"Contents" and "Introduction" of Peace Between the Sheets
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It" 2
"But Sex with Orgasm Is Normal" 3
"You Just Have to Find the Right Person" 6
Peace Between the Sheets 7
Part I : Why
CHAPTER 1 WHY DO WE FALL OUT OF LOVE?
Getting Hooked on Avoiding Orgasm 15
Tell Me It Isn’t True 17
The Hidden Hangover 19
The Writing on the Wall 23
Dave’s Story 25
CHAPTER 2 BLIND SPOTS
Orgasm: A Problem for Women? 29
What If We’ve Had it All Wrong? 30
Orgasm is Orgasm 33
Increasing Sexual Magnetism 36
Meanwhile What Do I Do? 38
A Journalist, a Rabbi, and a Bard 41
CHAPTER 3 BIOLOGY HAS PLANS FOR YOUR LOVE LIFE
A Neurochemical Arsenal 45
Dopamine, a Debatable Friend 46
Do We Want to Follow Biology’s Script for Our Love Lives? 48
Prolactin - The Lights-Out Signal? 50
No! No! A Thousand Times No! 51
The Great Awakening: Relationship Disharmony 53
WANTED: Meaningful Overnight Relationship 55
Another Noble Experiment 56
Are You a Romance Junkie? 60
CHAPTER 4 A CHANGE OF HEART
A Closer Look at Oxytocin 64
A Tough Lesson 66
Love & Fear 68
Love Heals 70
A Fountain of Youth, the Ultimate Diet, and an All-Purpose Healing Tonic 73
Synchronizing Hearts 75
Partner Pampering 76
The Marshmallow Challenge 79
CHAPTER 5 OUTWITTING BIOLOGY
Seek Not the Solution Where the Answer Is Barred 82
How Do I Know if Biology is Pulling My Strings . . . Again? 84
Perilous Passion 86
The Key to Mortality 88
My Spouse Changed Completely After We Got Married 90
The Intimacy Sabotaging Device 91
To Heal, Give 92
Natural Euphoria 93
Think Big 96
Nicole’s Story 98
CHAPTER 6 THE SPREAD OF THE SEPARATION VIRUS
The Bermuda Triangle of Relationships 101
Why Isn’t Monogamy the Problem? 106
Fairytale Marriages Under the Microscope 107
Is the Situation Getting Worse? 110
A New Point of View 112
Joshua’s Story 115
CHAPTER 7 CROSSED WIRES
Who’s Driving? 117
The Prince and the Frog 118
The Penny Drops 120
Uh oh . . . 121
Mystery Revealed? 123
Neurochemical Urges 125
Heart/Genital Splits 125
Spiritual Celibacy 126
Be Bold 128
The Return Home 130
CHAPTER 8 A MYSTERY UNFOLDS
The Trap of Duality 134
Toward Better Vision 136
"The Ark of Peace is Entered Two by Two" 138
"Understand the undefiled intercourse, for it has great power" 139
Hmmmm .. . 141
What Do We Really Need from Each Other? 143
Fleas in a Jar 145
Part II : How
CHAPTER 9 SO YOU WANT TO TRY IT?
"We’re the Gas, They’re the Brakes" 150
What to Expect 151
It’s OK, George 152
Not-So-Harmless Activities 152
Get a Lollipop 153
To Have All, Give All 154
What About Birth Control? 156
"What If I Have Very Little Sexual Control?" 156
Advice for Wilted Plants 157
A True Life Story 159
Lisa’s Story 161
CHAPTER 10 IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
The Roller Coaster 163
Practical Suggestions 165
Stay Close and Quiet 166
The Good News 168
Niki’s Story 171
CHAPTER 11 WHAT ARE THE ECSTATIC EXCHANGES?
Think Healing, Instead of Sex 174
Approaching the Exchanges 175
Special Circumstances 177
What Worked 178
What Did Not Work 181
CHAPTER 12 THE ECSTATIC EXCHANGES
The Nurturing Phase: Opening the Heart
Practice Makes Perfect 190
Foul-Weather Warning 191
Exchange One: Which Way Does Your Current Flow? 192
Exchange Two: The Joy of Giving 194
Exchange Three: Use ‘Em And You Lose ‘Em 197
Exchange Four: Addiction 199
Exchange Five: Higher Love 202
Exchange Six: Listening 204
Exchange Seven: Musical Interlude 207
Exchange Eight: Limitless Union 209
Exchange Nine: Rejuvenation 212
Exchange Ten: The Heart and the Intellect 214
Exchange Eleven: Fish Food 217
Exchange Twelve: Mystery of Stillness 221
Exchange Thirteen: Heightened Sensitivity 223
Exchange Fourteen: Progress 226
The Healing Phase: Return to Innocence
Planning Ahead 229
Are You Ready? 231
The Heart Orgasm 232
(Another) Foul-Weather Warning 234
Exchange Fifteen: Not Yet . . . 238
Exchange Sixteen: Taking It Easy 241
Exchange Seventeen: How Did It Go? 244
Exchange Eighteen: Temptation Alert 247
Exchange Nineteen: Self-Love & Selfless Love 250
Exchange Twenty: The Bridge 253
Exchange Twenty-One: The Finish Line 256
APPENDIX I: IMPASSE CHECKLIST 266
APPENDIX II: ADVENTURES 269
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 282
The book you are holding is not a typical relationship manual. Instead of rehashing conventional wisdom about love and sex it presents a unique combination of ancient wisdom and modern science. It explains how we are imprisoned by the unconscious script of the primitive part of our brain and outlines a radical prescription for freeing ourselves: making love differently. The goals are to heal the disharmony between the sexes and tap the most profound gifts of union - consistently. As I gathered the material within, it confirmed my deepest suspicions even while it aroused my intense resistance. Ultimately it changed the way I saw sexual relationships, passion, romance, addiction, and antagonism between lovers.
If you are a mammal and not in a coma, your so-called primitive brain has had far more say about your intimate relationships than has your free will. You may have acted upon its primal urgings and wondered at the resulting heartache - ranging from explosions of anger and infidelity to dreary stagnation. Or you may have retreated into celibacy to avoid these pitfalls - in many cases accompanied by your chosen addiction. Unfortunately, neither path offers the deep satisfaction of the middle path that lies between impulse and abstention. This path has thousands of years - though our physical design ensures that we generally overlook it.
In explaining why we would wish to master this middle path of conscious sexual union I will try to recapture my initial resistance to the idea and share some of the evidence that changed my mind.
"If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It"
It is broke. Intimate relationships are not faring well. "Marriage trends in the United States in recent decades indicate that Americans have become less likely to marry, and that fewer of those who do marry have marriages they consider to be ‘very happy.’"1
I was a bridesmaid in three weddings, as well as a bride in my own, and twenty years later, all of those marriages have ended in divorce. My experience mirrored others’ rocky love lives. Between 1960 and 2000, the percentage of divorced adults quadrupled.2 Emotional separation between couples (married or unmarried) is widespread, and staying married is no guarantee that the fundamental problem has been solved. Marriages are often miserable ghosts of their once affectionate, romantic, mutually supportive states.
I think I personally tried all the mainstream recommendations for healing disharmony in intimate relationships: better communication, finding the right mate, more passion, loving my inner child, negotiation, and so forth. These remedies do not arrest relationship deterioration once trouble starts because they are addressing symptoms of a more fundamental problem. The real problem is right under our noses. It has always been there, but now that church and state have lost the power to keep us married, it is even more glaring. Once we acknowledge it the solution is evident.
The trouble begins with sex. Not exciting sex versus boring sex, as most of us have been led to believe, but rather sex itself. After all, platonic friendships between men and women work just fine. The trouble starts when we become lovers. And what else begins then? For everyone? The pursuit of orgasm.
Passion seems like our best friend - often the one indisputably good thing about an otherwise dysfunctional relationship. However, hot sex has hidden costs that doom us to disharmony as time passes. Orgasm can become our relationship’s worst enemy, and we are intended by evolution to disregard the link between the intoxicating cause and the dismal effects.
Our blind spot is coming into focus, however. New advances in brain science (neuroendocrinology) are revealing that emotional alienation between lovers may have less to do with communication or compatibility than we thought and more to do with a section of our brains called the pleasure/reward center. Evolutionary biology, the force that encourages us to replicate ourselves as often as possible, currently exploits this brain mechanism by ensuring that we receive a powerful neurochemical "reward" when we engage in hot sex . . . or even think about it. That pay-off feels as though it is promoting bonding at the moment of orgasm, but the blast triggers further neurochemical changes that, over time, push us apart from our lovers.
Basically, evolutionary biology has subverted human will to its single-minded purposes of duplicating more genes and promoting genetic variety. Once you understand the means biology uses, its unsuspected effects upon you, and a practical option, you will be in a better position to choose whether you wish to remain under its command - or take control.
"But Sex with Orgasm Is Normal"
True. But so is the middle path that the ancients advocate. The approach of making love frequently and contentedly, without orgasm (as we currently know it), has been around for thousands of years. The reason it first strikes us as bizarre is because we have never experienced its many benefits. Also, we are so deeply hypnotized that we fail to see how much damage biology’s strategy currently inflicts on our relationships.
Perhaps you have heard of the Coolidge Effect. Scientists have shown (and you have to suspect that it gets lonely in the lab with experiments like this one . . . ) that if you sexually exhaust a male rat with one female, his body chemistry will shut him down. If he were a guy, he would head for the La-Z-Boy toting the remote. As a result of his changed body chemistry (fatigue), Miss Rat will look totally uninteresting to him.3 However, if he is placed near Miss Ratty (a new female), his exhaustion will mysteriously fade long enough for him to gallantly fulfill his fertilization duties. This is known as the Coolidge Effect.
Does the Coolidge Effect show up in human behavior, too? I recall a conversation I once had with a man who had grown up in sensual Los Angeles. "I quit counting at 350 lovers," he confessed, "and I guess there must be something terribly wrong with me because I always lost interest in them sexually so quickly. Some of those women are really beautiful, too." At the time of our chat his third wife had just left him for a Frenchman and he was discouraged. She had mysteriously lost interest in him.
Gandhi himself apparently exploited the power of the Coolidge Effect. It is rumored that while he was fasting to protest British colonialism he invigorated himself by sleeping between a pair of virgins (new fertilization opportunities). He had long since given up sex with his wife, of course, in favor of celibate spiritual practice. History has not recorded whether Mrs. Gandhi conducted a similar experiment to raise her spirits in the absence of her husband’s attentions.
Biology certainly plays its genetically-driven tricks on females, too. Women are more prone to be unfaithful during the fertile days of their menstrual cycles.4 They are also more likely to have orgasm (which improves the chances of conception by retaining more sperm in their reproductive tract5) not with loving, sensitive men, but with men whose features are symmetrical (indicating sound genetic structure) even though they make worse-than-average mates.6
Until now, most of us have either engaged unthinkingly in impulsive sexual behavior, or put a damper on our own sex drive and reduced our analysis of humankind’s plight to moral judgments of others. We would be wiser to understand, with compassion, how we are being manipulated and change course. After all, supplies of Frenchmen and virgins are limited.
Think about it. Evolutionary biology has little use for relationship harmony. As Richard Dawkins explained in The Selfish Gene,7 all life can be viewed as nothing more than competing forms of DNA replication machinery. From this perspective, cockroaches are more successful than humans. And, it is apparent from our inherited behaviors that biology found more benefit in numerous genetic opportunities than in partners cuddling up in blissful sanity.
But here is the headline news: we are not obliged to follow this evolutionary imperative. Indeed, as a species we would be wise to choose our procreation opportunities with greater foresight. And as individuals, we are better off in harmonious relationships with high levels of trust than in mindless mating dances. Most of us sense this. Years ago, I happened upon the results of a reader survey in Playboy magazine that had asked, "What makes for the best sex?" The answer that received the greatest percentage of votes was "being deeply in love with your partner."
Decades later, I can finally explain why those readers were correct. The gains from caring deeply about another person are profound. Not only do such feelings change our outlook on life for the better, they also have positive physiological effects. These gifts include improved physical health, reduced stress, and even rejuvenation.
Sexual intimacy that can do all this is truly great sex. And to experience it continuously all we have to do is stay in love. Indeed, if logic ruled, we would stay in love. The problem arises when biology rules and the aftereffects from its incentive plan (unbridled passion) separate lovers. As one friend so eloquently put it, "Evolution doesn’t give a rat’s ass about love, fidelity or companionship."
A way to defy biology’s dictates has been around for millennia. I think of it as an all-you-can-eat diet of your other favorite things about intimacy: physical affection, satisfying lovemaking, mutual trust, emotional closeness, and the opportunity for personal growth/healing. I suspect that the approach I now use when I make love is similar to that recorded by the ancient Chinese Taoists, among others. Yet Western minds generally prefer to isolate the fundamentals of these traditions using an analytical, experiential approach. So while acknowledging with deep gratitude the signposts left by these early teachers, I will present the material as I learned it - through a combination of esoteric clues, trial and error, and analyzing new scientific discoveries.
You Just Have to Find the Right Person
Here are the words of a monogamous husband and father of thirteen children who was a shrewd observer of human nature:
In life this preference for one [lover] to the exclusion of all others lasts in rare cases several years, oftener several months, or even weeks, days, hours. . . . Every man feels what you call love toward each pretty woman he sees, and very little toward his wife. . . . [And] even if it should be admitted that Menelaus had preferred Helen all his life, Helen would have preferred Paris. . . . - Leo Tolstoy8
More than a century ago, Tolstoy recognized that periods of passion in his marriage were inevitably followed by angry eruptions between his wife and him. If they were not openly hostile to each other they numbed themselves to cope with their emotional distress. He smoked and drank too much and his wife drove everyone to distraction with trivial household and child-related agitation. After years of observation he realized that lust toward one’s beloved was the culprit. But the ancient texts revealing another way to make love were still virtually unknown in his time. So he only saw two miserable options: sexual abstinence within his marriage or lust followed by intense irritation.
If anything, the problem he portrayed is growing more pronounced. Look what happened to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee - or Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie. For most of us "finding the right person" means finding someone who jolts our brain chemistry into the red zone. But even less passionate couples who base their unions on the traditional marriage deal are splitting up with alarming frequency.
The erosion of monogamy is due to chemistry, but not chemistry in the usual sense. Once again neuroscience has turned up a vital clue in a rodent experiment. Prairie voles are mouse-like critters that mate for life - which their montane vole-cousins do not. Because of this striking difference, scientists were able to figure out that monogamy is linked to certain neurochemicals. When scientists block these neurochemicals’ effects in the prairie vole, it blithely switches to casual sex. In other words, neurochemistry is closely related to the strength of relationships. For example, at the right levels and locations, the neurochemical oxytocin can make us want to stay together without even trying.
We can only keep the oxytocin flowing if we remain openhearted. The lust cycle, however, carries us from intense desire to uneasy satiation, and back to intense desire, just as Tolstoy observed. These emotions make us greedy, needy, cranky, and defensive, rather than openhearted. Bang! - pardon the pun - the neurochemistry of romance succumbs to the neurochemistry of uneasiness and separation.
Desire is fine in temperate doses. But blind impulse tends to transform us humans from loyal prairie voles into promiscuous montane voles. That might not matter to many people these days, except that scientific research also shows that we humans are healthier and happier in harmonious pairs.
So before you abandon another mate try the approach to sex outlined in this book. The results may amaze you. Though I was initially drawn by the concept’s promise of greater relationship depth, the first change I noticed was a distinct improvement in my health. Chronic yeast and urinary tract infections simply stopped - for good - and I have not needed a doctor for anything in over a decade.
My fiancÃ© Will is also pleased with the healing he has experienced. He is more energetic and productive, has released a long-term addiction, and no longer requires a prescription antidepressant. Two years into our relationship he is delighted by its sanity, playfulness, lovingness and increasing closeness.
Our health improvements and harmony are aligned with claims in various ancient sacred-sex texts. But Will, a long-time student of human sciences, is more intrigued by the light that modern science sheds on these phenomena. Will’s research, which I include, suggests that the early Chinese Taoists, Tibetan Buddhists, Tantra sages, and even pre-Roman Christians, all of whom advised a less heated, more altruistic approach to sex, were shrewder than most modern sexologists.
Peace Between the Sheets
This book has two parts. The first is about why I changed the way I made love. It will confront various cherished assumptions of most readers, as it recommends avoiding masturbation as much as possible, learning to make love without conventional orgasm, healing all alienation from the opposite sex, and putting relationship harmony before the usual agendas for sexual intimacy.
Above all, it recommends altruism in the bedroom - not an easy feat, as your brain chemistry is all set up to bestow on you a mighty reward for being as selfish as possible during sex. However, that neurochemical reward does not lead to increased well-being, while the alternative does.
Nothing will convince you of the validity of this approach as effectively as giving it a try. Therefore, the second part of the book tells how I went about it. It includes various practical tips as well as a series of simple activities for couples wishing to circumvent their unconscious biological programming. The key concept is to nurture each other while you go through a couple of weeks of withdrawal. The resulting improvements in your neurochemistry actually reduce cravings for orgasm (and any other addictions). This natural shift enables you to settle into a pattern of lovemaking that can radically benefit your health and relationship.
This book is a road map. It could not have been compiled or published without the generous help of many friends, lovers, friends of lovers, and lovers of friends. Some, like Mary Sharpe, were brave enough to try the ideas. She in turn inspired me by returning to university at Cambridge to compose a thesis on sexuality and the sacred in connection with an advanced degree in religion. Others helped by critiquing my ideas at every turn, contributing their own gems of experience and inspiration, building websites, looking after me as I moved back and forth between Europe and the United States, drawing pictures, proofreading, editing, tracking down references, solving graphics crises, and simply loving me even though my unusual vocation made no sense to them whatsoever. I am deeply indebted to this chain of enthusiasts, loved ones and guardians, which stretches from California to Bavaria with special links in Arizona, Belgium, England, Florida, Italy, and New York.
I would also like to thank the funny folk whose witticisms about the gender gap I could not resist adding to the text. Many of the jokes serve as grim reminders of the current state of affairs. From my new perspective, however, humanity’s circumstances are
genuinely laughable. We have unwittingly allowed a mindless neurochemical reward mechanism to push us around for ages. As it turns out, there was a better way all along. Now that the planet is teeming with under-fed, under-loved human beings, it is time to get serious about mastering that better way. While I admit that I do not yet have all the answers, I hope you will find some helpful clues within. At the very least you will be equipped to avoid mankind’s unsuspected obstacle to deep union as you work toward creating the intimate relationship for which your soul yearns.
1. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and Dave Popenoe, "The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America 2001," The National Marriage Project, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (June 2001): 10, 15.
3. D.F. Fiorino, et al., "Dynamic Changes in Nucleus Accumbens Dopamine Efflux During the Coolidge Effect in Male Rats," Journal of Neuroscience 17:12 (June 15, 1997): 4849—4855.
4. Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan, Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food, Taming Our Primal Instincts (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000): 184—185.
5. F. B. Furlow and R. Thornhill, "The orgasm wars (adaptive function of the female orgasm)," Psychology Today 29(1996): 42—46.
6. R. Thornhill, et al., "Human female orgasm and mate fluctuating asymmetry." Animal Behavior 50 (1995): 1601—1615. R. Thornhill and A.P. Moller. "Developmental stability, disease, and medicine." Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 72 (1997): 497—548.
7. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976): 22.
8.Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata (Chapter 2) See http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/ toc/modeng/public/TolKreu.html. Note: Helen’sattraction to Paris caused the Trojan War .