Too Stressed for Sex? (Read Time: 3 min.)

coule 6Stress and sex don’t go together… As a woman breadwinner, when you find yourself thinking more about the piled up dirty laundry than you do about dirty talk with your spouse, there’s a problem.  However, when there’s only 24 hours in a day and you feel responsible for more than you can carry, one of the first things to get relegated to the “I’ll worry about that later” to-do list is sex… and that’s when the problems start.

For women, sex tends to be about connection and intimacy.  The more a woman feels cared for and listened to, the more open she is to sex.  For a man, his way of showing caring and intimacy (and his way of feeling valued or loved by his spouse) takes the form of sex.  He shows his love (and he feels loved) when sex happens.  The problem comes in when a woman breadwinner comes home to a dirty house with dishes unwashed, toys not picked up, kids still needing help with homework, and no dinner on the table… after a 12 hour work day.  At this point, love is the last thing on her mind and stress is the only thing she can feel.  What occurs is a circular argument that continues every single time this scenario occurs and the more the couple argues, the more distance builds between them and the less intimacy occurs.

For men, the stress can also cause the sex drive to go down.  A man who expects to be constantly nagged by his wife or be dictated to as if she were his mother doesn’t inspire warm and tingly feelings.  On both sides, there’s resistance and a lack of desire.

So… when you recognize that the sex is decreasing and the stress is increasing, what do you do about?

1) Get adequate sleep.  It’s amazing how inadequate sleep affects mood, attitude, and sex drive.  The queen in you doesn’t come out full throttle unless you’ve had adequate sleep.

2) Have a conversation with your spouse about your stress.  Have a compassionate, clear, open conversation (not blaming or shaming) where you share feelings and collaborate on solutions.

3) Reclaim your divine feminine by doing AT LEAST 3 activities that bring your sexy back.  Exchange the sweats for a flowing skirt.  Delegate mowing the lawn and picking up fall leaves and go get a manicure and pedicure.  Reclaim your feminine power in whatever way feels good to you.

4) Act your way into feeling rather than waiting to feel your way into action.  I said it.  Sometimes, you have to commit to having sex before you actually get in the mood.  It is what it is.

Again, sex is a need.  It sends a message.  It nurtures a marriage.  When it begins to dwindle, pay attention and address the issue quickly…

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Women Breadwinners… Did you marry your father… or your mother? (Read Time: 3 min.)

couple 9My husband is not the handy man type.  He wants nothing to do with a hammer, nails and the last place you’ll ever find him in is Auto Zone or Home Depot.  No, he prefers all things tech, the internet and visiting the Hugo Boss store…  Nonetheless, when I look a little deeper, what I find is that we call up in each other the unhealed parts of ourselves.  Usually, these unhealed parts come from childhood experiences we had with our parents.  Most people will tell you in a heartbeat: “I married my mother…”  or “I married somebody just like my dad” or “I married the complete opposite of my mom.”  All of these statements point to the same thing: in marriage, we are mirrors of each other and we attract that which we need to heal and, oftentimes, that which we are…

So the question becomes:

When you look at your partner, which parent did you marry?

Your father… or your mother?

Looking at my husband, I can see his similarities to my father: introverted, quiet, would rather go to the store and pick out a nice suit than change the oil in the car, very sensitive.  Although I swore to myself in my teens that I would never marry anybody like either of my parents, here it is… and there you go.  But what do you do when you marry someone who brings up in you the unhealed wounds of childhood (and they always will)?

How do you separate YOUR emotional baggage from OUR emotional baggage?

In two words: you don’t.

Yours, mine, ours, two people come together to heal wounds, to choose differently, and to learn how to love and be loved.  It is not an easy journey but nothing worthwhile is so the next time you feel like running away from home screaming or you want to rant and rave at your spouse in an effort to make him/her “better”, remind yourself:

This person is one of my greatest spiritual teachers.  What needs to be healed so I can move on?

And then heal it.  See, you don’t need mom or dad’s approval to go beyond what they were capable of being in relationships.  You don’t need their presence to get closure for the wounds they may have inflicted but you do need to process and heal whatever it is you didn’t heal with them with your spouse…. Otherwise, the same spiritual lesson will come back again and again and again… until you are ready to receive it.  Don’t repeat the spiritual sixth grade four or five times.  Get the lesson here…

RESOURCE:

If you’d like to learn more about how couples heal the wounds of childhood, check out Harville Hendrix’s work.  He wrote the book “Getting the Love You Want” and offers couples workshops all of the time.  He wrote a great ‘how to’ article called ‘Stay in the Canoe and Paddle.’  Check it out here: http://harvillehendrix.com/read.html.

Why Women Breadwinners Apologize For Being Powerful… and 7 Ways to Stop Doing That (Read Time: 5 min.)

powerful woman 1Women are powerful.  They are incredibly strong and, yet, superbly nurturing.  They are resilient to a fault and expressive to the nth degree… and even when a woman describes herself as NONE of these things, she still has what it takes to do the job of five people, sleep on less than 3 hours, and still keep it moving.  Maybe it’s the ability to give birth.  Maybe it’s the necessity to continue on with life through thousands of years of oppression and abuse.  Whatever the reason, women bring a level of power, intuition, and grace to the table without even trying.

So it amazes me when I observe how we (and I mean WE), as women, find ourselves in situations, relationships, jobs, careers, and raising children who we, in some way, shape, or form, feel the need to downplay our power to.

How do women downplay their power?

They apologize for being who they are.  They do it subtly.  They do it subconsciously.  And, unfortunately, sometimes they do it completely.

Apologizing for being brave, brilliant and daring is kind of like having someone give you the greatest gift of your life and throwing the gift right back in their face: it’s ridiculous.  And, yet, from time to time, we do it.  We’ve been taught how to, not because our power wasn’t seen but because it was felt… and the recognition of it to those who didn’t know how to possess it or contain it was a scary proposition.

This “scary” proposition is especially true when it comes to women breadwinners.  In the year 2013, it’s amazing how many stares, jeers, and back handed comments women get when people discover that:

1) They have powerful, high income careers that require neither the support nor the approval of their husbands.

2) They hold the health insurance, it’s their IRA, and they can talk a good bit about investments.

3) They don’t need to ask ANYBODY’s approval to make or spend money.

4) They don’t go to every soccer practice, PTO meeting, and do every bake sale associated with their kids’ schooling.  Oh, and heaven forbid, they missed one or two recitals last year.

And the WORST one for people:

5) They had a baby and not even two months later went back to work FULL time.

To people, this is the equivalent of a purple cow that they have no idea to what to do with… and that’s when we see the apologies come in:

“Well, I…”

“I wish I could but this is how things got this way…”

“I feel guilty about it sometimes but…”

“I really do try to…”

“I don’t know as much as my husband…” (blatant lie and devastating apology)

“I do alright…”

“He’s got his strengths, I have mine and we make it work…”

“I could never be with someone as ambitious as me…”

“I’m not a stay-at-home kind of person…” (let’s get real: are you a work-all-the-time-while-other-people-do-nothing kind of person either?)

Why don’t we just wave the white flag already?

The problem with apologizing for power is not simply that it denies your power but that it actually diminishes it by your own words and deeds.  Women who know they’re powerful but pretend not to be wind up making excuses, living a lie, and pretending that things are okay when they’re not… and then feel resentful about doing so which leads to all kinds of passive-aggressive moves that wind most people on a therapist’s couch or in a divorce court.  Regardless, when powerful women apologize for their power, what they’re really pointing to is their fear: the fear that they cannot be BOTH powerful and loved at the same time.  It is an unfounded fear and what it winds up doing is keeping love and acceptance from both the woman with the power and the people with whom she shares it.

So… what do you do when you realize that you spend far too much time playing small in the world so other people can feel big?

You stop it.  Here are 7 ways:

1) Own your strengths to everyone, everywhere, and feel good about it.

2) Boost other people’s self confidence sincerely and never to your self-esteem’s detriment.

3) Be okay with being different and let people know clearly AND succinctly why that works for you.  If they feel bad walking away from that conversation, that’s their problem, not yours.

4) Let go of the fantasy that you’re required to be the best at everything all of the time.  It’s not going to happen.  The sooner you let go of trying to be Molly Homemaker at the same time that you’re Emily Executive, you’ll feel much better about yourself.

5) Have standards when it comes to others and use those standards to teach them how to treat you.  We’re getting into a place where people are afraid to expect some of the most basic things from other people.  I hear all of this Buddha talk about “No expectations.”  While there’s a lot to be said for not being attached to goals or outcomes, there’s something to be said for knowing how you will and will not be treated and teaching other people consistently and persistently what that looks like in your world.  Standards are key and you need to not only set them but enforce them.

6) Release the fear that people will leave you.  Maybe they will.  And the people who do weren’t really with you anyway.  Their bodies showed up but their souls never did.  Rather than have a bunch of people in your corner who want the you they’d prefer to have around, why not liquidate those people and find an inner circle who really want who you are?  It may take a little time and there may be some opportunity for aloneness (alone and lonely are not the same thing mind you) but, in the long run, it’ll be worth it.

7) Remind yourself, everyday all day that you are loving AND powerful.  In her book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, Susan Jeffers talks about this:

“A self assured woman who is in control of her life draws like a magnet.  She is so filled with positive energy that people want to be around her.  Yet it is only when she has become powerful within herself that she can become authentic and loving to those around her.  The truth is that love and power go together.  With power, one can really begin to open up the heart.  With no power, love is distorted.”

She offers a mantra especially for women that she encourages women repeat at least 25 times each morning, noon and night:

I AM POWERFUL AND I AM LOVED.

I AM POWERFUL AND I AM LOVING.

I AM POWERFUL AND I LOVE IT!

Try it.  You have nothing to lose.

FINAL POINT:

Your power never comes at any one else’s expense.

Not using your power or downplaying your power will: yours…

In the next 7 posts, I’m going to go into detail on each of the 7 ways you can stop apologizing for your power.

In next week’s post, I’ll talk about Owning Your Strengths.

Women Breadwinners, Anger & Being Emotionally Unfed (Read Time: 3 min.)

couple 1 aIn a book called Enchanted Love, Marianne Williamson says the following:

“Receiving is as blessed as giving, and at bottom they are the same thing.  When we can’t receive, we are like people who, though fed, have malfunctioning digestive systems and therefore remain unnourished.  On an emotional level, the reason this is so important is that emotionally hungry people are angry.  We are angry about feeling unfed, but meanwhile, people right in front of us might have been feeding us constantly, as best they can, and are starting to wonder why we ourselves are so ungrateful, bratty, and ungiving.”

How often have you felt angry or frustrated because, in your mind, you’re doing all the heavy lifting and your spouse is simply riding the wave?

How often have you thought about walking away from the relationship and finding someone who could match you “where it counts”?

But the question remains: are you looking through eyes that really see the situation?

When you’re the person making the bulk of the money, it can be easy to point fingers at who isn’t doing “enough.”  But until you define what “enough” looks like, you have no benchmark upon which to accurately measure contribution in the relationship.  When people say, “I no longer respect that person” or “I do everything, they do nothing”, what they’re really saying is “I’m emotionally hungry, I feel unfed, I feel unsafe and this person isn’t doing a good job of feeding me and protecting me.”  The real issue isn’t about what’s in the bank; it’s about what’s missing in the heart.

When you feel emotionally unfed, you feel physically unsafe.  You could have millions of dollars in the bank but if you aren’t able to receive what others are giving you, no amount of money will provide the security blanket you’re looking for.  In a relationship that is financially unbalanced, oftentimes the problem isn’t that one person gives more than the other; it’s that one person has the ability to receive more than the other.  Learning how to receive is a critical first step for women breadwinners.  When you have the ability to receive well, even when what you’re receiving is different becomes MORE than enough because you know how to usher the good in.

So, let’s break this down:

1) Can you give as good as you get?

2) Can you accept compliments?  Dinners prepared for you?  Dishes washed for you?  Laundry done for you?  Can you accept those things as easily as you do your spouse bringing home a big fat bonus or finding an awesome job?  And can you see those things for the value they offer… even if the value isn’t monetary?

3) Can you see the gift in this relationship… or are you too busy looking for a way out?

4) Can you stop yourself, in mid pity party and ask the question, “What is the gift here?” and stop complaining long enough to find it?

Here’s the problem with wanting your spouse to be someone he or she is not: You’re not responsible for HIS change; you can only control yours… and yours is all you need to focus on to experience the relationship in a whole new way, regardless of the relationship’s outcome.  Far too many people sit around raking their brains asking “Will this marriage work?  Will it not?  Will I stay?  Will I go?”  Wrong questions.  You’re trying to look through a crystal ball on a future you haven’t created yet.  Don’t waste time that way.  Acknowledge where you are RIGHT now and make that experience the best it can be for you.

How do you do that when you’re angry about the imbalance?  How do you enjoy being in a relationship where you feel like you are carrying most of the weight?

3 ways:

1) Get real about the weight you’re carrying.  The weight you feel may not actually be the amount of lifting you’re doing so you need to get real about it.  Pull out a sheet of paper and fold it in half.  On the left side, write down, “EVERYTHING it takes to make this household work.”  Then jot down every task, responsibility, chore, and role that must be fulfilled in order for your household and your life to run smoothly.  List everything from carpool to pay the bills, from changing diapers to investing in the retirement account.  List it all.  Then, on the right side, next to each line item, write your name by all of the tasks that you primarily handle.  Write down your spouse’s name by all of the tasks he handles.  Once you’ve completed that list, step back and see what percentage you have versus what percentage he has… and then ask yourself one important question: Is it equitable?  Notice I didn’t say equal.  I love the newlyweds who go with the “You wash and I’ll dry mentality.”  That lasts for about five weeks.  In great marriages, equality is thrown out the window and equity is the focus.  Based on your list, is what you and your spouse contribute (even though the form may be different) equitable?  Is it fair?  Do you both contribute in ways that are valuable and make the house run smoothly?  This exercise will get you clear on how much you do versus how much you think you’re carrying.   If it turns out you are doing “everything”, then it is time to take that list, sit down with your spouse, and have a loving, clear conversation about how to shift some of these responsibilities to him.  In another post, I’ll discuss exactly how to have that conversation.

2) Look for the lesson.  When you feel angry about the situation, instead of asking, “What am I getting here?” or “What have you done for me lately?”, ask “What lesson do I need to learn from this?” or “What have I done for ME lately?”  Any time we feel shortchanged, it’s because, on some level, we’re shortchanging ourselves.  Either we accept less than we deserve or we do more than we need to in order to feel like we’re “enough” or we reject other people’s gifts of love and contribution because we don’t want to “owe anybody anything.”  I could go on and on but you get what I’m saying.  If you resist receiving from others, no matter how much they give, you won’t be able to receive it.  Maybe that’s the lesson in this relationship.  Maybe just maybe the lesson isn’t that you married badly or you chose the wrong person.  More than likely, you chose exactly the right person for exactly the right lessons you needed to learn and it’s better to be present for this and get the lessons this time around than to run from the lesson only to find the same exact spiritual classroom in the form of a different person, in a different relationship, in a different marriage, headed down the same break up road.  I’m not saying you stay in a relationship that offers no equity.  I’m saying you stay for as long as it takes to get the lessons you need so you do not repeat this cycle again.

3) Accept your role or change it but don’t bitch about it.  Complaining is the mother of all failure because it does nothing to improve the situation.  And, yet, so many women complain about what their spouses don’t do, won’t do, or can’t do without realizing that all of that energy spent in complaining could be better used in assessing and altering the roles they’ve chosen to play in the marriage.  Contrary to popular belief, you didn’t “fall” into your role as breadwinner.  You chose it.  Yes, I get the economy might have been rough and you were the one making all the money so when the baby came, it was a no brainer that he’d stay home and you’d go to work.  That was still a choice.  I understand that you made a pact with yourself to always have your own income and you couldn’t help that you were more ambitious than him and climbed higher faster while he languished going from job to job.  But guess what?  You still had to choose to climb.  At the end of the day, you being in the role of breadwinner is as much a choice as a woman who chooses to stay at home.  Complaining about the choice you made (and continue to make daily) is a fast way to go no where.  If you really dislike the choice (and I haven’t met many women breadwinners who’d want to switch to stay-at-home, not-receiving-their-own-paycheck women), choose differently.  Sit down with your spouse and say, “In the next 6 months, I’d like to see our roles shift in this, this and this way… How can we make that happen?” and follow through on it.  Don’t back down when you start to see you’re losing the control you once had in the relationship.  Don’t shy away from it the moment he doesn’t do things exactly the way you’d do them.  If you want to change the role but you don’t want to relinquish any of the power, you’re going to have a problem.  If you don’t like the role, change it but, whatever you do, stop bitching about it.  Bitching solves nothing and, in fact, creates more problems than you originally had.

At the end of the day, the marriage you’re in is the marriage you chose.  Your lesson here is not to find another partner or to stop being married. 

It’s to see this situation for the lesson it is and to ask yourself repeatedly as you learn it:

How can I create this in a different way?

You are the creator of it.  You are the chooser of the role.  If you don’t like what you chose, guess what?  You can, at any moment, choose differently.