Five years ago I started The Naked Advice blog and my YouTube channel as a way to ignite a conversation and explore questions on sexuality, dating, and relationships in a non-judgmental, fact-based, positive online environment. Many of you opened up about deeply personal issues, secrets, and experiences on my channel’s comments or in letters to me here on my blog, and I appreciate every single person who trusted me with giving them advice on these matters. Thank you!
Some of you may have already noticed that I no longer answer letters (I updated the “Ask Liz” page to reflect this). I will be seeking a publisher (or self-publishing) for a book that encapsulates all of my personal experiences, as well as including all of the letters I’ve answered here on my blog! My book will include details and experiences I never shared before, plus photos and what I’ve learned from all of you!
In autumn 2019, this blog will no longer be. Many, many thanks to psychotherapist Rob Peach for helping me answer letters that required a professional’s opinion. Your time helping me and the letter-writers was greatly appreciated! And thank you to everyone I interviewed for this blog.
My primary focuses now are on more family time with my husband and son, my paintings, and our movie podcast Happily Cinemarried. You can find links to both my art and podcast at LizLaPoint.com
My husband and I are also going to put out a book commemorating working together as photographer and muse for almost a decade. The book will contain archived as well as new, never-before-seen images of instant photography.
I discovered Andrew from listening to an episode of the podcast Voices of Deconversion and quickly found his story both relatable and incredibly insightful. His experiences are unfortunately not unique and I believe it’s important his work (and the similar works of others) should be heard as much as possible in a culture that still wants to sweep under the rug religion’s role in negatively impacting human relationships and sexuality. I reached out to Andrew and he graciously responded to my interview questions.
I read on your website, LifeAfterDogma.org, that you were raised Pentecostal in New Jersey. What did that religion teach its members about relationships and sexuality?
In Evangelical Christianity, sex is essentially a curse from God, unless and until you are in a heterosexual marriage. Sex is a problem you must manage because it could potentially destroy you. Expressing your sexuality in any way is a slippery slope into hell. I was taught that if I entertained my natural urges and wandering thoughts in sexual fantasies, masturbation, or pornography, I was sinning against God, my body, and my future spouse. I was held responsible for completely repressing sexual impulses that were beyond my ability to control. Not only is this an impossible double-bind; for the Christian it’s also a life-threatening condition. In the Bible, Jesus associates normal sexual fantasy with hellfire punishment, suggesting that believers castrate themselves in order to avoid temptation (Matthew 5:27-30). This teaching neurologically wires the brains of Christians to associate sexual urges with being tortured. No wonder people coming out of Christianity often suffer from sexual dysfunction!
My religion also taught that divorce, abortion, and homosexuality are great evils. Anyone who had these experiences suffered a huge amount of shame and ostracism from their community. Christian therapists still regularly practice conversion therapy today, which is a traumatizing and ineffective practice designed to change one’s sexual orientation. Additionally, LGBTQ youth with very religious parents are at a much higher risk for suicide than the rest of the population. Moreover, no group has it worse than women. In the Bible, women are blamed for the sexual temptation of men, slut-shamed, and treated as slaves of men. Moreover, because femininity is excluded from the male deity of the biblical God, patriarchy has dominated the entire Western world for thousands of years. Because sex had such serious personal and social consequences in my religion, my church community did its best to stay very religious. Sex-negative messaging is a powerful tool in the hands of powerful people used to keep religious devotees under a system of religious control.
What are some of the ways your church’s teachings negatively impacted your relationships and sexuality?
Most sex takes place only within the mind–and that is where the Bible condemns it. I remember hating myself and my body as a teenager going through puberty because I couldn’t control my evil thoughts. It was so agonizing and confusing, it felt like torture to be in a body with raging hormones that was rigged against me. The Church gave us spiritual tools to treat our incurable sexual condition like prayer, confession, and accountability groups. Accountability groups are modeled after twelve step drug addiction treatment groups, since the underlying belief is that sexuality is an addiction. We met with accountability partners to confess our deviant sexual acts and fantasies to each other and come up with strategies to prevent them from happening again.We even confessed sexual dreams and nocturnal emissions as sins, since they involved sexual fantasies about people we weren’t married to.
I lived in fear of my sexuality. I hated my sexuality and even prayed for God to take it away from me so I wouldn’t suffer any longer. I experienced violent intrusive images of castration and hell. These came from verses in the Bible. And perhaps my sexual repression was a kind of psychosexual castration. I was also very envious of the people around me who were sexually active. I think that religious people preach so hard against sex partly because they want it so badly but are forbidden from having it.
My relationships were marked by a struggle to maintain so-called purity. I was taught that, as a male, I was the leader in a relationship, so it was my fault if things got sexual (the woman was also blamed for being “the temptress”). I was taught that I should break up with anyone who caused me to “stumble” through sexual activity. This resulted in an incredible amount of guilt, as well as broken relationships. When I finally found sexual liberation as an adult, the years of guilt, shame, and fear programming resulted in sexual dysfunction. It took me years to embrace my pleasure and stay connected to my body during sex. And I had so much performance anxiety, with all my baggage and inexperience, opening to sex with people who had many years of experience.
I had no sex education, except for the teaching that having sex would cause me to get an incurable or lethal disease. I was educated through abstinence-only campaigns to “just say no” to sex. Tragically, many Christian youth become pregnant and contract STI’s because the Church forbade them from having sex education. It sure felt awkward learning to use a condemn for the first time at the age of twenty-six. Additionally, we were taught to wait for “the one;” our perfect partner chosen by God. This resulted in unrealistic standards and an unhealthy approach to dating. Many of my friends rushed into marriage out of a naïve infatuation and desperation to have sex. This often ended in strained relationships and divorces.
Not only is sexuality not a bad thing; it is the closest thing in existence to the idea of God. Sexuality is a kind of creative life energy that seethes through the entire universe, powering the evolution of matter into stars, atoms, galaxies, planets, and all life. Sexuality is our aliveness and power to create, and through sexual healing we can also connect with our creative purpose. Keeping people from sexual expression is a way to keep them from realizing their “divinity;” their own creative, spiritual purpose. Many of us have learned to associate sex with hurtful things. Reclaiming sexuality from religion means breaking those negative associations by giving yourself healthy, life-affirming messages. Sex is not about shame, abuse, or fear. This is what sex means: Love. Life. Pleasure. Connection. Passion. Healing. Set-exploration. Giving. And so much more. But especially love.
You are a Religious Trauma Recovery Coach and Clinical Psychologist in training. Your work is incredibly important, especially in a world that often doesn’t want to acknowledge or confront the damaging effects of religious beliefs. What “ah-ha” moments led to you leaving the religion and subsequently led to your current work?
I was a radically devoted Christian for my entire life, born the son of a minister. I studied world evangelism at Wheaton College and earned my Master of Divinity from Princeton Seminary, later becoming a minister and missionary. Yet my relationship with God looked just like an abusive relationship. This deity, known as Jesus, possessed my body and my soul, constantly policing my thoughts for sin and threatening to burn me with fire if I didn’t follow him perfectly. All the while, he kept me in the relationship by claiming to love me unconditionally. Still, I never imagined that I would leave Christianity in a million years. However, my religious beliefs resulted in an anxiety disorder, along with tremendous emotional pain.
My therapists didn’t recognize my religion as the cause of my suffering because they had no training about religious trauma, and I always blamed my distress on something else. One day I determined to rid myself of fear. I quickly began to see that the Bible was the source of my psychological distress. After a slow painful process of denial, trying harder, and switching to less extreme versions of Christianity, over the course of a few years, I left religion entirely and became an atheist. Although I still don’t believe in God, I have learned to appreciate the healing, world-changing power of spirituality. Through psychotherapy and spiritual experiences (non-ordinary states of consciousness), I healed and experienced myself as connected to all life, the whole of nature. My experiences helped me overcome my fear of death, connect with my intuition (the “voice of God”), and find my life’s work. I started a blog, http://www.lifeafterdogma.org, where I write about healing religious trauma and spiritual development. I am currently studying for my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology in San Francisco, and I speak and hold workshops about healing and sexuality.
Looking back, I can see cracks in my system of belief earlier in my life. Teachings about rejection of homosexuals and eternal torture in hell never really sat right with me, but I kept myself from questioning the faith with surface level rationalizations like “God’s ways are mysterious.” But they are not mysterious: they are abusive. I think we can help people who are trapped in harmful religions through exposure and relationship. Religious people are often very sheltered, and while they may claim to know about other belief systems, they have never really been exposed. Relationships with other people, for instance a happily married homosexual couple, can shock them out of their rigid thinking. Intellectual arguments are often also effective, though not necessarily instantaneously. It is also important to take an approach to relationship opposite to religious judgmentalism. We can demonstrate genuine, non-judgmental acceptance in our relationships, sharing the joys of our freedom without being pushy or manipulative. Moreover, many religious people long for spiritual experiences but don’t have them. I believe that mystical experiences can help people heal from dogma and awaken to something indescribably more profound.
I’ve received many letters here at The Naked Advice from people who were raised to remain virgins until marriage and are now dealing with major incompatibility issues with their spouses. What do you find to be the most common issues affecting sexuality and relationships?
I think it’s important for these people to try professional counseling or couples’ therapy. Relational communication is an advanced skill that most of us didn’t learn growing up. A method called Non-Violent Communication is a great place to start. Additionally, we all have unresolved emotional issues that we project onto our partners. Ultimately, only you can decide whether to leave or stay in a relationship. This is a personal decision that should be made with careful consideration, and there isn’t always a “right answer.”
The most common issues affecting sexuality and relationships are unresolved personal issues and shame. We bring everything we are and all our life experiences into our relationships and sexuality. If we truly want better relationships for ourselves, we must take ownership of our lives and do the hard work of healing, looking firstly at ourselves and then at the other person. It is also essential to develop a sense of personal identity and purpose: Are you living out your highest pleasure in the world? If not, what’s holding you back? I can’t overemphasize the necessity of deep, inner work and facing the parts of ourselves that make us feel uncomfortable. That’s the only way to healing and healthy relating.
Additionally, many people struggle with sexual dysfunction and experiencing pleasure or orgasm. Practices like tuning into touch and sensation and making the goal being present rather than achieving climax can be powerful. Self-love is essential. We also struggle with relationships when we don’t know our “yes” and our “no.” We need to communicate our desires and our boundaries, which we cannot do if we don’t even know what they are. And our partners can’t read our minds. We also often have unrealistic expectations. Learning how to meet our own needs and find our own happiness enables us to meet our partners in a healthy, giving way. You’re planning a Missionary De-Conversion Trip to India and have a Go Fund Me to help raise the money needed to make it happen, which I think is amazing! Tell us how you came up with the idea and about what you’ll do when you get there.
Thousands of missionaries travel to India and other countries every year, spreading a message of fear and spiritual colonialism even as they preach love. Six years ago, I worked as a missionary in India, converting Hindus and Muslims to Christianity under the pretense of charitable work. I’m going back to tell my story of de-conversion from Christianity and reconcile with the people I used to evangelize. I will be documenting my journey.
I felt called by God to be a missionary from an early age. During my sophomore year of college, I went on my first missionary trip to India with a group of students. We lived with a Hindu host family under the pretense of Hindi language study. Missionary work is illegal in India, so we worked undercover, making friends and inviting ourselves into their homes in the hopes of converting them (this is known as “relational evangelism”). Our host family welcomed us as if we were flesh and blood. We ate meals with them every day, received a tour of their village of origin, and even attended a traditional Indian wedding in their extended family. I fell in love with India and traveled there four additional times, sharing the gospel and inspiring indigenous Indian ministers to evangelize their country. Back in the US, I preached about the need for evangelism to India at my college, in my churches, and to all my friends regularly. I refused to date women who didn’t share my missionary calling to India because I didn’t want to get pulled away from my divine mission.
The family I lived with in India turned out to be leaders in a highly influential Hindu caste. Our strategy was to convert and train influential high-caste leaders to become evangelists and change-makers, so we believed this was a providential opportunity. Our strategy was part of the Bible’s Great Commission, which states that Jesus will come back to rule the Earth once every ethnolinguistic people group has heard the gospel. I worked with Christian organizations who view India as a strategic place to do evangelism because it has more unreached people groups than any other nation. Many Christian churches around the world are devoted to sending missionaries to India in order to accomplish the task of global evangelism. They start orphanages and rescue sex slaves, using charitable work as a cover to target India’s most vulnerable populations, resulting in the exchange of one form of oppression for another.
During a recent mystical experience, I had a vision about going back to India; not as a missionary, but as a learner. I will reconcile with the people I attempted to convert. I will travel various places where I conducted evangelistic efforts, sharing my story of deconversion and bringing awareness to abusive missionary practices. My story is not just my own; it represents the stories of countless missionaries and religious who have de-converted and suffer from the aftermath of guilt and shame, and the millions of people who still suffer today under the oppression of religious imperialism. If you are interested in doing media or documentary coverage, please reach out to me. I need to raise $6,000 to cover costs. Please donate generously and share my story with others who will benefit from this work: Missionary Deconversion Go Fund Me
If one of my readers is interested in your help as a Religious Trauma Recovery and Spiritual Development Coach, how can they contact you?
I work with people who are healing from the impact of religious indoctrination, which includes issues like anxiety, sexual healing, grief work, PTSD, rebuilding community, and communicating with family. I also help people connect with spirituality. Do you struggle with a sense of meaninglessness or emptiness? Do you desire to have spiritual experiences and find meaningful work? Spirituality is part of your basic humanity and unlocking this aspect of yourself can bring you incredible joy and fulfillment. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about coaching.
Subscribe to my blog http://www.lifeafterdogma.org for talks and articles on religious trauma, psychology, psychedelics, spirituality, and much more. I can also be booked to speak at events, interview for videos and podcasts, and put on workshops. For more information on religious trauma, see my talk “What Is Religious Trauma?”
Adamwrote: “I’ve been nude modeling for art classes, which I’m comfortable with as there’s no photos, just drawing and painting. Quite often at the end of a class a female artist has asked for private one on one sessions, so they can be more in control of the poses I do and the angle they get, compared to jostling for the best view in a busy class.
In the one to one sessions I’m finding a recurring pattern of the female artists politely asking for an ‘erection pose’ as they would otherwise never get to draw them, as they’re not expected in group classes. They tell me it’s completely normal and every male model does this for female artists, but it can become sexual when trying to maintain an erection while posing still for 30+ minutes and they come over to get it stiff again! I’m wondering if you know how normal this is, or if you can tell whether this is a sexual rather than purely artistic thing for the female artists? I don’t know any other male models well enough to ask, and the artists are saying it’s normal but I’m not convinced – as they mostly know each other I wonder if they are quietly saying to each other to all tell me it’s normal! Or maybe that’s me being a naive conspiracy theorist?”
Lizsays: While I’ve never posed privately for any female artists, I am almost 100% certain your experiences are not the norm.
When I first posed for my husband (who wasn’t my husband or even a love interest at the time) he was perfectly professional. He never touched me, instead giving light direction. I recall he even mentioned that in the industry, it’s a big no-no for photographers to touch the models. Any costume changes or pose changes are done by the model only (or also by stylists/etc on a big-budget fashion shoot). When I posed for a sculptor years ago, he also never touched me. As a matter of fact, he tried to downplay any sensuality I was emitting, choosing to highlight a different mood in his sketch of me.
Which brings me to another reason it’s not typical for artists to touch the models, let alone to achieve and maintain erections: most of the art community favors non-sexual nudity in art. There is certainly a place for sexual nudity in art (and that is still respected art), but in those cases where sexual nudity is the goal then the artist will usually ensure the model fully understands and agrees to the arrangement beforehand.
Whether or not it’s the norm within the industry is beside the point here, though. If it makes you uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter how common it is. In my opinion, they are crossing a line behaving unprofessionally with you, so if it does make you uncomfortable (they’re being manipulative by lying to you, after all) then don’t pose for them anymore. But if you enjoy it or are indifferent to it, then there’s really no problem (as long as you’re an adult!) Simply speak up next time if you don’t like it, and ask more questions before the session even begins so you understand what will be expected of you.
“Bryan” and “Cassidy” were engaged to be married already when I met Cassidy at work. We became good friends over a mutual love for the nightlife. We were in our 20s and still had the energy to hit the clubs on Sunset Boulevard after working a long shift. She opened up to me about her relationship to Bryan while driving to our destinations.
“I know he loves me but I found out that he never deleted his profile on Plenty of Fish. We had a HUGE fight about it so I’m a little pissed off still.”
This is what the bulk of her complaints were about: trust. I watched as she devolved into a paranoid shell of a woman as she struggled to maintain self-esteem in the face of frequent disrespect from the man who had proposed marriage. I struggled trying not to blast it from the rooftops that she should leave him. Most often, people need to figure these things out on their own.
My boyfriend and I had dinner with Cassidy and Bryan once. They wanted to meet up for sushi but we weren’t sushi fans so we compromised by dining at a restaurant that served other Asian fare, too. Let me tell you, after one meeting with Bryan I never wanted to be in a room with him again.
“That’s RIDICULOUS…how does anyone know how many there are if they haven’t been caught yet?” Bryan scoffed rhetorically, after I mentioned the fact that there are more serial killers active in the U.S. than people realize. Great dinner conversation, I know, but they had asked me what I studying and I engaged them in a discussion about forensic psychology.
Stunned at first by his blunt rudeness, I continued by attempting to explain how the experts ascertain such knowledge while he slurped down his sashimi. I say “attempt” because he cut me off mid-sentence to loudly challenge me. “What are the official STATS, what would you say is the percentage of serial killers?”
Let’s just say he was one of the most arrogant people I’ve ever had the displeasure of talking to. He was aggressively rude and smarmy, and my boyfriend and I left that dinner concluding not only that Cassidy should leave him, but that ALL women should steer clear of him.
Thankfully, Cassidy finally had enough and she broke off the engagement some months later. They fought almost every day over his need to argue with her over every little thing and his gaslighting her whenever she discovered his deceitful behavior.
Bryan was a toxic human being (quite possibly a sociopath) and toxic people create toxic relationships and toxic home environments.
Here are some of the main signs to look out for:
1) Toxic People Leave You Feeling Emotionally Exhausted. Their need to argue, belittle, manipulate, condescend, and always feel like the smartest person in the room will leave you spent. Healthy people usually leave us feeling appreciated and good about ourselves. If you notice more often than not that your significant other (or anyone, for this matter) makes you feel worse after being in their company, they’re probably a Toxic Person.
2) They Use Anger To Manipulate. After lashing out at you verbally whenever they’re questioned, challenged, or not obeyed, you might start tiptoeing around them to avoid being yelled at. The next thing you know, you notice you’ve stopped questioning them or challenging them even in important cases where they absolutely should be questioned and challenged. This is abuse, and should never be tolerated.
3) They Use Charm and Humor To Manipulate. Here’s a telltale difference between someone who is charismatic and funny in a healthy way and someone who is using charm and humor to manipulate: are they trying to sell you something or talk you into something? Are they trying to sway your opinion? Is it something you notice they tend to “turn on” when they want something from someone? Think of charm this way: charm is something someone *does* in order to get their way. Most psychopaths are described as “charming”, so there you go.
4) You Have To Hide Your True Opinions and Feelings In Order To Maintain a Relationship With Them. All abusive people are toxic, but not all toxic people are abusive. This is one that can go either way. Are you hiding your true thoughts because they are likely to get angry with you? That’s an abusive person. But are you hiding your true opinions and feelings because you know how different their beliefs and values are from yours, and those differences are so many that if you voiced them as often as they came up you two would be debating or bickering more than enjoying each other? This is an example of when a person isn’t necessarily toxic, but being in a relationship with them is. It’s not healthy to maintain friendships or romantic relationships with anyone you have so little with in common. If you notice you’re constantly holding your tongue just to keep the peace, get out.
And don’t ever feel guilty for distancing yourself from anyone toxic. It’s not your job to fix them, they need to fix themselves. Your mental and emotional health comes first!
Hey movie lovers (and really, who isn’t?), my husband Terry and I have a new podcast show! Tune in to hear us discuss subjects like “Movies We Shouldn’t Have Watched As Kids” and “Christmas Movies That Aren’t Christmas Movies”. Each episode is unscripted so you won’t hear a professor’s lecture, you’ll hear a happily “cinemarried” couple sharing their opinions and some trivia.
Tune in wherever you prefer downloading your podcasts, you can find us everywhere including iTunes and Spotify, or visit our website Happily Cinemarried
PS: And if you enjoy our show, please consider giving us a 5 Star Review on iTunes and becoming a patron on our Patreon
Sam wrote: “I had a question that’s been bugging me a lot lately. I know that people can be in whatever relationship they want and all that.
But monogamy has always been important for me. The problem is that I keep hearing people say things about how hard monogamy is and how you can’t expect a partner to want you that much or whatever. But I’ve found a lot of freedom in knowing that whatever happens, my partner is focused on me in that area of our lives. It also used to give me a feeling of safety and self confidence. Like I’ve been sick and don’t feel as much pressure because I can’t have sex, or I know that if my partner did anything behind my back they would have just broken up with me so the fact that they’re still there is proof that everything is okay.
Last year that changed a lot because I was in a relationship with someone who slowly started to push back on how I felt and even our relationships boundaries. This eventually reached the point of them gaslighting me about our relationship and trying to get me to let them sleep with other people. Now I’m always a little on edge because I know that even someone who says “I love you,” and I was communicating really well with was still abusive and really tried to make me feel bad for wanting an exclusive relationship. And I feel really stressed out when I heard people drag monogamy so much and feel like any relationship I’m in, my partner will just start to push against our boundaries. Especially since I can have issues with sex and confirmed related to trauma. The worst thing would be cheating obviously, but even thinking about that makes me really stressed out.
How do you think I can build a sense of safety inside a relationship or when I’m single, and how should I go about making clear how important monogamy is to me and how freeing and even sexy I find it? And how can I stop feeling bad or like I’m naive for wanting a monogamous relationship? I know relationships end and that’s okay, but while it’s going I want it to be free of little digs or power imbalances or endless pressure to perform.”
Liz says: Ignore everyone else. Who cares what they believe about monogamy? Unless you are in a romantic relationship with them, their opinions don’t matter.
Monogamy is important to you, and that’s what matters. There are millions of women who also value monogamy and want what you do in a relationship. If you’re somehow getting the impression that polyamory or open relationships are the norm now, you’re mistaken. Since this concern gives you anxiety, I do wonder if there is something deeper going on with you emotionally. Perhaps finding a therapist who specializes in abandonment issues, or abusive relationships (or whatever it is you might have been traumatized by) would do you a lot of good.
Meanwhile, prioritize this concern right away with whomever you date. Not in a smothering way, but gently bring up the topic of monogamy in long-term couplings and see where the conversation goes. You can learn a lot before getting emotionally invested. Honesty and setting clear boundaries is how you can build a sense of safety inside a relationship.
My essay below was originally published on DigitalRomanceInc.com a few years ago, (to update the story, my husband Terry and I have been married 7 years now), and I’m proud to say everything I wrote here applies as much today as it did when it was first written!
When I first sat down to pen this piece, I questioned whether I have any right to write this since my hubby and I will be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary this October. “Does someone who is barely out of newlywed territory get to tell the rest of us how she keeps the romance alive?”, you might ask. Maybe not, but I will anyway.
We don’t treat each other like brother and sister. Many couples become so comfortable with each other they begin to behave more like bratty siblings than mature lovers. She stops shaving her legs or wearing that sexy dress he loves, he laughs maniacally while passing gas in her face. She starts burping aloud at the dinner table, they start going Number 2 in front of each other. My husband and I care about remaining attractive to each other. Whenever the dynamic in a romantic relationship becomes more familial, as in more like parent/child or brother/sister, sex appeal and sex usually go out the window, because who wants to sleep with their mom or sibling?
We are more supportive and positive than critical. Many people are petrified that the one they love will take them for granted, so they don’t freely give compliments because they mistakenly assume that making their mate feel secure in the relationship will lead to a big ego and cheating. They wind up sabotaging the relationship by being more critical than loving, because who wants to make love to someone so unloving? My hubby and I are quick to verbally note when the other does or says something wonderful, but we step back and think twice before being harshly critical. I tell my husband on a regular basis how thrilled I am that he exists in the world. He often tells me I am the best thing to happen to him. We build each other up, because we want to see the other happy and successful.
We don’t let others come between us. My husband is my priority, and I am his. That means, when other people show signs of expecting to come before my spouse, it’s my job to make it clear that they don’t. If someone else tries attaching themselves to one of us, it’s our job to safeguard our relationship by keeping each other prioritized and never acting in a way that dismisses the other’s feelings.
We show each other physical affection every day. There isn’t a day that goes by without kisses and hugs, and we still have sex multiple times a week. Even when we’ve had a fight, we prioritize resolving the issue and we’re back to healing our connection. We often rub each other’s backs and feet while watching a movie. It’s one way to stay connected.
We balance time with each other and time with our son. Our 4 year-old is the light of our lives, and we truly enjoy being parents. But we discussed early on, before our son was even born, how crucial it is for parents to not let parenting and its inevitable stressors keep them from staying connected to each other as lovers. If we let our identities become lost in parenting and lose touch with what brought us together in the first place, we run the risk of weakening the ties that keep the romance alive.
There are no guarantees in life. Being married doesn’t guarantee that one of us won’t fall out of love and find someone else, and knowing this keeps us from taking each other for granted. Romantic love is a garden and we can choose to either give it water and sunshine or neglect it, and too many couples mistake their vows for a guarantee that the garden will survive without water and sunshine.
CCD wrote:“There is this girl (let’s call her Amber) that I’ve been friends with for years now and she found out that I had a foot fetish while we were in Jr. high. Ever since then for the past 6-7 years she has been really cool about it and when we would hangout and do study sessions at her house (for our high school and now college exams) she would always ask me to massage her feet to help her relax. Apparently her mom (Michele) took notice of it and about 2 years ago when I would go over and wait for Amber to get home from her last class -which normally took about an hour an a half- Michele would take off her socks and walk around barefoot and would do her nails, only toes, by me and occasionally ask me to massage her feet. Also she would often stretch her arches and wiggle her toes once she would see me looking at them. About 9 months ago Michele started flirting with me while I’m over and has started texting me. As of 4 months ago when I’m at the house Michele she would walk around while only in her lingerie, and as of last month she walks around nude when I’m there and is always offering to have sex. I also found out that Amber wants to date me. I don’t wanna ruin our friendship and make things really weird. So I guess what I’m trying to ask is should I start a relationship with either of them? By the way I’m 19 Amber is 18 and Michele is 42.”
Liz says: I’m going to give a decidedly absolute answer to your question: no. Avoid your friend’s mom from now on, which means beginning a new routine that doesn’t include waiting around for “Amber” at her home. Her mom is bad news and there are clearly some personal issues there that drive her to compete with her teen daughter. No bueno.
I find it noteworthy that you don’t include any ownership in anything that’s going down. Your language shows a detachment from participating. For example, when “Michele” starting texting you and flirting, did you flirt back? When she “offers to have sex”, how do you respond? Have you had sex with her? When she asked you to massage her feet, did you? You also don’t include how you feel about either of them. Do you want to date Amber? Are you attracted to either of them?
If you want to maintain a positive friendship (that includes foot massages) with Amber then you need to completely disengage with her mother. That means no more flirting, texting, foot massages, hanging out alone with her at the house, etc. The chances are high that things will not end well in this scenario if you don’t make these changes.
S.C wrote: “Hey Liz, hope you’re doing great. My wife and I have been married for 6 years (although we are relatively young, in our 20’s).
For the first few years, before lovemaking (we didn’t have sex before marriage ) we would “play around” a lot, foreplay, oral, etc, and she seemed to really love it and it helped her orgasm during the deed. But for the last couple of years she really hasn’t been interested, in giving or receiving. When we are in bed together, and I know we are going to be intimate, I will make motions to pleasure her and have even asked point blank if I can go down on her and she will respond with “no, let’s just do it”. I don’t know that it’s a problem, per se, I just kind of miss the intimacy that comes with warming up and enjoying her body beyond the “wham bam”, and I’m curious why she wouldn’t miss it too. Any thoughts?”
Liz says: Yes, my first thought is that you should ask your wife! When it’s a good time to have a serious discussion, be open and honest with her by telling her exactly what you tell me in this letter. Only she has the answers you’re looking for.
Since you were both inexperienced before you got married, there’s a good chance you’re both still learning what you enjoy sexually, even six years later. But it’s not uncommon (in young marriages especially) to have a sex life that ebbs and flows in frequency, activities, etc. Be patient with her and yourself. With honest communication things will change for the better.