With Valentine’s only a day away, relationships have been this week’s trending topic online! The task of being in an intimate relationship is, I often say to my clients, one of the greatest challenges of our adult lives. We love to romanticize the act of coupling, but the reality, is that true intimacy can feel scary, shaky, and pretty damn un-sexy. We all have blind-spots, imperfections, and room for improvement. What follows is a compilation of some of my favorites from this past week’s web-surfing activities for your reading and watching enjoyment!
Last night I checked out Esther Perel’s The Secret to Desire In Long Term Relationship on Youtube after learning about her work in this NY Times article The Sexual Healer. Perel began her counseling career with a master’s degree in expressive arts and has, in recent years, refocused her energies toward studying sexuality in couples. What I love about Perel is her non-prescriptive way of posing the important questions and eliciting responses. The way in which she honors the mystery of sexuality and desire, exploring the duality and seeming contradictions in the nature of human wants and needs is a welcome change from the formulaic dispensing of information from a researcher that has found all the answers. Perel makes you think about yourself as a multidimensional, complex sexual being, and may even change the way you relate to your sexual Self.
This week I also learned of a college course entitled Marriage 101 being offered at Northwestern thanks to The Atlantic’s The First Lesson of Marriage 101: There are no Soul Mates. This immediately elicited college-nostalgia and the wish that I’d been able to take such a course as an undergrad! As part of the reading list, Perel’s 2006 book Mating in Captivity is read and the focus of the course is on experiential self-exploration, which was the main style of pedagogy at my own alma mater, John F. Kennedy University. I have found this approach to learning to be the most transformative method for students, as it enables them to incorporate the class material in a way that reading and writing alone just can’t do. Some of the main lessons covered in the class include:
- Self-understanding is the first step to having a good relationship
- You can’t avoid marital conflict, but you can learn how to handle it better
- A good marriage takes skill
- You and your partner need a similar worldview
Daily Relationship – I learned about Brendan and Juna’s work last year via Facebook. Both are graduates of the Hendricks Institute and residents in the lovely Marin County, CA, a place that I am lucky enough to have called my home for two years. On their website they share their successes and struggles with their own relationship, which I have found to be tremendously courageous and entirely relatable. With their videos and writings you can learn about some of their challenges from the early stages of their relationship to their more recent engagement. Their mutual commitment to honor all that arises for them as individuals in an intimate relationship is clearly evident in their own deep introspection, admissions of imperfection, and their ability to consistently shine the light of appreciation on one another and their union. Definitely check them out.