Tag Archives: marriage

Having it Both Ways: Childless by Choice

Having it Both Ways: Childless by Choice

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I have a handful of best friends.  We’re talking … people who knew me before politics, people who knew me “way back when” and who I have grown and evolved with over the years.  I called one such bestie the other day and she told me that she was about to call me because a recent trip to see her in-laws resulted in a discussion about when my friend and her husband were going to be starting a family and having kids.

This particularly bestie and I have long shared our mutual resistance toward having kids.  There was an interesting presumption with her in-law family, however, that it was her that was determined never to have kids.  Her normally easy going husband at one point piped up – “We’re not having kids…”  They were all shocked.  What Bestie realized about the in-laws insistence for them not to wait – was that they were way too old when they had children.  Such that the aunt had to endure huge amounts of hormone treatments and it was an all around nightmare to get their daughter.  Bestie said to me, “So while I’ve never ever wanted to have children, I realized I now have to either make peace with that or we have to talk about having kids.  NOW.”

We talked about how both of us have always been anti-kids.  Not that we blame other people of course, but many of the reasons that people say they want children are selfish reasons.  People want families for themselves, they want children that come from their genes not from the plethora of kids who don’t have good homes, we also talked about parents we’ve seen who love to live vicariously through their kids, or need someone to love them and idolize them.

We talked about how when you throw kids in the mix, your life is over.  Traveling for fun – forget it, picking up and going rock climbing on a weekend – turns out you can’t do it with a baby strapped to you, not to mention the first three years are filled with nothing but body fluids and screaming.  And the financial cost is tremendous.  The estimations once showed having kids was an investment, but now you run deficits with kids costing upwards of $250,000 from birth to their 18th birthday, and that doesn’t include college.  In the end is it more selfish to have a kid to complete you and your needs or is it more selfish to not have a kid because you have no interest in being a parent, raising someone, or disrupting your own life?

Remember back when I talked about The Professor and how he turned 40 and realized he needed to get married and have kids quick and to do that he had to find someone between 25 and 30?  I’ll never forget one of the people who commented on that blog post that I was a “selfish bitch” because I would rather not have a kid, which I still find hilarious.  There isn’t an argument for having a child that doesn’t involve someone being selfish and “wanting a kid.”  The fact is – people who want kids… want kids.  They want it for their own reasons.  While my Bestie and mine’s reasons for not having children are status quo – nothing changes with our decision and no one and nothing is impacted by a decision to not have a kid.

I’m at an advantage because no one asks me these questions because I’m not married and no one even sees me with a potential partner.  I still occasionally get the “when are you getting married” question, I don’t think anyone really expects me to have kids unless they come with a future partner.  But this whole discussion reminded me of the bizarre need for our culture to stigmatize couples who are childless, like there’s something wrong with them or one of them have bits that don’t work.  We’re so obsessed with this need to continue a DNA chain or have some image of what a family ought to look like.  The truth is, some people are different and want different things that aren’t traditional or typical.  If you want them, power to ya and have fun.  But all you Baby Boomer parents who are pissed at us because we’re not into it just need to calm the hell down.

Having It Both Ways: We all lie to ourselves

Having It Both Ways: We all lie to ourselves

To read more about the Having It Both Ways Project, please visit here.

While I was home for Thanksgiving I went to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  The table was filled with new faces – all friendly, welcoming, and open-minded folks, which typically means its going to be great conversation.  As the sakki flowed, my friend introduced me and told them “She’s a blogger and writes about all kinds of sex, and relationships, and toys and everything!”  My inner southerner blushed a little, not yet use to people knowing me from my dating life and lacking love life.

The questions came and I told them about the Having It Both Ways Project.  I talked a little about the men I find interesting – and my bizarre fascination with infidelity and monogamy.  Within that context, I asked one of the men (married to an incredibly beautiful wife that was sitting next to him) “So explain men to me…”  What he said was so astute and interesting I actually reached for my phone to take notes under the table.

“Men lie to themselves about what they really want and need.  I mean, I try very hard not to, but most don’t even realize they do it….. They convince themselves that they have to do the manly thing which, in their mind, is synonymous with the right thing.  They have to take care of the woman … there are obligations… etc”

I was kind of shocked and amazed at what makes perfect sense about so many of the men, married or unmarried, that I know.  But then again…. I’m not entirely certain it’s unique to gender.  I think we all lie to ourselves.  We all convince ourselves of what we really want to be true or maybe what should be true; sometimes so much so that we actually grow to believe it.  And it isn’t unique to relationships either.  We’re happy in our jobs because… after all it’s a steady pay check with benefits, who am I to complain if x happens or y happens.  A lawyer should be happy in her chosen profession because she spent so much time and money to be a lawyer.  A couple should be happy because they have a big house and a nice fancy car because so many other people don’t have those things.

It brings a mind to wonder, the people who do lie to themselves, is it a form of survival or is it more about “fake it until you make it”?  I don’t want to advocate this idea that we should break up a family every time someone gets annoyed with their partner, but I wonder what our culture would be like if we all stopped trying to fit into a mold of what we’re supposed to be and instead of what we think we should be.

gallup happiness poll

Gallup’s poll of Happiness

 

Having It Both Ways: The Man Whisperer

Having It Both Ways: The Man Whisperer

Read more of the Having it Both Ways Project here

For the last several years I’ve somehow become a safe haven for men over 40 who want or need someone to talk to.  For reasons passing in understanding, emotionally damaged or emotionally unavailable men flock to me like married women flock to a Katherine Heigl flick on a Saturday afternoon.  Married men, men in relationships, single men, men suffering from sexual dysfunction, men in full on mid-life crisis mode, men rediscovering themselves, men who have never discovered themselves, men in denial, fully actualized men, horny men, curious men…. they all seem to find me and they instantly want to talk to me as if I hold some great wisdom or understanding about the women-folk.

One of my dear friends called me The Man Whisperer because I can somehow get them to open up and talk about things of which they dare not speak.  As if I’m somehow bilingual – I speak “Woman” and I speak “Man.”  I don’t think any of that is necessarily true.  It isn’t that I understand both women and men so acutely that I can serve as a translator … I think it’s more that I think you’re all crazy and I don’t get any of you people.  (This is why I’m single.)  Yet, still they come… and I listen, and somehow manage to say the right thing or give comfort or inspire action.

The most difficult of these is a gentleman I’ve been speaking to online for over a year.  We met a little before he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his manly bits.  A significant portion had to be removed for a walnut sized tumor that was causing the difficulty – leaving him with what he refers to as a “Frankenweenie” and a response time that leaves a lot to be desired.  But like a good man, his mind is still in the horny place.  Somehow, unfortunately, his mind is the only one.  He’s become a kind of leper in his own house.  His wife won’t come near him, his kids don’t pay attention to him.  A few months ago when we reconnected after not corresponding for a few months, he told me he felt like a house plant that every once in a while they would dust and water.

Another married man friend was hardly getting any sleep and when I asked why he said that he bought himself a video game system he’d been hiding from his spouse and sneaking out to play it at 3am.  He got mad when I told him it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.

I know it’s easy to point to isolated incidents in other people’s lives and say – “There!  That’s fucked up!”  But you have to wonder what would lead someone to these moments in their lives.  I never have the brilliant solution or the convenient how-to guide, all I do is listen and say what I think.  It’s all I can do.  And gather the wisdom that women are just as insane and jacked up as men are.  My advice today, dear reader, regardless of which bits you possess, is to stop being such a pain in the ass to your partner and genuinely get your shit together.  Not necessarily for the sake of your partner, but for the sake of yourself.  Otherwise you might end up reading about your depressed partner on someone’s blog some day.

Having it Both Ways: America’s Favorite Past Time – Sex and Judgment

Having it Both Ways: America’s Favorite Past Time – Sex and Judgment

Photo credit goes to Sprinkles Guy

Read more about the Having It Both Ways Project here.  Or just imagine you did and instead watch dirty videos… i don’t care.

I’m still pretty shocked by the responses I had this week after the post I did on my fear of falling in love.  I guess in retrospect I should have been more clear instead of just rambling my feelings like a confused mime expecting readers to see past the initial two paragraphs.  It seems once folks saw I’d slept with a married dude that was all they could read.  Most missed the point entirely.  And even in the follow up piece, few got to the next to last paragraph that said the last thing I wanted was to end up in a relationship where I wasn’t having my needs met and even thought of cheating on my partner.

What I should have done is simply describe the 4 relationships and ask you, dear reader, which one is the healthiest relationship.

Relationship 1:  Couple has sex rarely, argues constantly.  This has gone on their entire short marriage.  Husband has had multiple affairs and is unhappy.  Wife knows nothing.  Husband would leave if it was financially feasible.

Relationship 2:  Couple loves each other deeply, soul mates … the whole bit.  Wife is incredibly vanilla, husband is incredibly… not.  Husband seeks non-emotional detached sex toy that just happens to be human without wife’s knowledge.

Relationship 3:  Couple is deeply and profoundly in love.  Only had a few relationships in their lives.  Married after college.  Have incredible communication, tell each other everything, talk and process, have good sex.  Husband falls for a friend of theirs – friend falls too.  Couple considers open marriage with rules and guidelines for potential play as their relationship evolves and they try to understand more about their needs both individually and as a couple.

Relationship 4:  Couple has been married a long time.  Constantly fight.  Wife feels she’s not there’s no emotion in their relationship or their sex.  Desperate for passion, intimacy, and someone to love her.  Would never have affair.

Answer which one is the healthiest relationship.

Now.  Which one is the most socially acceptable relationship?  Answer why that is.

As I’m looking at relationships to pattern my own life off of, I’m seeing these and wondering which is the best for me, knowing that I don’t want to end up in a situation where I’m in relationships 1, 2, or 4.  How do you navigate that is my question?

Having It Both Ways: Fear sets in – What if I fall in love?

Having It Both Ways: Fear sets in – What if I fall in love?

Is monogamy relevant in contemporary society?Read more about the Having It Both Ways Project!

UPDATE:  Read the follow up to this post here

For the past year and a half I’ve been having an affair off and on with someone who is in a relationship.  A miserable relationship with an awful, atrocious human being, but a relationship nonetheless.  While we now live in other places and have only seen each other twice this year, we talk constantly, sometimes it’s super hot talk, sometimes it’s me playing therapist to hear about his relationship woes, sometimes it’s him yelling at me for my political philosophy that he doesn’t agree with, but most times…. it’s just really really hot talk.

A month ago I started having hot conversations with another married guy.  I don’t know many of the details of his situation, but like the guy back home, I’m not this guy’s first affair, nor do I doubt I’ll be his last.

I also had a friend who was known for cheating on his long term partner SEVERAL times.

A married female friend of mine said to me this weekend “without religion telling us what is acceptable, we probably wouldn’t have come up with monogamy on our own.”  She and her husband have been together for a VERY long time, and recently decided to start thinking about having a more “open” relationship.  There are rules and guidelines, but the understanding is that there are adventures that the relatively inexperienced couple could have outside of their relationship as long as they maintained their marriage.  They’ve been in couples counseling for more than six months, and their therapist outright told them that of all of her couples, they communicate their needs and concerns better than any other she sees.  They are stable, rational, consenting adults who know the red flags to watch out for in making something like this work.

Another married friend of mine has been with her husband for 12 years and was shocked to hear the above story.  “I could never do that,” she told me.  “I’m too jealous,” and I think she also said possessive.  She also said that when emotions are involved it’s harder to allow for encounters like the one the couple above described, and both her and her husband have too many emotions wrapped into their relationship.

That’s not to say, however, that the open marriage couple doesn’t – their rule is:  they come home to each other.  They are partners and there is a commitment between them.  Clearly, however, the emotions that are in play with the two top men above are significantly detached.  Guy number one doesn’t love his wife, guy number two doesn’t love me, and both aren’t getting something that they clearly need in their existing relationships.  Which is why they come to me.

That’s why people cheat, right?  Well… mostly.  Because a need is not being fulfilled?  I suppose there is always the “Self Loathing Cheater” … you know the ones who cheat because “if she loves me there’s clearly something wrong with her” or “I don’t deserve to be happy because I’m a horrible person so I’ll sabotage our relationship.”  But let’s just focus on the needs not being fulfilled because that fits in with my two guys.

My non-monogamous friend asked me “what’s the difference between having girlfriends that you can go see chick flicks with for two hours and someone with whom you can have a different form of sex with for two hours?”  It’s a fair question.  If you’re not talking about love, it’s just fun and games, does it constitute cheating or an affair?  Many many many women, especially those back home, would say yes, because they would see it as a betrayal of trust.  I think they do have a point there.  If the spouse is lying about it and sneaking around, then it is a betrayal, isn’t it?  It’s a lie.  But what if you both discussed it, the rules, and the terms and ensured there was no love involved here?  Is it still a betrayal?

My mom’s second husband cheated on her and it left her a profoundly different person who is certainly a lot less trusting, and that’s a factor in her current relationship.  She was never able to get over that sense of betrayal.  The cheater in that situation, however, never loved the women he was with, nor did he love her any less, but I’m confident if he came to her and said “I’m a sex addict can I ……?” she’d never consent.  I doubt there are many wives, particularly in Oklahoma who would, addiction or not.

As I’m beginning to date and go on dates with people who are specifically looking for commitments, I’m starting to wonder about my own ability to be in a monogamous relationship with someone.  What if I fall for a guy and he can’t fulfill me in the deep emotional way that women do?  Are emotional cuddly relationships with women acceptable because we just take for granted that women have “lady friends” or does it become something different because I use to be a lesbian?  Is an emotional affair between me and another woman still an affair?  Does our culture accept that there are things that we don’t expect men to be able to provide so we look to obtain them from our “lady friends?”

If we say yes – would the same be true if I ended up in a long term relationship with a woman that I was deeply and profoundly emotionally in love with – but who wasn’t into wild crazy adventurous spontaneous sex, and thus that part of me was left unfulfilled?  If I stepped out on her and had a “play partner” I boinked occasionally, but didn’t love, is that still unacceptable?  Is it the same thing?

My biggest fear in dating folks is in falling in love with someone who doesn’t meet all of my needs.  But is it wrong to assume that I can find someone who actually will?  And is it more sensible to decide what needs 100% must be met and what are more…. soft needs that can be somehow available elsewhere?   I think once you grow up and realize that there really isn’t that one single soulmate that completes you perfectly, the former begins to look more appealing.  The people who are in relationships like that are often times obsessed with each other, co-dependent, and incredibly dysfunctional.  So that’s not exactly healthy either.

Either way, it’s unfair for any of us to say what is or isn’t acceptable for one couple or another.  Decrying that X is right for everyone puts us back into 1950′s America where everything looked the same, sounded the same, and was the same.  It’s the Edward Scissorhands society, and I think we can all agree we don’t want to live there.  What works for the open relationship couple works for them.  Monogamy is only acceptable to my mom and her husband.  Who is any of us to say  which is better or worse.   What is difficult is that when looking for models in society, fictional, or real – there are no examples for which we can compare our own experience.  There are no public examples of non-monogamous couples who make it work, at least mainstream couples.  No fictional examples on television or in books either.  How can we pattern what our relationships should be if there is no path before us?  It leaves us making it up as we go along.

My friend said that this is what our generation is changing most about our society.  We are the “no boundaries” generation, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality.  Perhaps, it’s why we’re so open and affirming of LGBT couples.  The culture war is a boundary war – a massive shift between older generations who grew up being taught “we just don’t do things that way….”  Compared to my generation that is more open to embracing the differences people have or differences people seek.  The uniqueness of the individual.

As I’m dating and meeting more people, sure part of it is about learning more about myself, but ultimately it’s about uncovering what kind of relationship will work best for me.  I’m frustrated that I don’t have that answer readily available.  I know in my head what would be nice to have, but I don’t know how that works in actual practice, nor if its even attainable.  In the end, the biggest fear I have after each date I go on, whether I liked the person or not, is: holy shit… what if this turns out to be “the one” and he or she isn’t capable of meeting my needs.  Does that then me that he or she ISN’T the one?  And does that mean I should always hold out for the perfect person?  If I do that though, might I be waiting forever?  Or does it mean that I’ll end up like guys #1 and #2 stepping out looking to have those needs fulfilled.

I guess – I just want answers and there aren’t any.  There’s so much grey area – 50 shades of grey area – and I’m more comfortable with knowing an absolute definitive answer.