Couples in the clinic program are asked to spend one weekend alone, away from the spouse, taking time to think about the relationship, their spouse, and their feelings about self in the context of the relationship. They are asked to be alone during the weekend or whatever two days are picked, and not to take friends along. If possible, they are asked to go to a place that the couple has visited together. This revisit seems to help in the contemplation and meditation about the meaning of the relationship.
A wife reported, “I hadn’t done that for a long time, really been alone. Even in college, I was always with someone. I felt like something was missing. It wasn’t like absence made the heart grow fonder, but that I seemed to see the relationship in a different way. It’s really something to be alone, not to call home, not to be a couple after being a couple for years.”
“I got kind of sad,” reported her husband. “On business trips, I am always with someone or busy or tired. I always call home.
This time, I went to the same fast-food store that we went to together in Toronto and I seemed to sense her absence strongly.”
Sometimes, marital therapists suggest formal or legal separation as a means of learning. I have never found this strategy effective and have seen partners learn only how to be even more distant from one another. The sexual sig I am suggesting here is not for separation, but for closeness, a chance to step back, just as one moves back to look into the partner’s eyes before an intimate kiss. This separation is not a test, but an opportunity to learn the impact of the partner when the partner is not physically close.
You might like to try “marital telepathy” during this single sig. Even though you don’t call, try sending messages. Set aside a mutually agreed-upon time of day and sit down for a few minutes. Try to send and receive, to sense and be sensed. Russell Targ and Keith Harary collected scientific research on such “sending,” and concluded, “Scientific evidence does strongly suggest that the ability to function psychically is a genuine human capacity which, for many people, seems to improve with practice.”
“I can tell you now,” said one husband, “I am convinced we are getting better at this sending thing. I lay there in bed and could almost hear her talking to me. When I got home, I asked if she sent a message, the names of our three children. Tell him what you said.”
“This is like the Twilight Zone, but, yes. I thought I would try it like you said. We picked the time and I sent the name of the three kids. He got them in the same order I sent them, which was not by age. It’s probably just coincidence, isn’t it? I mean, of course we would both think of the kids.”
Why would coincidence make it any less important?
Someone once said that a kiss is nature’s way of getting two people so close together they can’t see each other’s flaws. This sexual sig is an opportunity to be apart so that you may become even more aware of the bond that holds your marriage together.
You don’t just say “Hey great, IVe been hoping you would ask me out.” It takes the challenge away, and without the challenge of the chase, there is no energy behind the whole thing. You still have to chase them until they catch you.
Acknowledging that a bonding invitation has been sent to you is one of the riskiest steps in the bonding process. How can you trust your senses, even your own ears? Does he really mean it? Why would she be interested in me? Maybe he’s just being funny? Maybe she’s teasing? I’ll look like a fool if I take this seriously, but I hate to miss the chance just in case this is serious. All of these thoughts can occur almost simultaneously when a bonding invitation is perceived.
One of the thousands husbands recounted the following story. “She asked me up for a drink after the show. I have always had trouble with this ‘up for a drink’ thing. I sort of used to go into my ‘get ready for sex’ mode, but sometimes it just means up for a drink. It’s hard to tell. She told me to have a seat. That’s not an easy thing. Do you take a chair or the couch? She said, ‘Make yourself comfortable. I’m going to get real comfortable myself.’
‘ ‘Now I really went into sex mode two. How do you get yourself comfortable sitting for the first time in someone’s apartment? I took off my tie, unbuttoned my shirt, kicked off my shoes, and moved to the couch. I even rolled up my sleeves. I was getting aroused.
“She returned to the room and I felt like a jerk. ‘What do you think you’re doing, moving in?’ she said. She had changed to jeans and paint shirt. ‘I’m finishing sanding my old table. Get yourself a drink and let yourself out, will you? I don’t want to drag dust through the carpet.’
“I made up some cover lie. I think I said something like, ‘Oh, I just can’t stand that tight collar and jacket. I think I’ve gained a little weight and it’s all too tight.’ I even went into greater detail trying to save face. What a night.”
Just as proception requires vulnerability and directness, reception requires a lowering of defenses, taking major risks. It requires sufficiently resilient self-esteem to endure the knocks we all receive in the bonding process. We have to be arrogant enough to assume that someone wants us and humble enough to remember that many people would choose to have nothing to do with us. Is the other person sure? Am I sure?
Do you remember taking the risk? Do you remember allowing yourself to feel that someone you wanted really wanted you?
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