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I watched a film last night where the parents of the hero had got to the stage where, as he put it, "they now dislike intensely all the character traits that had most attracted them to each other in the first place". The dad had moved out into a treehouse he had built; and the mum would be woken each morning by him yodelling from his verandah. She spent her days pulling weeds in her vegetable garden, affecting not to hear him whenever he called out to her. It was a comedy, but rather sad. The underlying impression was that they were desperate to reach out to each other, but had forgotten how.

I'm not sure they were suffering from orgasm hangover. I didn't get the impression there was much sexual activity in their lives. I have to say, though, that I think the forces of habituation are the real killer, when it comes to relationships. I got a glimpse of that when I visited my mum earlier this year and we watched an old video of my wife and I visiting them, with three babies in tow. I was utterly transfixed: not by seeing my parents looking so sprightly, or our grown up kids looking so sweet, or of me looking so creepily gauche; but of my wife looking so gorgeously, awe inspiringly, achingly desirable!

The real gut wrencher was the impression I had that I (as I was then) had got so used to being around this delightful creature, I was taking her utterly for granted. I was probably even spending a lot of my time complaining to myself about various things she did or didn't do that weren't quite up to expectations. I mean, why wasn't I just loving her???!!!

The realisation that I was running the risk, right now, of failing to fully appreciate my wife, in just the same way as I had done then, hit me like a ton weight. I envisaged myself, aged eighty, looking back at videos of us today, showing me equally incapable of being intoxicated by the person I was with, but drooling at images of how they had once been.

I think this question of habituation is amazingly strong. I've noticed it with places, too. Going away on holiday is wonderful initially because everything is so new; after a while, it palls somewhat. Returning home can be equally invigorating, until we get used to it again.

I wouldn't say familiarity has bred contempt. I may have a treehouse (more a love nest) but I'm hardly moving into it, alone. It's more like a continuing failure on my part to regularly count my blessings. I recommend everyone watch old videos of their life partners to remind them of this.

I read something else that chimed with me, yesterday. In 1985, John Cleese (British comedian) was with a friend in Barbados. As the friend described it, "One day, we walked barefoot in the sea, from my hotel to his. The sun was shining, birds were singing, flowers were flowering. He had a new young daughter, Camilla. Everything was rosy. Then John said: You know, Michael, there must be more to life than this.”

To help keep my musings 'on topic', I have to allow it is entirely within the bounds of possibility that the tendency to become habituated, whether to a person, or a situation, might well be the result of dissatisfaction caused by years of orgasm centred sexual behaviour.


Taking things for granted

It's only too human, isn't it?

In the Buddhist tradition to which I belong, they have many practices related to this. For example, whenever you hear a bell, whether it's the large one for the monastery, a clock chiming, or even the telephone, you stop whatever you are doing immediately and pause while appreciating the present moment. The bell is a wake-up call of "hey! you are alive!" I've now got a program on my computer that rings a bell at me every hour. It's great!

One moment of life, deeply appreciated, is worth a hundred hours of preoccupation.

Too true

I had that program, too. Or something like it. It was set to random, and irritated me so much I eventually disabled it. My gripe was it gave me no chance to 'finish' what I was doing - which says it all, really!


Yeah...that's the challenge. We're thinking of a new title for the revised book, with a subtitle of "From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships." Seems appropriate, especially as it's the reward circuitry that causes the shift in perception - and it's also behind drug habits, etc.

The good news is that mothers don't habituate to their own babies. This means that we HAVE the circuitry to overcome this problem. I think using those subconscious bonding cues ( is our best addition to avoiding the "check please!" sexual satiation cues as much as possible, of course.

Thank you both for the inspiring philosophy.

Bonding cues

I like that list a lot. Most of those behaviours are very, very easy to do; all that's required is time and intention. Very little effort and zero expenditure! How curious that we don't all do them all the time. My favourite is "wordless sounds of contentment and pleasure ". We both do that already; but I'm up for doing it a whole lot more. I think I always felt it was something infantile and therefore not to be indulged in too much. Also, maybe, there's a fear of descent into gaga land.

I'm going to print that list out and put it somewhere prominent. Great for requests, too.