Shadow Of My Life
You are viewing the most recent 25 entries.
2nd June 2015
Quote of the Day
1st June 2015
Parents, In-Laws & Relatives
Gay men aren’t the only folks who have complicated relationships with parents and in-laws, of course. But while straight couples typically get a lot of recognition, support and encouragement from their parents and other family members, things are often different for us. Some families are very welcoming. Other families are indifferent or hostile, and that can complicate loving relationships between men.
Enlightened parents welcome a son or daughter’s partner into the family. Even if this feels like uncharted territory to Mom and Dad, they grasp that the new love in their son’s life is the important thing, not the gender of the person offering that love. Family get-togethers may be awkward times when protocol is still being determined, but good intentions and clear communication are enough to smooth over most rough spots.
How to establish a good relationship between you and your partner and your parents?
For starters, if you’re not already out to your parents – this is the time to do so. They need to understand that your partner is your partner – not a roommate, “friend” or some other shrunken version of your true relationship. If your parents want to introduce your significant other as “our son’s friend” if you bump into their acquaintances, that may not be a big deal. But it is a very big deal for you to represent the relationship that way to people in your family network.
Be clear about what you want and expect when you introduce your partner to your family. Are you looking for parental approval? If you are close to your parents it is understandable that you would want their support, but be clear: you are an adult, and your life choices do not depend on Mom and Dad’s approval. In fact, implying that you want that approval puts your parents in an awkward position. Now instead of just meeting your beau, they have to give him their seal of approval. Wouldn’t it be enough if they were simply polite and friendly around him?
Make it easy for your parents to give you what you want. “Mom, I want you and Dad to come over for dinner next Saturday and meet my boyfriend Michael” is pretty clear. “Um, Mom, there’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you. I don’t know if this is a good time, but well, um, I’m seeing this guy Michael and I wanted to let you know” is not clear communication. Put yourself in your mother’s place. How is she supposed to react? You sound ambivalent and uncertain. Her reaction is likely to reflect that.
What to do when parents are unwelcoming to your partner, despite your best intentions? This can create a painful dilemma; it can feel as if you must choose between your family relationships and your relationship with your partner. While sometimes that is exactly the choice that must be made, more often the choice is really about how to respond to familial bullying.
For those of us who have been raised to be the proverbial “best little boy in the world,” it can be disorienting to realize that it’s time to stand up to family pressure.
Remember: you’re an adult now, and if you and your partner have made a commitment that reflects your love and devotion to one another, then he is your primary family now.
Quote of the Day
31st May 2015
30th May 2015
29th May 2015
Strengthening Your Conversational Skills - Shyness Part Three
[ continued from yesterday ]
Their fear of rejection makes their world smaller. Rejection isn’t fatal, no matter how uncomfortable it might seem at the time. The problem is often what therapists call “catastrophic thinking” – a belief that it would be unbearably awful if rejection occurred. But is being turned down for a job or a date really lethal? Of course not. The consequences are far worse if you choose to take yourself out of the social game because you’re terrified of being turned down.
If you’re afraid of rejection – and most people are – why not practice getting really good at it? Realize that each rejection means that you’re succeeding in extending yourself and doing something challenging. Each time you experience it you’re actually getting closer to your goal of expanding your circle of friends, of getting that job that you want, of meeting your goals and succeeding in life. Tolerating a little rejection is a small price to pay for getting more of what you want in your life.
If you’re not doing well at meeting people in your current routine, try changing things. Too many people rely on the usual standbys – bars and the gym – for meeting people and striking up conversation. Try joining a club or organization, where you’ll find more things in common that can be conversation starters. Or get a cute dog and head to the park on a sunny afternoon!
When there’s an opening (you walk up to someone, or there’s a lull in the conversation near where you are, etc.) take a deep breath, introduce yourself, make eye contact, smile and shake hands. Repeating the person’s name back to them can help you remember it, especially if you’re slowing down and paying attention.
Shy people often start worrying about whether they will “do it right” when they are speaking with someone, rather than simply paying attention and being in the moment. One powerful way to move past your shyness is to keep focusing on stuff other than yourself. Concentrate when someone answers you. Remember what they say so you can ask a question about it later. Let yourself find the other person interesting, which will make you more interesting to them. (If you have trouble thinking on your feet, think of some possible questions to ask ahead of time.)
When you’re speaking, notice the pronouns you use. Self-conscious people often use the word “I” a lot, and that can stop or block conversation. Smiling and conveying interest in the other person (“So what did you think of…?”) keeps the conversation going and makes you seem less self-centered.
Offer an opinion if you want to deepen the conversation, or ask the other person for their opinion. Remember to really listen to the other person. Focusing helps to lessen the anxiety and the distraction of self-consciousness. It helps keep the conversation going and makes a good impression.
Do you enjoy the person’s company and feel that interest coming back at you? Great. Consider suggesting meeting some other time for coffee or lunch. Offer your phone number; if you get the other guy’s, use it. If he doesn’t offer his phone number, don’t despair. You’re doing what you need to do to meet the kind of people you want to meet. Evidently this just wasn’t the one. In training yourself to be more outgoing, you’re going to get what you want.
All this gets much easier with practice. Being successful in doing what you set out to do will make you more comfortable. You’ll find that socializing becomes easier and your shyness will no longer run your life.
28th May 2015
Overcoming Shyness - Part Two
You can begin to assert some control. A good place to start is simply by labeling the thought, perhaps saying to yourself, “That’s just a thought.” Avoid arguing with the voice in your head. And certainly don’t compound the problem by yelling at yourself! “I’m an idiot for having such negative thoughts!” is really just another negative thought.
Try paying special attention to thoughts that include words like always, never, should, etc. These are rarely true and often just cause us more anxiety. And look for other ridiculous thoughts. Everyone is not always looking at you, for instance.
Changing patterns requires patience and practice. Don’t criticize yourself. See if you can work up some self-encouragement instead.
Improving your social skills may start with looking at how you physically present yourself. We’re not talking “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” makeovers here; we’re talking about your posture, how you physically hold yourself. Many shy people try to take up as little physical space as possible, almost as if trying to make themselves disappear. Look at how you stand in front of a full-length mirror. Look at your posture. Like Mom said, stand up straight. Lift your chin a bit. Smile a little. Can you look relaxed and alert at the same time? Do you look approachable?
Try speaking to an imaginary person – maybe someone you’d meet at the gym or at a party. Role-play introducing yourself. How’s the tone of your voice? Do you naturally speak very softly? Trying increasing your volume a bit, which will help you sound more confident. As you look in the mirror, are you looking yourself in the eye? An open, friendly gaze and a firm handshake create a positive impression. If looking someone in the eye is uncomfortable for you, practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.
If saying hello is a problem for many shy people, sometimes it can be just as hard to say “No.” People who have a problem with assertiveness often acquiesce to requests and demands; they may avoid situations where people are likely to make such requests, and that just adds to the sense of social isolation. (Ask yourself if you’ve ever given in to a telemarketer when you didn’t want to do so. If the answer is yes, you could probably learn to be more assertive!) You can learn to say “no” and mean it. Be polite but firm; look the person in the eye if it’s a face-to-face encounter. Repeat you’re no again with even greater firmness if necessary. You may feel uncomfortable for a moment – many people do, because we’ve been taught to be “nice” – but you’ll feel more self-confidence after speaking forthrightly.
Next time in Part 3, we’ll look at how to meet people, make friends and make conversation.
27th May 2015
Overcoming Shyness - Part One
If you’re shy, you know the discomfort such bashfulness can bring. When you must step out of the shadows and speak up, you may experience a racing heart, dry mouth, and butterflies in the stomach. What others seem to take for granted can become a miserable experience for you.
All sorts of social situations can trigger a bout of self-conscious shyness. Some people find themselves not speaking up for themselves at work. Others find it makes them anxious to introduce themselves to others at a bar or the gym. Or they avoid social situations all together, becoming isolated at home. And more people fear public speaking engagements than fear snakes or spiders.
All of us find ourselves a little shy at times, especially if we’re introverted by nature. But when the problem starts to really interfere with the enjoyment of day-to-day life, therapists talk about the problem as social anxiety. Well-meaning friends may tell us to get over it, buck up and “just do it” when faced with a situation that causes us embarrassment. Sometimes that works, but often it’s too simple an answer. If we’re not prepared, we may put ourselves in a situation where we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, only to find that all our self-doubts rise up like dragons and overwhelm us.
For shy people, the problem is often a high level of self-consciousness – particularly around negative thoughts. We act like everyone is looking at us. Or the chatter in our heads becomes a flood of negativity. “No one would be interested in what I have to say.” “If I introduce myself to him, I’ll probably forget his name right away.” “What’s the point of starting up a conversation with him when I’ll just look stupid?” These critical voices are like a Greek chorus of discouragement in our heads. The anxiety they provoke may be so great that we’ll even lie to friends to avoid accepting social invitations where we feel we’ll fail ourselves.
Another trap is over-scrutinizing our own words, thoughts and behaviors. If we fear embarrassment we may end up waiting until the perfect moment when we’ll know just what to do or say…then we watch opportunity after opportunity simply slip away as we sit in the background, analyzing. The right moment never comes. We’re paralyzed.
Some single people find themselves especially shy in social situations that are the opening gambits in the intimacy game. They long for a relationship but fear they are clueless about how to find a guy and start the process.
In the 21st century we’re finding that there’s a pill for just about everything, and shyness is no exception. It’s true that some social anxiety can be helped by the selective use of medication, especially if the anxiety has become debilitating. But many of those medications cause other troubles, including the host of problems that are dismissed as “possible sexual side effects” in the ads for them on television. For most people the answer to shyness isn’t an antidepressant. The answer is gaining greater self-knowledge and mastering new skills to become more comfortable in social situations.
For some single people, the rush to date might best be put on hold for a little while so they can master some of the social skills that make friendships and other intimate relationships more rewarding.
Next time (part 2) we’ll look at how to master some of the skills needed to master meaningful relationships.
Remember, you’re more than your problem with shyness. When you learn to let your real self out you will find you can enjoy life in new ways.
( part two - tomorrow )
26th May 2015
When Sex Gets Boring
“I’ve got to beat the clock before we each lose interest.” Someone recently made that statement to me about his erotic life with his partner. His experience has been that erotic interest between two people dies pretty quickly, so you better get in as much sex as possible during the early years of the relationship. :
If you don’t have good sex early on, it’s never going to get any better. Single guys sometimes tell me they get tired of their sexual routine, too: sex may be easy to get, but it’s often not deeply satisfying. They find themselves in a rut, feeling like they ought to be enjoying themselves more than they actually do....
Feeling like sex has become a chore can take a toll on how you feel about yourself. If you’re in a relationship, a sex life that’s as predictable as a 70’s sitcom rerun can make you feel like you with the wrong guy. Ruts suck. They’re boring and the siphon the juice out of just about anything: your job, your diet, and your relationships.
People are creatures of habit, whether we’re talking grocery shopping or lovemaking. Habits aren’t necessarily bad if they work for you. Trouble is, routines can become so…routine. We want a little variety, some jalapeno peppers spicing up the same old dish.
How to change things? A good place to start is with yourself. What’s it like when you’re feeling sexual and you’re also alone? Many of us have been pleasuring ourselves in the same way since we left adolescence. Get out the lube, turn on the VCR, enjoy yourself for 5 minutes, get a towel to clean up and turn out the lights for the evening.
Talk about ruts! What would it be like to take your time, to really notice how your body feels, to run your hands over the smooth places and furry places, etc? Or to get off your back, put on some music and touch yourself while you move and dance.
You may find your eyes starting to glaze over when you hear “So what are you into?” For too many men words like “top” or “bottom” become like straightjackets, confining sex to predictable routines. Why not mix it up?
Whether tricking, dating or relating, too many of us have picked up the mistaken message that a good lover is in charge of his partner’s pleasure. This is actually a little grandiose; how are you supposed to know what makes him feel good, especially if he doesn’t tell you? “I’m responsible for his pleasure” leads to disappointment. Try replacing it with “I’m responsible for my own pleasure and for being present with my partner.”
A problem some men experience when they are in relationships is that we seek unconditional love from our partner, but that sort of love can seem less sexy. In fact, the affection that builds over time can make the other guy feel like family – and sex with him feel incestuous on an unconscious level. Keeping a relationship sexy means breaking that taboo.
With a partner or someone else with whom you’re sharing erotic life, it can be fun to play the “Your Turn/My Turn Game.” It goes like this: Ask your partner to undress and lay back while you explore his body. (You may want to have some conversation first about his general likes and dislikes.) Explore touching different places in his body – including touching with your hands, fingertips, fingernails, lips, etc.
Try varying the pressure – light sometimes, more forceful. ake it playful; imagine a devilish look in your eyes, asking him “Which feels better, A or B?” See if you can learn what sort of touch doesn’t work for him, what’s pleasurable, what’s a major turn-on. When you’ve finished, it’s his turn to give and your turn to receive. The object of the game is for each guy to find out more about what sort of touch feels pleasurable to receive, and for each man to learn something about how to touch the other.
Don’t let your erotic life get boring. A guy could spend an entire lifetime learning about the landscape of his own desires and learning how to be a good lover. Turn off the TV and see what happens.
Quote of the Day
If you can find a path with no obstacles,
it probably doesn't lead anywhere."
- Frank A. Clark
25th May 2015
Freedom is not free
I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Service man saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.
I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.
24th May 2015
23rd May 2015
22nd May 2015
Talking About Sex With Your Partner
Many of us spend a lot of time and energy hoping to find Mr. Right. We also imagine that when we find him, the sex will always and automatically be fabulous. When we first meet someone new, we often feel so much passion that the specifics of what we are doing don’t matter all that much.
You’ve got a right to express your desires. Getting most of your wants and needs met is important in a relationship. Still, effective communication in the bedroom is different from talking about other stuff. It’s one thing to have your partner tell you that he doesn’t approve of the way you stack dishes in the dishwasher; it’s quite another to hear that he doesn’t care for the way you do oral sex.
In intimate matters our hearts are closer to the surface. Feelings get bruised more easily. Handled poorly, he ends up feeling incompetent as a lover and you feel like a cad. This is not the way to get what you want in bed!
One thing to keep in mind is that for most of us, our lover is the scariest person in the world. If you are having casual nookie with someone and he doesn’t like what you are doing, it’s generally no big deal. It’s very different with a lover. Truth is, you probably care about what he thinks of you more than you care about anyone else’s opinion. If you aren’t pleasing him you can find yourself feeling pretty upset with yourself. Your partner is scary to you not because he’s a bad guy, but because you are invested in him and really care what he thinks.
It is important to understand that you cannot read his mind and he can’t read yours. You may feel absolutely certain you know what he’s thinking – what feels good to him, what turns him on – but you don’t know for certain unless he tells you. Believing that your partner would know what you like “if he really loved you” is to set yourself up for big disappointments.
Ask him if he likes what you are doing. Better yet, stop what you are doing and whisper the question in his ear. Make your question sexy. Instead of clinically asking his preference for something, try doing your best and then cooing “do you like that?”
If you would really like your lover to try doing something differently, be sweet in the way that you ask. Keep it positive. “Oh baby, I’d love it even more if you did this….” Then show him what you want. Smile, be encouraging and don’t require perfection from him. When you find your partner doing something that you like, let him know. This isn’t about faking an orgasm; it’s more about letting your pleasure be big and obvious enough so that you are sharing it with him. When we share our pleasure with someone we care about, the pleasure often becomes bigger still.
If the two of you have a serious problem to talk about, keep it out of the bedroom. Have the discussion elsewhere at a time and in a place where you can give each other your undivided attention. Keep the bedroom reserved for lovemaking and sleeping.
Want to try something new? Exploring new interests with a partner can be lots of fun. It also requires sensitivity from each of you. Trying a new erotic activity can feel a little awkward at first, but broadening your sexual repertoire can keep things interesting. Don’t rush. Don’t laugh at your partner – even if he sounds funny saying “Who’s your Daddy?” (Laughing at yourself is OK.)
Finally, keep in mind that it is that it is in your best interest to help your partner feel like a great lover. Psychologists understand that punishing a behavior decreases how often it occurs while rewarding a behavior increases it’s frequency. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So don’t punish your partner by criticizing the way he makes love. Doing that may make him uninterested in sex with you at all, resulting in a serious case of bed death.
Let him know he’s a great lover and you’ll make it much more likely that he will keep his interest in sex with you. Make some noise when you make love to give him clues about what you are experiencing. Tell him you love it when he does something you like. Compliment him on the way he looks, on how sexy you find him. Look at him with the eyes of a lover, not a critic. Even if you wish he would spend more time at the gym, there are probably many things you can compliment him about.
Let him know you appreciate him sexually – not in a demanding or manipulative way, but in a genuine way that helps him understand your attraction to him.
20th May 2015