in their relationship? Probably not, yet Candy felt a need to bring it up and could not let go, damaging the relationship over an issue that really did not matter all that much to them.

Always seek to maintain perspective. Maybe the issue is a serious make or break issue, but if it is, remember that the discussion is not intended to defeat your partner but to smooth out an issue to allow your relationship to continue.

Beware Structural Paper Towel Rolls
A few years ago at a game store I worked in, there was a glass fronted display case with glass shelves inside. One of the shelves was 3 inches too short to reach on of the support pieces, so it would wobble and fall over if anything was placed on that end. The make-shift solution was to place a roll of paper towels under the unsupported end to prevent it from falling. Unfortunately, since the roll made everything look stable, many people thought that the roll of paper towels was just left there by accident, and they would unwittingly take it out, causing catastrophe, Magic cards and giant D20s flying everywhere!

For many people, some of their beliefs are like that. To you, it is just some abstract concept or unimportant idea. To them, it may be a core touchstone on which their mental shelving is balanced. You find it objectionable in some way and try to rearrange it and discover a massively disproportionate response. Everyone has their core issues that everything else is built around. Common ones are religion, family obligation and tradition, and morality.

However, let's imagine that you are talking to someone who is fanatical about nutrition: fanatical beyond the point of health into the level of obsession. You try to ply them with logic, facts, research, articles, and only manage to get him angrier and more defensive. What you do not realize in your crusade to bring him to your point of view is that his favorite uncle died when he was young due to a heart attack caused by poor nutrition and this issue has become a touchstone and a cornerstone because of that experience.

This is one of the most difficult issues in relationships because it happens in the heat of the moment. In the calm times, it is easy to say "we should work to respect each other's feeling and ideas," but when emotions are high and voices are edgy, something more like "that's the stupidest load of tortoise chips I have ever heard." This second statement has a more detrimental effect than the first.

Understanding this, the most important thing for both people to keep in mind is that even thought you may get hot under the collar, the relationship goes on. Anger happens, but if you can be strong enough to let it go, then you can leave the rest stop of conflict and drive back onto the clear, open highway of joyous romance.

Some of the concepts explained here are based on the Fourth and Fifth Habits of Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book I highly recommend to anyone who interacts with people in any part of their life.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Distorted Lens on Love

That which makes good storytelling, rarely makes good reality. The kinds of story lines that make a compelling 2 hour movie simply do not reflect what happens in the real world, and that is a problem. The media gives two inaccurate views of romance. One image, generally shown in movies, is that two people will meet, know by divine inspiration that they are meant to be together, have a series of challenges, but finally overcome and live happily ever after. The other, generally shown in TV series, is that romance will always be fraught with peril, mistrust, and deceit.

Mrs. Jennings says: I was raised knowing that marriage was my path to happiness. My job was to prepare myself to find an excellent husband, and I feel I did that. I love Mr. Jennings, and I enjoy taking care of our children, but sometimes I wonder if I am doing things right. We don't seem to be as happy as we are supposed to be.

Amanda is discussing the problems that come from the perfection and simplicity that the media shows. The media, as well as society in the form of her friends and family, led her to believe in this image of the perfect fairy tale marriage. Movies show happily ever after because that is what people want to see. Real life is complicated, fiction should be simple. This is the common consensus among the movie viewer.

Unfortunately, this sets us up for disappointment. We go into a relationship expecting perfection and find normality. (Do you seriously think that Prince Charming never left the lid to the privy up?) The plain and simple fact of the matter is that the love of your life is just a person.

So, if a relationship is just two people coming together, with all of their foibles, different expectations, different opinions, and different habits, what creates a successful relationship? Communication. (Answering questions is easier when the answer is so often the same.)

For this purpose, however, communication is not simply talking. It is talking openly and honestly. For a relationship to survive past the New Relationship Energy (NRE) stage, a couple needs to be able to communicate without bias or assumption.

This is when you have to free yourself from all the assumptions of what a relationship should be like, what your partner should be like, and what you should both think and feel. For example, it is normal to notice and be interested in other people outside of your partner. This is not a problem. If these thoughts become so intense that they are distracting, then they are an indication that something is wrong. However, this is not the beginning of the end, but the beginning of the solution.

In many couples, if one person were to confide in their partner that they were finding themselves more attracted to other people, this would start a big ole nasty fight, encouraging this person not to confide again in the future. However, if you can speak openly and honestly, then whole new vistas of solutions present themselves.

The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to communicate openly like this is that your partner's comments do not suggest a failing on your part. They are not saying that you have failed to satisfy them due to a fundamental deficiency on your part. Rather, they are giving you the sign posts to show you how to give them what they need. If they really didn't like you, they wouldn't still be with you, so anything they say, even negative things, they say because they care enough to try to improve things.

In the specific example that we are discussing, where one partner finds their eye wandering, there is a wide range of potential answers. Perhaps the magic is gone because it is harder to think of your partner in the same way you think of that cutie at the coffee shop when you see your partner every morning, belching, scratching themselves, and smelling like an old shoe. A solution might be to schedule a special date night, where both partners go to separate locations to get ready. The answer could be that each partner will put in a little more effort to look good for and to pay attention to the other on a day to day basis.

The answer could even be to let you go and have some fun with that cutie at the coffee shop. I assure you that the first morning that you wake up with the cutie and realize that he also wakes up in the morning belching, scratching and smelling like a shoe, you will have greater appreciation for your partner. However, be very careful with this last one. Do not even think about trying to consider approaching opening your relationship unless you are comfortable with the idea! (This will be discussed in greater depth in future articles.)

Another great thing that open communication leads to is discovering common interests that you were not aware of before. If you are in a long term relationship, you should feel comfortable with expressing your desires to your partner, no matter how wild and crazy they may be. Perhaps they cannot be acted out literally, but maybe there is something else that you can do which you will find satisfying. Maybe you have always thought that it would be great to leave everything behind and travel the country in an RV. Perhaps that is not workable, but what about a two week vacation in an RV? If you can discuss what you and your partner want honestly, you will be able to find some way to satisfy your needs without needing to put your partner out.

Suzie says: I've had a few relationships that really started to go somewhere, but then something happened, and the trust just dissolved.

Society seems to recommend a one strike policy on relationships. Since we have this idea that our partner should be perfect, if he says the wrong thing, then perhaps it is just the tip of the iceberg of some great breach of trust. Your boyfriend says that dress looks bad on you? Maybe he's cheating. Your girlfriend comments on another man's musculature? Maybe she's looking around. Partner doesn't want you to read their email? Perhaps they are a spy for the Chinese! The airwaves are full of people trying to figure out what tabloid plot is taking place in their own circle based on single statements and vague innuendo.

Where does this come from? Watch any TV series that contains romance (Except for True Blood. That show gets relationships right.) and you will see that one single piece of unconvincing evidence is the beginning of a long struggle which ultimately reveals foul play.

You see the husband leaving a coffee shop at 4 in the afternoon! Why? Because he was meeting his mistress! What else would he be doing in a coffee shop at 4 PM?!?!

Thus, when anything remotely suspicious occurs in real life, people often suspect the worst. Unfortunately, this works much like the Law of Attraction, but negatively: ask for trouble, believe in the trouble, receive the trouble.

We do not live in the world of TV. Thankfully, our lives are much less interesting than that. When you come across a suspicious situation, always ask, is this really suspicious or is it just reminding you of a TV drama that you saw recently?

The media offers a fractured view of relationships. They tell stories which are fascinating to watch but would be gut-wrenching to live. Real relationships take hard work, patience and understanding, things that are very boring to watch on the screen, but at least they usually do not involve constant suspicion, betrayal and jealousy. If yours does, it's time to reconsider your situation.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Than One Way...

When Suzie was younger, she had a quandary.

Suzie Says: There was this guy that I really liked. I wanted to fool around with him, but I was still a virgin, and I wanted to remain that way. I really didn't know what to do for him so that he would not feel like he was missing out by being with me.

The common first response to this is that he should be satisfied with her because their relationship is worth more than just a physical experience. This is a wonderful sentiment, and for some people it works very well. Unfortunately, many people, male and female, may feel that they are missing out on something if they are not going all the way, so to speak.

Joe says: I don't get what's so complicated here. You get the girl, you lick here and touch there until she's all warmed up and ready, then you stick it in and do your thing. Bing! Bang! Boom! Everyone has a good time. What more is there?

Joe illustrates a common way of thinking, that of sexual relations being a linear activity. First base, second base, third base, HOME!

Linear View of Sex
This is a common way of thinking among high school boys, but, unfortunately, this kind of thinking often stays with people throughout their lives. Indeed, many sexual encounters follow a fairly linear structure, but if one is simply driving towards to goal, there is a lot to miss out on. Nowhere is it more true than in the bedroom that life is a journey, not a destination.

On the other hand, even the most journey-oriented man would like to eventually reach the orgasmic goal, especially if the gentleman is sexually experienced and has grown accustomed to sexual encounters resulting in sex.

Fortunately, there is more than one road to Rome. What if, instead of the linear form that we looked at above, we consider a more open way of thinking about physical intimacy...

Expanded View of Sex
This graphic is not exactly to scale, and many of the activities on there can occur at various levels of intensity, but the point is that there is a lot more to it that just warming up and getting it on. Some people have intense, satisfying, even orgasmic experiences without any traditional form of "getting off." Some can do with with stimulation like flogging, spanking, bondage, and wrestling.

Even if you are not ready for or interested in kinkier activities or kink at that level of intensity, you can see that there are a great many ways that you can culminate your encounter. No matter if you are a virgin or well experienced, you may find that having a variety of options to choose from will keep things interesting and exciting for a long time to come.

After reading this, Joe might conclude that, with all those options, there is no excuse not to finish the job. Joe would be mistaken. No one is ever obligated to do anything that they are not comfortable with in the sexual context. Anyone can stop anytime that they like. My only point in this article is that there are more options available than one might think, and that if one is not comfortable with one option, another may be more comfortable.

I would be remiss if I did not share with you the best visual representation of the "baseball analogy" before signing off:

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She Doesn't Know She's Out of Your League

I have been in the dating world for quite a few years, but it is only very recently that I discovered these very important key to meeting potential romantic partners. This article is specifically speaking to readers who are interested in meeting women. A later article will speak to the readers who are interested in meeting men, as the psychology is quite different.

Clark says: I have a lot of trouble meeting women. When I see a woman I might be interested in, I realize that she is way too attractive to have any interest in someone like me, so I save myself the embarrassment.

Clark's problem here is that he is making a common but incorrect assumption.

He is assuming that the object of his attentions thinks of herself as highly desirable.

This is a topic which I will go into in greater depth in later articles, but this is one way in which romance is different than most other human endeavors. Generally, when two people are trying to come together to make some kind of connection, be it a business partnership, a purchase, or an agreement, both partners usually have some idea of the value of what they bring to the table and what they seek to get out of the situation.

Romance is different for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that factors like desirability are highly subjective and difficult to measure. There are objective traits like height, measurements, hair color, etc, but there is no empirical formula for determining how attractive someone is from those metrics.

Consider Dan's story.

Dan says: I saw this woman at a social event, and she was gorgeous. Blond hair, great body, outgoing personality. I immediately assumed that she was out of my league, but she was new to the place and I had been around for a while, so I figured I'd be nice and introduce myself just to make her feel more comfortable. We talked and ended up making plans to hang out. After hanging out a few times, we ended up dating. Not only was she interested in me, but she had absolutely know idea that she was attractive. She didn't think that she was ugly, but the thought that she was out of anyone's league had never crossed her mind.

This happens more often than you would think. In fact, many stunningly attractive women find that they get less male attention than their more average looking friends. Why? Because most men apply the logic that John Nash suggests in the movie A Beautiful Mind, that they are more likely to be rejected by the more attractive woman so they might as well just go straight for the second choice to improve their chance for success.

A good objective measure of comeliness would seem to be attention from suitors, so the more attractive woman would think herself less attractive due to this peculiar effect. Of course, her friends who are getting the attention don't think themselves attractive either because they look at their stunning friend and think that they cannot possibly be as attractive as her either.

Add to this various other social pressures on women to think that they are not good enough, and the result is that most women greatly underestimate their own appeal. This is a very unfortunate societal trend, but much the of the cause of implications of this are beyond the scope of this publication.

So, gentle readers, what does all this mean to you? You have spotted a lady of interest to you and would like to approach her but think that she is too attractive to be interested in you. Here are some things to keep in mind: showing confidence, sincere appreciation, knowing your own strengths. Although this article is mostly about women, most of the advice below applies to both genders.

Showing Confidence
Want to improve your attractiveness without spending any money, without changing your clothes, and without having to spend any effort? You can do it! How? Stop worrying about if you are attractive or not. If you are insecure about yourself, people you are talking to can sense it, just like a wolf can smell fear.

Candy says: I know that I am the hottest girl in the world, but it doesn't matter. I approach a person I want with confidence which is better than being hot any day. I don't even understand why other people get stressed out about trying to pick someone up. I don't ask them if they want to get with me. I tell them, and they agree.

When Candy approaches a man or woman in whom she is interested, she expresses the confidence that she will be successful. The object of her affections feels that and often responds accordingly. Conversely, if you approach someone with doubt and apprehension, they will feel it. It's the difference between asking "Do you want to get together with me?" and "You don't want to get together with me, do you?"

Sincere Appreciation
If you have ever dealt with a very good salesman, then you may have noticed that they did a great deal to make you feel good about yourself: complementing your judgment, suggesting that you deserve what you want, and generally making you feel worthy of the best. In approaching your lady, you would do well to do the same, but be careful in doing so. Women are very used to false flattery. Stick strictly to the truth. Do not tell her that she has the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen unless she actually has the most beautiful eyes that you have ever seen.

Casanova says: The greatest tragedy is that the world is full of beautiful women who have been fooled by a society, which has no taste or class, into believing that they are not glorious creatures. Every woman I come together with, I help her to understand the great beauty and power that is hers.

Although Casanova DeMarko is not known for his ability (or desire) to sustain a relationship, most women he gets together with think well of him because he makes them feel good about themselves. He does not exaggerate or make false promises. He holds strictly to the truth and makes a woman feel, by his sincere attentions, like a work of art being admired.

Unless you have the natural confidence of Casanova, I would not recommend that you try his technique, but you can learn from him. Even awkwardly saying that you wanted to talk to her because she is really pretty, it will be flattering to her as long as you are sincere in what you say.
Know Your Own Strengths
Most people underestimate their own comeliness. This probably applies to the lady you are approaching, and it may apply to you as well. Here is an exercise for you. Take out a sheet of paper (or open Notepad if you prefer). At the top write "5 Attractive Traits". You can probably guess the next step. Write 5 or more attractive traits that you have. I mean the five best things about you that other people might notice. Not sure what to write? Think about what people have complimented about you. When people say "you look nice", they are being polite. When they say "you have beautiful eyes," they probably think you have beautiful eyes. Like your list? Go ahead and share it in the comments below.

Communicate your confidence. You may not get results like Candy and Casanova do, but you will be very pleased by the results, as will those you talk to.

Note: One might read this and conclude that I am suggesting that the only thing that is important about a woman is how she looks. This is not intended and is not what I believe. However, this article refers to a situation in which people know little more about each other beyond what they see on the surface. People, both men and women, are more than just their appearance, but appearance is often an important piece of first contact in a romantic context.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How to Please A Man or Woman

I thought we should start with one of the most common topics in the realm of sex. Something relatively uncontroversial, like how to please your partner. Many magazines are full of tips and tricks, some valid and some less so (like the "fire-starter" in which you pretend you are trying to start a fire using the gentleman's penis). This is not a tips and tricks blog. There are plenty of those already on the Internet. Rather, we discuss general concepts and philosophies.

Mrs. Jennings says: My mother always taught me that it is very important to please your husband, so we have sex every week. I don't get much out of it, but I'm not supposed to.

On one of the morning shows today, they quoted a study that said about 75% of people are dissatisfied with their sex lives. This has a great deal to do with the fact that most people's idea of being a good lover involves learning a couple of tricks and applying them, as one might use test taking strategies to pass the SATs. Satisfying one's partner is more difficult than that, and yet somewhat simple as well.

First, let us look at some misconceptions...

Candy Powers says: I have never left a guy unsatisfied. I make him orgasm every time, sometimes twice!

A common misconception among women is that a guy who has ejaculated has been satisfied. It is true that a man who has ejaculated is likely in a better state than he was before, but that does not mean that he found the experience completely satisfactory. Like women, men need more than just orgasm to be fully satisfied. In fact, I, personally, have had some experiences which lacked orgasm but were entirely pleasing, as well as experiences with orgasms that I could have done without.

Joe Sumber says: I never had a problem pleasing a woman. I just go to town on her, and she likes it well enough. Never had a complaint, except from a couple of girls, but they were really uptight anyway.

Similar to Candy's misconception above, just because a woman is responding does not mean that she is being pleased as well as she might be. Many men employ a one size fits all approach, using a few tried and true techniques and assume that they will work on everyone, writing off any woman that they do not work on as uptight. This is, of course, ridiculous. Every person is different, and every person will have different preferences based on their own body.

While I am not going to teach you specific tricks on this blog, I will speak a bit on how to use communication to improve your performance in the bedroom.

This topic will come up again and again. In fact, it may well come up in every post that I make in this blog. It will come up for one simple reason. Any time you have more than one person doing something together, they need to communicate or it will not go as well as it should. It is especially important in the area of love, romance, and sex as they are very emotional fields.

In terms of pleasing your partner (and being pleased yourself), it is important to communicate. There are three basic types of communication I would like to speak about: explicit communication, questions at the time, and observation.

Explicit Communication
Closely related to pre-negotiating the scene, which is common in kink and will be discussed in future posts, this is the most useful form of communication... to a point. By "explicit communication", I mean clearly discussing, outside of a sexual encounter, exactly what each partner likes, wants, expects, etc.

The difficulty in explicit communication is that some people are not comfortable with it. Most people are taught that sex is not a thing to be talked about, that it is dirty or shameful, so they just want to do it but not talk about it. This is understandable, but a much better experience can be had by all with a little talking beforehand.

Some have gotten the idea into their heads that sex should be natural and that the encounter should develop organically without the need for talking. My opinion on this is that if you want organic, you should go to Whole Foods. If you want a pleasing experience, talk about it.

Explicit communication can be quite enjoyable unto itself. After all, you are talking to your partner, preferably in detail, about all the things that you would like to do to him or her, and what you would like him or her to do to you. Some people find this quite arousing.

There are limits to how far this explicit communication can take you, however. I once had a relationship in which we talked for a few hours about limites, boundaries, interests, desires, and all the rest, but without having had the experience of being together intimately, the talk was so abstract as to lack much purpose. So, I kissed her, and then I understood her a lot better. We talked more after that and found it to be more productive.

Questions at the Time
Perhaps you know a great technique and you just tried it on your partner for the first time. You are not sure if she likes it or not. How can you solve this enigmatic mystery? Let's consider a different quandary. You just showed your girlfriend you new Nightwish t-shirt and you are not sure if she likes it. How would you find out this bit of information. I imagine that you'd probably ask something like "Do you like it?" This would probably get you the information that you seek.

So, back to your exciting new technique. How can you find out if she likes it? Ask her. Listen closely to the answer. I say this because she may be eager to please you as well, and she may give you the answer that she thinks you want to hear. However, if you listen closely, you can usually tell the difference between a sincere positive answer and a fake positive answer.

This would be a lot easier if everyone gave true answers, wouldn't it? Make it easy on yourself. Even if you and your partner are not comfortable about explicitly communicating before sex, at least agree to answer questions honestly. Otherwise, you'll try to impress your partner by saying that you like something that you don't and will be forced to suffer through hours of being bitten on the cheek and tickled on the back of the knee because your partner thinks that is what gets you off.

Perhaps you are not sure what your partner likes. There you are, in bed, the action has started and you have no idea what to do next. I'm going to let you in on a little secret... In spite of the obvious differences, male and female bodies are remarkably similar in terms of sensitivity. With the exception of a few specific areas (and you know where they are) what stimulates one often stimulates another regardless of sex. This leads to two good helpful hints.

The first helpful hint is that anything that you enjoy, your partner may well enjoy as well. Do you like your partner to nibble your ear? Try it on them. Do you like to have nails run gently down your arm? Try it on them.

The second helpful hint is that people often do to their partners things that they would like to have done to them. This is not always the case, but, especially with a less experienced partner, you may find that an excellent source of new ideas is simply returning the favors your partner does upon you.

Whether in the bedroom or out, communication will always make things run smoother. Next time you think something goes without saying, try saying it anyway. You may find that the thing that went without saying is not actually true at all.

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