marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Husbands Notice Other Women Because…Negativity Bias



Also See: Husbands Notice Other Women For A Good Reason

In regard to LDS men’s attraction or curiosity to profane erotica or looking at other women, I’m still concerned about the rhetoric I’m hearing from wives that their immediate solution is “well, instead of looking at other naked women (or other women in general), he should only be looking at his wife.”

This is an ancient Victorian romantic ideal, but a fallacy in human biological and spiritual realty.

Many women have the romantic idea that if a man truly loves you, he will only be attracted to you and no one else. If he ever looks at another woman, then that must mean he never really loved you in the first place. On just a biological basis, this is untrue, and it may be a hard thing for women to let go of, but I ask that we consider the following:

Men (which produce less oxytocin than a woman produces[i]) does not experience the same emotional bonding that a woman experiences when entering an intimate relationship. This is because a man is designed biologically to have sex more often and reproduce with more women than the reverse.  A man is also capable of developing self- control but must consciously choose to practice fidelity each and every day.

So why does a man look at other women? One reason is because the human subconscious brain has a negativity bias mechanism built in by God. In other words, it’s attracted to disaster scenarios because it’s always looking for ways to defend against disaster or danger.


Hara Estroff Marano in her article “Our Brain’s Negative Bias said:

“Our capacity to weigh negative input so heavily most likely evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm's way. From the dawn of human history, our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully, respond to it.”[ii]

Husbands look at other women because they are not blind to the reality that their wives are mortal. You may even hear this idea subtly stated in TV shows or even in a sacrament talk when a spouse says, “You’re not allowed to die before I do” or “Our plan is to both die at the same time.”

Occasionally you hear this point of view on TV when a scene is played where a man flirts with his wife or another woman flirts with him and he turns to his wife to say, “I’ve still got it”.

The reality we live in is that we are constantly reminded that a wife could die of cancer, a freak aneurism, a car accident or some other disaster. We men are not blind to the fact that our wives are mortal.  When I was a young newlywed, I came uncomfortably close to this reality when a dear friend of ours (married only three years and madly in love) suddenly found himself a widower, his wife struck down with ovarian cancer in her mid-20s. It shook me to my core.

While lust can be a factor for some (the Coolidge effect does still apply and psychologically still creates a concern for many husbands’ libido), it is not always or the only reason a good husband looks at other women or is drawn to profane erotica.

While he may not want to admit it consciously, a husband’s subconscious is concerned with his wife’s mortality or her commitment to the relationship. He looks at other women because his brain may be wondering “Should she die, would I be able to marry again? In an eternal perspective, would she be someone my wife would approve of? Do I have what it takes spiritually and physically to attract another wife should I lose my first wife?”

These are concerns that husbands carry with them and it affects them on a deep emotional level. Sex is a motivating factor in his looking, because (should his wife die) he would also lose his marital intimacy partner and only lawful outlet. This can be a very strong motivator for concern in a man.

Conversely, this could be a motivating factor for wives to look at other men as well. “Should he die, would another man want me? Have I still got it?”

By recognizing our brain’s natural “negative bias”, husbands and wives can not only be a strength to each other, but also strengthen their intimate connection by not judging, seeing to understand and by being sensitive and open with each other about these fears and concerns. Not neglecting dates, reassuring each other of the other’s attractiveness (or helping with their ability to feel attractive), making “what if” scenarios in case the other spouse dies a matter of discussion can help alleviate (at least this part of the “attraction to profane erotica” concern) feeling the pull to look at the opposite sex.

“…If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” D&C 38:30


[i] Weber, Michael M.D., The Link Between Love and Oxytocin, Medical News Today (2017), https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795.php
[ii] Marano, Hara Estroff , Psychology Today, Our Brain’s Negative Bias, June 20, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Monday, September 3, 2018

Guidelines For Healthy Sexual Communication In Marriage Part 3


 WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Reader discretion is advised.

In case you missed Part 1 and Part 2


Here again, I wanted to share with you some wonderful information I found in my Human Sexuality textbook. I have edited it to be more relevant to a married LDS audience, as well as adding some side comments of my own in brackets in certain spots.

This quote from President Nelson seemed especially useful for opening up today’s topic:


“President Russell M. Nelson said “Husbands and wives, learn to listen, and listen to learn from one another…Even with normal hearing, some couples seem not to listen to one another. Taking time to talk is essential to keep lines of communication intact. If marriage is a prime relationship in life, it deserves prime time! Yet less important appointments are often given priority, leaving only leftover moments for listening to precious partners.

Keeping the garden of marriage well cultivated and free from weeds of neglect requires the time and commitment of love. It is not only a pleasant privilege, it is a scriptural requirement with promise of eternal glory.

Wise partners listen to learn from one another.”[i]


And now, the textbook information:

“Barriers

The most common barriers to successful communication are bypassing, frame of reference, and lack of language and listening skills (Guffey, 1999)

Bypassing: We all attach meanings to words, but individuals may attach different meanings…so it is important to understand what meaning your [spouse] attaches to a word.

Frame of Reference: …is your unique set of experiences. Your sociocultural upbringing strongly influences your style of communication.

Lack of Language Skills: In a new situation, you may not be prepared to communicate effectively. For example, one [spouse] may [have anxiety about the] situation and not know how to communicate effectively that the other’s sexual [experiment] is unwelcome.

Lack of Listening Skills: We often listen selectively and interpret messages to our advantage. For example, a husband may interpret a wife’s declining of a sexual advance to mean “come on and convince me” and failed to listen to her tone of voice or look for other non-verbal cues.

[To this we’ll also add - medications that affect the mind can also create a powerful barrier to communication.]

In 1997 Scheidlower indicated that communication difficulties between the sexes are related to a lack of vocabulary. Men and women are unable to reach a mutual understanding of certain concepts because they cannot describe them to each other… his point is that if we want to have high-quality relationships, we have to make an effort.

Gender Roles

Gender roles can strongly shape our communication patterns. Because men have traditionally focused on their place in the hierarchy, they tend to be good at public speaking.

Women, who have traditionally focused on nurturing relationships, tend to be better at speaking in private.

On the emotional level, women tend to be good at verbalizing thoughts and feelings in close relationships. Men, in contrast, tend to be good at dismissing their feelings or keeping them to themselves.

For men, expressing feelings does not help determine their status or help them compete in the outside world. It can be helpful to be aware of the context and the power of gender roles to influence what we hear, what we say, and what is the purpose of our communication (Worden & Worden, 1998)

Listen to this couple in their mid to late 20’s, married 9 years:

Wife: I don’t understand him. He’s ready to go anytime. It’s always been a big problem with us right from the beginning. If we’ve hardly talked to each other, I can’t just jump into bed. If we have a fight, I can’t just turn it off. He has a hard time understanding that. I feel like that’s all he wants sometimes. I have to know I’m needed and wanted for more than just jumping into bed.

Husband: She complains that all I want from her is sex, and I try to make her understand that it’s an expression of love. I’ll want to make up with her by making love, but she’s as cold as the inside of the fridge. I get mad when that happens. Why shouldn’t I? Here I’m trying to make up and make love, and she’s holding out for something – I don’t know what.

Wife: He keeps saying that he wants to make love, but it just doesn’t feel like love to me. Sometimes I feel bad that I feel that way, but I just can’t help it.

Husband: I don’t understand. She says it doesn’t feel like love. What does that mean, anyway? What does she think love is?

Wife: I want him to talk to me, to tell me what he’s thinking. If we have a fight, I want to talk about it so we could maybe understand it. I don’t want to jump in bed and just pretend it didn’t happen.

Husband: Talk! Talk! What’s there to talk about? I want to make love to her and she says she wants to talk. How’s talking going to convince her I’m loving her?

In sexual behavior, as in other matters, the barriers to effective communication are high and the language people use only further confuses and mystifies them. He says he wants to make love, but she says, “It doesn’t feel like love.” Neither quite knows what the other is talking about; both feel vaguely guilty and uncomfortable, aware only that somehow they’re not connecting. He believes that he has already given her a profound declaration of love. He married her and they share a home.

Yet she says, “Just once, I’d like him to love me without it ending up in sex. But when I tell him that, he thinks I’m crazy.”

For him, perhaps, it does seem crazy. Sexual activity may be the one way in which he can allow himself the expression of deep feeling. His wife, however, finds it difficult to be comfortable with her feelings in the same area.

She keeps asking for something that she can understand and that she is comfortable with – a demonstration of his feelings in nonsexual ways. He keeps giving her the one thing he can understand and is comfortable with – his feelings wrapped up in a blanket of sex.

Thus, some husbands and wives find themselves in an impossibly difficult bind, one that stems from the cultural context in which girls and boys grow to adulthood.

We are suggesting that the man’s ever-present sexual readiness is not simply an expression of urgent sexual need but is also a complex response to a socialization process that restricts the development of the emotional side of his personality. Conversely, the woman’s insistent plea for a nonsexual emotional statement is a response to a process that encourages the development of the emotional side of her personality.


Sexual Language

When discussing sexual topics, people often find that the words themselves prevent rational, thoughtful, comfortable interactions. Some words evoke such strong emotions – embarrassment, guilt, shame, or anger – that they interfere with thoughtful discourse.

For example, it may be that the term used influences what a [spouse] hears: “Penis”, “Dick”, and “Cock” may all have different connotations for different people. Calling a vagina a “vagina” may sound very clinical to one person, whereas calling it a “pussy” or a “cunt” may sound sexy, offensive, or just fine to someone else.  The sexual language used can promote communication and relationships, or it can inhibit them.

 [In an LDS marriage context, these can be sacred endearment terms that would be kept sacred by only using in the sexually intimate activity between a husband and wife. They become defiled or profane by allowing them to be used in everyday conversations. What term would be appropriate or comfortable to use between a husband and wife would be an issue to consult with each other and the Holy Ghost. So it’s important to overcome any inhibitions around talking about sexual things with your spouse. This is the right and righteous place to have these conversations.]

In addition to being comfortable with language related to sexuality, it is also important to be sure we are talking about the same thing when we use sexual terms. For example, what does “having sex” mean?

Does “having sex” include only penile-vaginal intercourse? Does anal sexual activity count? How about oral sexual activity? Mutual masturbation? Does intense petting…body contact or talking fit into your spouse’s definition of “sex”?

…to be sure we are communicating clearly we have to be sure we have the same definitions for the terms we are using.


Techniques for improving Sexual Communication

There are no magical methods for attaining free, open, and comfortable communication about sexual topics, but we do have some suggestions…to improve the overall atmosphere for communications…it is important to realize that one does not know everything. This leads to asking good questions.

Also, it helps to ask the right questions. For example, “Is this what you like?” can be a great questions that also shows concern about the other person.  Being open-minded and nonjudgmental is helpful as well. Maintaining care and trust also leads to better communication.

One [spouse] is much more likely to open up to another if there is confidence that the information will not be shared with others.

Planning

One common barrier to good sexual communication is the complete avoidance of the subject by both [spouses].

We suggest that [spouses] set aside time to discuss sexuality as they would any other topic of mutual interest and of significance to their relationship. In setting up time for such discussions, it is wise to make the following plans.

1.      Make sure you have plenty of time for your discussion. [Schedule a time. When married, nothing is spontaneous anymore. Time must be planned for everything, including sex.]
2.      Do not allow others [including children] to interrupt your discussion by calling you or by barging in on you.
3.      Accept all feelings and the right to express feelings verbally. For example, it is just as appropriate to say, “I feel angry when…” as it is to say, “I feel terrific when…”
4.      Take a risk – describe your thoughts and needs. Do not expect your [spouse] to guess what they are.
5.      Approach the discussion with both people understanding that the goal is to improve your relationship rather than to see who can shock whom.
6.      Expect changes but not miracles. Sexual communication requires continued dialogue. Seek additional help (if needed) who can contribute to your ability to communicate sexually.

Working to improve your sexual communication will help you and your [spouse] develop a deeper trust, a greater sense of intimacy, and a feeling of adventure about your relationship.

Being Assertive in Your Sexual Communication

So, what do you do if you start to feel like your spouse is the only one getting their intimacy and affection tank filled, but you’re left in the cold. How do you express that to your spouse without feeling like you’re offending them?

Bower and Bower (1976) organized an assertive verbal response, which they called DESC.

1.      Describing the other person’s behavior or the situation as objectively as possible (as in sentences taking the form “When you…”)
2.      Expressing your feelings about the other person’s behavior or the situation that you just described (as in statements beginning with “I feel…)
3.      Specifying changes you would like to see made (“I would like…” or “My preference is…”)
4.      Choosing the consequences, you are prepared to accept (a) if the situation changes to your satisfaction and (b) if it does not (“If you…, I will…” or “If you don’t…, I will…”)

…let’s look at an example of sexual communication using DESC: “When you expect me to become sexually aroused in two minutes of foreplay (Describe), I feel as though I’m being used (Express). I would like us to spend more time touching, kissing, [talking] and hugging (Specify). If you agree to devote more time to foreplay, I will relax and pay special attention to your sexual needs. If you don’t agree to devote more time to foreplay., I won’t have intercourse with you (Choose).

We are in control of ourselves alone; we have no right to tell others how to behave; we need not tolerate the other person’s behavior when it is contrary to our own desires. The basis of assertive behavior is the combination of self-respect with respect for others. [Setting boundaries with our spouse is appropriate behavior for LDS couples or any couple, and necessary in order to enjoy and grow within the relationship.]

Seeking Information

When you are about to interpret your spouse’s verbal and non-verbal communication, be sure you are not doing the following, but also pay attention to the characteristics of what makes good listeners:

·         Mind reader: You hear little or nothing as you think, “What is this person really thinking or feeling. Instead, listen with the “third ear”, seeking to understand those thoughts that are not expressed.

·         Rehearser: [Avoid] mental tryouts for “Here’s what I’ll say next” tune out the speaker. Good listeners demonstrate that they are mentally engaged in what the speaker is saying by making brief comments from time to time and asking focused questions -  patiently waiting for the answer before providing one.

·         Filterer: Some call this selective listening – hearing only what you want to hear.

·         Dreamer: Drifting off during a face-to-face conversation can lead to an embarrassing “What did you say?” or “Could you repeat that?”

·         Identifier: If you refer everything you hear to your experience, you probably did not hear what was said.

·         Comparer: When you get side-tracked assessing the messenger, you are sure to miss the message.

·         Derailer: Changing the subject too quickly tells others you are not interested in anything they have to say.

·         Sparrer: You hear what is said but quickly belittle it or discount it. That puts you in the same class as a the derailer.


…try to understand, rather than first being understood…try to see the topic of conversation from the other speaker’s standpoint first. Good listeners push back the urge to express personal opinions until they are asked or until the time is appropriate.

[Spouses who are] good listeners have to be trusted. They never repeat confidences and personal problems without the consent of the party involved.

Also keep in mind that the most visible characteristic of a good listener is body language – nodding encouragingly, perhaps leaning into the conversation, not glancing around the room or looking for something.

A few tips to avoid pitfalls

·         Choose the physical environment. Find a quiet, nonthreatening place to talk if you want to ensure true understanding.
·         Cut the interruptions. It can be difficult to communicate if the phone rings or if the person pops in at the door.

·         Recognize differences. People communicate best in different ways. Some of us are primarily auditory, whereas others are visual or “hands-on” [physically show me].

·         Persist. Refuse to believe that you cannot understand another person’s message.

Resolving Conflict

In [marriage] – even the best of relationships – conflicts arise. Too often poor communication skills (such as improper listening), a combative or offensive stance geared toward winning rather than communicating, an inability to acknowledge another’s point, or a refusal to consider alternative solutions interferes with the healthy resolution of these conflicts. …continuation of this…potentially leaves the relationship bankrupt.

To reiterate, the steps in…conflict resolution …are as follows:

1.      Active listening: Reflecting to the other person his or her own words and feelings.
2.      Identifying your position: Stating your own thoughts and feelings about the situation, and explaining why you feel this way.
3.      Proposing and exploring alternative solutions: First brainstorming and then evaluating the possibilities.

Although you may feel awkward using this technique initially, and your conversation may seem stilted, with practice it will become a part of your style and will be very effective…do not give up on it.

A similar way to resolve conflict [are these steps from “Resolve conflict in four steps, 1995].
·         Identify the interests of each person: Ask [each other] “What do you want?” Then listen carefully to the answers.
·         Identify higher levels of interest: [Ask] “What does having that do for you?” It is important to understand what each of us really wants.
·         Create an agreement frame: [Ask] “If I could show you how to get X, would you do Y?” “X” is the person’s real interest, and “Y” is what you want from the person.
·         Brainstorm for solutions: Do not just give a solution and expect the other person to accept it. …solutions must satisfy the interests of [both spouses]. 

Giving and Receiving Criticism

[When I was a student working on my first degree in professional cooking and baking, we learned what a powerful tool giving and receiving a critique could be. Most importantly, we learned how to give and receive a critique.

When we would make a dish to have the other students sample, they were not allowed to say “this is yucky” or “you can do better than this.” They had to either offer specifics or keep their comments to themselves. “This could use a little more salt” or “a cup more stock would give it the right viscosity for my taste.” 

We learned to love getting this kind of feedback, because it helped us become the very best possible chefs we could become.

Likewise, if husbands and wives learn how to give and receive constructive criticism, they can help each other become the very best lovers they can be – for each other.]

Imagine a “sex critic” planned to evaluate your sexual functioning as a movie critic critiques movies! All of us would probably feel threatened, and because of that, our abilities to function normally would most likely be compromised.

…in a very real sense, our [spouses] are our sex critics. They evaluate what we do in terms of how pleasing it is for both them and us.

It would be nice if we could receive our “sex critique” without feeling threatened by it, without feeling that it denigrated our self-esteem. It would also be nice if we were open enough both to give and to receive feedback about our sexual functioning in a way that enhanced our sexual lives and those of our [spouse].

[ To give and receive criticism in a constructive manner, here are a few tips:]

·         Find a private, relaxing place: To discuss thoughts and feelings about your sexual relationship.
·         Devote sufficient time: To such a discussion. It would be unfortunate to start a sensitive discussion just at the moment one of you had to run out the door.
·         Limit distractions: So that your attention is focused on the conversation.  Rather than wondering who might overhear  you or who might inadvertently burst into your bedroom, find a quiet, private place for your discussion.
·         It is probably not wise to do these things just before or just after a sexual encounter: Plan a relaxed time for this discussion.

When giving criticism, try to remember:

·         Begin your comments on a positive note: “You know when you kiss me I really feel great.” Then move to the behavior you would like to change. “I enjoy your touches so much that it would be terrific if you could…

·         Be specific regarding the change you are recommending: Rather than announcing, “You don’t hold me enough, “, suggest, “When we watch television, I’d really like it if you would put your arm around me.”

·         Be aware of the limitations of your [spouse]: To critique something that cannot or will not be changed may harm the relationship. If your [spouse] is slow to arouse, asking him or her to speed up is unrealistic and, we might add, unfair. It is criticism given for no useful purpose.


When receiving criticism, try to remember to:

·         Separate your [spouse’s suggestions and recommendations from your self-worth:  You are no less of a person because you might need to adjust some of your sexual behavior. In fact, if you were not open to suggestion, then you might suspect you have a problem.

·         Assume a nondefensive attitude: Rather than attempting to justify your present actions, ask questions to understand the criticism better. Then if you disagree, you will know why you disagree.

·         If the criticism is too general ask for specific suggestions: In addition, inquire as to how your [spouse] can help make this change more likely to occur. Ask your [spouse] to participate in remedying the situation or action being criticized.

·         Whether or not you agree with the criticism, thank your [spouse] for being honest enough to express their concern to you: Acknowledge that it is not easy to discuss such matters and that you appreciate the opportunity to consider something you have been doing or not been doing that is causing a problem. Encourage future suggestions that have the potential to improve your relationship.

When trying to communicate effectively, it can be helpful to have some ground rules:

·         Check in and check out: At the beginning of the conversation, spend a minute talking about your day and how you are feeling so you know what each person is bringing into the conversation. It can also help to take a minute at the end of the conversation to say how it went.

·         Define safety for yourselves and each other: Discuss what is needed to feel safe so [spouses] can talk honestly and openly.

·         Listen without interrupting

·         Respect differences in interests and desires: If one [spouse] exposes personal information, the other [spouse] should consider that a compliment, even if the desire is not something he or she is interested in doing.

·         Bring a sense of goodwill to the conversation: Neither [spouse] should be trying to intentionally hurt the other or be mean to the other.

·         Anyone can call a time-out at any time: To have a conversation where all parties feel safe expressing themselves, [spouses] need to feel they can stop the conversation at any time. This doesn’t mean that one [spouse] should storm out in the middle of a sentence, but rather that either [spouse] can ask for a time-out to end the conversation at that time with the agreement to pick it up at a later point.


Final Thoughts on Sexual Communication

…to be effective, communication must be truthful…Communication difficulties may even increase the level of risk – especially for females. Rickert and associates (2002) reported that about 20% of women believe they never have the right to stop foreplay, including at the point of intercourse…make their own decisions about contraceptive…ask their [fiancĂ©e or spouse] whether he has been examined for STIs; or tell their [spouse] that they want to make love differently or that he is being too rough.

These findings show that some …women may be unable to communicate their sexual beliefs and desires clearly and are therefore at risk for undesired outcomes.

In addition, Haffner and Schwartz (1998) reported what several leading sexologists had to say about communication in regards to sexuality. Here is some of what they had to say:

·         It is hard to be honest about past sexual experiences with a new [spouse].
·         Nonverbal communication often works better that words in bed.
·         Talking during sexual activity – sharing fantasies, using [sexually intimate] words – can be very sexy.
·         Couples who have nothing to say to each other in restaurants are usually married – and [their relationship] may be in trouble.
·         Open, honest communication is the most important foundation for a relationship.
·         You cannot underestimate the value of humor.
·         After humor, consideration is the second most important ingredient in a sexual relationship. Most people appreciate a sensitive and thoughtful [spouse].
·         Most people are not comfortable talking about sexual issues.
·         [Mutual agreement on a sexual activity] requires communication.
·         It is better to talk about sexual feelings, desires and boundaries in [marriage].
·         Talking about scenes in movies or books can sometimes be a good way to communicate what you like in sexual behavior…[or what you or your spouse don’t like or find to not be realistic in how one gender feels is a natural behavior or what sex act would realistically be a pleasant experience].

For example, the romance book or movie may portray a man who know just the right words a woman wants to hear, but in reality creates the expectation that men think like a woman and know how to read women’s minds.

Likewise, husband may have once seen a sex act where the woman was portrayed as enjoying herself, but in reality, to perform the same act on his wife, she may find it distasteful, uncomfortable, or gets no pleasure from it at all.

This doesn’t mean she doesn’t like sex, it may be that this is not how or where she wants to be stimulated – physically or emotionally.][ii]

Hope you found these tips helpful and you are welcome to come back and read these articles as many times as you wish.


[i] Nelson, Russell M., Listen To Learn, Conference Report Apr. 1991, 27-28,31
[ii] Greenberg, Jerrold S., Bruess, Clint E., Oswalt, Sara B., “Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality, 5th ed. Jones & Bartlett learning, LLC, 2014, pp 74-90; Edits in blocks by Sam Zaragoza