Sex ad­vice

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FOOD WITH JORDAN RONDEL -

About a year ago, at a party where we’d been drink­ing a fair bit, my hus­band of four years sug­gested that I (a fe­male) start some­thing sex­ual with one of my woman friends who was also at the party. With lots of en­cour­age­ment from him and her part­ner, we even­tu­ally did with them watch­ing. It was fun, ex­cit­ing and dif­fer­ent and led to great sex with my hus­band for sev­eral weeks af­ter­wards. Then he sug­gested it again and I took part that night too.

Then a while ago a male friend was stay­ing after a party and my hus­band an­nounced he was go­ing to have sex with him. Since then we have had a cou­ple of three­somes and some­how things have changed.

It’s got more se­ri­ous and in­tense. I care for our friend but sex with oth­ers was just a game for me that I only wanted to play oc­ca­sion­ally and it doesn’t ap­peal any more. My hus­band says he wants both of us and that I am the only woman he would want to have sex with now but he wants to have sex with men too.

I’m now get­ting the feel­ing that per­haps he’s been bi­sex­ual all along or even maybe gay and this was a com­plex plot to get what he wants. What do you think? There are so many lay­ers that drive mo­ti­va­tion that I would not spec­u­late on your the­ory. Sex­u­al­ity can be quite fluid and al­though we now have same-sex mar­riage le­galised, as a so­ci­ety we have a long way to go for ev­ery­one to feel able to grow up de­vel­op­ing and feel­ing good about their own sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, what­ever that might be.

It’s also not un­com­mon for straight men to ex­per­i­ment with hav­ing sex with men. Some­times they may come to de­cide they are bi­sex­ual, some­times the ex­cite­ment of this novelty can carry them along for a while but they de­cide this is not their core ori­en­ta­tion and some­times this is a path­way to com­ing out as gay.

All this is for your man to work out for him­self. The Klein Sex­u­al­ity Grid (avail­able on­line) can be use­ful. It con­sid­ers sex­ual be­hav­iour, at­trac­tion, fan­tasies and emo­tional pref­er­ence among other things, his­tor­i­cally, now and in the fu­ture. Also, straight­guise.com may be help­ful as he fig­ures out what this is all about for him.

Your task is to stay true to your­self, while also be­ing will­ing to ex­am­ine your fears, your wish now for an exclusive com­mit­ment and your vi­sions for your fu­ture. Here’s good news. Some­times be­ing a high achiever in life means kick­ing back and go­ing to the movies or the beach. ex­plains. Emma, a lawyer in her 30s, lives in Welling­ton. I met her at a sem­i­nar on re­silience and she cor­nered me af­ter­wards ex­plain­ing she’d al­ways known hap­pi­ness and suc­cess were linked, but now re­alised it wasn’t in the way she’d thought.

She said, “All my life I’ve been led to be­lieve that if I did well at school, par­tic­i­pated in high-fly­ing de­bat­ing and sports teams, ran half-marathons, found the right man and was hired by a good firm, that would make me happy. You’re telling me I’ve spent my whole life get­ting it wrong.”

Not en­tirely wrong, but yes, tick­ing those boxes is only half the pic­ture.

HAP­PI­NESS LEADS TO SUC­CESS

Emma was re­fer­ring to research I’d shared. Work con­ducted over a decade ago by Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gists who proved that ex­pe­ri­enc­ing suc­cess makes peo­ple happy (there is in­deed plenty of ev­i­dence for that), also found that the re­verse is true. Feel­ing happy en­gen­ders suc­cess: hap­pier in­di­vid­u­als out-per­form their non-happy peers on in­come, work per­for­mance and phys­i­cal health and in their mar­riages and friend­ships too.

Hap­pi­ness pre­cedes suc­cess. Fact. And I don’t think Emma from Welling­ton is the only per­son who’s failed to grasp that.

THE BEN­E­FITS OF FRE­QUENT POS­I­TIVE EMO­TIONS

Be­fore we fur­ther un­lock this rid­dle, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that by “happy peo­ple”, psy­chol­o­gists re­fer to in­di­vid­u­als re­port­ing a pre­pon­der­ance of pos­i­tive emo­tions. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pos­i­tive emo­tions more fre­quently than neg­a­tive is a hall­mark of well­be­ing. But as pos­i­tive emo­tions are fleet­ing – un­like neg­a­tive emo­tions, which tend to linger and haunt us – we have to work hard at boost­ing that emo­tional ra­tio to­wards the pos­i­tive.

Sure, some peo­ple are born with a sunny dis­po­si­tion, a ten­dency to no­tice the good, but all of us can cul­ti­vate a habit of grat­i­tude. It can take time and ef­fort to over-ride our in­built neg­a­tiv­ity bias, but the research points to man­i­fold ben­e­fits from do­ing so.

HOW CAN WE FOS­TER GREATER FRE­QUENCY OF POS­I­TIVE EMO­TIONS?

The trick is to un­der­stand the full breadth of pos­i­tive emo­tions. When seek­ing to be “hap­pier” take a look at the ex­pe­ri­ences, peo­ple and places that bring the fol­low­ing into your life: curiosity, hope, awe, seren­ity, grat­i­tude, amuse­ment, joy, in­spi­ra­tion and pride. All of the above are cat­e­gorised in psy­chol­ogy as pos­i­tive emo­tions, and we know that fre­quency rather than in­ten­sity is a greater predictor of well­be­ing, mean­ing we want to pep­per our lives with lib­eral amounts of all of them.

Be­cause most of us have never ex­plic­itly been asked to con­sider such things, it might pay to write them down. Even if you’re not a writer-downer, go through the list one by one and pon­der, “What does this emo­tion look like in my life, where and how can I get more of it?”

As an ex­am­ple, I know the peo­ple I can hang out with when I’m in need of a good laugh, that tramp­ing or moun­tain biking in the back coun­try re­turns awe to my life, lis­ten­ing to Desert Is­land Discs gives me hope, go­ing to the movies can in­spire me, watch­ing our kids play sport fills me with pride,=== and head­ing to the beach or sit­ting by the fire with a good book in­vokes seren­ity.

Ob­vi­ously, we’re not aim­ing to tick them all off in a day, but un­der­stand these emo­tions are im­por­tant. They lead to en­hanced cre­ativ­ity, greater prob­lem solv­ing, a longer life, a stronger im­mune sys­tem, en­hanced re­la­tion­ships and greater re­silience.

When I’m feel­ing down and start­ing to feel life is spin­ning out of con­trol, I’ll sit down and work out a plan for top­ping up my pos­i­tive emo­tions.

I vi­su­alise my men­tal health as a piggy bank. If I’m raid­ing it all day long with the stresses and frus­tra­tions in­her­ent in con­tem­po­rary liv­ing, then I know it’s my job to pay into my piggy bank, to top up my pos­i­tive emo­tions and re­store the emo­tional bal­ance back in my favour.

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