A Journey Toward Personal Intimacy


The paved road curves toward the forest as trees start to bend over the edges, giving the sense of entering a tunnel. The new green leaves flutter in the light breeze as the tires squeal ever so slightly at the apex of the curve as it slants downhill. The paved road fades into a gravel road. Dust kicks up behind the car, drifting up through the trees to a bright blue sky seared with sunshine.

Once again, the road curves, a brick wall looming in the distance. A gate crosses the road. The car slows, coming to a stop just inches away from this mysterious gate in the middle of nowhere. There is a house on the hill just a mile beyond the gate.

The driver swings the door wide and steps out of the vehicle. She walks up to the gate, grabs it, and gives it a little shake. Walking down the gate, it appears there is a chain with a lock, preventing the gate from opening. The driver shrugs and begins to climb the gate despite the clear lock and desire of the resident in the house to keep visitors out. The driver leaps to the ground on the other side, and begins walking toward the house.

Imagine, for a moment, that this road is a part of yourself you have decided to let a friend journey down. Part of your brain, part of you which you are comfortable sharing. Eventually, a wall will crop up whether you want it to or not. Even the most open of those among us have a wall somewhere.

Walls, while meant to be broken down, are also meant to be respected. It is not for us to decide to suddenly leap over them despite the clear warnings to do the exact opposite. Boundaries are healthy for both parties in a relationship. That said, it is important to not have too many walls in an intimate relationship. Too many walls lead to issues with communication and understanding. If a partner is left standing on the other side of a gate for far too long, he or she will start to feel as if they are being held at arm’s length.

Love is about trusting people enough to let them into the places you often keep locked behind a gate. It’s about letting yourself behind the walls in your own head and accepting them as wide open fields instead of gripping the key tightly and refusing to open the gate, afraid to let anyone, including yourself, through.

Intimacy with others must first start with yourself. Not THAT kind of intimacy. The intellectual kind of intimacy. The kind of intimacy we share with a close friend over a cup of coffee – the kind of intimacy we experience when we are at our absolute worst and someone offers to be there for us, even if it’s just to sit in silence. The deep intimacy which speaks volumes over any kind of physical intimacy.

It is this mental intimacy which we often deny because it means our soul is naked which, frankly, is far more intimidating than any sort of physical nudity. A mental intimacy is what keeps us together, it’s what endears others to us, and what endears us to others.

Keep that in mind as you relate to those around you and consider whether or not you are allowing yourself to be as intimate as possible with those closest to you, including yourself. The greatest damage we could ever do to ourselves is to lose touch with our own heart and souls – to not be intimate with our own minds. For when we fail in this area of intimacy, we fail at living the life we are meant to live and instead live the life others want us to live.

Ask yourself which life you’d rather be living and make the changes you need to bring a more personal intimacy into your life.

You won’t regret it.

Daly Response: Breastfeeding, Family Dynamics, and Communication


Starting a family is no small decision. Expected or unexpected pregnancy involve major decisions and choices. How will you parent? How will you care for the child? Who will be the primary caregiver? Will you share responsibility equally? Attachment parenting? Extended breastfeeding? No breastfeeding? There are so many decisions to be made once a child enters your relationship. These decisions affect family dynamics and should not be made independently of your partner. They should be thoroughly discussed and mutually agreed upon. One of you may end up having to compromise but ultimately, you must do what is best for your child within your personal parenting philosophy, hopefully with a partner who sees along the same lines.

Parents these days have a bevy of knowledgeable resources available to help with their decisions regarding parenting. Pediatricians, lactation consultants, other parents, and just about everyone on the planet.

We all love to chime in on how others parent, don’t we? Especially with the explosion of social media. Judgment runs amok when a parent asks even the most innocent of questions.

Today, the NY Times posted a piece by James Daly which explores the effect of extended breastfeeding on a couple’s sex life. Daly states:

“Other men — me, for example — might be driven to engage in something even worse: sexless fidelity. Mine crystallized in Central Park one evening, while watching my wife sit under a tree with my older son, a five-and-a-half-year-old young man with a full set of teeth and chores, stretched out to roughly the size of a foal, suckling. By the time they strolled back to me and my already-nursed toddler son on the picnic blanket, I had lost my appetite — and not just for the smoked salmon. There are some things in life most men cannot share with first-graders, and two of them used to be called breasts. Now, my first grader called them boobalies, and history is written by the victors.”

Breastfeeding is recommended for at least two years or beyond by WHO, exclusive nursing for the first 6 months with complementary foods added until two years. Now, the WHO code implies “beyond” is solely between the mother and child. While I don’t think Daly’s threat of infidelity based upon his wife’s choice of extended breastfeeding is kosher, I understand where he’s coming from.

A family, when a father is present, is not just a mother and child. All too often, the father’s needs and desires are often thrown out the window. He doesn’t matter and should shut up if he so much as voices any disagreement to how his wife chooses to raise their children, run the household, or anything else.

It’s not about who wears the pants in the relationship. Feminism doesn’t mean we get to make decisions without our partner. it means we are equal to them, not above them. Isn’t that what we fought for? Not to be beneath men? So why should they be beneath us and suddenly not matter? Where’s the victory in that?

Granted, women HAVE run things in the home and the childcare realm for quite some time. But more and more, men are involving themselves in these situations. Stay at home dads are increasing in number.

Sex is also an important aspect of a relationship. It’s how we’re intimate with our partners. It’s nurturing, releases hormones, stress, and brings us closer. Yes, intimacy IS possible without sex. However; intimacy is NOT possible without communication.

That’s where I believe this issue with Daly and his wife has broken down – at the communication level.

Clearly he’s not happy about his wife’s extended breastfeeding to the point of losing his appetite. Whether he’s actually considering infidelity or not is up in the air – he may just be using that as an example. I know that when I was breastfeeding, I was not terribly keen on my husband playing with my breasts. When I’m breastfeeding, my breasts are functional, not sexual.

What many men miss is that breasts are primarily designed to be functional, not sexual. Yes, breasts are visually appealing and nipple stimulation does provide sexual pleasure for many women, but ultimately, the breast is phenomenally designed to create and make milk to feed infants, a process which starts during pregnancy.

At the end of his piece, Daly states:

“I say that the foundation of the parent-child bond is the parent-parent bond. Unlike the baby chicken or the fertilized egg conundrum, partnership precedes parenthood. That’s how you got into this position to begin with: by attracting a man who liked what he saw, and wanted to see more of what even the scientists researching extended breast-feeding call mammaries, not Mommaries.”

Daly is right but he’s also wrong. The parent-parent bond IS important to the development of a child. But many successful children are raised by single parents. We’re specifically discussing a partnership here though so we’ll address this aspect. This goes back to what I stated earlier – when you decide to have a child, how that child is fed should be a mutually agreed upon decision. Granted, that doesn’t always happen as life does not occur in a vacuum. But Daly himself states that he SUPPORTS his wife’s choice to breastfeed their sons, thereby accepting the flashing of “mommaries” instead of the “mammaries” which allegedly attracted him to his wife in the first place.

Attraction should be comprised of several things –not just appearance and physical attributes– it should include intellectual capability, sense of humor, communication skills, compassion, etc. There’s a reason eHarmony is so successful –they don’t just toss the physical at you. (not a sponsored mention.)

Physical fades. It changes. Your spouse/partner may have medical conditions (mental or physical) which impede sexual interaction. What then? If you don’t have any other basis for attraction to your spouse/partner, you’re screwed, and not in the way you desire. But is that justification for infidelity?

No.

Daly and his wife need to have a discussion about the state of their relationship because for now, I have a feeling he’s going to see a lot more of the “mommaries” than the “mammaries” if he fails to vocalize his feelings about his wife’s extended breastfeeding of their sons.

You could argue that extended breastfeeding has amazing benefits – nurturing, intellectual, etc. But you could also argue, as Daly does, extended breastfeeding impinges on the sexual relationship and therefore the intimacy of the parent-parent bond.

Here’s the thing – if your parent-parent bond relies solely on sexual interaction and seeing her “mammaries” instead of her “mommaries”? Your relationship may not have the best foundation.

Communication. THAT’S where intimacy starts. Daly should give it a shot.

Dirty Talking with the hubs about PPD


Harry: Why are you getting so upset? This is not about you.

Sally: Yes it is. You are a human affront to all women and I am a woman.

Harry: Hey I don’t feel great about this but I don’t hear anyone complaining.

Sally: Of course not you’re out of the door too fast.

Harry: I think they have an OK time.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: What do you mean how do I know? I know.

Sally: Because they…

Harry: Yes, because they…

Sally: And how do you know that they really…

Harry: What are you saying, that they fake orgasm?

Sally: It’s possible.

Harry: Get outta here!

Sally: Why? Most women at one time or another have faked it.

Harry: Well they haven’t faked it with me.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Because I know.

Sally: Oh, right, that’s right, I forgot, you’re a man.

Harry: What is that supposed to mean?

Sally: Nothing. It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and

that most women at one time or another have done it so you do the math.

Harry: You don’t think that I could tell the difference?

Sally: No.

Harry: Get outta here.

 

Fake it till you make it, right?

SO many moms I have talked to have shared that they have not told their significant other the true depths of their suffering as they move through their Postpartum Mood Disorder.

He goes to work.

I don’t want to burden him when he gets home.

He deserves to come home to a happy home.

He won’t understand.

He thinks I am using a PMD as an excuse to make him do everything.

He deserves time with his friends so I’ll lie and throw myself under the bus.

Ladies?

Your husband cannot read your mind.

Gentlemen?

If your wife is smiling on the outside but it’s obvious there is something going on, sit her down and ask if she’s okay. If you’re struggling too, let her know. It will help her feel less alone in her hell. (And trust me, it IS hell!)

A good relationship is centered on trust. Trust relies on open communication. Open communication fosters a strong sense of intimacy. Intimacy suffers when open communication falters. When open communication falters, trust cracks wide open. When trust cracks, good relationships are monumentally at risk for destruction. Relationships at risk for destruction are toxic to all involved – there is a ripple effect that reaches out in every direction, including your children.

Postpartum Depression is nowhere near as exciting or pleasurable as an orgasm. (And never will be.) But recovery will only lead to a pleasurable place IF you’re honest. An honest recovery as opposed to a faked recovery is infinitely more pleasurable for all involved. We owe ourselves honesty, we owe our partners honesty, we owe our CHILDREN honesty, we owe our medical professionals honesty.

Because without honesty, we have nothing.

I am just as guilty as the next mom for lying about my Postpartum Depression. I minimized my symptoms, lied to my husband when something was wrong, lied about hating him, about resenting him, sucked it up when he came home – how could I tell him about my hard day when he had been at work for just as long as I had been at home? I threw myself under the bus. The only person I hurt in the process was myself. I let it slide until I was having good days – until he got home. All my built up resentfulness would burst through the door along with him – and suddenly I morphed into super bitch. He couldn’t do anything right:  he was in the way, he was a bad dad, MY life was interrupted the instant he arrived home annoying me to the zillionth degree. But none of it was really his fault. Why? Because I didn’t share with him what was really going on with me. Once I started talking WITH him instead of yelling AT him, things began to improve. It took both of us nearly five years to begin to truly communicate with each other after the birth of our first daughter, making it almost three years after the birth of our second.

The other night I came at him the wrong way about something as we were putting the kids to bed. We moved on with what we were doing instead of arguing in front of the kids. Once the kids were down for nap, I apologized for handling it poorly. He apologized as well. We moved on with our evening and put it behind us. The old us? Would have argued in front of the kids. We would probably still be arguing about who was right or wrong. Instead, I’m throwing the remote control into his shin, nearly gimping him for life, and we’re cracking jokes about it on Twitter. I am SO madly in love with the new us.

Postpartum Depression sucks. It sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks. Did I mention it sucks?

But given the chance, it allows for such amazing and miraculous growth within yourself, within your marriage, within your relationship with your children.

Be honest with your significant other about your journey, your feelings, your emotions. Get dirty. Get into the nitty gritty. Life is messy. Emotions are messy. We cannot wrap everything up in a neat package like we do before Christmas. Not everything has a shiny sparkly bow on top. Sometimes they look like they’ve been in the gutter with Edgar Allan Poe after a bender. It’s hard to admit you are not okay. But until you do, you’re just lying to yourself and those around you. You? Deserve better. So do those around you.

Write it down. Reach out. Get the help you need. There’s no need to continue to fight in silence or in loneliness. There is hope. There is help. You are not alone. You are so not alone.