Since I have made a new friend in the tango world, patches of mental fog have disappeared. My new tango friend, who is a psychologist specializing in mid-life relationships, put me on to Alison Armstrong. I only wish I had encountered Ms Armstrong decades ago, perhaps even in the far off days of marriage. By the way, my new friend is terrific at negotiating relationship in midlife and has brought a whole new sensibility to that topic for me.
Alison is a nationally know teacher and expert on understanding men and having satisfying relationship with them. What? Is that even possible? My mantra has always been “I never will understand men.” Subject closed – until I encountered Alison. I wish I had Alison’s knowledge base before I wrote my book; but the, Sixty, Sex, & TANGO would not have been subtitled: Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer.
Alison is the designer of the widely acclaimed “Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women” workshop, as well as several other exceptional programs for workshop graduates, including “Celebrating Women: Regarding Ecstasy & Power, “Celebrating Men & Sex” (my favorite topic), and “Celebrating Men & Marriage.” Alison is the co-founder of PAX Programs Incorporated, a company dedicated to promoting peace between men and women. Once upon a time, Alison was a woman who disdained men until she became aware that what women do to men brings out the worst in them. Sounds radical but she proves her point. Google her and discover her philosophy. Get her tapes and be wowed.
I just recently listened to a series of her tapes that focused on women and men getting what they want from a relationship. Relationship is defined by what a man or a woman is looking for and that could be rich in variety: a sex only relationship; long term relationship-no marriage; a marriage without children; a marriage with children, a relationship without marriage, and so on. There are many traditional and non-traditional relationships floating around the universe so just pick one that suits you.
I learned so much how I have mishandled relationships in the past that it almost, but not literally, broke down in sobs. But I didn’t because I really I had no knowledge base of how to relate to a man, and therefore, possessed little information on the subject of developing a solid, lasting relationship (exception: my long time companion, David, knew what he wanted and took it and I went along for the glorious ride). I am actually referring to relationship that I have been in during the last nine years – all the men I’ve known, dated, mated with, and loved.
I think I mishandled my relationships because I wasn’t actually clear about what I wanted from that relationship. Women and men think they know what they are looking for, but if they don’t put it down in a “log line” – that kind of TV Guide-one-sentence-description of the television show – then a person inevitably falls out, drifts out or just plain opts out of the relationship. Simple. Clear.
But how do you sit down at the beginning of dating and say, “Listen, dude, I just want sex from you and that’s it. Come around when you get the urge, or I’ll call you when my libido rises, and we’ll meet up and have some fun.” Is that really possible? I know some of you are smiling about now and thinking that’s nuts, but, according to Alison, it isn’t. And I know it isn’t because I’ve actually done it. Please don’t hate me. I’m really a good person. But a mutual connection can strike anytime/anywhere and if the two people are in sync, set the ground rules, and proceed with care, it is possible. I am pretty certain that these kinds of relationships don’t last forever nor are they supposed to because they are not designed to develop into long term relationships. They are not constructed that way. It’s about sex and lust and, hey, I’m not going to live forever.
Here is another interesting thing I learned from Alison (and, believe me, the audience reaction was feisty about this issue): If the sexual attraction between two people is – on a scale of 1 – 10 – is 10, 9, 8, 7 or even 6, the relationship has no chance to succeed. That’s a big statement and/or opinion. Of course, there has to be sexual attraction, even at 60, but that attraction needs to be in balance. How much of the relationship is sexual, how much of the relationship is other forms of intimacy, how much of the relationship is based on friendship and caring and support – well, when you are living in the your 60’s, the last litany of adjectives are the most important and cherishing attributes of a relationship. Sex can be 5 on the scale of attraction/lust and I’ll take that.
This is what makes sex in the 60’s so darn fascinating. While I might hold on the youthful stud for sexual gratification and have both our needs met, I can also contemplate a longer, more lasting relationship that has a balance of sex and genuine spiritual love. But eventually, I have to choose what I really want: and that’s a lasting relationship based on friendship, mutual interests, family values, intellectual parity, a curious nature, the ability to disagree, to be intimate, and yeah! sexual.
I’ll share some of my thoughts about spiritual love in my next blog.