Married to High Maintenance

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

My wife Angela is undoubtedly a beautiful woman and takes “high-maintenance” to a different plateau. Aside from battling her for sufficient shelf space for my own personal care products, I am not affected by her beauty upkeep. It rarely disrupts my life. This morning was one of the rare occasions that it did. This morning, I found her beauty to be affecting and, in actuality, intoxicating.

She spent most of her before-work prep time in front of the bathroom mirror. I found myself looking in her direction quite often. I donned colorful socks and laced up my white shoes before stepping into the bathroom to brush my teeth. As I completed my oral hygiene routine, I moved closer to Angela to say goodbye and wish her a nice day. She was beautiful. More so than normal. She stood there, a vision, putting the final touches on perfection. Her hair laid perfectly. Makeup applied without flaw. Lip color popped like a single rose emerging from a dark stained glass vase. Her jeans defined contours that spoke to being a woman; grown and sexy. And she smelled damn good.

My overtures to “togetherness” were met with, “You’re just horny”. I know when I’m horny and this situation was far deeper than that. It was primal.IMG_0348

I refuse to boil all of that down to being horny. There were some other invisible forces at work here. I considered,for a moment, the possibility that I married a black-magic woman. That some voodoo root or spell had been cast on me. That she could manipulate me with a doll and a few stick-pins. Or some mystical concoction of chicken blood, dog hair and sassafras root had been mixed in my wine. But that would require that I believe in the mystical and I don’t.

Thoughts of her smell, her curves, her lips haunted me for most of my day and I had to know why. I needed to know why I felt this way today and not yesterday; why we are attracted to the people we find attractive; and if not a black magic root, then what? What drives our primal magnetism? How much does confidence, passion and personality come into play?

Turns out that there is a significant amount of research on what attracts us to our lovers and friends.

Research shows that a person’s most attractive trait is their availability. Somehow, Angela was communicating some serious availability this morning.

In dating relationships, it is about physical availability – will this person mate with me? Within long-term relationships it’s more about emotional availability. Is this person available to connect with me?

Sexy body language also comes into play. An open torso is a non-verbal communication signaling availability. Folded arms will get you the opposite effect. Visible hands tend to signal trust. Studies show that we mistrust someone if we can’t see their hands.

Did you know that a man can detect a woman’s fertility? The is perhaps pheromones at work. A woman will give off a different scent during the fertility cycle that might make her more attractive to men. These are serious DNA level decisions that we have no control over.

Research also suggest that we are more attractive to bilateral symmetry. Meaning that a person’s facial features are aligned and proportionate. This is important to diversifying and deepening the gene pool. Asymmetry can mean that there is some DNA damage at play and our internal wiring will suggest that we move on to more attractive options.

Then we have the “cuddle hormone”, Oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that renders grown, macho men into snugly teddy bears. It plays a huge role in pair bonding. It is thought to be released when hugging and touching and can increase in men as they get older. It causes us to seek closeness and physical contact.

Wife’s confidence and swagger is damn near erotic as well. In watching her get ready this morning, I knew that she was preparing to kick ass in the workplace. She sauntered. When she saunters, you know her swag meter is on 10.

So here’s what likely contributed to this morning’s experience: 1) All of Angela’s mirror primping, hair adjusting, and makeup application revealed a perfect symmetrical face; 2) Angela was likely at the height of her fertility cycle and, thus, emitted high pheromone levels; 3) Angela communicated physical and emotional availability; and 4) my Oxytocin levels were off the chart. Then again, I could have been horny. Regardless of the cause, I’ll have a bit of fun further exploring this over the weekend.

Valentine’s Day: Sun and Moon

My fortune in the wife department runs deep.  I am endowed beyond category.

Like the sun, she is the star that illuminates my solar system.  The star that gives light to the planets and moons that revolve around her.  She warms me.  Keeps me grounded.  Keeps me dreaming.  She is at the center of it all.

I am like the moon, dark and mysterious.  Moody and in need of anchoring lest I float aimlessly without light, searching for gravity and synchronicity.

The star of my galaxy
The star of my solar system

Like the moon, I appear bright on the surface, luminescent without cause.  My sun is the reason I shine.  My sun is the reason I continue to revolve and evolve into something greater than what I was.

While there are billions of suns in the galaxy, my sun shines brightest of them all.  She provides the light by which I see and the warmth by which I am nurtured.

Today is a day that I celebrate my sun, the star of my solar system; the one that shines brightest in the galaxy.

May your sun shine as brightly on this Valentine’s Day.

Can A Brother Get Some Love…On Valentine’s Day

Is there any dispute that Valentine’s day is a holiday for women?  Let’s mark the one year anniversary of Man Up by exploring whether or not room exist for men to be honored on the love holiday.

If it’s a matter of dollars and cents, the scale tilts toward women.  In 2013, men spent twice as much as women on gifts for V-day at a rate of $108 to $53. Flowers and jewelry tend to push up the cost for men while women don’t usually buys those items.  Though in one survey, 14% of women said that they would send flowers to themselves.  Interesting.

Known as a day when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts, V-day has morphed into something that is less equitable among the sexes and far more commercial in nature.  So much so that spending is in excess of $18 billion annually.

How is it less equitable?  Among those participating in the holiday, 64% men will purchase flowers while only 36% women will do the same.  I mean can a brother get some flowers?  I like flowers.  They are pretty and they smell good.  I like pretty, good smelling things.

Perhaps the issue is that women just don’t know what men want.

I reached out to a few fellas to find out what they would like from their partners and here’s what they said:

“Some good ole fashioned booty with no excuses” (yeah, I promised anonymity and that’s what I got), “time alone to have some adult conversation”, “hot oil massage…maybe a happy ending” (you can’t make this shit up), “chocolate, a couples massage and cap it off with dinner” (my kind of date, maybe I’ll give him a call), “a hand-written note saying how much she appreciates all the things…listing out what I’ve done over the year…cooking my favorite meal…and a quiet night in front of the fire with a glass of Zin” (he doesn’t ask for much, does he?), “cook my favorite meal…and a pedicure” ( I kid you not.  He said that!).

The group conversation took an interesting turn to mani/pedis and  his/her mani/pedis and things got weird from that point on.

My point is that men are ladies too.  We want to be thought of, appreciated, loved, cherished and nurtured too.  And according to the men in my highly scientific study, a mani/pedi just might get the job done.

My wife Angela asked me over the weekend what I wanted for Valentine’s Day.  I was more than a little surprised since I haven’t received a gift since…never.  I was so shocked that I don’t think I even responded.  If I had, I might have said some flowers, or a slate grey narrow tie, or a bottle wine that she personally chose, or an evening of fire, wine and nibbles.  If I could have responded, I might have chosen any one of those things.  The truth is, though, “no excuses, no strings attached, good ole fashioned booty” sounds pretty damn good to me.

So how about it ladies.  Step up and do something nice for your man this Valentine’s day.  The she in him deserves it.

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby!

Now that I having your attention I should mention that this post is not about you embracing your inner porn star.  It’s more about embracing fitness as an integral part of your sexual performance, thereby, ensuring that your partner or partners (whatever floats your boat my friend.  I’m not here to judge you) have a complete and enjoyable experience.  Simplified, we want to meliorate your bedroom swagger!

I don’t know what you talkin’ ’bout partner, I handle my business in the bedroom!” I have never in my life met a man that admitted to being a lousy lover.  I have, however, met plenty of women who have complained about mediocre Casanovas.  So somewhere, somehow there is a disconnect.  Well my dude, it’s time to Man Up and get real with yourself.  Are you fit enough to go the distance?

The Physical

It is no secret that exercise is good for you.  It keeps your heart healthy, increases stamina, strengthens muscle and enhances flexibility.  And it makes your sex life better.  Studies show that men and women who were more physically fit rated their own sexual performance higher.
Exercise means more sex.  I kid you not.  The reasons for this are not clear but research does show that the more a person exercises, the more sex he or she tends to have.  It also enhances sexual aging.  A study that examined sexual frequency and satisfaction ratings of swimmers age 60 found that their ratings were similar to those 20 years younger.
And then there is Erectile Dysfunction.  For many men our age, ED is more a reality than it is an office joke.  You can help avoid the condition if you keep the blood flowing to your “little buddy” (insert giggle here) without interruption.  Blocked arteries, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues can interfere with blood flow.  Regular exercise reduces the risk of ED by keeping the heart and arteries healthy.
Hitting the gym also boosts the sex hormone, testosterone.  A Baylor University study found that men’s testosterone levels were highest during the 48 hours after they lifted weights.  Additionally, a study conducted by the New England Research Institute documented that a man’s waist size correlates with his testosterone levels.  They found that a waist size larger than 41 inches was a better indicator of low testosterone levels than overall weight.
Being fit also gives you options in the bedroom.  A stronger, more flexible you leads to exploration beyond the missionary position.  If you’re doing it right, sex can be an intense, physically demanding activity requiring strength and endurance.  With increased strength and endurance comes the possibility for more varied sexual positions that require greater physical control.  Can a brother get an “amen” ladies?

The Mental

A key to good sexual experiences is actually feeling sexy.  Being fit helps you feel sexy.  People who exercise have an improved body image over people who don’t exercise.  Having confidence in your appearance leads to better and more relaxed sex.  You are less likely to think about the bits and pieces of your body that bother you and more likely to give attention to the task at hand…pleasing your partner.  Like most things in life, self-confidence leads to exceptional performance.  A study showed that more physically fit men and women rated their own sexual desirability higher than less active men and women.  80% of men and 60% of women who exercised two to three times weekly rated their own sexual desirability as above average.  If you don’t think that you are desirable, why should your partner?  They are going to buy what you are selling and if you are selling a sad state of affairs, the outlook for the evening will be pretty grim.
It’s never too late to start reaping all of the benefits of exercise.  Increased muscle tone, improved stamina, better blood flow, developed agility and self-confidence will lead to better sex.  My mission in the bedroom is to be the last one standing.  As I was fooling around with Mrs Lee trying to set some expectations for the evening, she looked at me, shook her head and said referring to my energy, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with your old ass.”  Mission accomplished.

 

Scratching That 7 Year Itch

Is the 7 year itch real?  That’s a question that has been tackled by social scientist and psychologist for years without yielding a definitive answer.  It is certainly not one that I am going to attempt to answer here given my  particular knowledge deficiency on the subject.  Instead, this post represents a jumping off point for discussion on understanding a phenomenon which affects our middle-aged demographic.  Man up dudes.  It’s time to scratch that itch and put some fire back into your relationships.

So you’ve been married or in a committed relationship for a long time and that “new relationship-smell” has long worn off.  You don’t talk to each other when you’re alone.  Habits you once found cute are super annoying now.  You feel less appreciated and less desired and if you could snap your fingers a-la Samantha Stephens in “Bewitched” and be gone, you would.  Sound familiar?  If you answered “yes”, there are measures that you can take to help navigate these troubling waters (buying a sports car is not one of them).  If you answered “no”, don’t worry young buck because you’ll be there soon enough.

Reference to the number 7 was popularized by the success of the 1955 Marilyn Monroe film The Seven Year Itch but it is also based on US Census data indicating when a divorce is likely to happen.  Other data indicate that the number is closer to 4 years.  Whether it’s 4 or 7 or some other number, most experts agree that there is a period in the multiple stages of a relationship where couples are susceptible to pulling the plug.

As promised during the start of Man Up, this is a personal journey of discovery of the post-40 year life stage including its issues and challenges.  I am not here to misrepresent myself as an expert on any topic.  Rather, I hope that you and I will take a closer look under the hood and examine the engines that drive us.  I don’t doubt than many of you are in healthy, happy relationships while others are negotiating the day-to-day difficulties of relationship management and still others are divorced or separated.  I do doubt that many of us give time or thought daily, weekly or monthly to what it takes to exist in healthy relationships and apply what we learn to our own situations.

Where Am I on the Continuum?

Key to understanding what’s going on in your relationship is to understand what phase of the relationship you are in.  For most of us, relationships go through various stages according to Dr Marty Tashman:

1. The Honeymoon – you are consumed with being together, the sex is good, and the attraction is strong.
2. Accommodation – roles are established, expectations set, and the day-to-day realities of managing a relationship have settled in.
3. The Challenge – there’s trouble in paradise, major life changes (new job, unemployment, illness) begin to test the strength of your bond.  Children and family crises are important factors during this stage.  There is a certain amount of disillusionment in this stage.  The relationship is not meeting early expectations and one or both partners run the risk of being attracted to other people.  This is a time when the relationship is vulnerable to infidelity.  Hello 7 year itch!
4. The Crossroads – what do I do at this stage of my life?  You’ve already encounter a few challenges in your relationship and you have learned how to deal with them as a couple and how each responds individually.
5. Rebirth – learning to re-appreciate and re-love one another.  You’ve learned how and when to compromise and accept areas of difference without resentment.  This is our ultimate destination Hominids!  Conquering stages 3 and 4 is how we will get here.

From Challenge to Rebirth

According to Dr Marty Tashman, how you deal with the challenge phase will determine the direction that your relationship takes in the Crossroads stage assuming you want to get there of course.  I’ll list some professional tips and some not-so professional ones as well (those are mine).
Experts vary on the key ingredients of a good relationship.  Here are a few: 1) Feeling accepted.  When one partner says something to the other to make them feel valued and important, it strengthens the relationship. Stay away from saying things that come across as criticism.  Focus your arguments on the issue at hand and not what happened two and half years ago.  2)  Let your partner feel that they have influence over you.  We all need to feel that weight and thought are given to our perspective.  If my perspective doesn’t matter, then I don’t matter.  3)  Keep the nagging to a minimum.  We are adults here.  Don’t continuously remind them about things that they already know.  If you are the recipient of the nagging, prevent yourself from withdrawing in angry silence or some other passive-aggressive form of rebellion (I have a natural inclination for angry silence as my wife attest).  4) Keep your judgments to a minimum.  When we feel that our significant other is negatively judging us, we feel diminished and devalued and the response is typically a defensive one.  Regardless of how many times you apologize, negative remarks can not be taken back.

When the cost of being in a relationship outweigh the benefits for one of the partners, this person may be tempted to call it quits.  So work toward getting back to a mutually beneficial bond. Here’s what I think works for me:

1) Encourage one another.  It doesn’t matter what you provide encouragement for so long as you show your support.  “Good luck on the meeting today babe.  I know you’ll do well.”  “I love the way that you interact with our children.  You are a fantastic mother.”
2) Have open and respectful communication.  Disconnects and ill-informed internal dialogues resulting from poor communication can breakdown trust and wreak havoc on stability.
3) Keep your dreams on the table.  We are all working toward something right?  Whether it’s an exciting retirement plan, entrepreneurship or completing a bucket list together, talking about it periodically reminds you that you have purpose as a couple and share the same dreams and visions.  It also affords you an opportunity to discuss when those dreams and visions cease to align.  I said goodbye to my dream of owning a horse farm after my wife said she was having none of that foolishness.  Hello compromise!
4) Respect and honor your partner’s contributions to your relationship and to your lives.  Regardless of how roles are defined in your relationship, partnerships are successful when each partner feels that they have equal footing in the deal.  Antediluvian caveman attitudes and behaviors don’t work for most modern women.
5) Keep it sexy and keep it hot!  Think about what attracted you two to each other in the first place.  You were attractive, probably took pride in your appearance, you smelled good, had muscle tone, energy, vigor, and the sex was hot right?  There is no reason that you can’t get one or two of those back.  The bottom line is everyone wants to be desired and wanted and, while to some, love is unconditional (I would argue that it is not), desire and attraction have some conditions.  Give her a reason to get her eyes off of Idris Elba and back on to you no matter how daunting a task that might seem.
6) Drink plenty of wine and laugh.

Scratch The Itch

I’ve learned that love is an irrational and fleeting emotion.  We’ve all done things in the name of love that no rational being would do and to rely solely on love as the cornerstone of your relationship’s foundation is…well…irrational.  It takes a great deal of work, energy, partnership, compromise and understanding to manage a relationship from the Honeymoon to the Rebirth stage.  The question is, if you are itching, how do you intend to scratch that itch?  Whether it’s 7 years hypothesized by some or 4 years as a 1980’s global study suggests, there is a critical moment in your relationship that requires either a fight or flight response.  The situation is quite normal.  There is no evidence that emphatically demonstrates that humans, as a species, have a predisposition to be monogamist.  Perhaps you are not built for monogamy.  Maybe you need a new situation every 4 years or so to be content and happy in your relationships.  Or you’ve made the conscious and rational choice to pair-bond for life.  It takes a rational decision to assess whether or not the benefits of the relationship outweigh the cost and effort it takes to maintain it.  There is a reason why sites like Ashley Madison and others exist…there is no shortage of business for them. These sites do more than provide a forum for discreet adulterous behavior. They prey on peoples frustrations and exploit the cracks in the relationships of those who struggle to navigate the often bumpy road of relationship management.
Don’t be a victim of the pitfalls. Understand where you are in your relationship and be ready to Man Up Hominids and get to work.

Cupid’s Calling

With total spending expected to exceed $17.6 billion according to the National Retail Federation, there is no denying that Valentine’s Day is a money generator for the nation’s retail outlets.  With so much money at stake and competition for your dollars, the pressure is on for you to get out there and stimulate the economy.  During my annual “oh shit” last minute gift shopping, I see men scrambling to find something to bring home to  loved ones that don’t make them look like total frauds.  It can be a comical out-of-body experience at times.  The average spend per male hominid is projected at $168.74 vs $85.76 for women further demonstrating society’s perception that Valentine’s Day is a woman’s holiday.  Dudes, that is some pressure for your ass.

So before you shell out a couple hundred gold pieces on perfume, jewelry, candy or naughty night clothes (actually that last one is not so terribly wrong, is it?), consider whether or not your gallantry matters at all.  Man Up guys.  It is time to evolve.

Poking around on the inter-webs and asking women for an honest response, I’ve come to learn that our perception and their expectations are disconnected.  This is particularly the case with those who have been in committed relationships for quite some time.  In an article written by Heidi Brown for Forbes.com, she points out that “women want things that a partner could easily provide, but might never guess.”  Things like “breakfast in bed”, “a kiss and a cup of coffee when she wakes up”, or a “card with more than just a husband’s signature, but with actual words that explain why and how much he loves me.”  

In my own unscientific yet still critical polling, women tell me that “it’s a day more meant for young lovers”, “I want special alone time, undivided attention with no kids and no cell phone” “some special time reflecting on how far we’ve come, preferably in a tub with wine in hand.”  And one of my favorites… “mutual recognition of love”.  This is the kind of shit that scares us for sure.  And I know what you’re thinking.  “How do I know that they just aren’t saying this so as not to come across like gold-digging, self-centered hussies?”  Because, my friends, YOU are going to pose the question yourself.  According to Jerry Shapiro, who teaches counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in California, “women are reluctant to communicate their expectations to their partner.”  She doesn’t tell you, you don’t ask, and the retail industry stands to earn over $17 billion from your lack of communication.  Shapiro continues, “Women think that if they have to spell out what they want, that gift somehow doesn’t count.”  Attention ladies:  Just stop this nonsensical rationalization.  It’s just too much to expect from hunter-gatherers.

So gents, your task for this step in the evolutionary journey is to 1) set a low budget; 2) get creative and 3) for goodness sake tell the woman that you love her and mean it.  I realize that I will be the toughest person to convince.  With a wife and two daughters, my average Valentine’s Day spend exceeds $300.  I decided to pose the question to my own bride of 23 years to which she quips, “something good to eat and something sweet at the end.  And you can interpret that anyway you want to.”  I love that chick!