Eighteen

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Hanging out with our offspring’s toddlers has made me realise how dependant parents are on calming their children’s anxieties by offering them something to eat. Usually, a raw carrot doesn’t do the trick, whereas a spoonful of honey does. This must be repeated so many times during a child’s life it’s hardly surprising as adults we have a strange relationship between our own anxiety and distress and the trip to the biscuit barrel or ice cream tub. I’ve read and heard many times that it would be advisable to resist this impulse and lay ourselves open to the underlying pain; but how much pain can we bear? And should we really need or want to bear it? It seems to me that if the pain is not something we would like our own children to have to endure, why should we subject our inner selves to it?

Sex is second only to food in the hierarchy of our appetites. I don’t remember from my own childhood, or from that of our own children, quite how mood relates to desire for sexual pleasure; but I suspect, boredom rather than anxiety is the main motivator. Children endlessly fiddle with their genitals, from which they presumably derive a pleasure that heightens otherwise somewhat dull periods of their lives.

So it seems to be with adults; and again I find myself wondering whether it is appropriate to deny ourselves this pastime, as an antidote to boredom or dissatisfaction with the present moment, on the grounds that sexual pleasure should be something that is sought for nobler reasons than to feel momentarily more alive.

Children also like cuddles, of course. All those delightful bonding behaviours! My wife and I were breezing along delightfully, choosing our daily activities and seemingly getting more and more fond of each other. Then, a hiccup occurred. We had visitors for three weeks; and then we went on a walking trip which always had one other person besides ourselves in attendance. During this time, we abandoned our ’choices’ regime. It was just too difficult to keep up. I think this was because it seemed impolite to be engaging primarily as a couple when other people were around; and were so busy we had very little time when we were alone together.

The downside of being busy and polite was that kissing, cuddling, complimenting each other, making love, etc, etc, took a back seat; and now we’re on our own again, it’s proving a big of a slog to restart the sparkle. It’s like we’re partial strangers.

It strikes me that the intimate bond between a couple is very reliant on that couple spending time together in a cocoon away from the world. We all know how tactile parents and young children are; and how young lovers replicate this. However, Marnia’s list of bonding behaviours includes mostly things that can only be done in privacy - unless you’re a parent with a young child, or a pair of besotted young lovers. I trust I’m not the only person who would find older couples tongue kissing or whispering sweet nothings when in company slightly off putting. Maybe this is something I need to get over; but, at the moment, seeing friends and relations, in middle age, who have started new relationships, behaving like teenagers, is not nearly as endearing as it would be if they were in the first flush of youth.

It’s been something of an eye-opener for me to recognise what is cause and what is effect. If I hadn’t been aware of the theoretical importance of bonding behaviours, and their likely result - learned from Marnia - I would have tended to think, as I have in the past, that our cuddling had dried up because we’d temporarily ‘gone off’ each other, rather than the other way around. This wouldn’t have been particularly worrying, in itself. We’ve been married ages, and we’ve had loads of ups and downs. This would have just seemed like another minor bump in the road. In fact, I used to believe ups and downs were as inevitable in marriage as in any other sphere; and that the only way round them was to wait for the bottom to occur, and enjoy the passage to the top again. Now, I’m not so sure, since it‘s become clear to me that ’going off’ one another is the result, rather than the cause, of a dearth of cuddling.

Lack of cuddling eventually leads to lack of desire to cuddle, whether through laziness, habit, resentment or indifference. Cuddling (all bonding behaviours included) causes the desire for more cuddles. It is a beneficent biofeedback machine, just as the absence of bonding behaviours seems to be the opposite. Everyone will be familiar with young lovers not seeming able to get near enough to each other. Well, we’ve experienced the same, repeatedly, as a result of initially scheduling bonding behaviour and watching it snowball.

If serial cuddling doesn’t come naturally (ie, a couple isn’t made up of a parent and child, or are an inseparable pair of young lovers) it seems absolutely critical to make time to schedule bonding behaviours. It’s as critical as an exercise regime, should a person have decided they like the outcome of exercise. In this case, assuming a couple likes the idea of feeling as close and as in love as parent and child or star crossed teenagers, time and effort have to be employed.

Actually, it’s hardly any effort at all. The effort is in remembering to do it, and in overcoming any underlying resentment that might make that ‘remembering’ more difficult. Initially, the bonding behaviour schedule need only be one activity a day; and that activity needn’t last longer than a minute, though it could, of course, last a lot longer. I think it needs to last at least as long as a minute, as, in our experience, that’s enough to start the snowballing effect. Bonding behaviours then become automatic and seem to replicate themselves in abundance. It’s not so much that they become a habit, like brushing teeth; they are more like a drink that we develop a liking, and then a recurring thirst, for, not because of the obvious beneficial effect, both short and long term, but because the taste becomes inherently irresistible.

My wife and I are useless at sticking to schedules in most areas of life; and once we drop a routine, it tends to stay out of sight for a long time, to be forgotten, until one day it gets resurrected, before being dropped again. Luckily, the fallout from our enforced stopping of intimate choices is so obviously non-beneficial, it’s woken us up far more immediately than, say, the exercise regime we were also doing at the same time and that also got interrupted but that, frankly, both of us could happily take or leave. We may get round to exercising again one day; but we’re in the process of resurrecting our bonding behaviour schedule, now.

Comments

Thanks for confirming

our experience. We both work out of our home, so we have it easy. We have developed a relaxed routine that makes our daily bonding behaviors seem effortless. If we both waken at the same time, we snuggle before getting up (our favorite time to make love is in the afternoon, so we just snuggle in the morning). If one of us gets up before the other, the early riser returns to bed, even clothed(!) when the lazybones starts making "I'm awake" noises. (If I'm the lazy one, I usually make up a silly song to call my husband. Smile )

At the other end of the day, we make sure we go to bed at the same time, and then spend some time snuggling...and usually giggling about bed cover management. (He thinks I'm a perfectionist, I think he's slightly handicapped. Once when we were visiting friends and he slept in another twin bed, he missed the space between the sheets completely, and slept under the bedspread. That's what comes of growing up in a house with 5 boys. *chuckle*) If one of us couldn't go to bed when the other was tired, due to work demands, we'd probably still snuggle and then the busy one would get up again.

As you say, it really doesn't take *much* snuggling to keep the juicy feelings alive - so if one, or both, of us is tired, the actual snuggle can be quite brief. On the other hand, when we have time and energy, we thoroughly enjoy more extended sessions. And hugs during the day are surprisingly delicious and spontaneous - which carries over into our lovemaking.

I can't believe that it took me so long to get to the significance of the bonding behaviors...and realize that they were the sole "magic" in the Exchanges! (I now think of the Exchanges chiefly as a tool for transitioning to karezza - and a nice collection of bonding behaviors for those who enjoy playing with affectionate activities they may not have done in a while.)

PS

The risk of using sex as a mood-altering device is not so much passing up an opportunity for nobility, Smile as it is getting caught in a downward spiral of seeking the most intense mood alteration possible. After all, if you just want to escape boredom, why not always go for the most intense oblivion available? (Orgasm, orgasm, orgasm) Dopamine behaving the way it does...this natural enticement can easily become a downward spiral.

The more intense the sexual activity, the easier it is to lose sight of the the gifts of the bonding behaviors. This is a problem, because bonding behaviors may relieve boredom even better than orgasm in the long run, since they don't produce the subtle hangover that makes one restless, anxious, depressed...and...well...bored!

Mind you, I'm still fascinated by the potential mystery that lies in sex as a noble activity, but meanwhile, sex can definitely be used to alter boredom in two ways. One is obvious; the other is not.

Mood altering device

Of course, what I had forgotten to take into account, when ruminating on the predilection of kids to fondle their genitals, is that they take their pleasure as it comes, and don't go on to orgasm. Maybe, when they eventually do, the slippery slope begins.

All speculation, of course, as I've forgotten what it was like to be a child, fondling my own genitals, never considered asking my own children, and definitely won't be inquiring of the next generation, for fear of being locked up.

Hey Sood, I just cut an

Hey Sood, I just cut an pasted some of your posts into an email to my parents. My mom really wants to try these techniques and has met with a lot of resistance from my dad. Seems like the proposal has almost caused some discord between them! I thought it might be good for him to hear from your end the benefits of the bonding behaviors from someone who is still questioning the overall theory that orgasm causes friction between lovers.

I don't think my parents are getting it on a whole lot these days and neither masturbate much anymore so I don't think orgasm is much of a factor in their present state of tension, that being that mom wants more intimacy, physical affection, and sex; dad is tired and feels like she is too demanding.

Changes

If your Dad's anything like me, he might well find the prospect of the Exchanges a bit overwhelming. At least, at first. I'm definitely less resistant to the idea than I was, when I first read Peace; but it's still daunting, as it's quite an undertaking to commit to.

I wholeheartedly recommend they give the bonding behaviours a go, though. Even if only as a half way house. In a way, it's like donning a pair of rose coloured spectacles, but gradually, rather than all at once. It's the process of putting the spectacles on that can seem a bit laboured. Actually, the hardest part is probably agreeing the need for action. In fact, just managing the initial discussion is the key! If agreement can been reached in principle, and there's a plan to follow, once the ball is rolling, things seem to progress of their own accord.

Good luck to your Mum!