Ask Miseducated: Valentine’s Day Gifting

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Reader

Last year my wife flipped out when I bought her lingerie for Valentine’s Day. The truth is, I still don’t know why. She just got angry and said “Isn’t it obvious?” and that was it. Any advice on what I get her this year that won’t set her off (and that we both can enjoy), which is what I thought the point of Valentine’s Day was?

Maryanne

Hi Rob, thanks for your question. And it’s a great question, too, because I know a lot of guys would have blown it off and just guessed again this year, and as you’ve probably figured out, that’s not a great solution if your track record with guessing is less than stellar. Unless of course you just enjoy sexual frustration.

So, in terms of a gift… it’s less about “buying the right thing” and more about getting some clarity on what she expects from Valentine’s Day in terms of general atmosphere and activities, and also what you expect. Because it’s likely that her reaction last year was not so much about the gift in particular, but rather was a symptom of something else going on. Now that she’s had a year to feel resentful about whatever it was, it is more important than ever to get clear on what each of your expectations are.

But how does one begin such a difficult conversation? Starting a simple and loving way, telling her that you realise last year was a little rough, and you were hoping to talk about what you could both do together to make this year really special. One of two things will happen: either she’ll give you a straightforward answer and open up a conversation strictly about possibilities for Valentine’s activities this year, or you might get a chance to listen to the real reasons behind why she was upset last year. This is a great foundation from which to talk about what Valentine’s Day means to both of you.

It’s important, however, to make sure the conversation stays on course. You don’t want to start playing the blame game or devolve into finger-pointing; here are some tips to help you engage in an effective, constructive, and mature conversation.

Start by agreeing on what you’re talking about: “I would like to talk about how we can make Valentine’s Day special.”

Don’t ruin things with bad timing: When you say, “I want to talk,” most women will want to talk right now. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably not a great idea to approach the subject when she’s agitated about something, in a hurry, or in the middle of doing something else.

Set up ground rules: Maybe you could agree to each have 3 to 5 minutes to speak uninterrupted, about whatever you would like (this Valentine’s Day, last Valentine’s Day, or whatever you want). Make sure you are careful to focus on your feelings rather than your perceptions of what the other person did wrong. For example, “I felt confused when you got angry” is much more constructive phrasing than “you always get angry for no reason.”

Recap what you heard: It’s important to take turns and repeat what the other person said, so that you are each sure your message is getting through.

Talk honestly about the ideal situation: Take another 3 to 5 minutes each describing what an ideal Valentine’s Day would be like if you could have everything exactly how you wanted it.

Negotiate for each other: It might go like this: she might say, “how about we go see a movie, then we’ll come home and I’ll make you dinner, and maybe I’ll give you a massage?” Then he might say, “why don’t I take you out to dinner before the movie, then afterward we can come home and give each other massages?”

Connecting with and listening to each other is a delicate art. Each of us is subject to changing moods and changing desires, and often we expect the other person to read our mind. When you hear what each other is saying, often you find you’re looking for the same thing: to spend time together and be happy around one another. There may be some compromise involved, but remember that the true meaning of Valentine’s Day is that love is kind, responsible, and above all, respectful.

Ask Miseducated: Who is more sexually evolved?

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Reader

I’m very curious to hear why there is such a strong border at the point where one drops ones drawers. Why do you consider that to be the place where there is no turning back? If you look at aboriginal societies, and even at other naked societies like those of primates, obviously there are no drawers there to drop, and yet they manage to have quite evolved sexual societies, and they raise children who also grow up to understand sexuality in an intelligent way. So why is it so different for us?

Maryanne

This question of the line of demarcation is an important one, and to understand why dropping drawers is such an important boundary, we have to compare our culture to the ones of naked societies. Ted Bundy once said that he believed that violence against women would continue for as long as pornography exists in our society. There is a dehumanizing element in our media that makes us think of each other as objects, or worse, as predators and prey. This may explain why aboriginal and primate societies are more sexually evolved than we are – they are not exposed to these victimizing elements.

Unfortunately, we are not at the point yet where we can have a naked, peaceful, safe society, and there are no government warnings or instruction manuals for how to avoid the pain and suffering that people go through in relationships. In our current societal context, I can see a direct corollary between that suffering and the dropping of drawers. When people do not stop to consider the consequences, that’s when the suffering takes root. If we can find a way to resist this impulse a little longer, to pause and think about the responsibilities and consequences of sex, we will have a greater chance of creating healthy and lasting relationships.

Since we aren’t provided with a manual instructing us on the best ways to handle ourselves in this sexually complicated society of ours, I wrote Hindsight, What You Need to Know Before You Drop Your Drawers as a response to the need for people to have another way to react when they find themselves at that all-important line of demarcation. If we could just build our self-discipline to delay our gratification, we would find that there is freedom in that discipline, a way to make choices for ourselves that we cannot experience when we simply react to our initial impulses. If we can strengthen our muscles of self-discipline on a global scale, over time, there is the hop that we can evolve into a society that understands and values the things which are naturally sacred, rather than just stampeding over the line of no return.

But there’s another aspect to consider, as well, and that is the very fact that we are able to consider. That we have the capability to stop and think about our actions before we commit to them, is one of the chief differences between us and primates. We have the ability not only to delay dropping our drawers, but to decide not to drop them at all, if we don’t feel it’s best for us. But there is certainly a lot we can learn from the naked cultures of aboriginals and primates. If we can find good relationship models in those societies, who cares if they are not like us? If observing and learning from other people or even animals can help us determine the best time to drop our drawers, I can’t see that there is any harm in that!

Ask Miseducated: STDs and Ethics

It’s always a painful situation when you feel like you have finally met the mate of your dreams, only to find out soon after that you were very, very mistaken. One of my students was recently in this situation, and shared an ethical dilemma that she had encountered as a result. All the names below have been changed.

Dear Maryanne,

When my goddaughter went off to college, I made sure that she had plenty of condoms, and a copy of your book. I’ve encouraged her to make smart choices, but unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to follow that advice myself. As a result, my heart is broken, and I am paying the price for trusting someone who didn’t deserve that trust.
I met Darren through a friend of mine who assured me that everything about him seemed great. He was also a known philanthropist, and as I spent time with him I felt like he was the kind of person I could trust. As a result, I agreed to spend the night with him, and naturally the subject of condoms came up. But Darren insisted that he had been tested and was healthy, and stupid me throw all sense out the window and believed every word he said. So of course my heart sank when a few days later, after never having had an STD before, I had an outbreak that turned out to be herpes.
The first thing I did was approach Darren about this, but then suddenly he became evasive and wouldn’t speak to me about this so-called clean bill of health he supposedly had This just confirmed what I already knew, even though it was in Hindsight!
But now I have a decision to make. Should I just take myself out of the situation and let others worry about themselves, or should I tell the friend who introduced us not to recommend Darren to anyone else? My therapist thinks I should leave it alone now, but my conscience worries about the other women who could put themselves at risk. I’d be curious to hear your opinion.

Thank you,
Rhonda (full of regret and feeling stupid)

Well Rhonda,

you have experienced firsthand how getting in a sexual relationship too soon can distort the reality of a situation. It takes time to build that level of trust, and you need to allow yourself the opportunity to see whether this person’s appearances of integrity check out. This time buffer, combined with asking the 14 question that are outlined in Hindsight, can greatly increase your chance of spotting trouble before it’s too late.

Nonetheless, it is terrible to have to learn such a harsh lesson in this way, and I certainly feel for what you’re going through. You clearly have been trying your best to use your CORR® relationship techniques, and I’m sorry that in this case things crashed and burned so dramatically. When a friend recommends someone, it’s so easy to perceive that recommendation as some sort of guarantee of trustworthiness. But in the end, it’s up to you to find out whether the person you’re getting involved with has earned that trust.

letterTake some time and effort now to return to your loving center. You can do several things to aid this process. First, cover all your mirrors with paper for three days, and choose to look inward rather that at your outer reflection for validation. Rediscover who you are according to your highest self, and use your inner beauty and wisdom to help your reference point become internal again.

You can also benefit from a period of cleansing your sexual palate, and this will mean a period of dating during which you don’t take the relationship to a sexual level. This will allow you to explore why you were so happy to trust a man you didn’t know that well, and give you some insight into the kind of men you attract, and how you behave around them.

Lastly, a clearing ceremony can be tremendously cathartic and healing. Invite your closest friends to join you, create a sacred space, and fill it with all four elements, your favorite music, and things that remind you of beauty. Make a ritual of writing down all the things you want to heal, as well as the things you want to let go of. This is a very effective way to turn a disaster into an opportunity to love yourself.

Take your time – this process is not a race. When you feel centered again, I think you’ll see more clearly what you want to do. I am available if you need someone to answer some more questions.