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The Best Way to Fix Love (According to the New Book “Love Sense”)

March 21, 2014

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photo via Flickr

The new book Love Sense by clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson tries to take some of the mystery out of that big emotion. While that may not sound very romantic, Johnson is dedicated to the scientific exploration of love so that we may have better, more-fulfilling, more intimate long-term relationships — especially in a world where independence, isolation and non-monogamy are growing more common. Her book offers real-life examples and practical exercises, based on the Emotionally Focused Therapy she developed in her own practice. In previous weeks, we’ve featured the first sections of Chapter 1 on the history of love and the sceince of love; below is the final section, which presents a unified theory of love and offers an exercise to try at the end.

 

Love Sense” by Dr. Sue Johnson

from Chapter 1: A Unified Theory of Love

Understanding that our lovers are our safe haven from the vicissitudes and depredations of life has given us new insights into what makes romantic relationships fail and succeed. For years, all of us have focused solely on what we see and hear. The fights that erupt over money: “You’re spending a fortune on shoes you don’t need.” “All you want to do is save. We’re living like misers. There’s no fun.” The disputes over in-laws: “You’re always on the phone with your mother, telling her every little thing we say and do.” “You’re Daddy’s girl, totally. When are you going to grow up?” The disagreements about child rearing: “So he didn’t do his homework last night. He gets too much. You’re too rigid and controlling.” “And you’re too lenient. He has no discipline. You let him get away with murder.” And the disappointment about sex: “You cheated. How many times? You’re such a liar.” “Well, I wouldn’t have if you were willing to try new things or have sex more often. And anyway, it didn’t mean anything.”

But concentrating only on what’s right before our eyes obscures our vision. We don’t get the big picture. Home in on the miniature dots in Georges Seurat’s painting and you’ll be unaware you’re seeing A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Sit at the piano and play a few notes in a score and you won’t hear Johannes Brahms’s lulling Waltz in A-flat Major. Take the dance floor and repeat one series of steps and you’ll never realize the sensuality of Argentine tango.

Similarly, troubled couples are fixated on specific incidents, but the true problem is broader and deeper. Distressed partners no longer see each other as their emotional safe haven. Our lover is supposed to be one person we can count on who will always respond. Instead, unhappy partners feel emotionally deprived, rejected, even abandoned. In that light, couples’ conflicts assume their true meaning: they are frightened protests against eroding connection and a demand for emotional reengagement.

In contrast, at the core of happy relationships is a deep trust that partners matter to each other and will reliably respond when needed. Secure love is an open channel for reciprocal emotional signaling. Love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing, and finding deeper connection. It is a dance of meeting and parting and finding each other again, minute by minute and day by day.

The new science has given us what I like to call a unified field theory of love. Einstein couldn’t find it for physics, but we’ve found it for love. At last, all the pieces we’ve been puzzling over separately fit together. We see the grand scheme. Fifty years ago noted animal researcher Harry Harlow, in an address to the American Psychological Association, observed, “As far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in their mission…The little we write about it has been better written by poets and novelists.”

Today we have cracked the code of love. We now know what a good love relationship looks and feels like. Even better, we can shape it. For the first time, we have a map that can guide us in creating, healing, and sustaining love. This is a consummate breakthrough. At last, to quote Benjamin Franklin, this “changeable, transient, and accidental” phenomenon—romantic love—can be made more predictable, stable, and deliberate.

The fixes we’ve tried in the past have been failures because we have not understood the basis of love. In general, therapists have attacked the problem in two ways. The first is analytical: couples dig back and sift through their childhood experiences to find the reasons why they respond the way they do. This seeking after insight into first relationships is laborious, time consuming, and expensive—with small benefit. It comes at the problem sideways, through intellectual insight into each person’s relationship history. Your present relationship is not just your past automatically playing out; this dismisses your partner and the power of his or her responses, as if this partner were simply a blank screen on which you project the movie of your past.

The second approach is practical. Couples are instructed on how to communicate more effectively—“Listen and repeat back what your partner has said.” Or they’re taught how to negotiate and bargain their way through divisive issues, from sex to cleaning—“You agree to vacuum the rug, and I’ll clean the bathroom.” Or coached on how to improve their sex life—bring on the flowers and racy lingerie and try positions from the Kama Sutra. All of these techniques can be helpful, but only temporarily. Love is not about whether you can parrot back what’s said or decide who vacuums the rug or agree on what sexual moves to try. Such practical counseling is like putting a finger in a cracked dam to hold back the tide or sticking a Band-Aid on a suppurating wound.

My client Elizabeth tells me, “The other therapist made us do these set exercises using the statements she gave us, but we just couldn’t talk to each other that way when we got home, let alone when we were upset. And we did make a deal about chores, but it didn’t change the way I felt about us. I was still lonely. At one point we were doing this ‘leave the room, take time out’ thing, but then I was even more angry when he walked back in, and I didn’t even really know what I was so angry about.”

Ultimately, these remedies are ineffectual because they don’t address the source of relationship distress: the fear that emotional connection—the font of all comfort and respite—is vanishing.

When we know how something works, fixing it and keeping it healthy is much easier. Before this basic understanding, all we could do was flail around trying to fix one part of the relationship in the hope that trust and loving connection would somehow find their way back in through these narrow routes. The new science has given us a straight arterial road to our destination.

To really help couples find happiness, we must shore up the foundation of their relationship; that is, help them relay and rebuild their emotional connection. The technique I and my colleagues have devised, EFT, or Emotionally Focused Therapy (my irreverent children call it Extremely Funny Therapy), does just that. We’ve discovered that discontented lovers fall into set patterns of behavior that plunge them into cycles of recrimination and withdrawal. The key to restoring connection is, first, interrupting and dismantling these destructive sequences and then actively constructing a more emotionally open and receptive way of interacting, one in which partners feel safe confiding their fears and longings.

The results of EFT, as measured in a multitude of studies, have been astoundingly positive—better, in fact, than the outcomes of any other therapy that has been offered. Lovers say that they feel more secure and satisfied with their relationship. Their mental health improves as well; they are less depressed and anxious. And they are able to hold onto the changes they make long after therapy has ended.

Why is EFT so effective? Because it goes to the heart of the matter. We do not have to persuade or coach partners to be different. The new
science has plugged us into the deepest human emotions and opened the way to transfiguring relationships, using the megawatt power of the wired-in longing for contact and care that defines our species. Says one of my clients: “For twenty-eight years, my wife and I had been circling the kind of conversation we are having now, but we’d never actually gotten down to it…Either we were too afraid or we didn’t know how. This conversation changes everything between us.”

Once you have a map to the territory called love, you can put your feet on the right path and find your way home.

***

To help you turn the new science into love sense, you’ll find brief “experiments” for you to do at the end of each chapter. Science, after all, is deliberate observation that leads to identification of recurring patterns. By doing these experiments, you’ll be collecting data on your own relationship that will help you understand the way you love and help you find the security and satisfaction you—and we all—long for.

EXPERIMENT 

Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted for about thirty minutes. Sit comfortably and quietly, and count twenty breaths in and out. Now imagine that you are in an unfamiliar, dark place. You are suddenly unsure and scared and aware that you are very much alone. You want to call out for someone to come.

Step 1 

Who is the person you want? Imagine his or her face in your mind’s eye.

Do you call or not? Perhaps you convince yourself that this is a bad idea, even a sign of weakness, or an opening that will lead to hurt and disappointment. Perhaps you decide that it is not good to rely on another person and that you must take care of your distress on your own, so you hunker down in the dark. Perhaps you call, but very hesitantly, then go hide in a dark corner.

If you call, how do you do it? What does your voice sound like? When someone comes, what does he do? Does he express concern, offer comfort and reassurance, and stay with you so that you relax and let yourself be comforted?

Or does she come, but then sometimes turn away, dismiss your distress, tell you to control your emotions, or even criticize you, so that you try to hold onto her but get more upset, feeling that she has not really heard your call or cannot be relied upon?

How does your body feel as you do this experiment? Tight, numb, sore, agitated, calm, relaxed? How hard was it for you to do this experiment? Do any emotions come up for you—sadness, joy, anger, or even anxiety?

Step 2

Now stand up and move around for a few minutes. Sit in another chair to consider the results of your thought experiment from some distance. (If it is hard to get distance, you may want to postpone reflecting on the experiment until another day or even discuss it with someone you trust.)

Summarize, in very simple terms, what happened in this fantasy scenario. Write the steps down. What does this imagined scenario tell you about what you expect in a relationship? Our expectations, our predictions about how others will respond to us guide our steps in any dance with a lover. They are our very own love story.

Step 3

Reflecting a little more, see if you can articulate your general feeling about love relationships.

Some people automatically go to phrases such as: “They just don’t work”; “Men/Women are impossible to relate to. They always reject you or let you down”; “Love is hard work, but it’s worth it”; or “Love is for dummies.”

Step 4

Ask yourself, “What do I really want to know about love and loving?” See if you can find the answer by reading the rest of this book.

 

from “Love Sense” by Sue Johnson, available on Amazon.com
Copyright (c) 2013 by Sue Johnson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.
 Read the first part of Chapter 1 on the history of love
Read the second part of Chapter 1 on the sceince of love.
 



Dream Interpretation: I Had a MFF Threeway with My Husband

March 20, 2014

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photo via flickr

Other people’s dreams are never interesting…except when they’re about sex. Each week, our dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg tells one lucky reader what their dirty dream means. Got a dream you want Lauri to analyze? Click here to submit it (18 and older only, please). This week, a reader asks Lauri:

I had a dream last night about my husband and I having a threesome and I have been completely freaked out. In the dream we met a random woman who we befriended. One thing led to another and we took her to bed. I remember being completely fine with it until I found out that my husband would only be the second person and only the second time that she has slept with anyone. I tried putting it out of my mind and continued but I was suddenly jealous. During foreplay I looked at my husband and made it very clear that this would be the only time that we do this. Things continued to progress but I was able to wake myself before we went “all the way.”

This dream confused me for many reasons. My husband and I are completely closed to this subject as we agree it would be detrimental to our relationship. We are committed solely to each other. Another thing is that the only other person I have ever been with is a woman. I dated her for 7 years and while I enjoyed that time I have no desire to live that life again. I’d love to talk to him about this but it has taken 4 of the 5 years we’ve been together for me to convince him that I’m done with that part of my life and he fulfills my needs. Hoping you can help me figure this out. I’ve been thinking about it for hours. Thank you in advance!

Lauri:  Dreams are confusing for many reasons. One, because we look at them literally rather than symbolically, and two, because we don’t realize that everything in the dream is really symbolic of a part of ourself or a part of our own life. In other words, the woman in this dream represents you!

Notice how, just like you, your husband is only the second person she has ever been with. So you need to ask yourself what it is you have invited into your marriage that you now regret. Is something starting to feel like a third wheel? Have either of you taken on a new job or project that is getting in the middle of your time together? Or is it something intangible like insecurity or a behavior that that is starting to be a problem?

My suspicion is that it is your past. In the dream you try to make it clear to your husband that the threesome with the woman will never happen again just as you have to convince him in real life that you would never be with another woman again. I think your dream is showing you that this is still a sticky wicket for hubby… or perhaps it is for you in that it bothered him for so long. Either way, I believe THAT is the third wheel. Heck, a lot of men would totally dig if that was part of their wife’s past. Nonetheless, my professional opinion is that this dream reflects that you are solely committed to hubby but it bothers you that your past bothers — or DID bother — him. The past is the past. You don’t live there anymore so stop letting it imprison you.

 

Visit Lauri’s brand new site, WhatYourDreamMeans.com, for even more dream interpretations! If you want to be able to figure out your own dreams every morning, then check out her latest book, Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life, which will give you the tools you need to become a dream expert, too. Check out all of Lauri’s books here.

 

 

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That Pesky C-Word

March 20, 2014

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“The ultimate sexist put-down: the prick which lies down on the job. The ultimate weapon in the war between the sexes: the limp prick. The banner of the enemy’s encampment: the prick at half-mast. The symbol of the apocalypse: the atomic warhead prick which self-destructs. That was the basic inequity which could never be righted: not that the male had a wonderful added attraction called a penis, but that the female had a wonderful all-weather cunt. Neither storm nor sleet nor dark of night could faze it. It was always there, always ready. Quite terrifying, when you think about it. No wonder men hated women. No wonder they invented the myth of female inadequacy.” – Fear of Flying

Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, and as we took a stroll down memory lane — the kind of memory lane where horny people park their cars for zipless fucks — we were reminded how perfectly comfortable Jong was using the word cunt in her books (“Jealousy makes the prick grow harder. And the cunt wetter,” from How to Save Your Own Life). We keep wanting to write “the c-word” as we type — that’s how scandalous the word still is, even forty years on. Even after the release in 2002 of a book called, simply, Cunt, which traced the history of the word from honorific (in ancient times) to expletive. Even after a hipster feminist like Caitlin Moran came out of the c-word closet in 2012 and admitted that cunt is her word of choice.

Sure, we know that cunt is a pejorative, and it’s not very nice to call your nether regions names — especially a name associated with sexism and misogyny. But we think people’s discomfort with the word goes much deeper than that; twat never shocks people as much, for example, and that’s a pejorative, too (albeit a charmingly British one). Is it, in fact, because a cunt seems powerful in a way that a friendly pussy just isn’t?  And because this kind of powerful cunt makes people think of raw, dirty, uninhibited sex?

Think about it: Of all the many hundreds of euphemisms for vagina and vulva, how many of them conjure the kind of sex — or the kind of all-mighty genitals, even — that cunt does? Not snatch, not yoni, not muff, not minge, not even pussy. In fact, most euphemisms convey some level of discomfort with the area. Consider terms that compare the vagina to a smelly or unpleasant food (tuna taco, hair pie), or a strange animal (bearded clam), or an abyss of some kind (slit, gaping axe wound), or an anachronistic Victorian lady (velvet glove), or something designed to “trap” a penis (flytrap, manhole). Even terms that are supposed to empower women, like vajayjay, just end up sounding cutesy. And who wants their vagina to be cutesy, at least when it’s getting some amorous attention?

In contrast, while cunt may also reflect some societal discomfort with women, the word just doesn’t seem to care. It’s got better things to do. And it will probably never be considered adorable (unless we all start putting an umlaut over the U to create a smiley face).

For years we have struggled to find the perfect word for a woman to use in bed with a partner — as opposed to with her gynecologist or on a ladies’ night out — and we’ve always come to the conclusion that the word simply doesn’t exist. Everything is either too damn silly (love muffin), too clinical (vagina/vulva), too offensive (pussy), too cliche (pussy) or too cringe-worthy (pussy) to say out loud in bed. (Can you tell we’re not fans of the P-word?). But we wonder if cunt has been unfairly overlooked as a viable, perfectly acceptable pillow-talk possibility. Maybe Erica Jong got it right forty years ago, and the rest of us (or at least the two of us) are too delicate — too pussy, a wise-ass might say — to realize it.

Of course, the perfect word is whatever works for you, whatever that may be (and to hell with Em & Lo’s delicate sensibilities!). Your perfect word may be no word at all, but rather a sigh or a moan. But we do like the idea of trying to expand your vocabulary in bed in order to expand your sexual horizons — even if that just means testing the waters with an Oh, baby, lick my c-word.

 

What do you think: Have you ever used the word cunt in bed? Or could you picture yourself doing so? If not, what’s your go-to word? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

 

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When Do I Tell a New Partner I Want an Open Relationship?

March 18, 2014

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We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. You can leave your advice in the comments section below. 

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Dear Em & Lo,

I’m a single guy and I’m fairly active on the dating scene. When I eventually get into a long-term relationship, I’d like it to be an open relationship, but I don’t know when and how to bring this up with new partners. I don’t want to scare a woman off by mentioning it too soon, but I don’t want to be accused of leading her on, either. When’s the right time to mention that long-term monogamy isn’t really my thing?

– Free Willy

What’s your advice for Free Willy? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

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Dream Interpretation: I Was Castrated, Then I Strangled Ashton Kutcher

March 13, 2014

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photo via Flickr

Other people’s dreams are never interesting…except when they’re about sex. Each week, our dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg tells one lucky reader what their dirty dream means. Got a dream you want Lauri to analyze? Click here to submit it (18 and older only, please). This week, a reader asks Lauri:

I had a nightmare last night: After a house party, two guys (who in the dream were my friends, though they don’t exist in my life) held me down and cut off one of my testicles, laughing while they did it. I then woke up and tried to get to an ambulance, they were laughing and making jokes like I was a pansy for wanting help.

I woke up and checked myself, and was fine. I went back to sleep and dreamed I was a robot with sentience created by a doctor as an experiment. In the dream I terrified people whenever they looked at me, and I ended up strangling Ashton Kutcher.

Lauri: As cringe-worthy as they are, castration dreams are pretty common for the men-folk, I’ve learned. Why? Because the male genitalia, to the dreaming mind, tends to represent male energy: assertiveness, manning up, growing a pair, etc. So when your male bits are taken from you in a dream, it means you are feeling pressure in waking life to soften up a bit… or something is causing you to feel belittled, diminished or disrespected in some way.

Let’s look at the specifics of your dream to try to get more info from it. This happens to you after a party, which suggests some sort of celebratory or exciting situation in your life has come to an end. These two guys are laughing while castrating you. This tells me you aren’t taking yourself or some situation in your life seriously enough… or perhaps you feel someone isn’t taking you seriously. You woke up in an ambulance, which means you have had a recent awakening or realization in real life that some area of your life needs to heal. Is it a relationship? Something from your past? Whatever it is, it is a part of you that worries you will be seen as a pansy for wanting to remedy what has gone wrong.

In your next dream you are a robot with feelings. That is a perfect metaphor for what may be going on with you in real life. It seems there is some sort of situation that is causing you to feel very emotional but you don’t want to show it because you are concerned how others may perceive you. While strangling Ashton Kutcher may be a dream many would like to fulfill (ha), I think it symbolizes that you are choking back what you would really like to say. Your dream seems to be showing you that if you continue to hide your emotions you could very well turn into a freakish, cold, unemotional, murderous robot of a person. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

 

Visit Lauri’s brand new site, WhatYourDreamMeans.com, for even more dream interpretations! If you want to be able to figure out your own dreams every morning, then check out her latest book, Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life, which will give you the tools you need to become a dream expert, too. Check out all of Lauri’s books here.

 

 

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Dear Em & Lo: My Husband Photoshopped My Nude Photos

March 12, 2014

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photo by cogdogblog

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Dear Em & Lo,

While on our honeymoon, we took advantage of a rainy day to stay lazily in our beautiful hotel room all day. We crossed a boundary we hadn’t crossed before: nude photography! We’d been playing with the idea for a while, but I was a bit hesitant because I’m overweight and don’t always like how I look in pictures, and it felt like a huge step. After the wedding though, I was feeling like a million dollars and told my husband I was ready to go ahead. We made that big legal commitment, I was ready for the emotional commitment of nudes as well.

It was an incredibly sexy to be in front of my husband’s lens, he checked in often with me to see if I was still comfortable, we talked ideas through before going ahead. I felt very safe and in control. We also agreed I could veto any photo I didn’t like, and it would be immediately erased. We ended up with a set of pictures we both liked, and my husband was going to do some post-production in photoshop, to fix lighting problems and get rid of power outlets etc.

In most pictures, that is exactly what he did, but I recently found out that in some pictures, he also slightly photoshopped my body: he made my upper arms and thighs a bit slimmer, smoothed out my love handles, minimized cellulite on my bum. It’s not extreme: I don’t suddenly look like a supermodel or anything. It’s just a slightly glamorized version of me, but I still can’t help feeling hurt and confused. Yes, the pictures look a bit nicer, but I was very happy with how I looked in the originals.

I know my husband adores me, but I suddenly feel like I have to compete with a digital version of myself and I’m afraid I won’t live up to the challenge. I am working on losing weight (have been for a while) but weight loss isn’t like photoshop: you can’t target offending points and trim those and keep other spots as they are. I think I’ll still have slightly flabby arms when I’m slimmer and I might just lose the fat in the wrong places…

How do I get my self-confidence back? How do we get past this?

Thanks for your advice,
Digitally Altered

Dear D.A.,

Oh, man. Serious honeymoon period buzz kill. We are so sorry that something that started off so wonderfully — hot monogamy! breaking taboos together! loving your naked body! — ended up hurting you so much.

Your husband sounds like one of the Good Ones. He made you feel sexy in front of his lens, he made you feel comfortable, he made you feel safe, and he made you feel in control. That’s the million-dollar combination — no wonder you felt like a million bucks! And then he went and fucked it all up with a little Photoshop. But given that he’s one of the Good Ones — we’re going to go out on a limb here and assume that he is — we’re convinced his intentions were good.

He wasn’t trying to make you feel bad about yourself — he thought he was doing something nice for you. And he wasn’t trying to make you look the way he wishes you looked — he was trying to make you look the way he thinks you wishes you looked. Stupid fucking women’s magazines/celebrity anorexics/looming billboard advertisements. They are a hundred times more to blame than your husband is. Remember, he took the original pictures. He asked you to get naked. He married you. He’s turned on by you. That way you felt under his lens? That’s more real than anything else. Unless you catch him jerking off to your digitally altered picture every night instead of ever jumping your bones, we’re pretty sure he prefers the real, live, fleshy you.

If it makes you feel better, you’re in good company. Every single actress — even the underfed, underweight, seriously malnourished ones — get Photoshopped on magazine covers. Even the mutantly, impossibly gorgeous ones. Even the ones who make public statements about women’s body image and how fucked up Photoshop is (hi Kate Winslet) — even they get Photoshopped. Which doesn’t make it okay, it’s just a reminder of how insidious this is. Be glad that you don’t have a job that requires you to starve yourself, shun all carbs, and then, after all that, STILL get Photoshopped on magazine covers. Be grateful for ice cream and french fries and sexy curves and bones that don’t break under the weight of making love.

We know it seems like your digitally altered image is a figment of your husband’s imagination, someone he wishes you could be, and someone you now feel like you’re in competition with. (Em sometimes looks back at her high school yearbook photo and is astounded at the golden, glowing girl she sees there. And then she remembers how the studio photoshopped out her raging acne — and she is touched by how brightly and optimistically that girl smiled despite the acne.) But people are constantly presenting glamorized versions of themselves — online personal ads, for example. Or the way we are at happy hour drinks with co-workers. Or the images and status updates we choose to post to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram et al. Or the way we look on a date night. The great thing about marriage is that you get it all — you get to live with each other’s glamorized selves, AND you get to live with the real selves. Your husband isn’t choosing between the two, or favoring one over the other — he wants it all.

By the way, in a slight defense of your husband: Nude photos are tough. The wrong angle or the wrong lighting can be disastrous, even for Angelina Jolie (okay, maybe for everyone EXCEPT her). This is why we often recommend people use Polaroids (or Polaroid-style filters) and candlelight and even an artsy blurred approach. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a little artistic license in the nude-photo department.

But. There’s nothing wrong with cellulite, either, and we hope your husband realizes this. Have you told him how hurt you were by his amateur Photoshopping? You should. Be kind and gentle, but tell him. Tell him how much you loved the original photos, and how much it meant to you that he took them. Chances are, he had no idea his actions would upset you so. You’re still in the honeymoon period, after all! The way you get past this is to be honest with each other, to listen to each other, and to be kind to each other. Also, to lust after each other!

As to how you can regain your confidence: Be patient. Accept your husband’s compliments. Initiate sex. Work out* (for the psychological boost as much as anything — it will fill you with energy and confidence). Be more patient. Take more pictures of each other (we highly recommend photo filters!). Make a saucy video together. Google celebrities who have been Photoshopped. (Okay, we realize that isn’t so high-minded or mindful, but sometimes it helps.) Take up yoga. Write in a gratitude journal each day, focusing on your sex life — focus on what you love about your marriage, your husband, your body. Have more sex. Enjoy ice cream and french fries.

Smooches,

Em & Lo

* Sure, weight loss alone isn’t like Photoshop in terms of targeting the spots that bother you — that’s what exercise is for! (Combined with portion control.) And everyone has time for a 7-Minute Workout each day.

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Top 5 Love Lessons from The Bachelor Finale (Juan Pablo)

March 11, 2014

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photo courtesy of ABC/Rick Rowell

  1. When your partner’s family tells you he’s rude, he makes his mama cry, he won’t stick around when things get hard, he’s not an easy guy, he’s self-centered, he’s a know-it-all, he’s simple, he watches TV all day, and there will be lots of fighting, dump him.
  2. When your partner’s dad is more affectionate, more complimentary, and quicker to say “I love you” than your partner, dump him.
  3. When someone says “I love you” don’t respond with “Thank you” or a high-pitched, mildly frightened “Woooh!”
  4. Don’t mention the possibility of having children together if you’re not serious about the relationship. And don’t mention a ring if you’re not going to use it — it’s not a god-damned dangling carrot!
  5. When someone uses the phrase “It is what it is” to describe their relationship with you, dump him. In fact, if someone you’re dating uses the phrase “It is what it is” to describe anything, dump him.

The moral of this season of “The Bachelor”? DON’T DATE JUAN PABLO!

 

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A Brief History of Love, from the New Book “Love Sense”

March 7, 2014

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The new book Love Sense by clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson tries to take some of the mystery out of that big emotion. While that may not sound very romantic, Johnson is dedicated to the scientific exploration of love so that we may have better, more-fulfilling, more intimate long-term relationships — especially in a world where independence, isolation and non-monogamy are growing more common. Her book offers real-life examples and practical exercises, based on the Emotionally Focused Therapy she developed in her own practice. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter, which outlines a brief history of love and why it still matters in the 21st century.

 

Love Sense” by Dr. Sue Johnson

from Chapter 1

My memories are full of the sounds and sights of love: The ache in my elderly grandmother’s voice when she spoke of her husband, gone nearly fifty years. A railway signalman, he had courted her, a ladies’ maid, for seven years on the one Sunday she had off each month. He died of pneumonia on Christmas Day after eighteen years of marriage, when he was forty-five and she just forty.

My small enraged mother flying across the kitchen floor at my father, a former naval engineer in World War II, who stood large and strong in the doorway, drinking her in with his eyes, and she, seeing me, stopping suddenly and fleeing from the room. She left him after three decades of slammed doors and raised fists when I was ten. “Why do they fight all the time?” I asked my granny. “Because they love each other, sweetie,” she said. “And watching them, it’s clear that none of us knows what the hell that means.” I remember thinking, “Well, I won’t do this love thing, then.” But I did.

Telling my first great love, “I refuse to play this ridiculous game. It’s like falling off a cliff.” Weeping just months into a marriage, asking myself, “Why do I no longer love this man? I can’t even pinpoint what is missing.” Another man smiling quietly at me, and I, just as quietly, leaning back and letting myself plunge into the abyss. There was nothing missing.

Sitting, years later, watching the last of the ice finally melting on our lake one morning in early April and hearing my husband and children walking through the woods behind me. They were laughing and talking, and I touched for a moment the deepest joy, the kind of joy that was, and still is, entirely enough to fill up my heart for this lifetime.

Anguish and drama, elation and satisfaction. About what? For what?

***

Love can begin in a thousand ways—with a glance, a stare, a whisper or smile, a compliment, or an insult. It continues with caresses and kisses, or maybe frowns and fights. It ends with silence and sadness, frustration and rage, tears, and even, sometimes, joy and laughter. It can last just hours or days, or endure through years and beyond death. It is something we look for, or it finds us. It can be our salvation or our ruin. Its presence exalts us, and its loss or absence desolates us.

We hunger for love, yearn for it, are impelled to it, but we haven’t truly understood it. We have given it a name, acknowledged its force, cataloged its splendors and sorrows. But still we are confronted with so many puzzles: What does it mean to love, to have a loving relationship? Why do we pursue love? What makes love stop? What makes it persist? Does love make any sense at all?

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Dream Interpretation: My Girlfriend & I Had the Same Dream I Died in a Car Crash

March 6, 2014

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photo via Flickr

Other people’s dreams are never interesting…except when they’re about sex. Each week, our dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg tells one lucky reader what their dirty dream means. Got a dream you want Lauri to analyze? Click here to submit it (18 and older only, please). This week, a reader asks Lauri:

So I had a dream I got in a car accident — it was another guy driving and it was a smaller green car. And then I woke up. I got up, left my girlfriend sleeping, and went to lie on the couch. I’m sitting there and I hear crying coming from my room after an hour and a half. I run to the room to see that my girlfriend is still sleeping but crying, so I wake her up to see what’s wrong and she tells me she lost me. She went on to explain what her dream was about: I had gotten into a car accident and by the time she got to the hospital, I had died ! Her memory of this dream is similar: green car , guy driving and me dying! Can you help explain this to me?

Lauri: Two people can absolutely have the same dream on the same night. It’s called shared dreaming and it usually happens to two people who are very close: husband and wife, best friends, mother and daughter, etc. The reason why is because the two individuals are dealing with the same real life issue and their subconscious responds to it similarly by giving them comparable dreams.

That being said, has something in your life come to a messy and sudden end? Has a direction you were headed in been side-tracked? Or have you crashed and burned in some way? Emotionally perhaps?

In both of your dreams the car was green. Green can often symbolize jealousy. At the time of this dream, were you guys feeling envious of someone else? Green can also symbolize inexperience. Did something come to a messy end due to lack of experience? You may also want to put your own personal association to the color green here.

Whatever the case, your shared dreams suggest you both were having a difficult time with something that ended or did not work out. In your dream it seems you were trying not to blame yourself for it, since you were not the one driving and in your girlfriend’s dream it seems she is trying to mourn the loss of the situation so she can more easily let it go and move on from it in real life. I think these dreams show that you two are really tuned in to each other, which is a sign of a strong relationship!

 

Visit Lauri’s brand new site, WhatYourDreamMeans.com, for even more dream interpretations! If you want to be able to figure out your own dreams every morning, then check out her latest book, Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life, which will give you the tools you need to become a dream expert, too. Check out all of Lauri’s books here.

 

 

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Dear Em & Lo: I Got My Period During Sex and Am Mortified

March 5, 2014

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photo by greenchartreuse

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Dear Em & Lo,

I recently hooked up with a guy from work, but unfortunately things did not end up well. While we were having sex I got my period and it was brutal. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to finish. He was generally nice about the whole situation but things just haven’t been that same. I quit responding to his texts and now things more awkward than ever. I have to go back to work but I don’t know how to act. How should I handle this unfortunate situation?

– Red

Dear Red,

You yourself turned a little spill into a scene from “Carrie.” He was nice about it, it sounds like he would have been happy to keep going, and he continued to text you. But you? You freaked out, stopped responding to him, and have probably been acting all weird at the office. All unnecessarily!

Look, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Accidents happen. You cannot set your watch by your period — sometimes it shows up a little early, sometimes a little late. If you were at his place, you could feel a little bit bad about staining his sheets and could have apologized for that. But it’s nothing a good soak in a bucket of ice water can’t fix (plus, he should probably be washing his sheets more often than he does, anyway). And if you were at your place, then don’t sweat it!

The natural and normal occurrence of menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of or grossed out by. You’re having sex: you’re already dealing with mucous membranes and bodily fluids and semen! And do tell us exactly how semen is so much better/less gross than menstrual blood…? Oh, that’s right, you can’t, because it’s not. They’re either both gross or they’re both no biggie. As a sexual creature who has to live with her reproductive system for the rest of her life, we suggest you embrace the latter perspective.

Actually, we insist on it. Because you are responsible for helping teach guys this lesson, too. While your coworker sounds like a cool, accepting, well-adjusted guy, your overreaction only served to suggest to him that there is something gross and unnatural and shameful about women’s real bodies.

Unfortunately, the way you handled the situation was way worse (i.e. more off-putting) than the situation itself. You could have set the tone by admitting embarrassment but ultimately laughing it off and moving on together. But instead you freaked out and your freakout may have driven him away. The best you can do is work hard on getting rid of this guilt and shame, accepting your body — and sex — as inherently imperfect, and not taking it all so seriously. Then maybe someday you’ll be able to laugh about it with your coworker.

Your bloody valentines,

Em & Lo

 

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