My Mental Health Struggles Make Me Feel Unlovable Sometimes

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been in a pretty bad spiral of depression and anxiety. It’s probably the worst it’s been in over ten years, and when things get this bad, when I keep getting sucked back down into the misery of depression, I kind of just sit and wait for my wife to say, “I can’t live like this” and walk out.

Sure, this could all very well be in my head, let’s be real. I don’t think there is a lot of sex appeal in depression. When I get depressed, I get quiet. I mope. I avoid social situations. I stay in bed. I’m not exciting or fun or full of life. When I’m depressed, I’m doing everything I can to just keep moving. To keep functioning. To keep going from one obligation to another, smiling when I have too, and talking when it’s unavoidable.

I try not to tell my wife too much about how I’m feeling. I’m afraid to tell her how often I think about suicide, or how often I think about failure, and how often I wonder if I can keep going on those times when the depression just seems endless. I wonder if she will find me ungrateful because on the whole, we have a good life, with good kids. We make ends meet, and I have a good job and so does she. We have a good life, and yet, sometimes I just can’t find a way to enjoy it.

I think this might be one of the biggest misconceptions of living with depression. Sometimes when you are stuck in the throes of it, when you are wallowing and struggling and just trying to make it through the day, it’s hard to think that anyone could love you, particularly when you are having a difficult time loving yourself.

Of course, that’s not true. Those who struggle with depression find love, and stay in love. But it’s a common theme for those of us who struggle with mental health issues and past trauma.

I am not a physiatrist or a psychologist or a doctor. I’m just some dude who has a wonderful loving wife and three amazing kids, who has to fight every day to keep his head straight because of his depression. I have good days and I have bad days. I usually have more good than bad. But when things are really bad, I sit and wait for the person I love the most, my wife Mel, to decided that it’s too much and leave. All of it is this strange heartbreaking sub-level of depression that no one really talks about, and it only magnifies the pain of living with mental illness.

Last weekend, all of this came to a head for me. I’d been pretty low, and I knew my wife was worried about me, but I was afraid to talk to her about it because of everything I’ve just described. I was sitting on the edge of our bed, elbows on my knees, my head in my hands. She came out of our master bathroom. I didn’t know she was in there, and I didn’t really want her to see me like that.

She put her hand on my head and we talked for a bit. She asked me how I was feeling, and I was honest. And then I told her something I’d never said in the 16 years we’d been together.

“I’m just so worried that my depression…. these low times… are going to come between us. I’m worried they are going to ruin us, and that’s so difficult for me to think about because you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Mel reached for my left hand. She took off my ring. Then she pointed to what was written on the inside and read it to me. “Love you forever.”

She’s pointed this out before. Multiple times, actually, but usually for different reasons. But in that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. And I think that’s another one of those things that people with depression often need. When I am low and I feel unloved, and my depression has twisted my mind to the point of siting and waiting for all of it to come down, what I really need is simple reassurance.

I’m not going to say that I snapped out of my depressive episode right there and then. And I’m not going to say that what Mel did solved all of my mental illness. But what I will say is that I stopped worrying so much about her giving up on me. I didn’t feel so unlovable anymore, especially when she sat next to me on our bed and wrapped her arms around me. Right there and then, that was exactly what I needed.

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Men Embrace Gender Equality, But Not Chore Equality — And That Pisses Me Off

According to a 2020 gallop poll, Married or partnered heterosexual couples in the U.S. continue to divide household chores along largely traditional lines, with the woman in the relationship shouldering primary responsibility for doing the laundry (58%), cleaning the house (51%) and preparing meals (51%).

You know what? This pisses me off. Because, dudes, you guys are making me look bad. I have spent years writing about parenting and marriage, arguing for egalitarian lifestyles, where men are working just as hard as women in taking care of the home, only to find out you guys are talking a good game. But when it comes to actually vacuuming the floor, you aren’t doing it.

What the hell? Guys, we are past this. We are. This isn’t 1954, okay? This is 2020. Women comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce. This is a fact. And yet, they still fulfill a larger share of household responsibilities?

Doesn’t that seem wrong to you?

Because it should.

I get it. It feels almost impossible to raise children, make a mortgage payment, car payment, and pay off all those student loans without both parents working. I know this because I’m living it myself. I work two jobs, one at a university and another writing, while my wife is a full time teacher at our children’s school, a job that never really ends with all the grading and lesson prep.

The fact is, it takes both parents working to make the money, so this “I bring home the bacon” argument is dead in the water. So drop it. If your wife works full time, you don’t have any excuse to be avoiding the household chores.

Furthermore, who do you think you are?

Listen, man, last night I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. I timed myself. It took 20 minutes. I also vacuumed, which took another 20 minutes. I folded and put away a load of laundry. 20 more minutes. I didn’t even break a sweat, I contributed to the household, and all of it took about as much time as it takes to watch an episode of Stranger Things. And do you know what happened? My wife and I watched Netflix together because we both had the available time.

What it sounds like to me is that most men are open to women’s equality outside the home because they need a second income, but when it comes to pulling your weight in the home, you aren’t that interested.

Guys, cut the crap and grab a vacuum. It is time. You know what, scratch that, it is past the time. We should be long past all this. We should be shoulder to shoulder with our wives from bringing in the income to taking care of the home.

While I’m sure it would be nice, no one is asking you to do all the household chores. What is being asked of you is to pull equal weight around the house. Particularly in families where both parents work outside the home.

This is equality. This is what it looks like right now, in 2020, when making ends meet takes two parents working. Expecting your partner to work outside the home and still do the majority of the household chores is servitude. It’s crap. It rude. It’s unjust. It’s why your wife gives you the side eye all the time. It’s why she doesn’t have time to take a shower. It’s why she looks across the kitchen counter at you with animosity because she loading the dishwasher while you are jacking around on your phone.

It is quite probably why she’s not in the mood for sex.

I mean, honestly, would you want to have sex with someone who expected you to do unequal amounts of labor? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that might just be the unsexiest thing in the history of sex appeal.

I want to live in a world where every couple can look across the table at each other and say, “That’s my partner and we share the load equally.” How awesome would that be? But I can’t. I want to, but I can’t. And frankly, that needs to change.

Take one more look at the percentages above. Take a good look. There are obviously a lot of men out there doing half the labor around the house, and that is awesome. I love you guys!

But those of you who don’t, those of you who feel like it’s “women’s work,” knock it off. And if you aren’t sure if you are pulling equal weight, ask your wife. Don’t be afraid. Go ahead and ask her. I bet she will have an opinion on this very topic. She will tell you if you are doing your fair share. And be ready to listen, because if you aren’t, step it up. Make changes. Your marriage might just depend on it.

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My Husband Was Supposed To Save Us From The Zombie Apocalypse…Then He Died

I sat beside my husband’s grave the day I officially installed the dating app on my phone. I knew it was a strange place to be, but if I was doing this, really signing up for a dating app as a 36-year-old widow with two kids after almost a decade of a beautiful marriage, I needed Matt, my husband, by my side. After all, we had promised each other that we would always be a team. ‘Til death do us part, and all that.

Sitting on the half-frozen cemetery ground, underneath a gray sky that stretched maybe to some place where Matt was still Matt and I was still me and death was a word from someone else’s nightmare, I activated my profile, and I was faced with an impossible question: What do you want from your dates? A relationship, something casual, marriage?

I didn’t want a relationship and I certainly didn’t want a new marriage. I was seeking something more specific than a marriage offered and something more committed than a casual hookup promised.

I was seeking what I’d lost: someone to save me from a zombie apocalypse, a partner who knew how to do the things I didn’t know.

I met Matt on February 4, when I was 22 years old and he was 27. I met him in the way people aren’t supposed to meet their first love—after one too many vodka shots. Our eyes locked across the dance floor and he weaved through the crush of people, handed me a business card with a picture of a toilet seat, and offered to buy me a drink.

From then on, our lives were effortlessly entangled. Or more accurately, my life was fluidly absorbed into his. I was younger. I had no established career, no immovable anchor set down, no baggage that couldn’t be left behind. I moved into his apartment. I closed my bank account and he put my name on his. We filed tax returns together; he was the taxpayer and I was the spouse.

My life became our life and Matt became our captain, steering our direction. I was the happy co-captain, believing in his gut instinct, trusting in his meticulous nature, sure he knew where to go. There was even a moment in our marriage when I was hit with a deep-seated conviction that if a zombie apocalypse were to strike, we would survive. He’d finagle for us the last seats on the rescue rocket in the event of the end of the world; he would navigate a dystopian future better than any young adult novel hero.

I could sleep soundly every night, knowing he would save us, even when our “us” grew from two to four.

As it turned out, I would not be able to save him.

Matt died on February 3, nearly thirteen years to the day after we met. He died in a hospice bed, in a room lit only by a single lamp. He died as I matched my breaths to his and then waited for the breath that would never come.

All the space that he’d taken up in my life was empty, and the crater left behind could have swallowed the sun. Surrounded by darkness in those earliest days of grief, it was easy to believe that it had.

Now there was just me, with two kids and a mortgage and a tax return bearing my name alone. At 35 years old, I found myself in the captain seat for the first time, and it was so hard to steer. And the truth was: I didn’t know how to do the things Matt had done. I’d never learned the log-in information for the mortgage; I hadn’t educated myself on deductibles and premiums for health insurance; I hadn’t bothered to understand how we paid our property taxes and what amounts we spent on utilities.

The ship was now unmoored, adrift and directionless. And though I put my hands on the wheel where Matt’s hands had been, they were so much smaller than his, so much less capable. In a world where books like “Handmaid’s Tale” could become reality, in an era where #MeToo stories were prevalent in every space, without Matt by my side, I felt all too vulnerable. I was a young woman, too slight to live a life that had been built for two people, too unsure of my own voice to speak.

I needed a partner, someone to steer the ship. And, in 2019, that meant turning to my phone. Because, apparently, there’s an app for that.

Fourteen months after Matt died, I went on my first date in 14 years. Where 14 years ago, I had met the man I would eventually marry on a street corner in Manhattan and worried I wouldn’t recognize what he’d look like after our first vodka-soaked meeting at a club in Manhattan’s meat-packing district, this time, I met a man outside a strip mall in New Jersey and was surprised to find he looked older than the photos that accompanied his profile picture. Where 14 years ago, I walked with the guy who would be my best friend to a place called The Coffee Shop in Union Square and couldn’t stop smiling, this time, I met a stranger outside of a coffee shop in a strip mall and couldn’t quite remember how to breathe. Where 14 years ago I sat across from the boy who would steal my heart thoroughly and completely and fell in love with every word he said, this time, I sat across from an unknown body and wished he’d speak a little softer, take up a little less space…be a little more familiar.

I smiled through the date, nodded and made conversation, used every skill I’d learned from meeting other moms at the playground to fill in the hour or so of small talk. Afterward, as he leaned in to hug me goodbye, alarm and panic and terror shot through me. The incredible, horrible truth of what I was doing sizzled through every cell. I was on a date with someone who was not Matt. He was not Matt, and nothing else mattered—not his attractiveness or intelligence or personality.

A day after I told him that I wasn’t ready to date, and knowing that was achingly true, as I Googled the word “deductible,” and spoke with investment advisors and stayed awake all night, worrying into infinity about all the things that must surely be falling through the cracks, I made a plan with another match to meet for a drink.

I told myself the only way to be ready to date was to fake it ‘til you make it, to go through the motions until one day it didn’t feel like going through the motions.

Dates two through four went much the same way as date one. The pattern was easy to identify: one date followed by a text message telling them I’m sorry, I’m just not ready, followed by a night of feeling adrift and another attempt at steering the ship by searching for that capable captain.

When I texted my sister-in-law to tell her I’d made a new date with a new man, despite being unready to date, I admitted I didn’t know what I was doing. I said, “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

Her response: “No, I think you’re finding your mind.”

I so desperately wanted her to be right. I desperately wanted to believe that my aimless steering wasn’t so aimless, that my aimless steering was leading somewhere. Anywhere.

I drove to the cemetery, to Matt, and the tears slid down my cheeks as I was forced to confront the truth that I couldn’t simply replace what I’d lost. There was no app for that.

But sitting there, on the ground that was no longer half-frozen, surrounded by the trees, which had bloomed bright in the summer sun, I saw how much time had passed, how less frequently I Googled words I should have known, how much easier it was to sleep knowing the cracks were slowly sealing, allowing nothing to fall through. The seasons had shifted and the ship, under my direction, hadn’t sunk. It had wobbled and tipped, even nearly capsized once or twice, but it hadn’t sunk. It was traveling forward.

And I knew then. I’d been looking for someone to steer the ship, but I’d been the one steering for all these months.

And maybe what I needed wasn’t a partner for the zombie apocalypse. Maybe all I needed was someone to laugh with, to travel with, to send a funny meme to. Someone to steer his ship beside mine.

Because, maybe, actually, I could save myself.

 

(Author’s note: in retrospect… If I’m truly concerned about a zombie apocalypse, a cemetery likely isn’t the best place to hang out. Then again…dead, adoring husband plus zombie apocalypse…maybe I never had a reason to worry at all.)

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I Love My Husband, But I Don’t Think I’m ‘In Love’ With Him Anymore

There’s been a space in my bed for some time. Not literally — with three standard pillows, two throw pillows, one body pillow, myself, my husband, and two young children, my queen reached capacity long ago — but figuratively. Emotionally. There is a chill in our room no space heater can blast away. No comforter can cover up.

Of course, I know why. For the last few months, my husband and I have been struggling. Communication is a problem. Parenting is a problem. We are on two different wavelengths. He is a yeller while I prefer to take a more tempered approach. And intimacy is a problem. Hugs and kisses only occur during sex.

We do not “cozy up” or cuddle.

We sit on opposite ends of the couch.

But knowing when things changed and knowing the cause of said change is different, and I do not know the “why.” When my husband and I began dating at the ripe old age of 17, we couldn’t get enough of each other. We passed notes in school, spoke on the phone every night — though only after 9:00pm, when minutes were free; when we could stay on the line just to listen to each other breathe — and in college, we “lived” together. I spent half the week in his dorm, and he spent half the week in my off-campus apartment. We were touching at all times. And yet sometime between then and now, my feelings changed. My heart changed, and while I can honestly say I still love my husband, I’m not sure I’m still “in love” with him.

Being together is less infatuation and more obligation. We have a past. A home. A family. There were vows exchanged. Words spoke. I said “in good times and bad. Until death do us part.”

How did we get here?, I wonder. What went wrong? I mean, I know the dynamics of relationships are ever evolving and teen love looks very different than 30s love or even 40s love, but I worry our changes are different. Did we marry too soon — and too young? Is the emptiness in my heart really due to the absence of love or the absence of feeling in my life? I struggle with mental illness (and have for many years) and one of the symptoms of my illness is numbness. I have a hard time being present or feeling anything at all.

I also wonder if our problems have anything to do with my sexuality, which if I’m being completely honest, I have been questioning. In my teens, I began identifying as a bisexual, but my love for (and of) women has only increased with age. I hate having sex with my husband because I do not get turned on like I am “supposed” to. Fantasies about women get me aroused but not men. Never men.

Make no mistake: Saying this out loud is upsetting and embarrassing. I am angry with myself, for misleading my husband and (potentially) ruining my marriage. I am broken by the thought of hurting my children if and when I decide to move forward with the big “D.” They deserve loving parents and loyal parents. They need a safe and happy home. And I feel selfish. In so many ways, staying seems easier. Financially, mentally, and emotionally.

I like my husband well enough — and, in many ways, still love him — so is there really a problem? Is this feeling a reason to leave or a season? Will it pass? I don’t know. I really don’t. But I do know that if want to grow and be happy, I need to be honest. I deserve it. My husband deserves it, and our children deserve it.

Happiness isn’t a luxury; it is a right.

So I plan to approach my husband. I plan to talk to my husband, and I am getting my ass back into therapy because before I can help “us” (or figure out if there still is an “us”), I need to help myself. I need to better understand the thoughts in my head and the feelings in my heart.

Does that mean we are destined to get a divorce? I don’t know. Maybe. I have no idea what tomorrow may bring and what marriage counseling may hold. But I am going to walk through the darkness with or without him.

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If You’re Gonna Up Your Sex Game On Valentine’s Day, Beware Of These Common Sex Injuries

Any day can be a great day for consensual sex, but folks put a lot of thought into getting laid—or what it means if they don’t—on Valentine’s Day. In a not-at-all shocking poll, 90% of men say sex is what they want most on V Day, yet in another poll, only 49% of women say sex is what they want from their Valentine.

What we want and what we get is often not the same thing, but for lots of people, Valentine’s Day is the most popular day of the year to get it on. More sex means there is a higher likelihood that someone is going to get hurt during said sex. I am not referring to assault; I’m speaking of the lost-in-passion, adrenaline-rush-induced, bonehead injuries sustained during coitus. If you’re thinking about upping your love-making game on Valentine’s Day, be aware of these common, yet unfortunate, sex injuries.

Foreign Objects

The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) has data on more than 450 sex injuries, and the most common category is “foreign body.” Because nothing says “I love you” more than getting something stuck in you or your partner’s rectum. Sure, those conversation hearts can say that too, but apparently only if you put them somewhere other than your partner’s mouth.

I’m all for using sex toys alone or with a partner, but bigger is rarely better, and not all toys can be used in both the vagina and the anus. If you want to experiment with vibrators or dildos, be sure you or your partner has a solid grip on one end—ideally one with a wide base—while the other end is in use.  And anal-specific plugs or beads are best if you want to experiment with backdoor play.

Matt Leblanc Joey GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And for the love of God, don’t use random household objects like PVC pipe, the ends of screw drivers (yes, I see the pun), or vacuum attachments. If you’re going to insert something that is not your own body part into another person’s orifice, use some common sense—and even then, use some discretion. And lube. But if an object does get stuck, go to a doctor or the ER for medical treatment sooner rather than later. Your embarrassment isn’t greater than the damage that could be done by trying to locate the lost item by yourself.

Cuts and Tears

The vagina can take a pounding, but only if properly warmed up and lubricated. I get that one member of the party may be ready and raring to go, but unless all participants are literally open to sex, the vulva, vagina, and anus can and will tear. Whether it is a sex toy, finger, or penis, slow your roll and make sure the hole that is going to be penetrated is wet and relaxed first. If it’s not, check in. Paying attention to your partner and asking for what you need is sexy. And it will save you pain, bleeding, and a potential trip to the ER.

Schitts Creek Pain GIF by CBC - Find & Share on GIPHY

Penial Fracture

This is exactly what it sounds like—the penis can actually break during sex. It actually sounds like a loud pop, looks like a loss of erection, and sounds like cries of pain. Rough sex and certain positions can lead to penial fractures. The most common positions for this injury are “doggy style” and “partner on top.”

Sex Appeal Flirting GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Though many cases are caused by masturbation and blunt trauma. I am not suggesting you give up your creativity during your night of passion, but I am suggesting you let go of the idea you are a porn star. And see a doctor immediately.

Sprains, Strains, and Muscle Pulls

Sometimes passion and endorphins give us the endurance to perform like an all-star athlete. Then we realize later or the next day that we are not in shape or in the shape we thought we were. According to the NEISS database, aches and pains achieved during sex are very common and can usually be treated with some ibuprofen, ice or heat, and some rest.

Grace Helbig Pain GIF by This Might Get - Find & Share on GIPHY

Bruises, Scrapes, and Rug Burn

Getting caught up in the thrill of the moment can lead to rough and sometimes clumsy sex. Falling off the bed, banging into the head board, or wearing away that top layer of skin on our knees or elbows is just par for the course. Keep some antibiotic cream on hand and maybe some ice to take the heat off.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

If you or your partner have been diagnosed with any type of STI or another painful gift that keeps on giving, not having sex on Valentine’s Day is probably the most romantic thing you can do. Condoms and dental dams can lower the risk of contracting STIs as well as testing and open communication with your partner. Peeing after sex can also flush infection causing bacteria from the urethra and prevent painful bladder and prostrate infections. If you experience pain, itching, discharge, or sores see a doctor immediately, who may need to order you a prescription.

Golden Girls Condom GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A great day for friendship, love, and sex…injuries. Common sense goes a long way people, and maybe put down a blanket to protect your knees from carpet burn. Also, if you aren’t sure if an object should go into a hole, it probably shouldn’t.

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What I’ve Learned About Sex From Working At An Adult Toy Store

I began working in a sex toy store four years ago. I’ve learned so much in my time here – more than I ever thought possible. Sure, I can tell the difference between a butt plug and a plug tail and a butt jewel in my sleep, but there are some really vital things I’ve discovered. Important things.

When I began my journey into the adult toy world, I knew only a little about vibrators and dildos. While I’ve always been a sex positive person, I’ve learned that sex is more important than we ever give it credit for.

Sex – solo or with a loved one, or even with a few friends – is a powerful connector (not like that); it has a way of healing you, growing your confidence, and celebrating yourself and others.

Here are some of the most important things I’ve found to be true in my time working at a desk piled with vibrators and dildos.

1. Orgasms don’t come easily to everyone.

A Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy study in 2017 found that nearly 37% of women required clitoral stimulation to orgasm – the truth is, few are getting that. Only 18% of women can climax during penetrative sex. That study was one of the largest studies on women’s pleasure available, and other smaller studies have found the same. An analysis of over 30 studies performed over the past 80 years found that only 25% of women consistently climax during vaginal penetrative sex.

I hear this a lot from my customers. Women who think they’re broken because they love their male partners but can’t orgasm.

Few heterosexual women know that the penis isn’t really designed to make you orgasm easily. I feel proud to be able to steer them toward a toy that stimulates the clitoris like the Satisfyer Pro 2.0 – a device that has had women contact me crying with happiness!

There are so many toys designed for people with vaginas to be used during penetration that will absolutely get you to where you need to be. Nobody is broken – sometimes you just need a little help. Help with a rechargeable cable!

2. Sex toys are for everybody.

Navee Sangvitoon/EyeEm/Getty

Some of my customers are in their 80s, and others are buying their first toy to celebrate or commiserate their first break up. There’s no one type of person who buys a toy. They truly are for everybody. From little bullet vibes to dildos, to clitoral stimulators and wand massagers – butt plugs and strap-ons and beads and sleeves and clamps – I’ve seen joy sparked from them all.

Hearing from couples who have been able to reinvigorate their sex lives after children and save their marriage is a favorite part of my day. Providing information to an elderly couple who are struggling with erectile dysfunction reminds me how important a healthy sex life is – and how easy it can be to revive with the right support. I encourage and support and champion all of my customers. It’s my favorite part of the job.

3. Sex toys these days are STUNNING (and they come in all shapes and sizes).

The days of only being able to buy weird veiny fleshy dildos or cucumber novelty vibrators are over. You can now buy beautiful hand-blown glass toys that look like works of art. Toys that are discrete with gorgeous rose gold coating or real leather and metal. And there’s just so much to choose from! You can buy a saddle style non-penetrative toy, designed to stimulate your whole vulva. Or an award-winning couples’ massager that pleasures you both.

When my boss Nicola opened Adulttoymegastore in 2009 it started small. We now have more than 12,000 products across well over 100 brands and we source our products from New Zealand, Australia, America, UK and Asia. You should see our warehouse! It’s the largest collection of adult products in Australasia.

There really is something to suit everybody – truly, every body.

4. Sex toys can help with health problems.

zodebala/Getty

I’m not a doctor, but I know what to prescribe if you’re struggling with a weak pelvic floor after pregnancy and labor. We sell weighted kegel balls to many mums working on getting their strength back – they give you a great pelvic muscle workout and feel great! We sell amazing products for women recovering from cancer, such as our dilator sets. We stock so many thoughtfully designed products aimed at improving the lives of women and taking care of their sexual health. The remote breast massager by Inspire massages to increase blood circulation. This in turn can help with pain. It fits comfortably in your bra and Inspire donate a portion of our proceeds to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a non-profit organization supporting women affected by breast cancer. We sell sleeves to help men with erectile dysfunction and prostate health vibrators. We also of course sell external and internal condoms for men and women for safe sex.

5. We all deserve to have happy and healthy sex lives.

I’ve learned there’s absolutely no shame in seeking pleasure and wanting to give pleasure. Having a happy and healthy sex life is so crucial, and everybody deserves it. Being able to make yourself or your partner climax is a wonderful thing – loving your body and theirs is a precious gift. It’s empowering to learn what you like and don’t like and to learn to listen to your body and what it needs.

I think I have the best job in the world. And it’s not just for the freebies!

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I Never Expected To Be A 40-Year-Old Mom In A Long-Distance Relationship — Yet Here I Am

When I tell people about the person I’m dating, their first reaction is usually happiness for me. I came out publicly as gay a year ago, so I suppose it’s nice for people to hear I’ve found someone to experience my gayness with. There’s also usually a bit of curiosity about my person’s gender, since they’re nonbinary. How do those pronouns work again? Plural pronouns for a single person? Huh? But people have been overwhelmingly supportive and eager to learn.

What confuses people more than anything else is that my person lives 1,400 miles away from me, with me in Florida and them in Vermont. The distance between us is almost as far as two people can get from one another in a north-south direction in the contiguous United States. And neither one of us is in a position to move anytime soon. They have three kids and an ex with whom they coparent, and I have two kids and an ex with whom I coparent. We each have deep roots in the cities we live in, especially when it comes to our kids, and we can’t simply pick up and move.

So, when I tell people about the distance, they’re a little incredulous. The news seems almost to have a delegitimizing effect on my relationship, to the point that one person even said, “Well that’s not going to last long.”

Now, I do get why, from the outside, our situation could seem a little… impractical. Why not just acknowledge the futility of trying to maintain a relationship from so far away? Why not at least attempt to find someone else? Date a little? Maybe not keep it exclusive?

I asked myself questions like these in the first few months of falling for my person. What was I thinking? I had separated from my former husband because I’m gay, and yet I never even got a chance to create a profile on Grindr. The person I’m dating is a colleague, a friend with whom the spark of something more ignited after we each learned the other was in the process of separating from their partner. It gave us something in common, something to talk about. We didn’t stay on that topic for long though, and soon we were deeply in like with each other.

So, technically speaking, we are each other’s “rebound.” And we’re not even a year in. We’re still in that new part of the relationship where your hormones ping around like crazy and still think your partner’s chewing sounds are “cute.” Surely we are deluding ourselves?

Maybe. But maybe not. We’re determined to see it through. My deep like has morphed into deep love, but that’s not the only reason I want to hang onto this relationship — a person can fall in love with someone who is completely wrong for them. Love isn’t always enough.

The reason I want to make this work is because my person is so right for me. How could I set out on a mission to find someone supposedly better than them when they are so spectacularly good for me? I can’t let this person out of my life. They are too good. They have too much to offer.

I’m not a person who believes one person can “need” another in the way one needs food, water, and sleep. In fact, I think need-based love can lead to destructive, codependent behavior. I also hate when people say their partner makes them “better.” Shouldn’t we all be as good as we can possibly be on our own? Why must we depend on someone else to inspire us to be our best selves?

And yet, my person does inspire me to be better. I am a better version of myself when I am with them. They calm me when I’m anxious. They believe in me when I don’t believe in myself. They push me when I don’t think I can. They make me laugh until tears come out. I admire them, but more than that, I am in awe of them. Now that I know my person exists in this world, now that I’ve experienced their friendship and love, the idea of intentionally excluding them from my life is unthinkable. So I guess the way I feel about them is something akin to need.

And yet those 1,400 miles still stand between us. It looks like we might have to wait years before we can live under the same roof together, if that is what our future has in store. But for now, how do we make it work? Internet and airplanes.

For the last six months, they have visited once per month for five or six days at a time. We are freelancers, so our work is in our laptops, easy to pick up and take with us. They visit and we keep working, but sitting next to each other. Travel costs money, of course, so the money we might have spent on dates with other potential love interests goes into plane tickets. And our “dates” are free: nature hikes, strolls through antique shops (could we be more gay?), walks on the beach, cooking yummy meals at home, and watching Netflix movies. Last month we splurged and went to the opera — nosebleed seats.

Honestly, it completely sucks when those 1,400 miles are between us. But when they are, we carry on with life, taking care of our kids, running them back and forth to their activities, helping them with their homework, keeping up with the maintenance of our households. We text each other throughout the day, make quick calls to say hello, and swap articles and memes back and forth, fodder for our evening calls. After our kids have gone to bed, we call each other on video chat and rehash our days. We always have more work to do in the evening, but we leave our video chats open, working together side by side, 1,400 miles apart.

I never could have predicted this for myself. When I first came out, I imagined going on a slew of awkward dates to try to meet someone. I never imagined I’d stumble headfirst into a long-distance relationship. But here we are, and we’re making it work. Maybe sometimes love is actually enough.

The post I Never Expected To Be A 40-Year-Old Mom In A Long-Distance Relationship — Yet Here I Am appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why We Need Friends Who Are Different Than We Are

It’s generally easier to make friends with people we have a lot in common with than those people who are our polar opposites. Conversations flow freely. Activities and outings are easily agreed upon when get-togethers happen. There is a lot less disagreement when we hang with people who have similar values and parenting styles. Friends who think like us can confirm our sense of right or wrong and provide voices of commiseration and solidarity.

There is nothing wrong with running in tight circles with like-minded friends; it’s a blessing to have this type of comfort and safety net. But we need friends who are not like us. We need to find people who will challenge us too.

During yoga sessions on my mat, whether at home or in the studio, I always make sure to include an inversion, which is a fancy way of saying I get my feet over my head in one of several poses. I have learned that the point of this is to change my perspective. From headstands to having my legs up on a wall, I am literally looking at the world from a new angle. And depending on the pose I choose, I experience different levels of comfort. In some cases, I am a little uncomfortable, but this forces me to focus on my body and breathing in very intentional ways. I can’t be on autopilot when I am upside down.

We need people in our lives who change our perspective. Discomfort doesn’t have to equate to conflict, but can be a good challenge to the way we think or the way we do things can provide for some interesting discussion if nothing else. Surrounding ourselves with people whose opinions are always the same as ours and whose answers are usually the ones we want to hear can close us off to growth and possibility. Continuously surrounding ourselves with same-minded people can make us closed-minded.

Personal growth doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful; it can simply mean thinking beyond the obvious. Facebook, Netflix, and Spotify all have algorithms that allow each service to suggest people, shows, and podcasts I would like based on my searches and habits of selection. It is easy to stay and mingle in those suggestions, but every once in a while I will deviate completely. I will watch or listen to something that is a topic I am not familiar with or one that I am pretty sure I will hate. Sometimes topics are given to me by a person who doesn’t presume to know what I like because they don’t know me well enough to say, “OMG did you see XYZ?! You will love it!”

I don’t do this to torture myself. I do it because I want to learn. I want to be surprised. Sometimes I want to be proved wrong. I look for new experiences and new people because I don’t want to ever stay stuck on autopilot.

An article published by BBC News reminds us that when we expose ourselves to a more diverse group of people or circle of friends we are, “forced to process complex and unexpected information. The more people do this, the better they become at producing complex and unexpected information themselves.” This helps us embrace diversity, think more creatively, and provides an opportunity to gain perspective from someone with a different socio-economic background, race, education or religion than us. A meat lover talking to a vegan could make for very enriching dialogue—or a heated debate.

I don’t love group work, yet some of the best work I have done has come from a group or partnered project. That’s the point though. Problems are best solved when people can come together to reach a common goal while bringing unique experiences and expertise. When multiple options can be presented and argued, the best plan can be found. We have to let go of ego a bit, though. Surrounding ourselves with people who are not like us can be irritating and can cause some anxiety-producing confrontation. It takes compromise and patience.

If I am able to take a step back in these situations and analyze someone else’s ideas for just that, then I can see that in some cases my gut instinct is to run in the other direction in disagreement when I assume the other person isn’t as smart, wise, or right as I am. I don’t always have to be right. Neither do you, by the way. This doesn’t mean I have to agree with someone, but I can hear them out without feeling personally attacked.

You can volunteer in your community, attend a library lecture series, or join a local sports club to meet unlike-thinkers who will expose you to new movies or types of comedy. Hit up a museum or buy a ticket to a play that is outside of your usual genre. I know we are busy and our time is limited. We want to spend it doing what we love. Because time is limited, I also want to spend it exploring what I may love. I want to be sure my life is full of curiosity and meaningful connections. I want a life beyond the shallowness of my own knowledge.

I am so thankful for my friends who don’t always tell me what I want to hear; they may know what I need to hear and when, but the ones who don’t sugarcoat the facts or who feed into the ideas I have already turned over are the ones who usually help me the most when I need advice or a plan.

It’s okay to deviate from the playlist. You will benefit from finding friends in unexpected and diverse places.

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I Left My Marriage Because I Wasn’t Emotionally Safe

When my first marriage ended, friends and family were shocked. Most people gasped and said how sad and terrible it was that we were splitting. Worrying about the happiness of my kids and the actual pulling apart of a family and years of financial co-dependence was no walk in the park, but I wasn’t sad that I was no longer going to be married to this specific person. The split was not terrible; for me, and I think for her too, it was a relief. And though I knew that leaving her was no guarantee I would find the right person, I also knew that being alone was better than being lonely with someone.

But I understood people’s responses. There hadn’t been any signs that we were unhappy. No marks of abuse or toxicity. No visible or even suspected hints that our marriage was failing or needed to end. This wasn’t because I or my ex purposefully hid these things; it’s because what most would consider obvious indications of trouble or reasons for divorce were not there. Together we were financially secure. We were each physically safe. But I felt unsafe in other ways. Many people who have been through divorce know that so many reasons a marriage doesn’t work out are quiet and unseen but still painful.

What our friends and family couldn’t see — and to be honest it took me some time to see it too — was that I was not emotionally safe. My ex was not my safety net. She was not my soft and understanding place to fall when I was hurting, scared, processing past traumas, or worried about decisions that needed to be made. I wasn’t being emotionally abused, but it was as if my feelings didn’t exist or weren’t allowed to take up space. I was the strong supportive one who never got upset. I would always provide empathy when she needed it but didn’t receive any when I went to her for support. I felt neglected and lonely.

I know all relationships are work. I have been told ad nauseam that they go through “seasons,” that couples fall in and out of love with each other. And because we convince ourselves that we can “train” someone how to respond in certain ways that will get the results we want in a marriage, I believed I just needed to find the right teaching tools. I kept working on myself too and hoped it would improve my marriage. I hid my unhappiness and thought I was being ungrateful for wanting more. I was the reason I wasn’t feeling supported. I had to get better. I had to do the work to get to a place where I could feel vulnerable. The lack of intimacy was my fault.

I tried. I tried really hard. I faked it and lied and white-knuckled my way through what looked from the outside like a perfect marriage. I didn’t think I had any reason to leave because I know no one is perfect and neither is any relationship.

But should we stay in something or do something just because it’s not awful?

My ex had always relied on me to support and uplift her, and I did. But she was not able to do the same in return. When I went to her with my most vulnerable feelings and intimate thoughts, they either didn’t make sense to her or frightened her. I was the one hurting but ended up making her feel better. After too many years of this and after years of trying, I stopped expecting empathy and emotional support. I stopped opening up and put up walls instead. My ex encouraged me to work it out with my therapist or to better explain to her what I needed.

We tried couples therapy. Therapy together showed us that she was indifferent to us, to our relationship, to me, but was reluctant to do anything to change. We talked about her needs and my needs, and when confronted with my needs, she froze.

“I just want to go back to the way things were before,” she’d say, and I’d cringe because I had grown far from the person I was before and had no desire to go back. We both knew it was over. I was ready to keep moving on, but no longer within our marriage.

What I needed was someone who could give empathy freely and equally without judgment. I wanted someone who, in my rawest moments, wouldn’t need a playbook for how to take care of me. I needed someone different.

And I found her.

I knew she was the one when, after 15 years of never feeling comfortable to cry in front of my ex and after many years of struggling to cry at all, tears streamed down my face during one of our conversations. I had revealed a quiet but important piece of myself. I had let my guard down, and her reaction and words broke me in the best possible way, and I cried. I bawled. She wiped my tears and picked up my pieces. Finally I understood the unnamable thing I’d been lacking. I just wanted to be seen and heard.

It has been unsettling to allow someone to really see me, but it has been the most amazing experience too. Not only does my fiance read me, but she anticipates my feelings in a way that allows me to let them be. This is a gift I have never known. Childhood trauma created the need to hide emotions. In previous relationships, my emotions had never been honored or understood. I am unlearning the instinct to mask feelings that are messy or less than joyful. If I try to hide emotions or beat myself up for feeling them, my fiance tells me all the reasons why they are valid.

I knew my marriage wasn’t working and that I needed it to end, but I didn’t realize how much I was missing and how much I had been hurting until I found emotional safety in my fiance.

We can’t connect on the most intimate levels with another person without vulnerability. And if we can’t be our most authentic selves in a relationship, then what’s the point? Having someone who sees me allows me to see myself, and that’s pretty fucking amazing.

Since separating from my ex, I have learned that I was never as broken as we had both made me out to be. I was giving emotional security but not getting it. I didn’t think I deserved more. But I do. It took me time to see that because I thought I was supposed to put everyone else’s needs before my own. I believed a divorce would hurt my kids, but the divorce has given them a better and happier parent. I have added love to their lives, not taken it away.

And I finally have a soft and safe place to land. Feeling emotionally safe means I am becoming emotionally stronger. My fiance listens to me, validates my feelings, and doesn’t make me feel like a burden. She loves me the right way. And in that love are so many intangible aspects that I can’t describe, but that’s the beauty and importance of safety nets; their presence alone is enough to protect you.

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Friendship As An Adult Can Be Just As Confusing As In Your Teens

We all want to sit at the cool kids’ table. We all have #squadgoals and want “our people” and matching friendship bracelets. In the jungle of mommyhood, we want membership in something. We want a buddy, a pal, someone to sit next to, someone to help us out when we need it, someone to buoy us up when we’re having a bad day and maybe write us a note in sparkly pen once in a while (don’t pretend a glitter note wouldn’t make your day a hundred times better).

But friendship as an adult can be just as confusing as friendship when you’re a teen. It can be as hard, as weird, as difficult to negotiate, and even as heartbreaking.

You can feel left out.

I feel left out a lot. As an adult who homeschools her kids and spends her time doing things most people don’t care about, friendship as an adult is hard work for me. I have to expend a lot of energy caring about other people’s stuff rather than having my own stuff cared about. I’ve kind of resigned myself to the idea that in the high school that is adulthood, I’m still the total dork, the nerd, the one into all the stuff no one else is, and unlike high school, there’s no college to grow up into and find a bunch of like-minded souls. I’m still different. Fuck. I thought I’d grow out of that.

It can be hard to meet up.

In high school, everyone was super busy all the time. We all had band practice and drama club and college essays and homework. If you got to hang with your friends on the weekends, you counted yourself lucky. Friendship as an adult? Kind of the same thing. You see your friends at parent stuff, like you saw your friends in class, and if you don’t, well, say bye to that particular friendship, unless you both make a ton of special effort to make it happen.

It can be hard to know if it’s working.

Friendship as an adult is fraught with the same stupid questions I remember from high school. Does she like me or doesn’t she like me? Are we friends or not friends? Is she talking about me behind my back? Does she really want me around or is she just nice to everyone? Wow, I thought once I grew up, all friendship questions would be answered. Hard no. Still exactly the fucking same. Friendship as an adult feels just like friendship as a teenager, only I keep pausing to wipe people’s snot or yell at them to stop beating each other with sticks.

The gossip mill is just as vicious.

In high school, we lived in terror of people talking about us. Now? Nothing’s changed, except I live in terror that they’ll talk shit about my kids, too. Friendship as an adult comes with the same trust issues friendship as a teenager did, except you have to toss kids into the mix, and that makes everything more fraught. Everyone wants to talk about their kids, but you’re worried if you tell Sally Ann you started Billy on ADHD meds, she’ll tell Karen about it, and Karen will tell Carol, and Karen and Carol will nod at each other and say, “Uh-huh, well, that’s why Billy’s such a little asshole.”

You worry about who gets invited to what party.

Before, you worried about getting invites to house parties and proms. Now it’s all about the birthday parties and parents’ nights out and MLM parties. Friendship as an adult means stressing that Karen’s kid is having a birthday party at the trampoline park and Billy never got an invite, what the fuck? Why not? Did she not have enough space, did she not think of you, or does Karen secretly hate you? What about those parents’ nights out? If you get included, you pray you have someone to sit with, and you don’t hunch weirdly against the wall all night, trying and failing to make conversation with different social groups you don’t fit into.

You have to remember all the drama.

There’s always drama in any social group. And you have to remember it all. Guess what? That happened with friendship in high school, and it’s still the same when you negotiate friendship as an adult. I once had a dear friend who hated another dear friend, and I had to remember that I could talk to one about another, who remained fairly indifferent, but I couldn’t talk to the other one about the other girl, because she hated her guts. These were grown-ass women. People unfortunately have to remember that I hate Jennifer because I think she’s a raging bitch. I think Jennifer’s a raging bitch because Jennifer totally shuts me out and thinks I’m crazy, both for reasons unknown, so we refuse to be at any social events at the same time. We are also grown-ass women. 

Welcome to friendship as an adult. You didn’t think, when you were a teenager, it was actually friendship for the rest of your life.

I’m told nursing-home drama is about the same.

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