The foundation of their story is not unusual. They are in their early-30’s, together for eight years, married for most of it, and she is evolving before his naive and frightened eyes. The young, inexperienced woman he met and fell in love with, planned to have kids with and spend his life with, tells him that she wants to have intimacy with other men.
Yes, she wants to have sex with someone besides him.
This was definitely not part of his plan.
At 28, my first wife, Carol, asked me if I wanted to take a class on sex. When you’re married to a woman you truly don’t know, and you’re not having frequent or connected sex with someone you love, the answer is obvious. I croaked out a “yeah” to this question. Little did I know with that half-hearted ‘yeah’ that my entire life would etch-a-sketch. I would go deep down the rabbit hole of sexual exploration, polyamory, and eventually co-founded OneTaste in 2004 that taught the world about orgasm.
During my tenure at OneTaste, I was 100% non-monogamous and received a Ph.D. level education about alternative explorations. As the Dickens’ hackneyed classic line goes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
So when my client, let’s call him “Phil,” engaged me for coaching, he was already ten tortured paces into the world of non-monogamy. His wife had stopped hinting about her desire and had slept with another man while she was away. His entire world turned upside down. The beginning of our coaching relationship started off on the slow side, but I offered him the alternative viewpoint of how he co-created this situation. It was then that he started to feel some of his true power return.
Then, she upped the ante cause her paramour was coming to visit their town for a week and she wanted access to do with him as she desired. Everything. Phil started to feel the expected feelings: anger, fear, and comparison.
The first problem was that he felt less than in comparison to his wife’s new guy. His wife, let’s call her Allison, was off the charts turned-on with her new guy. Let’s call him “Todd.” Unlike Phil, Todd was experienced in the world of personal development, had practiced his empathy, emotional presence and more. To Phil, Todd was serious competition.
However, I challenged him and told him that Todd could be his best ally.
I have learned, after years of painful experiences, that jealousy and envy are powerful motivators for me to become a better man. I stopped looking at jealousy trying to squash me to notify me of a desire. For example, I often feel jealous of guys at the gyms with their strong, muscular bodies who can do a dozen pull-ups without breaking a sweat. My entire life, I’ve been able to do three or four maybe without feeling I was going to die. I could let that jealousy have me quit but instead, it MOTIVATES me to get my ass back to that bar to practice.
In my OneTaste days, I would watch with curiosity and interest of the men that would turn my partners on. What was it about them that they liked? Was it the way they looked? The things they said? The things they didn’t say? I used them to offer me research into loving my partners better. If I looked at them like they were trying to take something away from me, I would lose. If I saw them as powerful allies who wanted to turn on my lady and make her happy, I would win. I liked winning.
I then came up with this realization. When I tried to be my partner’s everything (partner, best friend, lover, friend), it was like trying to be the MVP of both the NFL and NBA. I saw that society taught me that I should be the best at everything but that was practically impossible. Instead, I chose to be the best ROBERT I could be, and if my lady left me for the other guy and was happier, then it was the right thing to happen.
I believed in the abundance of love rather than the scarcity of it. The irony was that because I gave so much space for my girlfriends, they tended to want to come closer to me and stay with me. I learned that powerful women do NOT like guys who grip.
I talked with Phil about his fear of abandonment. In Allison and Todd’s NRE (new relationship energy), he felt small and unimportant. I told him that this was natural and for him to continue to look deeper inside of him for his own self-validation.
After Phil said yes to Todd’s visit, Allison started to say more positive things to him. She said that she liked him more, felt more attracted to him and that she thought he was strong. While he appreciated the kind words, all he could feel was his messy, freaked-out side and didn’t see what she saw. How could she love him here?
I told him a secret about one of the main differences between a man and a woman. Most men tend to have a small range of acceptable emotions. It is because we are not allowed or taught to deal with our emotions. We create situations where we have control of ourselves. I reminded Phil of the concept of Sin-Waves that we learned back in High School.
I described how men tend to have a comfort level of an average of 10. We are comfortable going to a crest of 10 and trough of equally the same value. Women, on the other hand, because of their biology and permission to feel their feelings have a different amplitude. Let’s say for conversation, that a conservative number is 600. No, I’m not kidding.
One of the things that infuriate women most about men is their inability to understand their world.
It is because men want to stay in that small range of emotions (less than 10). As a result, they can never fully understand how women experience the world. I told Phil that by him saying yes to Todd’s visit; he had raised his amplitude to 50. Allison knew that he loved her so deeply because he was willing to go so far outside his comfort zone.
I then asked him if he wanted the good or bad news. He asked for the latter. I told him by the time that Todd actually visited; I suspected that his amplitude would hit closer to 200. He laughed knowingly and then asked for the good news. I said, he was going to have the best time of his life. Regardless of the outcome, he had raised his capacity for both the “positive” and “negative” emotions he was feeling and that his life and his ability to love Allison would increase. If he didn’t die, that is.
As we finished the coaching call, I gave him some down-to-earth advice to navigate this next phase of his life.
- FIND TRUSTED SUPPORT: Don’t look to Allison to make it better. Women like to feel helpful and loving with their partners but do not like to be their mothers. It is not her job to “soothe his flailing ego.” I told him to create partnerships with his friends and me so he could find support outside his relationship.
- CREATE BOUNDARIES: I recommended that he NOT create limits with Allison on what she could do with Todd. While I don’t always recommend this to create safety, I actually said any limitations he created would prolong the experience and create more doubt among all of them.
- BLOW OFF SOME STEAM: I told him to create specific activities to do when he felt triggered. I told him to create a place where he could let off some steam through working out, massage, walking or other physical activity.
- CHOOSE YOUR POWER: Don’t be fooled by the cunning way your fear will whisper in your head. I told him to stay connected to the fact that he was at choice and powerful.
I don’t suspect this next phase will be easy for Phil. However, I do have faith that this next evolution for him will greatly expand him both as a man and as a lover.
I am pro-choice when it comes to choosing your relationship type. For some monogamy is a deeper, harder practice than its alternative. I say choose the one that is your truth and be willing to expand inside of it
This post was originally published on medium.com and is republished with the author’s permission.
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