Sex or Making Love? Who Is Confused?

947907_76218223 Oh, my!  ‘Tis the snuggle season that’s for sure and several of my bloggy friends out there are bringing up the topic on everyone’s mind (or, at least, theirs)…sex. But is it really sex that is on people’s minds or is it romance, is it relationship, is it something else altogether? This post is a response to several other posts posted in the blogosphere earlier this week as well as my own personal convoluted thought path travelled in response to these various posts. 

A Tale of 4 Blog Posts

The first post found here at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy, talks about the confusion that can arise between the terms “sex” and “lovemaking”. Go there read it and return more informed about some of the thinking that gave rise (no pun intended) to my own post (also no pun intended) here.  In a nutshell she poses a great many good questions on the topic with the ultimate being what is the difference between love-making and sex.

Add to that, this new blog friend  at To Be Determined who is traveling down the post-divorce single path with me, though at a much earlier stage in her life. Like me, she’s often wished there were some sort of dating rulebook.  Unlike me she still has her 30’s ahead of her and because of this her dating options are much greater than are mine though, admittedly, I am more fortunate in this regard than many. She also, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have the added complexity of trying to be a great mommy and trying to carve out time with another adult even if that time is merely coffee or a movie. Even so, my new friend at To Be Determined has dealt with the difficult issues and challenges divorce creates and I do wish I’d had her courage to blog more seriously and more intelligently about my own journey.  Kudos in a big way to her for doing that!

The third post, and one that rather struck a bit of a nerve with me is the one that jassnight at The Critical Path wrote today.  He talks about the nature of sex with older men, from the man’s perspective and he uses the really nice metaphor of running in the Master’s Division when competing in a marathon. He deals with how sex is viewed by men and how that view changes as men age.

And then, after all these ideas were simmering on the back burner of my mind, and as I was trying to find a quick easy recipe for those red potatoes I have in the fridge to go with the roast I’m attempting to destroy in the slow cooker (because, yes, once again, I am here with you and not watching the stove like I should be) I came across this most depressing thing. Of course, all the mom’s there are like, what, 35 and under, if that, but never mind.  This last site only served to make me ask myself these questions:

  • What defines hot?
  • Who’s deciding?
  • Do I qualify?
  • Do I care?

I won’t be answering those particular questions here in depth, other than to say: 

  • I have no clue what men think is hot. What I’ve heard from my male friends is all over the board.  This confuses me.
  • I don’t know who’s deciding.  I think I am.  I think I’m more interested in just being comfortable with me in my own skin.
  • I don’t know if I qualify as hot.  It always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable to hear those words in reference to me.  (I’m sure if I was totally in love with someone and he were saying that about me I’d have no problem, at least, I hope not!)
  • Yeah, sadly, if I were to be honest, I think I do.  I also think I care less and less with each passing day, not in a give up sort of way, but because I’m finding so much more of value to care about. 

Things Are Different Over Here

j0400322 It is tough being female, over 40 and single in our youth oriented culture, even if you look great. If you look good, or average or worse than average (however you would define that and most women are much harder on themselves than they ought to be) things get tougher, that is, if male companionship of a physical nature matters to them.  It is tougher being female, over 40, single and wanting to experience a fantastic relationship someday before you die…or before you check in at the retirement home.  There’s just so much of life to share with another person and having another adult around, if the relationship is healthy,it is energizing and motivating.  Two people in a good relationship with each other can provide strength, encouragement, affection, intimacy.  They can spot each other when one needs a break or is facing stresses. They can encourage each other to be better than either of them could be alone. They can challenge each other toward optimum growth in all areas of life. They can be there to stave off loneliness and support each other during the rough spots of life.  They can build something together that is bigger than the both of them.  Something that connects to the people and world around them and which makes a positive difference to all. This experience, while rare, is still a good thing.  But how does it happen?  For the woman suddenly single in her mid-40’s, the struggle with self-esteem issues that naturally accompany divorce can be exacerbated by the fact that if her 40’s are nearly over her opportunities for love seem to be diminishing and the rumor is, well, 50 is a big number. Besides, when a man of the same age can effectively court, woo, seduce or whatever a woman half his age and many of them do, how’s she to feel about what she’s got to bring to the table?  Likely she’s got kids, responsibilities, a house payment, yard work, laundry and a job.   Sadly in our culture the chipped nails due to weeding and the dry, cracked dishwasher hands just don’t shout “Hottie!” to most passersby. Younger women often come with half this amount of “baggage” and much tighter firmer (or, at least smaller) bottoms too boot. 

If You Ain’t Hot, What Have You Got?

j0436490 In our youth oriented culture, we worship the exterior. This leads us to assess each other on the external factors in our lives.  We consider the quality of the cars we drive, the addresses of our homes, how neatly manicured the lawns are and whether or not the person has good job.  Others even make assessments based on what kind of job the person has. While we are greatly privileged with many choices in this country and the ability to chose possessions that we like and which reflect our perceptions of ourselves, does this mean that in every case the vehicle reflects the person?  Does this mean in every case that the job reflects the woman or man?  Does this mean that I am somehow inadequate, because my yard is not perfectly edged and my walkway needs repair? Am I my job?  Am I my wardrobe?

Let’s take this one step further, and address physical beauty.  What is beautiful?  What is sexy?  What is hot?  It’s a pretty common understanding that women’s standards of beauty are different than men’s.  This is where I believe the confusion, if there is confusion, arises.  Women and men see this topic differently and our image oriented society with the help of airbrushed and digitized perfect bodies doesn’t help do anything except further the notion that in order to have a great relationship you’ve got to look great first.

Does physical beauty impact the quality of the sexual relationship?  If so, how and in what ways? 

j0444284 I mean, really.  Let’s think about that logic.  If physical beauty were the pre-requisite for an incredibly mind-blowing sexual experience then how come people don’t just jump into the sack on this basis alone.  (Well, okay, maybe some do, but for the rest of us?) On the other hand, being attracted to someone is important too because there is that thing we like to refer to as “chemistry”. It doesn’t make sense.  Just look around.  We see couples every day in our daily pass through this life that are not extraordinarily good looking but who enjoy a good connection with a partner.

Or is the question more like what exactly determines attractiveness? And doesn’t that question have as many individual answers as people asking it?

Might I suggest, that physical beauty is a nice thing but, it is not the most important thing.

In the end, I think it boils down to what the individual is seeking in terms of relationship with another.  I think those individual priorities determine the level of attraction to another person and the quality of any sexual encounter if a mutual interest were to exist.

So, to go back to my To Be Determined friend’s questions as to where is the Dating Rule Book, I have to respond with there isn’t one because the dating situation is as specific as the two different individuals involved. There might be some broad brush rules of thumb but beyond that it really is up to the individuals to chart their own course and navigate their own way.

As for jassnight’s assessments at The Critical Path of men and what they hope for and expect as they age, I can only hope some of that is true. But, truth be told, I think what people look for, what people consider important and what people value is as individual as the individual’s themselves.  The difficulty is more a matter of coming up with a good fit between two people.

j0444035Regarding my friend, BLW’s post, about Sex vs. Lovemaking the same holds true.  I know she is not confused.  I know she is just posing the questions to begin dialogue.  Many, though, do seem to be confused. I don’t think any of us really are confused.  I think we all know the difference.  Sometimes we let good sex convince us there is more to the relationship than really exists.  Sometimes the lack of instantaneously mind blowing sex dissuades us from pursuing what might turn out to be a very loving, nurturing and lasting relationship. 

We all know when we’ve just “had sex”.  Even when it is “mind-blowing” sex, it is still “just sex” and we know it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. When we make love there’s an added ingredient or two or three, that can’t be orchestrated as the result of putting two good-looking people in a room and telling them to have at it.  It isn’t any of it based on what either partner is individually, but rather, on what the two of them are together, what they share and what they’ve created between them, personally, privately, intimately. When they make love the core of their union as people is expressed physically.  This doesn’t happen overnight. 

This doesn’t happen instantaneously.

It doesn’t happen with a revolving door of partners, at least, not from what most people who’ve told me they’ve had a revolving door of partners say.

It doesn’t happen outside the context of something important and meaningful and loving.

It takes time to build something of value and anything of value costs something in terms of time, dedication, commitment, devotion and caring.

Making love happens in the context of a loving, healthy, relationship where trust and commitment are key ingredients.

The rest of it is just great sex.

Where’s the confusion?

Ask A Dating Coach

question-mark1aI’ve recently been having a small measure of fun on Twitter.  By small measure I mean not very much but some.  Enough to go back each day and read some of the Tweets and on occasion click on some of the links.  The greatest reaction you’d see me give would be one you’d have to be in my mind to hear and that would be a mere, “Hmmm…interesting”.  In all, Twitter is a promotional site as far as I can tell.  It just seems to be a bunch of people promoting themselves…and I’m one of them.  We’ve become a world of self-promoters.  We are now our own best ad agencies.  Sigh.  But that’s not the reason for this post.

On Twitter or….due to my experiences there…I’ve come to realize that people like Hitch are not uncommon.  When I first saw that movie, I thought, “How could anyone seriously make any money doing that?”  Well, not only are there dating coaches out there, they actually seem to be making money doing it.  I haven’t done the research on what the qualifications for a dating coach are or how much they make, but the job position clearly exists and it isn’t like there are just one or two out there.

I sometimes think I could be a dating coach.  After all, I date a lot and I get callbacks.  I make it to the second and third and fourth cuts usually unless I opt out first.  I seem to be doing some things right most of the time.  I learn from my mistakes when I don’t and keep moving on.

Other times I think I could use a dating coach.  Those are the times when I encounter a dating situation that I just don’t have the prior knowledge or the required skillset to be able to negotiate the situation seamlessly and effortlessly.

Now is one of those times. 

Certain events have transpired to create a unique situation for me.  The specifics have me trying to wrap my mind around certain things.

These are the things I am trying to wrap my mind around:

When in a long distance relationship, and you finally meet for the first time, clearly the person isn’t going to travel a great distance for just a two hour date.  In the case of an international relationship, just the ordeal of working out passports, visas, and going through customs indicates a fair amount of commitment to the cause, and one is not going to go to all this trouble for a dinner date one evening.  Right? 

So, my question is, if the guy comes in from out of town for the weekend, or the fortnight is that entire time considered the first date?  Or is just the first evening the first date? 

If the first evening is the first date, and he’s come to town from overseas to see you, then if you “play by the rules” is the third evening he’s in town the third date? There is at least one school of thought that suggests the first date should be only two hours long. So the question then becomes,  is the first two hours you’re together considered the first date? Or is the entire visit considered the first date?  

If the entire time is considered the first date does this then mean he has to come back overseas two more times before it is considered the third date? 

Or, conversely, if the first two hours are considered the first date, then by the sixth hour if you haven’t put out should he be getting on the plane and heading home? If he hasn’t made a move on me by the sixth hour do I figure he’s just not that into me?  What amount of time is appropriate to consider getting romantic, the sixth hour, the sixth day or the sixth overseas trip?  I’m just having a really tough time understanding the rules here.

Does the Third Date Rule even apply here? 

Let’s revisit the thinking that says you shouldn’t spend more than two hours on the first date together.  Let’s play that tape again:  he’s flying in from another continent.  You’ve both planned this trip for months.  He gets off the plane after traveling 22 hours and battling customs.  You tell him two hours after he arrives, “Well, I should be getting home now.  I had a great time.  Thanks for everything!” WTH is up with that? 

Or how bout the idea that says you shouldn’t see each other more than twice a week at first?  Hit stop! Rewind!  Let’s play video back at a slower speed.  He’s traveled 22 hours by plane, battled customs at great expense to come see you for two weeks to see if the two of you have what it takes to develop a viable relationship.  He’s making no expectations and covering all the expenses and all you’re going to give up of yourself and your time is  four hours at two different times each of the two weeks he is in your country?  Ummmm, what about all that sounds gamey, manipulative, contrived and very selfish? 

Now clearly, I’m not necessarily advocating spending 24/7 with him either, but it seems there has to be a bit of a balance here.  It seems that the nature of the Long Distance Relationship, especially when two different cultures and countries and the expenses that are involved requires some special treatment and consideration and flexibility.

If you insist upon going by all those rules, can you see how it just gets very confusing when dealing with a distance relationship? Do you adhere to the letter of the law or the spirit of the law when dealing with a long distance relationship?   (And by long distance, I mean one where you cannot possibly drive to see the person in eight hours or less.)

It seems to me that the spirit of the law is the guide here.  The questions to really be asking are how do you develop and sustain trust across the miles?  How do you deal with technological snags that limit communication and still move the relationship forward? How do you show caring and respect and continue getting to know each other.  How do you take care of you even though you are spending a significant amount of time with another person?  How do you overcome the cultural and social challenges that might come your way?  How do you support and care for each other when you cannot be in the same location?  How do you keep the interest alive when you are spending so much time together during visits and then no time together during non-visits?  How long can this go on before you have to consider ways to close the distance? 

I mean I could be wrong here, but isn’t the challenge in every relationship that of maintaining and caring for who you are while also respecting and caring for the other individual too?  There has to be togetherness as well as space and distance and the two people in question are either able to negotiate this or they can’t. If they can’t it is probably not going to be a go in the first two hours, the first six or on the sixth trip. I could be wrong. 

Maybe I should ask a dating coach.