Today I am talking about the gift and challenge of sex in a monogamous relationship. There are so many beautiful things to appreciate about long-term monogamous relationships. There are also challenges and growing pains to be aware of. Only if we are aware of points of tension can we begin to work through them as a couple and come out the other side stronger. Your relationship should start to feel like home, but it does take work. In this episode, I share a personal story about the Crucible Concept and explain why relationships are like rubber bands. I also reveal one of my favorite great secrets about love.

Listen in to learn tips for growing together as a couple, ways to become your own person in a long-term relationship, and how to get out of a sex slump in a monogamous relationship.

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

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Show Notes:

  • The crucible concept
  • Benefits of monogamy
  • Challenges of a monogamous relationship
  • Putting in the work in a monogamous relationship
  • Growing as a couple
  • Developing shared language in a couple
  • Sex in a monogamous relationship
  • Becoming your own person in a relationship
  • How to get out of a sex slump with your partner
  • Rediscovering love

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The Powerful Gifts (and Challenges) of Monogamy

 

Let’s talk about monogamy. In this episode, I’m going to talk about some of the deepest and most powerful gifts that can be created in a monogamous relationship and some of the hugest challenges that we experience in a monogamous relationship. And I’m going to offer a framework to help you understand that in a very new and powerful way. So, stay tuned to this episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page, and I’m a psychotherapist, author of the bestselling book, Deeper Dating, and the creator of the Deeper Dating Intensive, which you’ll hear more about a little bit later. Today, I’m going to be speaking about the deep gifts and the challenges of monogamy. And in this and every episode, I’m committed to sharing the greatest tools and insights I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are the skills of intimacy, and those are the greatest skills of all for a happy and meaningful life.

And if you want to learn more about the Deeper Dating path to real intimacy, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com. Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll get a bunch of free gifts and learn a lot more about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey. And you’ll also find a complete transcript in every episode. And by the way, if you like what you’re learning here, I would love it if you could subscribe, leave me a review, those would be wonderful things.

And thank you so much for all the folks that have done that already. In a future episode, I’m going to be talking about polyamory and open relationships, but in this episode, I want to speak about the gifts and challenges of monogamy. This does not mean that polyamory cannot also have profound gifts, but the gifts that I’m going to be talking about are very foundational and important and precious that get created by monogamy.

Ultimately though, I think that whatever path you choose, doing the work that we describe, that I describe, in this episode is the work that creates to a sacred, amazing relationship. But the first thing that I want to say about monogamy is that it creates a kind of container for a sacred onlyness. It’s a commitment that each one is just the others, that our commitment, that our genitals, that our sexuality, that our life sharing in this particular way is a gift that we only give each other. Now, I want to acknowledge that some of you might be saying, “No, no, no. I don’t see it that way.” And I honor that fully, that is fine. But I also want to acknowledge that many of you are thinking, “Yes, yes, yes. That’s what I want.” And that’s what we’re going to be talking about in this episode.

Monogamy is a container for deeper growth and intimacy. Click To Tweet

 

There is a particular specialness that happens in monogamy and that specialness is a very treasured thing. Monogamy is a container for deeper growth and intimacy, for deeper love and deeper safety, but only if the work is done. So now I want to talk about a concept that’s going to frame so much of what the tremendous gifts of monogamy can be and in addition to that, hard to put into words, preciousness of onlyness that happens in monogamy. David Schnarch, who’s a psychotherapist and a sex therapist, and a brilliant theoretician who wrote the Sexual Crucible talks about this concept. And I’m going to use this concept of the crucible as a mainframe.

I’m really only speaking about some facets of his work, but these facets are I think, powerful and life changing. So, he points out that a crucible has two different meanings. One is a container that is capable of holding a tremendous amount of heat, and it holds that heat and contains it. And that intense heat allows us to melt metal or change its form and a crucible also means something really hard and demanding and challenging.

So, what does this mean as it relates to monogamy? Well, if you want to bend or melt metal, it is not going to be easy. And let’s say that our character structure, including the parts that really need work are like metal, they’re profoundly hardened over the years. And it takes a huge amount of heat to change characterological tendencies, to melt and change and shift and transform these deeply ingrained qualities.

A crucible holds heat, it doesn’t leak heat. In a monogamous relationship in a way you have no place to go. The choices are to grow together or to flatten and not grow together, those are the choices, they’re the only real choices. And I’m going to share a personal story here about this crucible concept. My mom and my dad had a wonderful, long, very precious relationship. They were both Holocaust survivors and they were both deep believers in activism and goodness and hope.

But my dad, when he got really sick, he stopped wanting to eat and he kind of stopped wanting to do the exercise and the taking care of himself that he needed to do. He just wanted to kind of rest. And he had been this wild powerhouse kind of a guy, and that wasn’t like him and my mom had gotten very used to his fierce strength and leaned on it, even though she was super strong in her own way, is super strong in her own way.

But she became furious at him for not fighting to stay alive for himself, for her and for the family. She was so furious, she was so angry and enraged, and she began to kind of pick at him and criticize him and give him such a hard time. And he shut down, he got angry back and he just silenced himself. And it was profound, it was a really profound existential crucible, and it wasn’t working. And it was a relationship that had been through so much and had always worked.

But they had a ritual that they would hold hands at night before they went to sleep and in their difficult days, after horrible, horrible days where they both felt so kind of core hurt with each other, they would still take each other’s hands. And they would say, “We are going to get through this. It’s not who we are to fight like this. We have to find a way.”

 

The Powerful Gifts (and Challenges) of Monogamy

The crucible concept: Monogamy is a container for deeper growth and intimacy.

 

And they did ultimately find a way and it was not easy. And for a long period of time, it didn’t look like anything was going to change before my dad passed, but they did find a way. But if they didn’t contain that dilemma in their crucible and stay together and stay in the fight and not leak it out in anywhere else, in another relationship or in avoidance or in separating from the difficulty or in just numbing themselves and saying, “This is the way it is.” They didn’t do that, they stayed in the crucible and they said, “We are committed to doing this.” If they didn’t commit to the crucible, they never would’ve had the breakthrough that let my mom be able to say goodbye with peace and love to my dad. And my dad said goodbye to my mom with a sense of peace and a sense of… For the two of them that their marriage had really, really worked.

But they had to bend steel to do that. They had to shift so profoundly in order to do that, but they did because of this profound commitment to the onlyness and the preciousness of their bond. I loved that story and I got to witness it. But the concept here is that when you have nowhere to run and you care about your growth and you care about the preciousness of your relationships in the ways that you and your partner don’t meet each other’s needs and don’t see each other. And yet you don’t give up, when you’re faced with the ways that your partner doesn’t understand your deep inner language, when that happens, heat is created, there’s conflict, you’re in a crucible.

In monogamy, there is nowhere to go. And if you stay committed to the relationship you try and you try and you try and you experience characterological transformation, which is known as the hard work miracle. You create a shared language when there was not one before.

When you flee the crucible and go to another relationship to meet those needs, you’re not going to have the contained heat in most cases. This is not always true, but in many cases you will not have the contained heat you need to bend steel. So, staying and letting the relationship become a crucible so that steel can actually melt and when that happens, it’s an incredible, powerful, joyful sense of peace and a deeper bonding of connection. It’s like that way in which when bones break, they can become stronger right at the place where they broke at first. This is the experience of rupture and repair, which is in some ways the central experience of intimacy. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, say that at a certain point in a relationship, you get to this point where the things you most want from your partner are the things they’re least able to give you.

 

Challenges of a monogamous relationship:

But what Harville and Helen say is that at that point, you are at the beginning of love because baby, that is the beginning of the crucible. And in that crucible with that kind of loving commitment of trying and trying again and getting help as you need it, because I’m a firm believer in getting help. And when you do that, before you try to get those sexual and romantic needs met elsewhere, you maintain the heat in the crucible.

It’s wonderful to get lots of needs met by different people and different friends, but I’m specifically talking about this sacred, romantic sexual bond. So the qualities often that we adore first about our partners, the ones that make them really interesting and different and kind of amazing often become the things that bother us the most. These are the places of their core gifts and our core gifts are loaded.

They are loaded with our genius; they are loaded with humanity and our deepest immaturity surrounds and encompasses those gifts. So, you get the gifts, but you get the immaturity too. So, there’s this initial adoration of these different qualities and then there’s irritation. And then there’s the work, there’s the work of developing a shared language, which is quite an accomplishment.

And I’ll share a story about me and my husband that I think I’ve shared before. I often say that Greg and I make up one serenity prayer, which… You know the serenity prayer. It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” So, Greg is the half about serenity and I’m the half about doing stuff. And both of us really kind of lag behind in the other arena.

The choices are to grow together or to flatten and not grow together. Click To Tweet

 

And we love each other because of the other one’s gift of that quality. And we love each other and we need it, but it can also really annoy us and frustrate us, and it’s an ongoing journey. This journey it’s so hard, but it’s beautiful when we find our shared language, this journey of learning, not just to love it in the beginning, but to treasure it when you’re in the difficulties and the challenges and the mutual immaturities and needs that surround it. And that’s one kind of shared world. And also the synergy that happens when two different kinds of geniuses meet and bond together to form something completely unique. There’s a wonderful YouTube video by Eli Finkel called The Marriage Hack, I recommend it all the time. Eli Finkel is a brilliant researcher. And in it, he shows this graph of what happens to the vast, vast majority of married couples.

 

The Powerful Gifts (and Challenges) of Monogamy

Challenges of a monogamous relationship: The choices are to grow together or to flatten and not grow together.

 

And he specifies that in this case, it’s heterosexual couples that this research was done, but he says that he believes it applies across the board, but here’s what happens in this graph. The quality of communication gradually, relentlessly goes slightly down year after year after year after year. So in this Marriage Hack, he offers a wonderful tool to stop the connection from going down further. It plateaus it, but it doesn’t necessarily elevate it.

And there are other things that you can do to elevate it. But it’s a wonderful piece that captures the kind of difficulty that happens when you’re looking for so much from one person and the tools by which you can work with that and make it work. And so, I want to say something too about sex, about the gift and the challenge of sex in a monogamous relationship.

 

The sacred only-ness of monogamy:

I want to talk about that as well. I think there’s a sacredness in the onlyness of monogamy. It’s like our genitals are sacred and precious and a treasure and an adventure, our genitals and our sexuality, and a secret spot and a place of joy and turn on and lust and sensitivity and depth. And the message, “I choose to share this with you and only you.” To me, there’s something very precious in that. But in sex, we also find ways to avoid the crucible and stay comfortable, we want to decrease our anxiety and David Schnarch talks about how that anxiety and being able to live with the differentness, as well as the wildness and vulnerability and uniqueness of what really turns you on, what really makes you safe, especially where that doesn’t match your partners, to be able to speak about that and say it, and be heard and hear your partners as well.

Love is rediscoverable. Click To Tweet

 

That’s differentiation, that’s becoming your own person, and also becoming your own person in the relationship. And they say that Eros is a spark that needs to jump a gap. When we don’t try to be the same and safe in our sex life, it’s scary. It brings up an anxiety, but Schnarch says that anxiety brings an aliveness and adds powerful fuel to our Eros.

So, with communication and with sex, there’s a tendency to go for what’s simple, what’s easy for what we know, for what doesn’t stress us and in that the quality of aliveness and Eros, and romance gradually degrades, and that happens, but it can also be shifted with work. I often think of the image of a rubber band to really capture this. So a rubber band can be stretched out a lot, but if you are not… If it’s not being stretched out by external forces, but left to its own devices, it’s going to shrink back to its smallest safe space and it’ll stay there.

And if two things, if our commitment to growth and our shared relationship, isn’t stretching us out to bigger and wider experiences of love then we shrink down. And so we need to keep that being stretched out by love, by authenticity, because when we’re authentic with each other, we’re always on some level foreign lands to our partner. And that’s part of the magic, but being able to see your partners foreign land, that they’ve often felt that they’re alone in the world in their foreign land, and you see it with love and holding, then they feel like this foreign land has a home in the world. And the relationship becomes home in a deeper way.

Greg and I have a coach, a Tantra coach, Grant Shepherd, who I’ve interviewed in this podcast and we love him and we’re really grateful because we are stretched out in terms of bringing sacredness and love and adoration and deeper connection to our intimate life.

 

Rediscovering love: There is a sacredness in the only-ness of monogamy.

 

And without that, we would stay way more comfortable and that would not be a good thing, which is why I deeply, deeply, deeply believe in, if you’re sexually stuck with your partner, do not try to do it alone, get help. Get help of a coach, get the help of a trained sex therapist, get help that feels really right to you because we need help. It’s crazy to think we could do this stuff alone. I mean, it’s okay to try, but if it doesn’t work once, if it doesn’t work twice, if it doesn’t work three times give up on trying it alone and get help.

And here’s another thing that love has a weird habit of doing it. And that is going subterranean. It’s like, the love is there, the Eros is there and then things happen. And you’re just feeling like it’s not there. You just don’t feel it anymore.

And this is a story I’ve told a number of times, but I was with someone who was a partner of mine at the time. And he was really, really angry at me for a period of time. And I said to him, “I just want to know if you still love me.” And he took a minute and he thought, and he said, “Well, of course I do. But it’s like the moon in an eclipse, you don’t see it, but you know it’s there. So at the moment, I’m not particularly feeling it, but of course it’s there.” Oh my God. I thought that was magnificent because love feels eclipsed.

 

Rediscovering love:

It’s so vast that we can stop seeing it, it’s like holding a quarter up to the sun and the quarter blocks the sun. The quarter is like the stuff going on right now, but the sun is vast. And that I think is for me, one of the great, amazing secrets about love is that it’s re-discoverable. And in monogamy, as we get safer and safer, we could lose that magical kind of edge of romance and excitement and foreign land. And this tender, tender, vulnerable, holding each other as precious.

Those things kind of degrade a little bit. So we need to do things to keep them alive. And when we do that, the love comes back in some ways richer than it ever was before, because love is re-discoverable. And when we run before we do the rediscovery we lose so much and we imprint such a painful loneliness into our being.

Now, love is not always re-discoverable. If there is addiction, if there is abuse, don’t be trying to rediscover love. If you find you’ve tried getting help and it’s just not working at a certain point you know it’s not going to work, I honor that. But wait, till you really get to that point. In my intensives, often people come in wondering, is this relationship an attraction of inspiration? Is this one that can grow? And that takes a lot of work and a lot of bravery to find out. And I deeply encourage all of us to do that work.

So I would say… And this is a bias of mine and I admit this is not in all cases, but in many cases, if you have someone that you feel that deeply in love with, and that deeply committed with, don’t so easily look for your romantic and sexual needs to be met outside the relationship. Allow the relationship to become a crucible, surrender to the crucible, give it all you’ve got and get all the help you need so that whatever directions you end up taking you know that kind of precious, profound commitment, your commitment to your journey remains intact. And that the container remains intact and does not leak.

Then as Marianne Williamson says, “Both feet in until perhaps both feet out.” The experience of rediscovering love, of calling love back is such a precious experience. So no matter what you choose, try not to break the crucible before the magic happens, if it can happen, stay in there to allow the crucible to work with you, to contain the heat of both of your truths so that you can create something incredibly precious out of that. Thank you all for listening. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.

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