Listeners bring their most important questions about love, sex, dating and relationships to Ken – and get his personal direct advice in Ken’s Q and A podcasts.
Once a month, Ken answers your personal questions about love, dating, sex and more. Today’s powerful questions include: The person I’m seeing is wonderful – but I keep wanting more! My relationship might be ending, but I want to keep it alive. I’m with someone great, but I wish I was more physically attracted.
Q and A With Ken: Expert Advice for All Your Questions About Love, Dating and Sex
Can friends with benefits be a good thing? I’m with someone great, but I want more from him. I found someone wonderful, but I don’t know if I’m attracted enough to make it work. These are just some of the questions that I’ll be answering in this episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast. All these questions came from you, my audience, so stay tuned to learn more.
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page, and I’m the author of the book Deeper Dating and the host of this show. Today, I’m going to be doing a Q&A session with a lot of your important pressing questions about sex, love, and intimacy.
This week and every week, I’m going to share the greatest and most important tools that I know to help you find healthy love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process. Because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love. All of this episodes’ transcripts will be available on deeperdatingpodcast.com.
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If you feel you need help with any serious issues, please do seek professional help. By the way, if you like what you’re learning here, it would be a wonderful gift if you could subscribe and leave me a review. So thank you so much for that. Let’s jump in.
So someone who I know has been following my work for a while called in and said, “I found a guy, and to anybody looking at our relationship from the outside, he’s treating me really, really well,” and then describes ways that she’s expressed what her needs are and that he’s able to honor those needs, listen, he’s deeply spiritually aware. He’s committed to love and kindness. He has a secure attachment style and it really feels like an attraction of inspiration, but she still constantly somehow feels deprived.
She says, “I feel crazy. I constantly yearn for more connection with him. I want to ask him more questions. I want him to ask more questions about me. I want him to desire me more, to share that with me.”
And she says, “I keep blaming myself because I have an anxious attachment style. I’ve shared that anxiety with him, and he doesn’t shame me for it or do anything to make me feel bad and he does try to adapt and communicate, but I just don’t feel like it’s enough.”
A Yearning for Frequent and Constant Connection
She says, “I’m so afraid that I feel like this with anybody, that maybe this is just a wound and a flaw of mine that I crave so much communication. But I also wonder, could this be a core gift that isn’t being seen and honored enough, a yearning for frequent and constant connection?”
So she’s asking, “Is this a core gift or is this an attraction of deprivation? Should I just get out now? I truly love this person and I’m excited about him, and I think he has so many great qualities, but I feel so terrible so much of the time. Please send help.”
So, first of all, I want to acknowledge this listener for writing so powerfully from the heart and being so honest about this and being able to hold it in this kind of very open and questioning way. What I would say first is that, yes, absolutely, unequivocally, this is a core gift.
This profound need for communication and connection, which I know you return and give the same back, is nothing but a gift, but it’s extraordinary and it’s intense. Probably on the bell curve, you’re really far in that direction. But that’s the sign of a core gift.
These are the places we feel so deeply that we wonder what’s wrong with us. I have to say that so many people who talk about having an anxious attachment style actually have an incredible sensitivity to the nuances of connection and disconnection and feel anxiety when there’s disconnection.
An Incredible Balance of Treasuring and Honoring the Flame
That is, in many ways, a gift. Often people with secure attachment styles miss a lot of that subtle stuff that those of us with anxious attachment styles really feel and notice; and yes, these are gifts.
So, but that’s not a Hail Mary pass because our deepest immaturities, our biggest struggles, our most defensive behaviors, our most disempowering behaviors swirl around our core gifts. The places we care the most and the places we feel the most, that’s where our holiness lives and it’s where our problems come up so often.
So much of our life task is to learn this incredible balance of treasuring and honoring the flame of these core gifts, but also learning behaviors where we don’t hurt others, where we don’t hurt ourselves, where we don’t burn bridges, where we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and yet we stick with the fierce genius of our essential core gifts.
Saying all of that, I just want to say to you, you found someone wonderful and that’s a big deal. That came from loads of deep inner work and that is something to be celebrated. To me, and I can’t speak as a seer or anything like that, I can just share my reflections. Those reflections are, “he sounds awesome, and what I would say is keep sharing your need.” Keep sharing your longing. I always quote Harville Hendrix who says,
“Turn your anger into an ask. Do not shame yourself because when we shame our self for our need, our need turns into neediness and passive aggressive behavior.”
The Language of Your Ongoing Connection Answers Your Questions About Love
Part of the language of your ongoing connection is that his normal is different than your normal in these ways. As someone who is very similar to you and whose husband doesn’t have the same need that I have for this deep, intimate, intense, connected conversation, I want to really encourage you to just keep sharing your needs and making space for him and where he’s at, too.
If he’s the kind of guy he sounds like, he’s going to be able to listen. There are going to be times it’s hard for him. He’ll let you know when it’s hard for him. Little by little, he’ll express his needs, too. What I would say is this sounds great and don’t shame yourself. Don’t stop yourself.
The more you can express your needs, your longing, your desire in a way that has the spaciousness that allows for him to share his own inner language, and that inner language might be that that’s not where he’s at, at this moment, to have that deep conversation. But you could feel his heart is so with you, that he wants to be there for you.
This is an ongoing evolutionary process, what I would say. But what I would say most of all is hold this as a gift, honor it. Speak it in a way that gives him space so that you can develop humanity and gentleness knowing that you are honoring this quality in yourself. I would say that a lot of people listening to this podcast have similar attributes of wanting deep, deep connection.
Questions About Love and the Need for Deeper Connection
That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re listening, and your needs might be greater than your partner’s. If your partner has a secure attachment style, they might be in a place where they’re just calm and content and fine, and you’re wanting more. There needs to be room for your wanting more.
The more you do it in a non-blaming way, the more you do it in a loving and appreciative and asking way, the deeper the zone of intimacy you will probably go into with him. So give that a try, and if ultimately it doesn’t work, you’ll both keep talking about it and come to deeper, richer understandings.
What I encourage you not to do is to shame yourself, keep it to yourself and tell yourself that you should be different. Because in my experience that never works and it leads to a chasm of disconnection that tends to grow and grow over time.
I also hope that in your sex life, that’s a place, and in your touching life, and in your vacation life and times like that, those are times when you can really have that deep, deep, deep nourishing influx of intimacy that’s so precious and important to you.
Next question is from a guy who’s in his forties. He says he’s out there actively dating women and he’s seeing a therapist, and the therapist feels that he needs to be learning about intimacy. He says he’s been listening to this podcast and totally loves it, so thank you so much for that. His question is that he’s just met a really awesome woman.
Questions About Love and Physical Attraction
The pros list is like 25 deep of all the woman’s wonderful attributes and only two negatives. One of them is he doesn’t know if he’s totally attracted to her and he’s kind of obsessing about this. His therapist says he needs to be learning about intimacy. He’s wondering, he says, “She’s probably, like in this scale of 0 to 10 of attraction, about a five or a six, and can that really grow?”
He says he doesn’t want to be forcing something and he has to be honest. He’s beating himself up about this because he thinks, “This should really be easy, but I’m forcing it.” Meanwhile, his therapist is saying he should stick in there because he needs to be learning.
He’s getting ahead of himself thinking, “Can I marry this woman?” So he’s asking for advice. Is this simple enough that he’s just not attracted enough to her? Or is it something he needs to learn to work through?
I love this question, and I have a lot to say about it. The first thing I want to say is, eros cannot be forced. It’s got to come authentically, or you will just be causing yourself pain, and that’s not a good thing to do for either of you. So I really, really want to tell you if your attraction doesn’t grow and it stays at this level, and it’s just not enough, don’t beat yourself up for that because eros cannot be forced.
The second thing is one of the greatest ways to dampen and weaken eros is to tell yourself you should be more attracted to someone. Tell yourself you should want to have sex with them more, et cetera, et cetera.
The Freedom to Be Just as Attracted as You Are
That is self-torture and it dampens and destroys eros. So the first thing I want to say to you is you really do have the freedom to be just as attracted as you are.
Now that said, I got to say a few more things, she also sounds amazing. I just love hearing these stories about people who are in attractions of inspiration, and 25 amazing qualities, oh man, she sounds great in those ways. So here’s what I want to say. Back up on the sexual attraction issue, and what I mean by that is don’t force yourself.
Don’t force yourself to do things that you don’t want to do. If it’s possible that you’re someone that has fled intimacy before in the past, if you’re someone who has been able to sustain ongoing healthy relationships, and you’re doing this deeper work, and now you meet someone who’s a real attraction of inspiration, expect that at different points your attraction is going to plummet.
It’ll go subterranean. It’ll disappear. One time that that happens, and I’m not saying this is your situation, but it’s an important thing to know is that when our feelings really drop, really drop down in a good way, really deepen, our sexual attraction often takes a pause. It just needs some time to kind of like get in sync with the growing depth of our feelings.
A Fabulous Combination of Skills
Also, when we’re with available people and we’re not used to that, we will have moments of panic and fear. If, at those times, we don’t allow for those moments and allow ourselves to breathe and we tell ourselves, “Well, I should be more attracted,” we will squash and diminish and compress a natural process of evolution and growth of depth of feelings.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that so many times. So what I want to say to you is give yourself space. Don’t be more sexual than you’re ready to be at any given point. Don’t do that horrible thing of just telling yourself, “Oh God, I got to be more attracted.” Give yourself space.
Think about the things you adore about her emotionally and enjoy those parts of her. Again, giving yourself space. Allow yourself to, in your mind, fetishize the things that turn you on about her physically, emotionally, ways of having sex that are really exciting to you. Allow yourself the room to play and to fantasize and to cultivate eros. It’s a fabulous combination of skills.
It’s like the skill of thinking, “Well, what would really turn me on? No, I don’t want to do that yet, but oh, I could really picture just having our lips touch together for an extended period of time. Or touching her in this way or that way, or her touching me in those same ways.” These are just some examples and you let yourself have those feelings. You enjoy them, you build on them, and then you give it space and just enjoy this person.
Cultivating the Tendrils of Appreciation
My gut is that fear of intimacy is part of what’s going on here. But telling yourself you should be more attracted is only going to intensify that fear of intimacy. I would say give it space and also allow yourself to cultivate all the tendrils of appreciation, love, turn on, and take the pressure off and watch what happens.
What you’re experiencing may be in part what I call the wave, the wave of distancing, which we experience when we finally meet someone who’s kind and decent and available and is not going anywhere, and our feelings kind of plummet, but that’s temporary. It’s like a wave. Because waves pass.
So what I want to suggest is that you try these experiments and then come back to us and let us know what happens. If the turn-on doesn’t grow, give yourself space. But to me, if it’s a five or six, and if romantically you’re liking her this much, go with all the romance. Go with the five and six. Don’t pressure yourself but just enjoy it. Because once again, no matter what, this sounds like serious progress and it sounds like she is amazing.
So the next question is from someone who had a Tinder date with somebody who she says “was really into me right after the match, which made me a little bit uncomfortable.” Then she says, “I just wanted to thank you because thanks to everything you’ve said in your podcast episode over the last few months, I allowed myself to trust my instinct.”
Questions About Love and Honoring Boundaries
So from the very beginning of the conversation, some things just weren’t right for me, but I thought, “Well, let’s just keep talking,” which is great and make it as interesting as possible, “and let’s share whatever we have to share,” which is great, giving it a chance. That’s me talking.
She said, “But then the more he talked, the more I could tell that there were some values we did not have in common. I was starting to feel uncomfortable in my body. He pushed really hard and he wanted to have dinner over even before lockdown has ended,” which she felt was definitely not right and she said no.
She said, “I felt really strong saying no to him. I was anchored in my response and I’m really glad, now, two hours later, that I trusted my instinct and that I set my limits and I honored my boundaries and I expressed those boundaries.” She said, “It’s such a good feeling. This is a matter of identity of boundaries and of feeling heard and respected. And I heard myself and respected myself in the presence of someone who didn’t feel right to me.”
So she said, “I did not set up another Tinder date with him and no dinner by the river or anywhere,” and she feels really great about this and she just said thank you so much.
So I don’t know what I want to say about this except celebration, and that act of really being able to honor our instinct when our instinct says, “No, I want less. No, I need space. I feel pushed,” and she said, “I don’t feel right in my body.”
Your Questions About Love Require Dropping Down Into Your Body
When we drop down into our body, we learn so much when we’re with somebody. This is an exercise that I really adore, which is on a date, in a relationship dropping down into your body, into your gut. As we say in Jewish, your kishkas, your gut.
Just notice what the weather is like in there and that will tell you so, so much. This is a way of living in your own intimacy genius. When we do that, we make so many better choices. How many of us have stayed in relationships that didn’t feel right because we didn’t trust ourselves or we listened to the other person as they told us not to trust ourselves.
So three cheers to all of you. Actually, this is a fabulous question for everybody to think about right now. If you’re dating anybody or in your last date, what did you feel in your body? What was the weather like inside of you deep down, in their presence and with the chemistry between the two of you?
This is a question that I always encourage people to put as their primary number one question: does my soul feels safe with this person? If you can say yes to that and if you’re with someone you’re attracted to and you’re connected to, that is just the most wonderful thing.
So this listener, her soul did not feel safe with this person and she freed herself from the compulsion of having to be nice or do what he wanted and she said no, and she felt fabulous afterwards.
A Powerful Way to Crack the Spine of Our Fear of Rejection
I want to say one more thing about this. One of the most powerful ways to crack the spine of our fear of rejection, and all of us have fear of rejection, some worse than others, more intensely than others, is to say, “My goal is just to be me, just to be me, and to notice, ‘Does my soul feel safe with the person I’m seeing?'”
If the answer’s yes, then this is really good. This is what I wanted. If the answer’s no, then it ain’t me and it’s not for me. I think this is a beautiful, beautiful process. When we do that, we worry a lot less about being rejected.
So the last question, somebody said, “Ken, I wonder if you have any advice on the prospect of a breakup. My partner had brought up this idea a couple of nights ago, and it obviously feels awful, and we’ve been communicating and sharing with each other since then. She describes a series of really difficult events.
One event is that they had a recent miscarriage just in mid-March and another is that his dog is in the process of passing away and that dog is now staying with his ex-girlfriend. His girlfriend, they were together for 10 years, and he’s still grieving that.”
The person who is calling in also says, “I’m realizing that I haven’t been very supportive of his grieving process.” So she says, “I still feel hopeful and I feel like this could be workable, but it hurts and it feels like a very big mess. So do you have any ideas, any advice, any suggestions?”
Tough Questions About Love in the Time of Grief
What I want to say is that there is so much grief around this. Also, one piece I left out is she said that they got a puppy together, and at the same time as they got a puppy, which he felt was premature, he’s not only grieving his ex but he’s grieving the dog that is currently passing away.
So I think that there are so many rich metaphors here, and I think that this is a hard situation because there’s so much pain to be processed. I want to honor, this is such a complicated situation, and I just want to talk about really complicated relationship situations.
I do think after years of doing this work in my own life and as a therapist and as a coach, that when we stay hopeful, when we take the next right step, the way that I think about this is like a really horribly complicated knot. We look at it and we say, “Oh God, I can never figure this out,” but what do you do? You look at the first piece. You say, “What can open? What can move here? What piece of this knot can be opened up?” and you do that.
When you do that, the knot tends to loosen to some degree. So I want to point out in what you wrote, one place that you were acknowledging a piece of the knot that you can work with, and it’s that you have not been that supportive of him with all of this tremendous grief: the grief of the miscarriage, the grief of the loss of his relationship of 10 years, the grief of the loss of his dog.
Finding an Intimacy Treasure
So you have an insight here and the insight is, “I could have seen him more. I could have made more space for him.” Now, whatever happens, you found an intimacy treasure in that knowledge and I would say go with that piece of the knot that you can open up and tell him that you recognize this and actually practice giving him more space. Now, this is at a very difficult time though, because he’s grieving and he wants to break up.
Now, when someone says they want to break up, like Oprah says, she says, “Listen to what men say and listen to what women say.” If someone says that, he might really, really mean it. But I would say that there’s such a tangled knot of grief here that my big suggestion is to get help from a couples therapist.
One particular kind of school of therapy that I think is really wonderful is Imago Therapy because it sounds like both of you have a lot of deep listening to do with each other. When we try to deep listen with someone we love in a place of pain, we deep listen for a period of time and then we veer off into our own circuitry.
Imago Therapy, that’s spelled, I-M-A-G-O, created by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt is just one type of couples therapy, but it’s one that feels particularly right potentially on a gut level to me hearing this, for you to explore because you will both learn to do deeper listening and making space for each other. That’s a kind of very treasured thing.
Working With the Pools of Connection and Compassion
If there’s hope, it seems to me, the hope would lie in having there being space for the two of you and having you both be able to grieve. I just want to acknowledge, this was kind of stuck in there, but the miscarriage for you, and what about that grief? What about that grief? How has that affected you? Has he been there for you around that? What’s it been like between the two of you? So this is another question that I think is worthy of exploring. So those are my suggestions here.
This is a very complicated thing, but if you can work with the pools of potential compassion and connection that show themselves and do that continuously over time, you’ll be moving in a direction of healing, no matter which way it ends up going. So I just want to acknowledge how painful and difficult this is, but also your commitment for wanting to keep love and keep intimacy and how much that matters to you.
That’s all we’re going to have time for today. These are rich and wonderful questions. Recently, I’ve gotten in a big influx of new questions so I’m going to have to be doing another Q&A pretty soon. You can go to deeperdatingpodcast.com and click on Ask Ken, and leave me a message.
If you feel comfortable with me playing the recording of your message, let me know that in the message and I will do so. So thank you all for listening. If you would like to join my mailing list, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com, and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.
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