Sex ad­vice

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - ADVICE -

We are a cou­ple in our early 50s. Three years ago my beau­ti­ful hus­band un­der­went surgery for blad­der can­cer, and we are grate­ful for his prog­no­sis but he has been left with Pey­ronie’s dis­ease. Now his pe­nis is so bent and twisted that in­ter­course is painful and dif­fi­cult for both of us. He has been told the surgery to cor­rect this is painful and not 100 per cent guar­an­teed to even be ef­fec­tive. He is an­gry at times that he can­not make love to me and, even though he will not ad­mit it, I’m cer­tain he has be­come inse­cure.

This man is my best friend, my soul mate. Yes, mak­ing love is im­por­tant to both of us but there must be some other way we could be in­ti­mate, surely? There ab­so­lutely are many ways to still make love that give great plea­sure in­clud­ing or­gasm and will main­tain in­ti­macy, passion and all the vi­tal­ity sex­u­al­ity can bring. First, though, there is griev­ing to do. It’s to­tally un­der­stand­able that along­side feel­ing grate­ful to be alive, your man will be grap­pling with what this loss means for his mas­culin­ity and self-worth. You know there is far more to him as a man than his ca­pac­ity to have in­ter­course, but this as­pect of his sex­ual ex­pres­sion may well have been cen­tral to his sense of self for more than three decades. Anger and de­spair are nor­mal stages of grief – just em­pathise rather than try­ing to over­ride them with your lov­ing re­as­sur­ance. This will al­low trust and deep emo­tional in­ti­macy and over­come any pos­si­bil­ity of avoid­ance of all in­ti­macy de­vel­op­ing. I know this means you have to hold your own sense of de­sir­abil­ity and self-worth by your­self for a while but you sound strong and pos­i­tive so I’m con­fi­dent you two can do this.

When your hus­band is ready to fo­cus on non­in­ter­course sex, agree that your goals will be to have fun and give plea­sure. Spend much longer than you usu­ally would kiss­ing; there’s no rush to go any­where. Touch each other through your clothes, un­dress slowly or not at all. Over time, kiss or touch ev­ery­where, find out where each of your favourite places are. Shower or bathe to­gether, con­cen­trate on all the sen­sa­tions, breathe deeply and linger in your favourite ones. Get a book or movie on erotic mas­sage, use your cre­ativ­ity to find your 101 ways to se­duce, plea­sure and en­joy each other. When did you last stop short in won­der?

rec­om­mends a reg­u­lar dose of awe to in­spire – and calm – us. Vis­it­ing the Len Lye ex­hi­bi­tion last week­end, I dis­cov­ered (to my as­ton­ish­ment and thrill) that Len and I have some­thing in com­mon. We stood – hus­band, son, nephew, niece, child­hood friend and god-daugh­ter – mes­merised by his steel and light cre­ations. They were mov­ing – in more ways than one. What prompted him to make art in this way, how does some­one come up with these ideas that are so un­like any­thing I’ve ever seen be­fore? Walk­ing over to the wall and read­ing the blurb re­vealed Lye’s in­spi­ra­tion: “As a small boy grow­ing up in Christchurch, Len Lye once kicked a kerosene can around the back­yard on a sunny day. The flash of light and clap of thun­der that came from the empty can would pro­vide the in­spi­ra­tion for the rest of his life’s work. ‘We’re all stopped short by won­der some­times and that’s when it first stopped me in its tracks’, he wrote late in life.”

I can vividly re­call be­ing stopped short by won­der at var­i­ous points in my own life. Early one morn­ing, out on a head­land in New South Wales, we were lit­er­ally stopped in our tracks by a pod of whales launch­ing them­selves in and out of the ocean over and over again. Their majesty and might trans­fixed us, mak­ing us (and our daily life prob­lems) sud­denly feel very small. Watch­ing some­thing so in­cred­i­ble brought a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to life, broad­en­ing our out­look from the mun­dane and every­day to the mind­bog­gling and in­ex­pli­ca­ble. It was hard to pull our­selves away.

I had a sim­i­lar but dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence with awe in the Auck­land Art Gallery some time af­ter Christchurch’s Fe­bru­ary 2011 quake, when view­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of Samoan art brought on tears of joy, sad­ness and con­fu­sion, mak­ing me ques­tion, how can a world that brings such im­mense de­struc­tion also pro­duce such ex­quis­ite beauty?

Sci­ence shows these mo­ments of awe – be­ing “stopped short by won­der” as Lye so po­et­i­cally puts it – have both phys­i­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits. They’re good for our hearts (di­al­ing down our fight-or-flight re­sponse), broaden our per­spec­tive and prompt us to think dif­fer­ently (in­spir­ing Lye’s out-of-the-box cre­ativ­ity for a life­time).


Sadly, too few of us ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of those mo­ments when we en­counter things that stretch us be­yond our cur­rent un­der­stand­ing of the world. Lani Shiota, one of the key re­searchers on the sub­ject, from Ari­zona State, says awe is a muchun­der­es­ti­mated emo­tion and of­ten re­garded as a luxury akin to a BMW or Gucci hand­bag – great to have, but far from use­ful and cer­tainly not nec­es­sary. Ein­stein thought dif­fer­ently, de­scrib­ing awe as the source of all true art and sci­ence and those peo­ple who fail to ex­pe­ri­ence it as be­ing “as good as dead”.

Awe re­sides in panoramic views, in­cred­i­ble weather phe­nom­ena (Aurora Aus­tralis and ex­tra­or­di­nary sun­sets/rises), works of artis­tic and mu­si­cal ge­nius, and ar­chi­tec­tural feats and mon­u­ments.

These are not mo­ments we nec­es­sar­ily bump into in our daily ex­is­tence, yet, nor are they en­tirely in­ac­ces­si­ble, only re­quir­ing a short de­tour off the tread­mill. Which re­minds me that, ac­cord­ing to my per­sonal cri­te­ria for a suc­cess­ful 2017, I am cur­rently com­ing up short. Back in Jan­uary, I recog­nised the need to re­dress on­go­ing grief and work­place stress with more time spent out­doors, mak­ing the com­ple­tion of an­other of New Zealand’s Great Walks a pri­or­ity goal for the year. So far, I’ve man­aged one leg of the Alps 2 Ocean on a bike, one mid­week ski day and a cou­ple of for­ays into the foothills.

Time to walk the talk and get my head back among the clouds. Once there, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing awe will calm my mind, still my heart and in­vig­o­rate me.

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