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Elementary, My Dear Watson! Love and Marriage = Horse and Carriage


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Lets talk marriage:.

Note: Clicking on the pictures will produce an explanation of the exercise.

"Just because swans mate for life, I don't think it's that big of a deal. first of all, if you're a swan, you're probably not going to find a swan that looks that much better than the one you've got, so why not mate for life?"

I remember walking into the room where one of my daughters was preparing to walk down the aisle and take the vows that so many had taken before her. As I entered the room, my breath was taken away. My daughter, who is a lovely young woman generally, was standing in a radiance that seemed to encompass everything and everybody that entered the room. I had never seen her looking so beautiful, excited and ecstatically happy. I basked in the wondrous look of my daughter's eyes. Filled with so much hope and promise, she exuded the ideals that life was good. I had attended many wedding ceremonies prior to hers. Some were in small rooms with only the bride and bridegroom and Justice of the Peace. There were weddings where the bride fainted and weddings where the groom fainted. I've heard poetry read at weddings in lieu of traditional vows. One of my own weddings was a Hindu ceremony, where we walked around an alter that was burning with various offerings. I even got to be the "best man" at one of my son's weddings. And at some point during the ceremonies, I felt this gnawing desire to caution. To say, "Stop! Wait! You are so young and inexperienced! You're in love and you are not rational. Do you know what you are getting into!? This is an enormous step. I mean a life commitment you can't possibly comprehend. And it is going to be work. Very hard work!!" Somewhere between cynicism and romanticism, somewhere between the foreboding and the opportunity for fulfillment we say "I do" and cling to the promise of this preview for a lifetime of love and happiness.

"When you first start wearing a turban, probably the most common mistake is wrapping it too tight. You have to allow the head to breathe"

"...For better or worse. For richer or poorer..."

There are a variety of visages to marriage. Love, children, friends and common interests are some of the fibers keeping marriages together. Our families and communities expect us to marry and have children. Many of the old traditions of marriage have changed. Women no longer are required to stay home and tend to housework and children. Men are expected to be more nurturing and caring. What is still the same is that we still have to make deals with our mates. The contract and commitment compels us to get down to the business of love. Partners need individual as well as shared goals to keep their relationship vital. From time to time, we are also faced with the challenge of developing new goals. Each of us has beliefs and expectations as to what our marital goals should be. If we do not share our beliefs and expectations with our mates, serious problems can occur within a marriage. We believe we married Mr. or Miss Perfect Person. I was eighteen when I married my first husband. He was a knight in shining armor. He would take me out of the mundane world into a world of joy and excitement. He would challenge the world and do battle if necessary to provide for us and our children. He would make me happy. Every need I had he would fulfil. He would be happy when I was happy, angry when I was angry and be worried when I was worried. He would earn a good living and take care of all our material needs. Because I was the most important person in his life clearly he was responsible for how I felt. I understand now how unfair and smothering such expectations were. These unspoken expectations are the seeds of potential problems. We assume that our spouse has the same contract in mind. We are unaware that the same text that engenders so much bliss, assurance and fulfillment for one mate can be full of fear, defensiveness and even aversion to the other. When we have secret agendas with our mates, instead of open and honest communications, we lay the ground work for psuedo-controlling relationships, rather than freedom of choice relationships. Communicating our expectations clearly and honestly makes it easier to accommodate contractual commitments. When we transform fear, guilt and blame into love and understanding, we terminate forebodings of deception and misunderstandings and allow each other to breathe freely.

"If you ever teach a body building class, probably the hardest thing is to keep the students from just trying to lift too much right off. You see, we build to that."

"...In sickness and in health..."

Health

"Over the years, we got rather good at comforting one another. Illness has to be one of the tests of marriage. That's why they put it in the marriage vows."-E.Bombeck.

Just as in building strength in body takes persistence and patience, building a a strong and healthy marriage requires the same attitudes. Learning the support, commitment and intimacy of a growing marriage is health promoting and protective. Besides the mental health that comes from a well-built marriage, studies show there are actual physical benefits that married couples enjoy such as:

Caressing and holding another person is essential to good health and fitness. Studies have shown that the health of infants suffers when they do not have physical affection. The casual intimate touching, not necessarily romantic or sexual, between partners can be as rewarding to optimal health and physique as pumping iron 5 days a week in the gym. My husband and I both take many healthful hugs and caresses through our day. It often gives me new energy to go to the gym and pump iron.

"Blow ye winds
Like the trumpet blows;
But without that noise."

Happiness

A happy marriage is a healthy marriage. We fall in love when we least expect it. Love is not volitional and we float on wind blown clouds as we let our emotions carry us away. For no earthly reason our happiness sings to us in a muted hum. In the privacy of our thoughts, we believe our euphoria can encompass ourselves and our relationship forever and ever. But no one is happy all the time. Even the most blissful, enduring marriages face unhappy times. When our happiness gets stalled, we panic. Instead of looking within ourselves, we blame our mate for the loss of happiness. Forgetting that what made us happy was the gift of love within ourselves, we try to find that happiness in other places. We think we can find it in a new car, a new dress or perhaps a new relationship. We frantically search so hard for happiness, that we lose it around every turn. Our happiness is not only based on what we get from our partner, but what we give to our partner. As the Beatles song says, "In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make."

"Why do the caterpillar and the ant have to be enemies? One eats leaves, and the other eats caterpillars. Oh, I see now."

Sex

Starting Sex might not be the most important thing in a marriage!! Well! Maybe it is. Without mutual sexual fulfillment a marriage in the long run cannot remain healthy or happy. When I was in my mid-twenties, a friend of mine, who had just gotten married came to me crying. She was very upset about what she perceived as her new husband's animalistic need for sex. She saw her husband's overtures as attempted rape. She perceived that all he wanted from the moment he walked in the door was to jump her bones. Her husband on the other hand saw his new wife as a cold and frigid woman, who couldn't even kiss and hug him when he came home from work. Besides, he wanted to jump her bones. When the prince and princess rode home to the castle did they get down and dirty or did he hold her tenderly, kiss her and talk hour after hour cooing and chortling over her refinements and rapier wit. Once again, unspoken expectations slithers into the Garden of Eden and creates an eternal clash as to what sex in marriage should be like. While she is busy with her fantasy, he sees the ideal wife as being, if I can remember a saying from my youth correctly:

"A man wants a woman who is a chef in the kitchen, a lady in the living room and a whore in bed."

Sex becomes a power struggle rather than a pleasurable prelude to an increasingly comfortable and more ecstatic experience the longer you are married. There are no norms or averages in sexual relationships. We have differing sociological and biological sexual needs at different times in our lives. We also have different needs for affection, nurturing, romance, love and sexual frequencies and experiences. Determination can keep sex fun and exciting in spite of constant familiarity. Find a vocabulary to describe what you enjoy sexually. Enjoy your mate's ecstasy. Sometimes when my husband's sexual desire is greater than mine, just his excitement gets me turned on. Check out different positions for variety. You may find one you like. If you're not feeling creative, read the Kama Sutra. Flexibility and a willingness to be vulnerable and open, will lead you into sexual worlds far beyond mortal man. Performance perfection is not a sexual goal. Remember: Nobody is perfect all the time. We need to talk to our mates about our fears and concerns. Have a good laugh. Sex can be very funny. When we comprehend and approve of each other and when we are willing to make mutual concessions and adjustments, we can have a lifetime of lovemaking that will provide tenderness,mutual caring and rapturous sex.

"As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it seemed that way."

...Forsaking all others."

Say what? Who do I forsake? How much do I forsake? I didn't really mean all others. For who's sake was that? I'm sorry I can't hear you! I have a dick in my ear. During the early days of our marriage, my husband and I saw only each other. There were other people around, but we didn't hear them above the clamor of our love and lust for each other. But no matter how in love we are or how much we desire to spend every waking and sleeping moment together, sooner or later we have to make time for THE OTHERS. We humans have a great capacity to love more than one person. We love our children. We love them all, each in a different way. We love other people in our families. We love our friends. We love our former lovers and mates. Love is truly endless and it is fabulous to enjoy loving people. We humans are very fortunate to have this ability that even within a loving marital relationship, we still have room for THE OTHERS.

"A quiz: If I am my children's keeper, who am I? (Answer: me)"

The Children

For me, having had children and helping children grow up to be happy, healthy and productive adults, is the most meaningful accomplishment in my whole life. It is a big job, but I treasure my time with my children and thank the Fates every day for their existence. Marriages are often complicated by the arrival of children. Couples truly dedicated to each other are not worried about their love deteriorating just because children are now in the picture. Marriages are often strained by differences of opinions and beliefs in how children ought to be raised. Children can also put a crimp in a couple's sex life. We often are jealous of the attention our children get in the competition for affection. Mothers often feel they get "stuck" with the child raising while dad gets to go gallivanting around in the world earning a living to support the family. Dads can resent that they do not get to warmly nurture their children, because they must take the reins and assert their authority, control their emotions and act rationally. She thinks he's having a grand old time, meeting and bedding pretty women, while neglecting the children. He thinks when he comes home and finds her staring at the TV with a high-ball in her hand:"What does she do all day?" Where are the children? Hey they're alive! I did my job! Breaking barriers of emotional stress and sex role loneliness and isolation, takes heavy-duty solutions. We raise our children together. When the husband is out earning a living and the wife is a homemaker and mother they are both putting in a full day's work. We can learn to understand and respect each person's contribution to the care of the children. If possible alternating roles can create a healthy respect for the hard work each person puts in. Sharing parenting equally is another solution. This requires both companions to contribute time, work and caring. Happy parenting evolves from willing cooperation of shared child raising. And happy parents have happy children.

"Whether they ever find life there or not, I think Jupiter should be considered an enemy planet"

The Extended Family - The In-Laws

There is a word in Yiddish that signifies one tribe of people from the others:Goyem! Those others we don't know and we fear! When I met my first husband's mother for the first time she immediately hugged me and told me how happy she was to have a new daughter. She made me feel so good that to this day, though I haven't seen her for years she holds a special place in my heart. I have taken her kindness and love to the next generation. If I had any doubts about my children's mates, they all vanished when I saw the love and happiness in the eyes of my children. Our birth families make us feel accepted, but we are not sure about our new families. We never think of ourselves as mean or selfish. On the contrary we know that we are considerate, caring and thoughtful people. Everybody else likes us. What is wrong with the new mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, sister-in-laws, son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws and all their relatives. I even added a new in-law. They are wife-in-laws and husband-in-laws:former spouses' mates and their mates. Sometimes there is friction due to differences of religion, culture, race or nationality. When the children and grandchildren come, we worry about whether they can retain the common strain that goes through each clan of the extended family. Resentments and hostilities rear their ugly heads. Often we choose to retreat from the "others". That is one way of doing it, but for most of us it's a "nice work if you can get it" solution. Since we often must deal with the "others", we should consider some other approaches. We don't have to like our in-laws, but we can give them the benefit of the doubt. We don't have to love them, nor they us. You can accept their differences. We have different experiences, ancestry, religious beliefs, goals and likes and dislikes. I personally find the differences exciting. Looking at fresh viewpoints can allow the "others'" ways to rub off on us and enrich our life. Or not! We recognize that the "other's" defensiveness comes from the same fears we harbor in ourselves. Being honest does not mean being brutally honest. Converse and describe how you feel. Mutual respect should be present. A good balance of being considerate and respectful and the expectation that this will be returned in like kind will ease the getting to know you adventure. When we consider our in-laws our friends, we allow the friendship between us to flourish. We involve ourselves in our mate's feelings, trusting and respecting that he or she will help unravel the inter-family problems. Our mates can support us, without blaming or being forced to take sides. We can make the decision of being happy or being right.

"Broken promises don't upset me. I just think, why did they believe me?"

The Lovers

Ideally we should have talked to each other before marriage about our beliefs in fidelity and make sure there is agreement as to how we feel about these relationships. Most of us however assume once we are married we will never want to have intimate sexual relations with anyone else. Sometimes this is true. Because marriage does not make us neuter or indifferent to attractions from others, it is always good to come to an agreement with one's mate about how to deal with extramarital affairs. Often this is not problematic if there is honesty and openness about what transpires. A third party will detract from the attention of one mate or the other. If either partner feels too much attention is being taken away by the lover, discomfort and unhappiness can occur. It is difficult including another person in your day to day life, without detracting from your marital relationship. That person usually has a separate existence with different schedules and personal needs. Lovers often fulfil needs not met by the spouse. Having an affair can satisfy not only sexual desires, but more platonic desires that might be lacking in a marriage. Companionship and the need for common understanding often leads to affairs. Most extra-marital affairs seem to be fraught with problems. They never seem to make the participants happy for long periods of time. Often the long term pain the affair causes is not worth the short term pleasure. Then there is the worry about venereal disease and in this day and age the killer AIDS. Once again the operant word is communication. Honest communication, whether you intend to have an affair or not will keep away the feelings of betrayal due to "cheating". "Today I accidentally stepped on a snail on the sidewalk in front of our house. And I thought, I too am like that snail. I build a defensive wall around myself, a 'shell,'if you will. But my shell isn't made of a hard, protective substance. Mine is made out of tinfoil and paper bags "

"...From this day forward."

We want to be able in a marriage to both meet our own needs and still meet the needs of our relationships. When we fail at either, we often build a wall around ourselves. We become defensive and want to blame the other person for our failure. We want to be close and we both want our own independent goals. Often we feel guilty about expressing our needs. This may be due to the confusion that what we call our needs are really our wants. We need food, water and shelter to live. Life would be barren, however, if all that was ever met was our needs. In a marriage we have wants and we have every right to express our feelings and thoughts about what we want out of life. We want to be happy. We want to be healthy. We want good a good sex life. We want our marriages to provide and nurture our individual and mutual wants. When we expose our wants, we reveal our vulnerabilities. Unmasking our wants can be less frightening, if we concentrate on how we attain those wants, rather than the wants themselves.

"If you define cowardice as running away at the first sign of danger, screaming and tripping and begging for mercy, then yes, Mister and Misses Brave Person, I guess I am a coward."

..."Till death do us part."

Death! Lifetime Commitment! They do that to crazy people! Well, maybe we are crazy people! Wait, I'm not sure anymore! I wasn't expecting this! I don't want to give up my own individuality for this intimacy! This doesn't make you think you own me!? Does it!? Who are you, anyway!? When I agreed to be committed, I did not mean "committed" at all costs. I don't want to let go of my way of doing things. I want my marriage, but I want my freedom too. I don't want to put up with a relationship that is abusive or devoid of love. My husband and I spent years working on our relationship. At first it was hard, but we were truly committed to a process of a working relationship. It involved risk taking and constant questioning. It also involved many arguments, which often ended in scream fests from time to time. Who did what to whom. Who was better. Who was smarter. Who respected or didn't respect whom. Who was in charge. Does this mean because you earn more money, you get to say what happens in this marriage? Who really mattered more. Who cared for whom more. Who started this fight? What are we fighting about? Who had to change. Well we both changed a little and compromised and made new agreements and promises. Some promises were hard to keep. Often they meant breaking habits we had each spent a lifetime cultivating. There were no guarantees as to how things would turn out. We worked hard toward a relationship of equality and mutual respect. Often we felt that we were going against some traditional fabric that said we couldn't be equals. We got better the more we practiced. Despite the disappointments and setbacks in our marriage, we continually tried to improve our skills in relating to each other. We don't expect each other to be perfect. We do expect that we will approach each other lovingly, with caring and with respect. I appreciate having someone in my life who knows me better than anyone else. Someone I can freely nurture and care for without resentment. Someone I can share pain and pleasure of life. Someone who will share the raising of our children. Someone who will be there after the children are grown and the grandchildren have come and gone. Someone that in a quiet moment will take my hand and silently reminisce about our life together. Someone who I love more today than the day I met him. To him I say: I DO! I DO!

Thank you again: Deep Thoughts


And if you wish to talk marriage talk write me at my email address:

gypsy@dreamagic.com (Gypsy)


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