Have you ever found yourself fantasizing or eroticizing the exact thing that you fear (or are insecure about) in your relationship?
Let’s say you’re insecure about your partner cheating on you, yet you find yourself fantasizing about your partner with another person. Even more confusing, you may be…gasp…turned on by it!I hate to break it to ya…but you’re not “weird” or “broken”. You don’t have “bizarre fantasies”.
Often, our fantasies can be therapeutic for us. It’s no different than speaking to people who have experienced childhood trauma that are immensely turned on by BDSM. In our fantasies, and even in consensual sexual play, we can create and control our environment – something that was NOT the case when the traumatic event took place. When we have fears or insecurities about something in our relationship, and create a fantasy where we are in control – it can be very settling, believe it or not.
So, in the case of infidelity fears, you may fantasize about your partner cheating on you, you walking in, and JOINING! Does this mean you want it to happen? No, of course not. I have yet to meet someone who is excited about infidelity. However, in that scenario, you are in control of your fear, versus having it happen “TO” you.
So, next time you find yourself fantasizing about something that you are actually afraid of happening in your relationship, understand that it’s often a coping mechanism that our powerful minds help to create to put us in control (at least mentally).
One of the more intense traits of someone with an OCD brain, is that we can obsess about existential things until we’re left with a bizarre unanswered question. So, let’s take a trip on the Nina brain train for a hot sec…
We develop our identity based on our relationships and interactions with other people. We are literally shaped by those around us. It makes sense; we’re relational beings. It’s one of the reasons I am so passionate about relationship dynamics. They are critical in our personal growth and development. With that said, I’ve also noticed that the hate in this world comes from people not agreeing with others, and/or trying to “get” other people to think/look/behave the way we do. The deeper I thought about it, the clearer things got.
Under allllll of the poop slinging (and there’s a lot), is this engrained belief that different is bad. So, then I thought…well…is different actually bad? What I found during my mental masturbation over that question was this: Different is not bad; “bad” is subjective. However. different is one thing for sure…it’s uncomfortable. Why is it uncomfortable? First, if we aren’t 100% confident in our belief systems, or we are still internally conflicted – it’s easier to question ourselves (and who the hell wants to do that?). It feels unstable, unsafe, and scary.
Next, differences can cause anxiety and fear. Take politics for example (yup, I’m going there…but not for long – trust me). Underneath all of the arguing is a legitimate fear about how the decision maker of our country could impact us and those we love. Anxiety and fear are the root of MOST of our emotions, but we tend to express anger because it’s way more societally acceptable. This happens in relationships ALL. THE. TIME.
Last, being exposed to a different thought, idea, or opinion, can create an underlying mistrust of our past. When our foundation is challenged, we go to battle to protect it. It’s like hearing someone say something bad about your best friend that you don’t believe is true – so you immediately start counter arguing on their behalf. The ironic part about all of this, is that the coolest thing about human beings is that no two people are the same…literally!! Even identical twins will experience the world through different lenses.
So, spending our lives trying to fit everyone into a box that is palatable for our own minds, is an exercise in futility. And lord knows there are better things to do that actually make the world a BETTER place – like eating, sleeping, laughing, and masturbating.
Yep. I said it. And I’m saying it with so much freakin’ love.
The value that our culture puts on penises is not only insanely unwarranted, but it’s detrimental. It causes immense anxiety and pressure for men, and it causes women to feel broken and in need of “fixing”. Additionally, over 75% of women have faked an orgasm to protect the ego of their male partners – and for what?! Most men (at least the good ones) would move heaven and earth to please their female partner – and to watch/hear/feel her orgasm. Guys, am I right?!?
This is nobody’s “fault”. It’s a tremendously unfortunate consequence of antiquated, shame-heavy, phallocentric “teachings” about sex and pleasure (or lack thereof ). And ya know who benefits from all of this? Not a damn soul (nope, not even men). When women (or anyone) aren’t enjoying sex, they are less likely to be turned on by the idea of it. When women aren’t turned on by the idea of it, their desire tends to decrease, causing the classic, “My wife lost her sex drive” DMs in my inbox.
Recently, a male friend of mine asked me this question…”Nina, how the hell can women stand NOT having an orgasm with men when they have sex? I couldn’t imagine only getting off here and there, or not at all!” My response to him was painful…but true.
Women were taught to please men, and that our pleasure is secondary (at best). We were also taught that we *should* be able to have an orgasm from penetration alone. So, not only have we learned not to prioritize our orgasm, but the way we were taught to experience it, is not accurate. His question sat with me for a bit. I really thought about what would happen in a heterosexual relationship if the woman always got off, and the man rarely did, or had to fake it. If you read that, and couldn’t fathom that being the case – therein lies the issue.
It’s normal and accepted within our culture that women’s orgasms are hard to come by (pun intended), elusive, take “too much work”, and are a burden on the man. So, in case you’re like the majority of folks who NEVER received pleasure education (because, God forbid we experience pleasure without the desire to reproduce) – I’m gonna lay it out on the table… The clit is quite literally made from the same erectile tissue as the penis. They’re twins. Ignoring the clit is like ignoring the penis. Treat it accordingly. How huge a penis is, or for how long a man can penetrate a vagina, are probably some of the least important things when it comes to female orgasm. Take a deep breath, guys. Your tongue, your hands, her hands, or a vibrator will most likely get her there, far before a penis alone.
Your penis doesn’t make you good in bed. Ya know what does? Being attentive, being curious, never wanting to stop learning, being vocal, slowing down, tapping into her erotic mind, and encouraging her to share her fantasies (and not responding with defensiveness or judgment). If she wants penetration – rock on! But please don’t assume that’s the deal breaker. You are so much more than a penetration machine in the bedroom. Give yourself credit where credit is due, will ya?
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What if there is someone else out there for me? Someone better?” – welcome to being human. Think about it. We naturally question most big decisions, right? Is this the best deal on a car? Is this the best house choice? Is this trip worth this much money? What if I just left the perfect job for the wrong one?
Yet, when we question our relationships, we see it as some massive red flag that must mean something serious is wrong, and that our relationship is doomed (this is NOT referring to toxic/abusive relationships – in which case, yes – it is a red flag and can be serious).
There are 7 billion people in the world. Chances are, there IS someone else out there (probably several) that could be a potential partner. However, what are you willing to risk losing with your current partner in hopes to gain something with someone else? Meaning, is there someone else out in the world who is more attractive than your current partner? Ummm…duh. Of course! However, are you willing to potentially lose the emotional safety, for example, that you feel with your current partner?
When we don’t have the concrete data of how the “what if” situation could pan out, we tend to design it in our mind without flaws.So, let’s say you are questioning what life would be like with someone who has a higher paying job than your current partner. You’re daydreaming about the freedom you’d have and how your current financial stress would just vanish into thin air. You’re probably not thinking about the possibility that making more money could also mean more hours, more responsibility, and often higher stress levels. We don’t think about that part, because our fantasies (even non-sexual ones) are flawlessly created in our minds. I mean, why the hell would we conjure up a picture in our minds that sucked, am I right?
The “perfect” partner doesn’t exist. You know how I know? Because HUMANS. AREN’T. PERFECT. So, how the f*ck could we possibly put TWO imperfect people together, and expect perfection? Additionally, we are constantly evolving throughout life. So, what might be “perfect” for you in year one of the relationship, may not work for you in year five. This is the norm, but we don’t talk about it. Instead, we see thousands of messages on social media that preach otherwise.
It’s the old “80/20” rule that you may have heard. People sometimes lose the 80% that they already have, in hopes of finding the other 20%. I think we were designed to constantly seek a higher level of satisfaction in life; which on the surface seems like a cool thing. The downside is that we can’t compare our reality to a fantasy-based “what if” scenario, without our reality always falling short. A great exercise that I will often do with clients to ground them in their relationship, is to have them talk about how they met, what drew them to each other, and what they value about their relationship now. Unlike fantasy “what ifs”, we have actual data to reflect on when talking about our current relationship.
So, instead of asking yourself if there’s someone else out there for you, ask yourself what you would you be willing to potentially lose to find them?
“Neen, that’s such an awesome gift for your husband!”
“Oh my God, he is going to love it!”
“Does your husband know that you’re doing this for him?”
It wasn’t a gift for my husband. It was a gift for me…from me.
The pictures above are four of 187 that were taken for a boudoir shoot back in 2017. I had lost a few pounds, and was barely a year into being self-employed as a writer. I felt like a new woman!
In terms of my career, I felt free for the first time in my life. I never really enjoyed being an employee. Truth be told, I was notorious for getting lost in my work. I never turned down a request from a boss, was terrified to ask for a raise, and always worked late. I was an overworked, underpaid, ball of stress – and it was crushing my soul and everything around me. I would quit a job every two to three years, thinking the grass was greener on the other side. Then, I realized it wasn’t. The grass was green where I chose to water it, and I was done watering other people’s lawns (said with sass).
Ok…back to the boudoir story.
I decided to hire my friend (a photographer), to do the shoot. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. She told me to start adding photos to a Pinterest board, to help give her a feel of what I was going for. Honestly, I had no clue. My internal “sexy meter” had been on zero for the better part of a decade, and this new found feeling was very, well…new. The photos I added to the Pinterest board were generic and not “me” at all. I didn’t even know this version of “me” yet…but I was about to.
We scheduled a date, and she instructed me to look for some outfits that would make me feel sexy. Again…what is this “sexy” feeling she’s talking about? I was a Mom with two kids (still am), who just left a steady (albeit awful) job with a decent paycheck. I was feeling horribly guilty for putting my family in that position, and was embarrassed whenever stressful money conversations came up with my husband.
Needless to say, I followed the instructions that were given to me, and spent some time on Amazon. I even ventured to the mall (pre Pandemic), but found myself in tears as I tried squeezing my thighs into thigh highs. Note to self: My thick thighs prefer to be free.
The day before the photo shoot came faster than I do with my magic wand (thanks Hitachi!). I had scheduled a hair appointment at a real salon. I say “real” for a reason. It’s important that I distinguish that from my usual choice of hair salons; the $15 places that don’t even wash your hair. What can I say? I’m as basic as they come.
After about two and a half hours at the salon, I left with balayage (Google it), and a Brazilian blow out (Google that, too). I went to bed that night with knots in my stomach. What on Earth was I thinking? I have loose stomach skin, cellulite, and I had only recently tapped back into my sexuality after quite the hiatus (sorry, babe).
The next morning, it was business as usual. Everyone left the house for school and work, and I was alone. I hopped in the shower, did my make up, and actually blow dried my hair. The doorbell rang. I threw on my husband’s robe and dashed to the front door. My friend, Emily, was standing there with a camera around her neck and a bouquet of roses.
“You can keep these, but I bought them for the shoot.” She smiled, and handed them to me.
I laid them down on the dining room table, and helped bring all of her equipment into the house. I still wonder if my neighbors saw me walking back and forth from Emily’s car in a robe…with my hair done…and make up on.
After some finagling of equipment, and nervous laughter on my part, we were ready to start.
“Ok, tell me what to wear.” I showed Em my options.
“Let’s start with that black sheer teddy! I think it will be perfect for the dining room table scene I have in mind.”
The what? There’s a scene she had in mind? A scene? What the fuck am I doing?
I rolled with it. I was a new woman, right?
She instructed me to get up on the dining room table. I kept imagining the table collapsing underneath me, my ego being crushed, and crying as I ran up to my room. Alas, that didn’t happen.
She started giving directions like, “Lay on your back. Yup…now arch it. Now put your legs in the air and cross them. Now hold these roses to your lips!”
This woman was no joke! She really did have this all planned out. Scene after scene, she would call out directions, and I would somehow (eventually) follow them correctly. Each outfit change completely shifted my energy. I felt like a new character in each scene. Who were these women? Come to find out, they were all me.
She somehow managed to tap into every side of my sexuality, which is a bit strange since I wasn’t even aware that they existed. I vividly remember one of the scenes. It was the setting you see above with the white shag carpet.
“Ok, go lay down on your stomach. I want to make sure we get your butt in these shots.” She was so confident, and such a non-alarmist; both of which I needed in that moment.
I started to fumble around a bit, and she could tell I was stiffening up (and not in a good way).
“Wait! I got something for this exact situation!” She turned around and dug into her big bag of goodies and pulled out a portable bluetooth speaker. “I have a play list for you. Let’s see if this helps.”
One of the first songs was from Nine Inch Nails. Although, I definitely don’t listen to NIN on the regular, this time they just hit different. Out of what felt like nowhere, I began to just give in to the process. I didn’t even feel like I was in my own skin. I was rolling around on that rug like a toddler throwing a tantrum (except, not really).
“Now, pretend you’re having the best sex of your life! Pretend you’re having multiple orgasms!” The camera kept clicking as the words left her mouth.
For a split second, I was certain I was going to vomit. But, I didn’t. Instead, the imagery that she had so clearly created for me, took over on that white shag rug. I look back at the shots from that scene, and I have no doubt that the Nina in those photos was somewhere else in her head; a skill that helps to quiet my brain in the bedroom to this day.
The entire shoot went on for over four hours. We were both sweating, and I pulled a few muscles while trying to “get into character”. I also may or may not have had a glass of Riesling to calm my nerves.
When Emily left, I only had about a half hour or so before my kids got home from school. I remember just staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, barely recognizing the woman staring back at me. I liked her, though. I liked her a shitload better than the woman I saw four and a half hours prior.
I realized I had shut down a MASSIVE part of who I was (am). A part that I know many women have ignored most of their life. The consequences of embracing our sexuality were just too great, am I right? So, many of us went along for the stifled ride, and played it “safe”.
Many aspects of my life have changed since that day in June of 2017; none of which I regret (no, not even the 10-15 lbs I’ve gained since then). This blog isn’t necessarily a push for women to do boudoir shoots (although, I HIGHLY recommend it). What it is a push for, is for women to start making noise when it comes to their sexuality – pun intended. If you feel stifled and bored, it might be because you’re not being honest with yourself about what you require to feel sexually alive. I know speaking up is something we’ve been taught NOT to do, but I’m here to call BULLSHIT.
As a Sex Coach, this is one of the most common challenges I see for female clients. The shame and guilt that we have been trained to feel about our sexuality, is problematic to say the least.
Speak up. Watch porn if you want to. Read erotica if it turns you on. Share your fantasies with your partner – yes, even that one. Masturbate. A lot. Buy sexy clothes because you fucking can. And remember who the hell you are, and who you deserve to continue being.
I know how hard it is to show up as yourself in this world. It’s almost like you’re getting pushed back into your little corner every time you try to show yourself. Feel familiar?
You share something vulnerable with someone, and they don’t respond in a way that makes you feel accepted. So, your fears are validated, and you retreat. Know anyone like that? It’s like we’re meerkats that keep trying to come up out of our holes, and then quickly return to the dark tunnel underground where it’s safe.I want to share something with you that has given me the words to write this post right now.
About a year ago, I had done a few shows back to back where I interviewed a few gay men who also happen to be drag queens. I also interviewed a recovering drug addict, a trans man, and a woman who shared her story about living with Bipolar. Someone said something to me that made me reflect a bit. “Nina, I don’t know if someone’s mentioned this before, but for a white, cis hetero woman, you seem to interview people that are nothing like you.”I thought for a while, and I couldn’t come up with an answer as to why that was. Then, I realized why. Those guests actually were VERY much “like me”. I can see why, at the surface, there seems to be more differences than similarities. But, if you look deeper – that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ya see, NONE of us lead the same life. That’s impossible. You know what’s VERY possible, though? Experiencing similar (or even exact) emotions as other people. True, they can be caused by different things – but as humans, the one thing we DO have in common, is that we FEEL. Am I gay? Nope. Trans? Nope. A Drag Queen? Nope. Recovering addict? Nope. Do I struggle with Bipolar? Nope. But, you know what?
I DO know what it feels like to fear rejection if I vulnerably shared a part of who I was.
I DO know what it’s like to wish that a part of me would just “go away” so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.
I DO know what it’s like to have a brain that works in a way that isn’t “typical”.
I DO know what it’s like to wear a mask for so damn long that sometimes I even forgot who I was.
Authenticity is the greatest human filter out there. When you work through the fear, the discomfort, and the vulnerability, little by little you will start to attract others who have been waiting for someone just like you to connect with. Is it easy? Fu*k no. Will everyone understand you? Nope. Will everyone stick around? Nope. Will be people judge you? Uh huh.
I know it’s scary. God, do I know it’s scary. However, I’ve learned that people can only see each other through the darkness, when at least one of them holds up a flashlight. So, just know that mine is always on.
If we had a dime for every time we compared our relationship to those we see online, we’d all be rich. Am I right?
If you have never compared your relationship to someone else’s you see online, you can stop reading now; this entire article will be irrelevant to you, and will be a colossal waste of your time.
For the rest of us…listen up.
As a sex and relationship coach, I ‘sorta-kinda’ feel like I have at least SOME credibility here.
You’d be hard pressed to find a person who hasn’t seen the quintessential social media “gush posts” (I just made that up – FYI). You know, the ones where the person shares all of the amazing things about their partner and the life they share? Yeah, those. If you find yourself comparing your relationship to the social media highlight reels, try to remember a few things:
The inner workings of their relationship are different than yours. Do you have any idea how DIFFERENT the criteria is for relational satisfaction? Even if (and that’s a big IF) they are nauseatingly happy together all the time, you have zero clue what they require to be ‘happy’ in their relationship. As a matter of fact, if you ‘copied and pasted’ their criteria to your relationship, it’s very possible that you would NOT be satisfied. Let me drive this point home a bit. I conducted a little poll on Instagram asking about the level of satisfaction regarding foreplay and passion. I also got private messages about how passionate some of these relationships were. At face value, one could start thinking, “Oh man…I wish my relationship was passionate and filled with lust. I miss that so much…”
Here’s what you DON’T know by simply looking at an IG poll: Some of the people that messaged me are in ethical non-monogamous relationships. Are you? Others were in relationships less than 6 months. Are you? Some had gone through horrific phases, and have had insanely difficult conversations to get to the point where their sex life has been renewed a bit. Have you gone through awful phases and had the hard conversations? Comparing your relationship to others is, quite literally, comparing apples to oranges.
2. Social media is a highlight reel. When is the last time you saw posts that looked like this…
“My husband is driving me fucking crazy. He’s a selfish lover, and doesn’t help at all with anything around the house. Honestly, I can’t even stand to be around him right now. Sometimes I wish I could just run off and live my life alone.”
“My wife is driving me crazy. She’s judgmental of my sexual desires, and refuses tomeet me in the middle on ANY of my fantasies. We fight all the time, and honestly – I’m struggling with staying faithful.”
“Sometimes I wonder if my partner is the right one. What if there’s someone that’s a better fit for me? We seem to be on different pages lately, and I’m worried we can’t get back on track.”
Exactly. You haven’t. But, you know what? Those are some of the struggles that are more common than not. Those are the challenges of many couples that I speak with (both personally, and professionally). Social media posts are a SNAPSHOT in time; milliseconds of a person’s life. That post may be indicative of the moment, but rarely the entire relationship. Relationships ebb and flow like everything else in this life.
So, remember when you see a “gush post”, you are only seeing the glory – not the story.
3. We live in a society that thrives on comparison. We live in a world full of instagram filters, “thirst traps”, and “influencers” that also happen to be incredibly attractive. We are constantly struggling to decide if authenticity will bring us followers, or if we should just show what we think people want to see. We literally EXIST in a virtual reality more than we do an earthly one. You know what’s easier to do in a virtual reality? Yup – FAKE IT. And so many of us have mastered this art, unfortunately. Seeing what we lack is easy – especially in the world we live in. The HARD part is realizing what’s actually important to you, and not just trying to “keep up with the Jones”. Sometimes I wonder if we didn’t have social media, if our level of overall life satisfaction would sky rocket. I’m inclined to say yes.
But, since social media isn’t going away anytime soon, the best I can do right now is write a blog about it. Until next time, if you want to compare your relationship to anything, compare where it is now, to where you’d like it to go next. From there, have conversations about how to move in that direction as a couple.
There is no magic formula for relationships; and even if there was, we’d all have different ones.
I started both of my children in therapy early on in their lives for a reason. Nothing was going on that warranted therapy at the time (aside from the normal social struggles), but I am adamant about getting rid of the stigma around mental health and therapy in my family. I go to a therapist, and my kids know her by name. It has always been an open discussion in this house, and always will be. I taught them early on that if we were meant to get through this life alone, we wouldn’t have 7 Billion people on this planet. I’ve drilled into their heads that our mental health is the foundation of how we go through life, and it should be cared for deeply and consistently. Ok, back to the blog…
“Mom? Can you come upstairs for a sec? Dr. A and I want to talk to you about something.” (it’s telemedicine, for the record.)
My stomach dropped. I felt like I was about to walk the plank. What could it possibly be? She’s not even a teenager yet! My mind raced with irrational and highly unlikely thoughts. Thanks to my OCD, this was nothing new.
I know she can’t be pregnant – too young.
Drugs? No – too young, and she doesn’t go anywhere. I’d know, right?
Fuck. She found a sex toy, and now I have to explain. No worries, Neen – you’re a Sex Coach – you got this.
Did she get her period? Yeah, maybe that’s it. It would make sense. But, why the hell wouldn’t she tell me herself? We are so open in this house! Or maybe we aren’t as open as I thought? Am I failing her?
The thoughts didn’t stop there, but for the sake of this blog, I’ll spare you.
I walked upstairs. I could hear my heart beating in my head (is that a thing?). I walked into her room. My adorable, spunky tween daughter was plopped down with the laptop across her legs. She had this look on her face as if she was unsure about how this was going to go down, which only made me more nervous.
Trying not to vomit, I sat next to her. My face was in full view on the telemed screen. I forced a broken smile and did what I do best…made some awkward joke.
“Is it my turn now?” I chuckled and waited to see how her therapist responded.
“Nina, calm down. I know you, and can tell you this isn’t a big deal at all – so exhale.”
Her soft facial features and smile were always so comforting.
“R wanted me to help her explain how she is feeling about something that has been bothering her lately.”
OH. MY. GOD. Get on with it already! I’m going to shit myself!
She began. “So, R is worried about you.”
Wait, what?! She is worried about ME? Is this some sort of reverse psychology magician shit?
R turned to me and had a smirk on her face. She knew I had been expecting so much worse. No doubt she enjoyed seeing me squirm, only to throw me a curve ball.
“Mom? You seem stressed. I see you running around all day long trying to get work done, taking care of the house, and helping us with school. You don’t do anything for yourself, ever. You go to the gym, and that seems to be the only alone time you get. I want to be able to help you with something, and I don’t know how.”
Damnit. Did she really feel this way, or was she just parroting the stuff I say out loud?
Her therapist chimed in.
“Nina, Mom to Mom here. Do your kids have chores?”
“Not really anything set in stone, but I ask them to put away their laundry. Does that count?”
She smirked. She knew it was all bullshit, and I clearly haven’t delegated half the things I should.
“So, Nina, when do you have your own down time?”
I paused. That was not a new issue for me.
My daughter chimed in and called me out, “When she goes to the gym, or when she scrolls social media or watches Netflix at…like…midnight.”
Dr. A looked at me, and I instinctively tried to look away. Was that shame I was feeling, or embarrassment? Both?
“Look, Nina. You’re not doing anyone any favors. Your kids are old enough to do way more around the house. You’re a family, and this is a joint effort. It’s a little ridiculous that they aren’t really doing anything to help.”
It hit me. Did I truly think these responsibilities should be a joint effort? Did I truly believe I should get more help around the house?
No. I didn’t. But, why?
Well, after my daughter’s…I mean MY therapy session, I did what I do best. Reflect.
Why haven’t I jumped on the idea of getting help around the house? My kids are absolutely old enough and capable. Why haven’t I asked?
Here are the thoughts I saw when I took a peek into my brain…
I work from home. Being self-employed is my choice. If I’m home, it’s my job to take care of all the shit that comes with it.
We’re in a Pandemic. These kids deserve to be kids, and enjoy what few opportunities they have to be play.
You’re lazy, Nina. You have the time to do it all, so why ask for help?
What if my kids think I’m lazy? What if my husband thinks I’m lazy? I want them to see how I can grow a business AND do everything else.
Well, fuck. Now I get it. Once again, it’s an ego issue with me. God forbid someone – yes, even my own family – thinks I’m not some damn superhero. Is it possible that my self-worth is tied a bit tighter to outsiders’ perception of me than I care to admit? Seems so, no?
Ok, Neen…what did you do about it? (FYI, that’s you, the reader, asking me.)
The next day, I asked my kids to empty the dishwasher – and refill it. I asked them to clean up the snack wrappers on the couch from the night before. Instead of doing things for them when they conveniently “forgot” to do it, I asked them again…and again…until it was done…by them.
These things may seem like minutia to some, but like most things in life, it goes deeper. You see, we tend to avoid things that create emotions inside of us that suck. When things suck, we don’t want to do it, right? The trick is not to stop there. Figure out why it sucks. For me, it was clear once I took the time to reflect. I have a set of beliefs that state that in order to be seen as a productive, successful, and worthy woman, I need to do it all. Alone. If I ask for help or take time for myself, I am selfish and lazy. So, I flipped the script in my head to challenge myself.
Is this the set of beliefs that I want my daughter to have? Is this how I want my kids to gauge their worthiness as a human being? If my daughter becomes a Mom, do I want her to do it all simply because she can? Absolutely not.
My commitment to myself is to continue to ask for help, and train myself not to see it as selfish, but rather necessary. To see it as an effort to make sure my kids don’t ever attach their value to being overworked and overwhelmed – two words that seem to carry an oddly positive connotation in our society today.
Productivity over self-care. That’s the message, right? Hustle harder. Work longer. Make more money. Post more viral content. Get more likes and follows.
Ya want to know what my thoughts are on that? It’s bullshit. All bullshit. You can make all the money in the world, but if you’re not mentally “available” to enjoy it, it’s meaningless. Relationships are struggling HARD right now. Parents are breaking down. Children are feeling isolated and confused. You want to make more money? I don’t blame you. Money gives us options, and pays the bills.
You want to work hard at something, though? Look in the mirror.
Oh – and when your kid’s therapist yells at you…listen.
You just thought about a woman, didn’t you – yeah, I don’t blame you. Our culture sorta pushes that in our face. Women hook up with women, and it’s “hot”. Men hook up with men, and they’re gay. Makes total sense, right? (eye roll).
One of my (many) exhausting habits is challenging belief systems. Not to be a pain in the ass (although, I’m sure I can be), but to constantly check in with myself to see if my current beliefs actually make sense to me. They may feel comfortable due to how long they’ve been renting space in my head, but do they really make sense to me? Are they serving me, or closing me off?
Our culture equates man-on-man action (and love) to “femininity”.
I’m going to stop right there. How can two MEN being sexual with each other, be feminine? Ohhhhh, I get it – because FEMALES are the only ones who are supposed to be sexual with men. Got it (insert culturally internalized homophobia). I am LIGHT YEARS away from being homophobic (I mean…duh…it’s me) – but that belief system sorta smells like it, does it not?
Besides, have you ever watched men have sex with each other in porn? I’m talking about homemade, REAL couples having sex – not the performative shit. Just like woman-on-woman, you will find powerful “fucking”, as well as slow, soft, and sensual love making. My point is, sex isn’t a gender thing. It’s kinda like, oh…I don’t know…a HUMAN thing.
Second, femininity is seen as “soft and sensual” in our culture. Yes, women TEND to be more soft and sensual, but how do we even know if that’s a nature or nurture thing? Perhaps both? Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen porn clips that include dominant females, but ummmm…they are certainly not all puppies and flowers. Contrary to popular belief, women can be incredibly powerful and dominant in bed. Furthermore, there are plenty of heterosexual men who PREFER a dominant woman. On a personal note, if you knew how many women I’ve spoken to who WISHED they could dominate their male partners, you’d question the whole “all women are soft and sensual” shit. Besides, you actually don’t have to choose one or the other. Shocking, right?! Yet another cultural message blasted to smithereens. NEXT!
I recently asked a gay male friend of mine if he knew any bisexual men that I could have on my podcast. I assumed if anyone would know a bisexual guy, it would be my gay guy friends.
“HA! I don’t even know any. With us, it’s sorta like…you’re either gay or straight.”
Interesting, I thought to myself.Is bisexuality in men not even a thing in gay culture? So, if bisexual men don’t feel accepted or understood in the straight community, and the gay community doesn’t really see them as bi, but more likely gay – then no wonder the topic isn’t discussed!
I’ve spoken to several straight-living, stereotypically masculine men who have told me they were curious about men – some have even entertained their curiosity. Now, try to imagine what those men look like…
Would you be surprised if I told you they were all happily married to women? How about the fact that one of them was a very muscular police officer? Or what about the man who was very passionate about his religion?
There’s also this other thing. You can be attracted to the same sex, but not interested in a relationship with them. I know women who are sexual with women, but have zero desire to have a relationship with them. Men are no different. I’m learning (yes, I am always learning), that even down to how we connect to a sexual orientation is impacted by gender norms.
Ya see, fear is what keeps us from talking. When we don’t talk, we hold onto our personal experiences and thoughts. We keep them in a box that is locked away – only to be shared with a select few, or none at all. In reality, many of us have similar “stuff” in our boxes. Most of us will spend our entire life with the box closed, far away from anyone who could potentially break into it.
So, if you’re a straight man reading this, and you’re wondering if you’re the only one who has been curious about what it would be like to be with a man, you’re actually not as “special” as you think you are; no more “special” than a woman who is curious about other women. The difference being that society has deemed the latter more socially acceptable. On what grounds you ask? I’m still waiting to understand that, too…
I was a 17-year-old college sophomore, and he was a 26-year-old credit card salesman that caught my eye on campus. I know…not the best start to a love story. Rest assured; the love story is not about him.
He exuded sex appeal. His smile, his dark eyes, and his natural flirtatious energy were capturing the loins of most college girls that walked by – including mine. As I tried to briskly walk by him to avoid the awkward, “No, thanks”, he nearly clotheslined me with his arm.
“Fill this out and come back to me. I’ll give you a mini back massager.” He winked and handed me the credit card application.
I hastily filled out the application that I had no business filling out.
“Done! Now, where’s my back massager?” I used air quotes when I said the words ‘back massager’, and he chuckled.
“Damn, girl! You don’t play around do you?” Apparently, he was impressed by my diligence and fast turnaround time. He handed me a little white box, told me to enjoy it, and smirked as I snatched it from his hand.
Being thevibrator Queen that I was (and still am), I saw anything that vibrated as an opportunity to be…creative. I was off to my dorm room to test this thing out. Taking it out of the box, I saw it was one of those little handheld massagers with four ‘legs’. My wheels were turning as to how the hell I could position this to make it a decent vibrator. What can I say? I’m a masturbation opportunist. I digress…
Anyway – to my massive disappointment, the damn thing didn’t even turn on. I was now stuck with a non-functioning, four-legged vibrator, and soon-to-be credit card debt. Me being me, I stuffed the ‘back massager’ back into the box and waltzed my sassy ass right back to him.
“Back already?” He had an air about him – not cocky, but definitely more than confident.
“Don’t get a big head. I’m back because the vib…back massager you gave me is busted.”
After some playful banter and a new ‘back massager’, we exchanged numbers. I know…that escalated quickly, right?
We talked on the phone, he met my friends, we spent time together, and we inevitably got…physical. As a serial monogamist, this “hook up” vibe was new to me. The only relationships I had up until that point were two long-term boyfriends of three years a piece!
I’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
One night, my roommate was staying at her boyfriend’s apartment, so I invited Mr. American Express to my dorm. We started making out, and he quickly moved south with his mouth – something I was NOT expecting. Like most women, I was taught to be insecure about my body; especially my vagina.
Naked, I laid back on my unstable bed that rested on cement cinderblock risers (ahhh…college life). I kept telling myself that he was older and more mature than college guys; that he’d probably seen so many bodies, and I had nothing to be insecure about.
He parted my legs and kissed my thighs. I remember being so impressed with the sensuality of the moment. He was taking his time. And then…
“Ya know, you should take a Bic to that thing.” He looked up at me from between my legs.
How I didn’t vomit on the spot was beyond me, but I kept my shit together. Being so young, I didn’t know to be furious – I only knew to be mortified.
Yup – I THANKED him for his oh-so-worthy criticism of my body. My SEVENTEEN-year-old body. Apparently, the pubic hair on my thing wasn’t that off-putting, because he continued. My entire body was tense, and I had a lump in my throat the size of Texas. I could feel my legs instinctively wanting to close. I had instantaneously become disgusted with my body; the same body that I had shared with two amazing boyfriends who never said a word about my pubic hair. Were they lying the whole time? Were they disgusted, too? Were they telling their friends how repulsive I was? Everything I ever thought – or didn’t think – about my pink parts, was now in question.
“Baby…,” he rubbed my inner thighs, “…you need to relax and enjoy this. Just lay back and let your nerves go.”
I closed my legs and pulled his head up. “I’m all set, thanks.”
I was crawling out of my skin. I put on a smile to hide the extraordinary embarrassment I felt. He left soon after that, and I never (to this day) confronted him about his sub-shitty choice of words.
Needless to say, our dating experience was short-lived.
Hairless or Bust!
I shaved for the first time that night, and NEVER again let my pubic hair grow. Ever. I spent the next 22 years obsessively tending to my pubic hair, including spending thousands of dollars on laser hair removal – which, by the way, did NOT permanently remove it. At 39-years-old, I was so over shaving every day. Razor burn sucked. I hated stubble. I hated it all. To be honest, I felt like an imposter. As a Certified Sex Coach, how could I hate my own damn vulva?!? I needed to do the work to move through this – fast.
So, waxing was my next option. It was affordable, and easier than shaving every day. I texted a waxing specialist that came highly recommended. I bombarded her with a million questions.
“Sure thing! I just need about two weeks of hair growth before your first appointment.”
Wait…what?!? Two weeks?! Fuck no!
“Aye…never mind!” I texted her and quickly shut it down. Two weeks was NOT happening.
Months went by. More shaving, more stubble, and more vulva-directed hate. I couldn’t do this anymore.
I opened up Instagram. I messaged the waxing guru, and we set the appointment.
The next two weeks were going to be a total mind fuck. I anticipated zero intimacy with my husband. I warned him, so he wouldn’t take it personally. To be totally candid, I didn’t even expect to have any self-love sessions either (yes, women masturbate – eye roll). I was that repulsed by my pubic hair. I hadn’t seen more than a millimeter of hair on my body in 22 years.
Two weeks had passed, and I became (almost) desensitized to seeing some foreign follicles on my lady parts. I would stare at it in the shower, and glance down a few times as I got dressed. I must have asked my husband to look at it a thousand times. I think I was waiting for him to affirm my fears and tell me how gross it was – but, he never did.
The Final Shift
The wax appointment came and went. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a wave of relief come over me when I looked down and saw the smoothest skin I’d ever seen in my entire life. A razor didn’t hold a candle to this wax stuff (pun intended). I’ve since gone on to become an avid wax client, and still prefer no hair. However, there’s a BIG difference in my relationship with my pubic hair.
During the four to six weeks in between wax appointments, hair makes an appearance. I’ve learned to love the softness of the baby hair that slowly grows in (no stubble – thank you wax!). I am not repulsed, nor do I avoid intimacy in between appointments. I have zero urges to shave, and frankly, I’d be happy if I never saw a razor again. I never thought that one waxing appointment at 39-years-old, would be the catalyst to unlearning societal messages that I’d held onto for decades.
For the record, I have since paid off all of my credit card debt, and my Hitachi wand blows that four-legged shit show of a ‘back massager’ out of the water. So, Mr. American Express, that ‘thing’you wanted me to “…take a Bic to…” – it’s called a vulva…and mine prefers wax.
*Links within this post are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission from them.*
I’m also REALLY big on sharing REAL stories to connect and help others. So, here’s a true story that happened last night in my house…I had been preparing for my sex drive workshop for a few weeks. Well, the other night, my curious daughter saw the title of the workshop. I knew she saw it, and my first instinct was to avoid the conversation and quickly click off the tab. Instead, I leaned in. It went like this…(I used a teasing/sarcastic tone, because that tends to ease awkwardness in my life.)
“You don’t have to pretend you didn’t see the title of the workshop, Miss. Nosey!” (she smirked). “Well, yeah…I did see it. I can’t help looking at what you’re doing.”
“It’s totally ok. It’s not a bad word. The word sex doesn’t mean JUST what we talked about before (note: she knows what penetrative sex is). It means so many things to so many people. The bottom line is that it has to do with different types of affection in relationships – kissing, hugging, making out, etc. This is important in relationships to feel connected. Ya know how Mommy and Daddy smooch sometimes, and you get grossed out? (she laughed) Well, that’s one way that we love to connect. Sometimes, though, in relationships we can feel disconnected. We can be fighting over something, stressed over something, and overly busy, and we don’t WANT to be affectionate. What do you think happens when couples don’t WANT to be affectionate?”
She paused for a sec. “Well, I guess you guys would probably not be happy together, and not want to be around each other. That probably feels bad and can cause other problems.”
“EXACTLY!” I smiled. “So, Mommy is giving a workshop so people can understand what makes them WANT to be affectionate, and what makes them NOT want to be affectionate. If we know these things about ourselves, and can explain them to our partner, what do you think can happen?”
“You can get along better and be happier.” She seemed almost bored at this point (mission accomplished – LOL). “Yup! So, that’s what this is all about. So, when you see the word ‘sex’, understand it can mean a million things to a million different people.”
That was it. That was me. Talking to my kids about sex.
Sometimes (well…a lot of times…), the more fear and taboo vibes we instill around the subject, the more damage we do – and consequently, the more challenges we have later in life around the subject. Again, every child is different, and you know your child best. I just thought I’d share one way of handling these things, in case it helps
In Honor of my 40th Birthday Eve and OCD Awareness Week…
Well…here you are – the night before your 40th Birthday.
I see you now, and I can’t help but remember the child you were. You constantly questioned your worthiness because your brain made you think that you were bad, wrong, dirty, sick…broken. You referred to your intrusive thoughts as “voices” when you were three-years-old because you couldn’t possibly believe that you were the one choosing to think such horrifying things. The anxiety, fear, and shame were intense, causing you to confess all of your brain’s workings to your family; later realizing that your confessions were actually a type of compulsion.
I know how afraid you were. I can feel the pit in my stomach now just thinking about it. I remember you seeing the world as though you were living in some parallel reality – far away from everyone else. I was always impressed with your ability to make everyone believe you were so comfortable being you.
You successfully hid so much. You had the classic OCD intrusive thoughts that revolved around violence, sex, contamination, and death – often coming up with random compulsions to “rid” your brain of the anxiety. You were exhausted, Nina. God, were you exhausted. Nobody understood OCD in the 80’s and 90’s, and you went from one medication to the next, always terrified that you’d never be “normal”.
“If anyone ever found out what went on in my head…”
I’d hear you say that to yourself time and time again. It broke my heart. I know how hard you wished it would all go away; that one day you’d get up and no longer fear being awake. You would have better phases, only to be triggered, and it would all come crashing down again – sometimes worse than before. I know you truly believed that you’d be caged up in your own brain for the rest of your life.
But – I have extraordinary news for you, Nina…There’s a MAJOR plot twist, so PLEASE hang tight. You DESERVE to see this battle through.
Remember when you said you were afraid to get married? To you, that meant you might see him die at some point (intrusive death thoughts). Yeah, you somehow worked through that and married someone. Oh – and your 100% certainty that you NEVER wanted children, because you were convinced that they would die before you (yup…death again)? Fu*k that – you went ahead and had TWO! You still worry every second of every day, but like…welcome to being a parent
Remember the bizarre and disturbing intrusive thoughts that came on out of nowhere that had you questioning if you were worthy of even being here? Yup – those EXACT thoughts are what end up driving you to start a career talking about, writing about, and coaching people on ALL of the taboo topics. Come to find out, many people in this world are just waiting for someone to go first – someone to talk about the things that nobody talks about. Many people feel caged in their own brains and are looking for a way out – someone to say, “YOU’RE OK!” Who knew?!
I know you probably think I’m lying, because you are so caught up in the throws of OCD that you can’t see beyond it – and that’s ok. Just borrow my belief until you have your own. Until that day comes (hint: it happens in your mid to late 30’s), trust that every ounce of pain you’re going through, every fuc*ed up thought you’re having, and every “why me?!” moment you go through, will ALL make sense soon. And when it does, I’ll greet you with open arms, a vibrator, and a stiff drink. We’ll sit and talk about it all – but not for too long…people are waiting for us. And we both know how much the waiting sucks.
If you’ve stuck around me long enough, you know that my purpose in life is 100% grounded in exposing the aspects of being human that are so raw and real that it makes most of us uncomfortable. Truthfully, I don’t even like the word taboo. A taboo topic is something that is, “…banned on grounds of morality or taste.” In other words, it’s subjective – much like everything else in the world.
Mental health and sexuality are probably the most “taboo-infused” aspects of being human. Having firsthand experience with a mental health condition that is literally COMPRISED of intrusive and TABOO thoughts, I understand and appreciate how damaging this feeling can be to your soul. The two most powerful ways I’ve been able to heal and accept ALL that I am, is through humor and confessions (actually, if you read up on OCD, you’ll see that confessions are a type of compulsion. Crazy shit, right?). I’m aware that this is not THE ONLY way to heal, but it’s my way – and it has worked.
My approach and personality are not, and never will be, for everyone – and it isn’t my goal to have them be. People have VERY strong feelings and opinions on such sensitive topics. I do what I do because in my darkest moments, I knew exactly what I needed, but didn’t know if anyone was capable of giving it to me. I wanted my thoughts and fears to be met with an unalarmed response. I wanted someone to make me laugh at myself, even when I thought that everything was so serious. I wanted to be told that I don’t have to think like everyone else to STILL be ok. I wanted to know that even if others didn’t share my thoughts, they still didn’t care that I had them. I wanted someone to tell me that I didn’t have to “fix” my brain – I just needed to learn HOW to use it.
So, here’s my SoulTinder profile – in case anyone wants to uncage theirs:
I will listen to your darkness, and share with you all the ways you keep walking right by the damn light switch. I will use humor in moments that you can’t believe someone would use humor (so, easily offended people may want to steer clear). I will show you how liberating it can be to stop seeing yourself as a “victim” and, instead, acknowledge that you may have been victimized, but your experiences are what CREATE your superpower. I will meet you EXACTLY where you are – not looking to fix a damn thing; you’re not broken. I can normalize the most “abnormal” shit, because I don’t believe in normal – aside from math scores. You will be met with an unalarmed response, and you’ll wonder if I even heard you. Trust me, I did…and I’m still not alarmed.
This photo was made specifically for me (yup, those are my hands with the blue polish). It captures all that caged me for the better part of three decades. And now? Now, I’ve made it my life’s work to continue to use humor and confessions to not only keep my own soul uncaged, but to help others do the same.
I’ve been invited to speak on the topic of “sexy being an attitude” more than once. I believe most of us have struggled (or are struggling) with this in life, because it’s hard to open our eyes in this country and NOT see a gazillion images of photoshopped, airbrushed, and filtered images. But, let’s take that out of the picture for a hot sec.
There are some “universal” traits that most humans look for, based on biology and evolution. Things like symmetrical facial structure, hip-to-waist ratio (child-rearing), strength (think hunting and protection), etc. Other than that, there is such a MASSIVE spectrum of what constitutes sexy, and it changes throughout time due to cultural norm shifts. Many of us seem to be “chasing sexy”. By that, I mean we see what the latest trend of beauty is, and then we chase after it. Here’s the problem though…that changes.
Trends change. Cultural norms change. WE, AS HUMANS, CHANGE. Remember when it was all about being thin? I do! I grew up in the 90’s, and that was the ONLY body type to have or you were somehow less attractive by default. Now we see how “thick thighs save lives”, men making TikToks about their love of the FUPA, the “Mom bod” movement, normalizing cellulite, Dad bods, etc. Depending on who you surround yourself with (real people, and social media culture), your body acceptance shifts. This is not rocket science. This is NEUROSCIENCE and SOCIAL SCIENCE. We compare by nature – and when we are surrounding ourselves with certain visuals and messaging, eventually your brain wants you to assimilate.
So, here are a few tips to get ya started on “leaning into sexy”:
1) DANCE NAKED. OFTEN. For no one but yourself. Put on sexy music (or Twerk radio, if you’re me), and just dance naked. At first, your head will mess with you and focus on all the parts you don’t like. So, imagine an audience who paid to see the EXACT type of body you have, and keep dancing.
2) UNFOLLOW accounts that don’t make you feel good. I follow body positive accounts on instagram, and if you want recommendations, just say the word.
3) MOVE. I don’t care if you go to the gym, work out at home, take walks, jump rope, work in the yard, or dance – just MOVE. There is a CHEMICAL reaction in your brain when you exercise. Again, this is not my opinion – this is science.
4) MASTURBATE. Yup, I said it. If you have barriers blocking you from doing so, and you’d like to work through them, reach out – I got you.
And that’s my show for the night. Thank you for attending.
If you’ve ever hated your body for what it looks like or how it feels, you’ve experienced being caged.
If you’ve ever suffered from intrusive thoughts and anxiety, you’ve experienced being caged.
If your brain works in ways that make it difficult to go through one day without wanting to escape your own mind, you’ve experienced being caged.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship that you know you deserve to leave, you’ve experienced being caged.
If you’ve struggled with your sexuality in any way, shape, or form, you’ve experienced being caged.
If you suffer from the aftermath of trauma, you have experienced being caged.
If you have felt shame for merely existing in your truest form, you’ve experienced being caged.
If you’ve ever been trapped in a career that eats away at you, you’ve experienced being caged.
If you’ve ever suffered from addiction, you’ve experienced being caged.
The list goes on – and eventually, I would list something that you would most likely resonate with. Not because you’re “broken”, but because you’re human. Shockingly…we all are.
Being an “outlier” myself on many levels, I perfected the construction of my cage. The bars were strong, and only wide enough for people to see the parts of me that were “acceptable”. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a sense of safety in our cages – and I get that. But as life goes on, our bars get thicker, and the spaces more narrow. We’re given more reasons to hide as we’re surrounded by illusions that our culture is so damn good at creating. Eventually, there are no spaces between the bars. To the outside world, you’re showing slits of light at best. There’s this false feeling of belonging, as if the absence of judgement equals acceptance – but it doesn’t. Nobody can accept you when they can’t. even. see. YOU.
I’ve spent over THREE DECADES figuring out how to somehow deconstruct this Fort Knox worthy cage that I so meticulously erected (yes, I said ‘erected’ – it was getting a bit too serious, and we all know I can’t have that happening for too long.). Ironically, I figured out that I’m not supposed to deconstruct it. It served its purpose and, truthfully, Bob Vila would applaud the craftsmanship. I found out that all of that time in my proverbial ‘cage’ was allowing me to experience everything I had to in order to know how to find the KEY to unlock it.
It’s not about hating ourselves for what we’ve done (or haven’t done). It’s not about demolishing ANY experiences from our past. It’s about coming to the epiphanic moment of realization that the one who creates the cage, also creates the key. Yes…that means you.
My personality, my ‘brand’, my ridiculous posts, my candidness, my career choices, my often times risky sense of humor, my writing, my sex coaching, my openness about living with OCD, my vulnerability…all of it. It took me all that time in my cage to come up with the material to create the key that lead me to where I am today…Unfiltered. Imperfect. Unashamed…and UNCAGED.
The idea of a soulmate sounds romantic, and some do believe they’re out there – but you know me… I always have to share another perspective. Notice I said PERSPECTIVE, not ultimate TRUTH.
So, if you’re struggling in a relationship, or question the one you’re in, or you’re single and waiting for the “special one” – this post may be for you.
My opinion on the matter goes like this…You CREATE the relationship that works for you. Some can accommodate, some cannot. Considering 50%’ish of marriages end in divorce, I’d like to think there is more than just one person we can spend our life with. Otherwise, those divorced folks are screwed if they want to find love again – and I have EVIDENCE that is not the case. Actually, I know several people who have found INCREDIBLE partners AFTER their divorce (more on my thoughts on that another time).
Thinking that ONE person has to have every single thing you’re looking for will inevitably lead to disappointment, and is truly unfair to your partner (and to you!). Your partner may not be the best lover you’ve ever had, but they have other things that you value more (and you can always hire a sex coach – ahem, ahem ). You may have different parenting styles, but the loyalty and trust you have is in a different league. You may wish you had a partner with a similar family life as you did growing up, but the way they handle your personal struggles is second to none.
Like most things in life, I see relationships as a give and take. Could you find someone else that has some of the things your current partner doesn’t? Of COURSE! But will they ALSO have everything you love about your current partner? Probably not. Additionally, we change. You could be riding along problem free for 10 years, and then someone loses a job, gets sick, changes sexually…and then what? You need to adjust. More than once.
Focus on your core values. If you don’t know what those are, take time to think about them. When I coach recently divorced, or single people, it’s one of the things we always discuss. What are your hard NOs and MUST HAVEs? Most of the peripheral stuff can be pretty malleable if approached correctly. I don’t believe you should settle for some toxic relationship. That’s not the message. The message is that NO relationship is perfect. HUMANS aren’t perfect, so how the hell can putting TWO of them together be perfect? I often wonder if our focus shifted on seeking compatibility versus perfection, we’d fare better?
As I said to a friend earlier today, I believe the pillars of a strong relationship are based on honesty, trust, vulnerability, and communication. And even more importantly – totally aware that shit shows happen, and you both need to grab the wipes to clean it up.
Finding purpose in pain has become a lifelong process for me. I’m not a healthcare professional. I’m not face to face with COVID-positive patients. I am not a first responder…but I am one of many in this world who are on the “other” frontline.
I would sit down to get work done and instantly felt like I was on this “other” frontline. I’d stare at a screen that was riddled with darkness, anger, trauma, disturbing images, virtual funerals, children mourning, hate, friendships ending, lies, harsh truths, and pain. So. Much. Pain. My limbic system was misfiring, over-firing, and sometimes I wished it would just…stop…firing.
I felt like I was in the house of mirrors, searching for the exit. I could see people outside, telling me I’m so close to finding the exit. Alas…I’d whack my head on the mirror that I thought was the last turn I’d have to take. Some people said it felt like groundhog day – the same thing over and over again. To me, it felt more like purgatory – and I’m not even religious.
My therapy sessions were virtual like most. Thank God she knows me and my required therapy style. She’s warm and kind when I need it, but mostly uses tough love – which is how I respond best.
“I haven’t heard you this bad in years, Nina. I’m going to use the word suffering to describe it. You’re in a dark place. We should increase your medication. How do you feel about that?”
I was having intrusive disturbing OCD thoughts that I hadn’t had in decades. It scared the shit out of me, to be honest. The thoughts that would paralyze me in my childhood were coming back. I’ve been on the “other side” of OCD for quite some time now, so this space was unfamiliar and painful. My sleeping was off. I was losing interest and focus. I felt disconnected from my family. I felt disconnected from…myself. Nothing seemed safe, not even my own mind.
I am not one to fight medication. I’ve been successfully treated with a very low dose since my late teens/early 20’s. I’ve tried to go off of medication before, and I quickly realized that this wasn’t about my ego – but my quality of life. With that said, I started thinking of all the ways I could AVOID increasing my medication. I somehow found a teensie bit of confidence in my resiliency, and passed through that month and a half without increasing the dose. I also knew (and still do) that if I hadn’t found the confidence, I would have increased my dosage. I ‘aint too proud – trust me (ok…maybe a little. But I digress.)
Ya know what’s strange, though? I’ve spent my entire life being able to lean on the fact that I knew most of my thoughts were irrational. Even though they felt real, there was always a part of me that knew they weren’t, or at least I knew they were extremely over exaggerated. I could always count on hearing, “Nina, it’s just your OCD.”
But now, it wasn’t “just my OCD” – this was real. My fear of germs was real. My fear of death was real. Everyone was washing their hands incessantly and over using antibacterial gel, and I no longer “stood out” as the germaphobe. Nobody was sharing anything anymore, and people were wiping down every surface around them. For once in my entire life, the world around me was just as scary as the world inside of me – and I wasn’t prepared.
I showed symptoms of OCD as early as three years old – so, I’ve had quite a few decades of learning how to navigate life with this brain wiring (eye roll). However, I definitely wasn’t planning on “relapsing” randomly at 39 years old…yet there I was.
In a weird, almost masochistic way, I’m glad I went through it (and still am, but on a much smaller scale). My ability to hold space for other people in their darkest moments – their most vulnerable or shameful moments – is 100% due to me knowing what that feels like. I know how it feels to doubt your worth, to question your place on Earth, to fear rejection so much that you go through most of your life only showing a fraction of who you are, to believe that if people knew what you were thinking, they’d take a few steps back…
What makes me who I am today is, quite literally, what almost ended me. I often speak about finding purpose in pain, not because I’m a walking obnoxious Pinterest quote, but because I’ve done it…and it has saved my life.
I have a diary entry from when I was about 9 years old that was focused on the fact that I weighed 72 pounds. I vividly remember writing that number down and circling it in my diary.
When I was younger, “Twiggy”, was the popular model. You can imagine how she got her name, and the message it sent to all of us females. I started smoking cigarettes on and off starting in 6th grade – never getting addicted, because truthfully, I hated it. It smelled awful, and I would get nauseous more often than not. I continued, though, because it would make me skinny, and that was the goal – right?
I drank my first slim fast in 6th grade. One day, I almost passed out in gym class from a lack of food. The fu*cked up part? I wasn’t afraid. It made me feel like I was getting somewhere with my weight. I was going to be skinny, and everything would be ok.
Throughout middle school, I was bullied HEAVILY for breaking up with a boy that apparently wasn’t “allowed” to be broken up with. He and his “popular” friends had a blast with me for three years straight. I spent my days in the nurses office convinced I was going to vomit on a daily basis.
In high school, swimming was a mandatory part of PE class. I feared freshman year more for that reason, than anything else. I had my parents plead with a friend of ours, who was a Doctor, to write a note stating that I couldn’t swim due to my skin being sensitive to chlorine. That wasn’t real…but the hatred towards my body was.
The summer before college, my OCD and anxiety had taken on a life of its own and I was sick. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t going to the bathroom (duh – there was nothing in there🙄). I had irrational fears of fainting (again-thanks OCD), so driving alone anywhere was a big ordeal. I got down to 110 lbs before college, and my hip bones were showing. I was nauseous 100% of the time, every day. People complimented me.
“Nina, you look so thin. Are you ok?”.
I looked sick. Thin – but sick. I felt like I was supposed to be happier than I was. I mean, I had wanted to be thin since I was a small child…at 72 pounds.
Undergrad and grad school were both met with my fair share of internal body shaming, but frankly – those four years were also some of the best years of my life. I was preoccupied with college life.
Now, I’m 39 and I have two children. My life and body have changed quite a bit over the years…and so has my mind. Now, my inner monologue leads me to create moments like the one I had a few hours ago…
😬I TOUCHED MYSELF IN THE SHOWER TONIGHT😬
But…not in the way you’re thinking…
I touched the parts that I’ve argued with my entire life. As the water ran down my body, I saw the wet beads travel across a terrain that once seemed so foreign to me – especially after two kids. The water didn’t travel straight down, and it didn’t travel smoothly. It changed directions, and sometimes it pooled in my bellybutton that now hangs differently from a bellybutton piercing scar. It’s now a stretched surface from growing two humans. Sometimes, I even lost track of where the water went.
After trailing down my stomach, it cascaded down the sides of my hips. Hips that surround a womb whose cervix failed to open wide enough to let either of my kids pass through “naturally” (I heavily dislike that word when it comes to birthing, FYI). Because of my stubborn cervix, both children were removed surgically, as proven by the two *almost* symmetrical scar lines above my bikini area.
Then, my thighs. Talk about topography! The cellulite, the dimples, the curves…all of it.
As all of this was happening, I let my hands move across my body in a way that didn’t say, “I hate you.” I touched those parts with apologetic hands. I squeezed the soft parts and thanked it for being good to me when I was so damn awful to them for so long. I smiled at my stomach for carrying two kids, for loving just about every food out there, for being strong underneath the sub-Instagram quality surface, and for simply being mine.
I squeezed my thighs to purposely feel the soreness from the leg workout that I HAPPILY did yesterday, because I was able to – not something that everyone has the ability to do.
I even looked at my damn boobs! Yup! One is smaller than the other (FYI very common). They aren’t perky and porn-like. They are mine. And after seeing too many of my loved ones lose theirs – I no longer dare to take them for granted.
So, next time you see me post a bikini picture, or twerk for the whole world to see – understand this…
It’s NOT because I love my body all the time, and I certainly don’t have a magazine body. It’s because I have learned to ACCEPT it – with kinder words, softer hands, healthier thoughts, and as many well-deserved orgasms as I can possibly provide it. So, there’s that…
I want you to know something. I personally believe (read: this is an OPINION) that long-term relationships have moments…and even phases (think months, or even years) where you swear you’re alone. Yes – even while you’re IN the relationship. Your sex drives don’t match. Your communication styles are polar opposites. You argue over parenting techniques. You barely recognize each other, and you feel like you’d be better off apart. Then one of two things happens: You either move through it and stay together (and that move through process looks different for everyone), OR one or both decide to go your separate ways. Sound familiar?
There is SO MUCH SHAME around relationship struggles. I see it ALL THE TIME. That’s because somewhere along the line, we were taught that relationships/marriages just sorta “happen”- and if it doesn’t, then you’ve “failed” at relationshipping (it’s a word. I just made it up.) Like, if it was a “good” relationship, it would seamlessly happen with no effort required.
Can you imagine how your perspective would be different if we were taught to EXPECT difficult times? To EXPECT to desire other people? To EXPECT to question if we are in the right relationship? To EXPECT to argue over parenting, sex, and money?
Maybe we wouldn’t be so afraid and avoidant when it comes to conflict. Maybe we’d learn more effective communication skills, and focus on self-awareness. Maybe we wouldn’t have as much guilt about totally normal thoughts.
The human experience for most of us (if not all) is a series of shit shows, fu*& ups, and painful lessons. It’s ALSO a series of elation, excitement, awesome sexual experiences, and butterflies in our stomach. It isn’t supposed to be one or the other. You can actually be a totally worthy human being and have BOTH the good and the crappy. Imagine that! 🙄
If a relationship doesn’t work out, you’re not a failure. You’re human – welcome to the damn club. If your relationship is going through a rough phase right now and you want to fight for it, then fight for it. If your relationship has agreements that differ from your friends/family, but works awesome for you guys, rock on!
None of us are immune to relationship struggles. NONE. OF. US. So, can we just sorta throw the shame stuff out the window? It has no place here.
Lately, in both my personal and professional life, I have witnessed men struggling more so than usual, and my heart aches. I am, and will continue, serving ALL HUMAN BEINGS. I will help you challenge belief systems that make you feel anything other than worthy and valid.
Remember that pointing out the pain of one group does not, and never will, diminish the pain of any other group. So, tonight, this one’s for the guys…
“It’s as if you were created only to feel a select number of emotions. Should you need to feel anything else, your default is to go back to the original allowable few. Your only instructions are to keep going long after your batteries have run out. When you break – and you will – you should know how to put yourself back together without any help. You don’t require help. You’ll be ok – you’re a man.
You will experience loss and pain. But don’t speak. People will question your allegiance to societal constructs, and we all know we can’t have that. But, you’ll be ok – you’re a man.
You are to hunt – food, enemies, and women. Hunting anything or anyone else is inherently “wrong”. Should you feel the urge to hunt otherwise, refrain. You’re good at hiding your soul, remember? You’ll be ok – you’re a man.
You are to sexually ravish others. To be ready, willing, and most importantly, able. At all times. Every time. Your handful of allowable emotions can never interfere with this required way of being. Should you struggle, avoid all related conversations and move on. Be silent about your fears, insecurities, and most definitely, your faults. Deny them at all costs, especially in the bedroom. You should easily be able to disconnect and compartmentalize. It’s ok – you’re a man.
You will face confusion, loss, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, intrusive thoughts, sexual shame and guilt, and abuse. Funnel it all into anger. Get angry. Anger is safe. Anger is allowed. You’ll be ok – you’re a man.
So just be a man, and you’ll be ok…until you’re not.
And when that day comes, I urge you to break every damn rule you’ve been prescribed. I beg you to feel all of the forbidden emotions, and feel them as hard as you can. Let anger be your last choice, and no longer allow it to be the sheep in wolves clothing. Break down. Make it known when you DON’T want to have sex, and when you want to relinquish dominance and control. Face trauma and process it with a professional – because you DESERVE healing. Love whoever the hell you want to love. Be afraid. Be a protector one day, and need protecting the next.
It’s ok not to be ok…you’re a man.”
I'm all about transparency, folks!