The cordial cohabitation

– “Doctor…It’s tough living under the same roof sometimes—we’re doing it for the kids.”

Kim X. is a very nice middle-aged nurse that has been separated from her husband for a few months already; they decided to stop their relationship because they weren’t in love anymore. They did it on good financial terms and decided to stay in separate rooms of the same house; considering that their two children are only 5 and 10 years old, they are threading carefully. For the time being they have reached an “entente cordiale” where they discreetly pursue their loving affairs outside the house but inside it they both emotionally support their young ones every day.

She confided that fact to me because she knew that I have been separated from “the mother of my children” since the beginning of the millennia but we have stayed very close all the time, with some ups and downs of course. Our two children were very small then and we made the conscious decision to relegate our personal lives a little in order to keep a watchful eye on them. I recently saw “Wind River”, an action film where the main character suffered because his daughter had been assassinated by a straggler when he had been fulfilling his duties as an Alaska park ranger. He admonished the female FBI agent that was helping him: “when you have kids, you can’t even blink. Not once.”

A few days ago, I listened to a panel discussion in “France Inter”, the leading private radio operator in France, where they discussed precisely this cohabitation arrangement. In general, the French have been quite permissive in their sexual and loving relationships, never doubting to change their spouses and or companions at the slightest hint of marital malfunction. However, the recent experience of thousands of young women, many of them working poor and members of Minority groups, has rekindled this perennial question: “do women need men to raise kids?”

Of course, they don’t, all the panelists agreed. But the presence of “the father figure” is needed. Most of the ladies confessed that raising a male child with a lot of love and dedication sometimes produced uncontrollable brats that felt entitled to anything. “Mom will give it to me” they said. The limits set by the vigilant presence of “the father” helped the youngster learn some basic civic virtues like respect and tolerance of the others, so necessary in our convulsed modern times. They even suggested that the rising crime rate of the “quartiers peripheriques” full of immigrants from Northern Africa and Eastern Europe could be countenanced by more social services. The present configuration of Paris entails the creation of a peripheral circumvoluting road that keeps those “undesirables” out of the more sanitized, clean and touristy “centre de la ville.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

She wants him back

– “Doctor…My ex-boyfriend is dating a gorgeous girl—and she’s much younger than him.”

Paula X. is a very nice lady “d’une certaine age” that had a longstanding relationship with a fellow co-worker for many years. They seemed to be a very stable couple but one day, out of the blue, she decided that he might not be the man of her life. She started to voice her progressively worsening concerns with almost everybody, including yours truly; eventually she decided to kick him off her life by expelling him from her apartment and erasing their common social contacts.

Her newfound single life had a strong tailwind and she was enjoying her freedom to date to the hilt. Until one day something terrible happened. She came across her ex in a happy hour event. Not only he looked good but he was accompanied by a younger girl who seemed to be a model. All of a sudden, the complete certainty she was holding in her mind about him crumbled totally. She felt an excruciating bout of epigastric pain and nausea that obliged her to leave the premises. The two loyal girlfriends that were accompanying her immediately knew what happened and took her home in a taxi.

What’s going on? First, she loved him. Suddenly she hated him. Then she wanted him back. That paradoxical behavior of ladies, which has certainly disconcerted many of us sometime along our lives, can be explained by the higher preponderance of Right Hemispheric activity in their brains. Even though the human brain functions as a marvelous unit, we have in fact two, not one, brains. The Left Hemisphere specializes in language and writing, logic reasoning, mathematical sequencing, organization of ideas and actions, i.e. it is our analytical brain that helps us function. The right Hemisphere has a more holistic function as it integrates the emotional undertones to our ideas, prodding us to become more creative and to seek transcendence, i.e. the artistic brain. In the right side of our brains, contradictory feelings like Love and hate coexist side to side.

The two sides of our brain are inter-connected by a thick set of neuronal fibers that constitute the “corpus callosum”, which allows the smooth. efficient integration to carry our daily tasks. In women, that structure is usually more developed than in men, which explains their uniqueness. Neuroscientific research has shown that in men the interconnection via the corpus callosum is from the “anterior” part of the brain (where our attention/awareness lies) to the “posterior” part of the same hemisphere that helps to translate our ideas into concrete, focused actions. In women there is a higher number of fibers that travel from the right to the left hemispheres, integrating the emotional aspects more thoroughly with the practical ones. Yes.They are much more advanced.

Next time you ask yourself why it is so easy for women to multi-task all the time and so difficult for us, men, to finish even one task at a time, get some solace knowing that there is a biological explanation. Moreover, they are quite capable to seamlessly love and hate someone at the same time, without any kind of feelings of remorse or uneasiness.

What do you want me to say? Thank God we have our dear women to help us all along. And if we have to take their rap from time to time, do as I do. Just say: “yes, dear.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

The excited executive

– “Doctor…Can’t go back home with so much excess energy—I need my escape valve.”

Sheila X. is a successful middle aged married executive in a large company that has succeeded at the top of the hierarchy and has remained there for years. At the end of her long workday she still feels “charged up” and needs an outlet. Three times per week she goes to the gym to stay in good shape, but it is not nearly enough. Once per week she has a clandestine date with a casual lover she finds in Tinder. Her very own escape valve.

The dating site named “Ashley Madison”, which supposedly specializes in discreet match-up of eager men and women for an affair, made an informal canvass of the most common professions of the unfaithful women and men that was posted in their website. They found that among women, the most unfaithful professions were the following:

  1. Business executives – 22%
  2. Information technology – 12%
  3. Technicians – 8%
  4. Education – 7%
  5. Medical personnel – 7%
  6. Marketing – Communications – 7%

Amongst men the most unfaithful professions (24%) were the ones that had very flexible schedules and timetables that allowed to camouflage a clandestine tryst.

Neurophysiological studies have shown that women confronted with stressful events secrete much more Oxytocin—the hormone of sexual desire—than men do, Moreover the presence of stress provokes the secretion of testosterone both in men and women as part of the ancestral biological defense mechanism of humans. The adrenal glands produce a small amount of that hormone in women that can increase if they are chronically exposed to various stressful situations; women are more sensitive to the testosterone’s effects, which include the sexual excitement.

Sexual desire in women is prodded by a complex assortment of visual, auditory and skin stimuli, coupled with a hormonal rush that reach the brain’s Hypothalamus. If the successful women executives are geared up for performing savagely like a professional boxer in the ringside, shouldn’t they also be allowed some time to relax after the fight?

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Being fabulously single

-“Doctor…I’m finally having the time of my life—my family doesn’t get it.”

Sandra X. is a gorgeous forty-something recently divorced lady that has a fulfilling professional life and an affectionate family of four—her mother and three children. But no husband. And therein lies the source of her strange emotional frustration. Her family cannot picture her without the formal company of a man at all times.

In prehistoric times a woman that had not found a steady mate by the time she was thirty years old was dismissed as a “singleton” that had “to dress the saints.” And if a woman lost her husband after 50 years old she had to care for grandchildren. But times have changed dramatically and now any woman can have a new start at any age, be it 40, 50, 60, and even 70 years old. There are many artistic, sports, gastronomic, travel opportunities, etc., for someone that has the time and means. Moreover, she can find new friends and even a good companion in the new activity.

Sandra X. decided to learn how to paint, something she had wanted for years. Finally, she had the opportunity and the financial means to assist to a course, prepare a small atelier at home and network with people interested in art. As she felt too old to start bar-hopping to reboot her social life and meet men, she decided to visit art galleries with the company of another lady who had become a widow. They were both surprised to meet so many educated, interesting people in a city like Miami that until recently had been considered as a cultural and civic morass.

In big cities that are constantly renovating their socio-cultural matrix, the possibility of connecting with different people in exciting settings is much higher than in more suburban and rural environments where patriarchal prejudices still hold power. Initially Sandra X. avoided to have sexual relationships but eventually she fell madly in love with young bohemian painter 20 years younger and with a cute ponytail. Coming form an Hispanic family, she fears the reaction of her children to her choice.

Still undecided whether to break the news to her kin or not, she had nonetheless decided to rent a big apartment in the tony Wynwood neighborhood to install a bigger atelier and create an alternative home to enjoy her passionate relationship.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

The emotional dependence

– “Doctor…I need to consult my husband on everything—I depend on him.”

Paola X. is a successful physician that has settled in South Florida after completing her training in New York a decade ago. We met in an Italian-American social event a few years back and we have been friendly ever since. She is married to a very successful American professional and they have a nice family of four. However, her initial upbringing in a traditional Neapolitan family where the authoritarian figure of her father dominated even the secondary matters at home has marked her.

She has invested all her energies and time availability in the creation of a welcoming hearth for her husband and children, even though she is a very busy professional herself. She plans all their daily activities at home, being the perfect homemaker. However, all that dedication has come at a heavy personal price as she does not have any independent activity, let alone a supportive network of loyal girlfriends.

A rewarding loving relationship entails sharing a lot of time and activities with your partner, but do you have to share everything, all the time? There is a danger that any attempt of decoupling for the most menial task in a banal period by one partner might be construed as a sign of disloyalty by the dependent one. Individuals that have suffered unusual verbal and/or physical abuse as children are more likely to experience what psychologists call “anxiety of separation” in modern practices.

We all strive to love and be loved but the necessity of being always in the company of our partners can lead to great personal anxiety and undue stress in the couple. Moreover, to preserve the close relationship at all costs, the dependent individual can accept and endure various forms of abusive partners’ behavior. One of the sad tenets that we have found in the discovery of abused women is that they usually erroneously feel that “they need their partners”, delaying their rescue. We have witnessed how a few women have refused to press charges against physically abusive partners, even when the physician and/or social worker have helped them.

Sadly, the couple’s children can become hostages of these unhealthy relationships and in a few instances they are passive, suffering witnesses to intolerable levels of abuse.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

Too big for 140

-“Doctor…I was right-swiped by more than 1,500 men—I just want one.”

Veronica X. is a dashing young post-doctoral student in a local college that does not know whether she wants to stay in Miami after her graduation. As she did not want to engage in a serious relationship that would limit her choices, she decided to try a dating app for some temporary company. She tried an application called Bumble where women have to make the 1st move.

For such a knockout gal the dating scene is full of choices of various kinds with instant gratification and the possibility to change anytime she wants. In the safe environment of her dorm, she enthusiastically whizzed through hundreds of profiles until she decided to “separate” four or five she liked. She contacted the first one and set up a date. Halfway through the date he was already propositioning her to skip dessert in order to hook up earlier. She was so disgusted that she picked up her belongings and skedaddled out.

The second one turned out to be married…The third one was a closeted gay. One of her recurrent complaints is that the scant content allowed by Tweeter does not enable a woman to fully appraise if her planned date is worth it. She has to take a good guess and cross her fingers that he will be “the one.” Moreover the possibility of having so many choices tempts women to go out with different dates in order “to see if there’s something better out there.” Forsaking traditional monogamy, the dating apps encourage “having flings.”

In my novel, Emily, the main character, shares her emotional frustration with Annie, her cousin and confidante, after she started dating again upon becoming a young widow.

 –“Where are all the men?” Emily asked. “Where are they hiding?”

-“Men? What men?” Annie retorted.

-“Nice single guys that like the company of women—that’s who.”

As the last glimmer of light was slanting behind the yard’s pine tree line—in the 10th anniversary of William’s death—they were sharing a cup of coffee.  Emily was feeling progressively less and less satisfaction from her material possessions, replaced by a widening spiritual void. Hedonic adaptation.

Emily grabbed her I-phone to scroll through her latest social feeds.

She shoved the apparatus into Annie’s face, practically fogging the screen.

-“Tell me the truth—is she really prettier than me, eh?”

-“What the fuck? Still following that asshole?”

-“Don’t want him to think that he still matters so—“

-“But he does… Gimme that!” said Annie, grabbing Emily’s phone.

Annie clicked “unfollow’ and then “unfriend” in Emily’s Facebook page.

-“There you are…End of story.” Annie said, handing her the phone back.

-“Can still follow him in Twitter—“

-“Whatever—what you’re looking for does not fit in a tart tweet.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The painful coitus

-“Doctor…When we make love, it hurts—my husband doesn’t get it.”

Making love is much more than bringing a penis and a vagina together. When we make love in a satisfying steady relationship we are bringing also our socio-cultural baggages with all the connotations of biased perceptions. Modern sexology states that, except for a few clinical conditions, there are no sex pathologies to correct but common complications that need fixing.

These complications can involve the sexual desire, the foreplay, the orgasm and even the presence of pain at the time of penetration or other contact. The common denominator of most sex dysfunctional syndromes is the lack of communication between the partners that impedes to find a proper solution.  The two most common sexual dysfunctions in our modern societies are:

1 – Lack of lubrication: this problem is especially annoying as the female experiences severe pain at the time of penetration in a dry receptacle. The use of gels and a laser treatment with the segmented CO2 can alleviate it.

2 – Localized pain during intercourse: this is a common occurrence post-partum as the surgical stitches can alter the anatomy of the vulva and make a re-alignment of the whole cavity. It can also be fixed with laser therapy.

Even though the sensitive terminals in our sexual organs collect the signals, they are ultimately processed in the brain to deliver its final message to us. One of the most common temporary sexual dysfunctions is when a woman has her first child and then has to resume her sexual bond with her partner. In my novel, Emily, the main character, has difficulty making a switch:

“Emily was having trouble managing her body’s mutation from the erotic perspective of a young woman to the nurturing one of a new mother. Her vagina, where her desire resided, had been the transit for a debut in life.

With the passing of time the rhythmic contractions that propelled her son out were losing their edginess and were gaining some kind of musical cadence.

Impregnable. The Janussian auto-antonym for the feminine ethos.

Two women with contraposing perspectives share a single vagina.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

 

 

The histrionic partner

-“Doctor…My husband is always the center of attention—so exhausting.”

Marietta X. is an attractive, intelligent middle-aged lady that has a major problem in her life, besides taking care of a household with four children.  Her husband Tom, who is a loyal and affectionate bread-winner, has the unique knack of seeking and getting people’s attention at all times, even when it is inappropriate or annoys other people. The ultimate “show-off.”

The “histrionic personality disorder” (HDP) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as a Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic) personality disorder. The APA’s manual describes it as “a pervasive patter of excessive emotionality and attention seeking, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention
  2. Interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior
  3. Displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions
  4. Consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self
  5. Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail
  6. Shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion
  7. Is suggestible, i.e. easily influenced by others or circumstances
  8. Considers relationships to be more intimate then they actually are

Even though most of us have displayed one or more of these narcissistic traits sometimes in our lives, the unrelenting “self-marketing” of these patients can make living with them a particularly exhausting, humiliating and frustrating experience. They seem to never learn from their experiences. It is four times more common in females than males but we believe that the feminine plight seems to be particularly dramatic for the following reasons.

Romantic cheating. As the individual is always seeking the attention of ladies and misjudges the signals they emit back, he is statistically bound to eventually land in a romantic affair in spite of all his failed attempts. Worse, as he wants to show off with his friends, he will not keep it quiet, provoking emotional frustration to his wife and children. When confronted with the feat, he will make all kind of excuses but rest assured that he will not repent.

Social engulfment. The spouse or romantic partner of these individuals usually shows an unhealthy level of dependency on them, that goes beyond the financial dimension. They can only imagine their existence in the company of their histrionic partner as they wrongly believe that people are only attached to them; many of their acquaintances feel pity for them and are willing to help her start over in a new life. Sadly they never ask for help. Ultimately their friends will tire of his narcissism and avoid both of them. ]

Hoovering back. When the abused individual—we are using this gender-neutral term on purpose as we have lately seen this problem in the LGBT as well—tries to assert his/her/ihr own rights by limiting the abusive behaviour or threatening to quit the insane relationship. That’s when the sick partner usually engages in a charm offensive promising “to change once and for all.” The forgiving partner gets sucked back into the bad relationship as if it were a malicious vacuum cleaner with an irresistible power to control emotions.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Il ricambio di cuore

-“Grazie mille per I complimenti (che ricambio di cuore)!”

Paola C., an Italian blogger that lives and works in ultra-cosmopolitan London, put up an excellent article about the importance of the baritones in completing the acoustic holy trinity together with the tenor and the soprano. I put a simple commentary praising her work and wishing Happy Holidays. Somehow that little message gave her an emotional boost at the right time.

Her original allusion to a change of heart as if we were talking of a tire is somehow very illustrative of a major predisposition and also eventual flaw. In general women are always ready to work tirelessly for the sake of their loved ones and, in times of need, they are the healers that clean our wounds. Beginning with our dear mothers, there is always a woman around to listen to our troubles, suggest remedies and at the very least offer us some comfort. Whoever has a woman at his side will never lack some spiritual support.

But how about them? Did we stop one minute to consider their own needs?

Continuing with Paola’s pointed comparison with tires, those hearts get worn out after burning a certain amount of rubber in the twisty Life roads. Women need to take a break and change their hearts in order to keep going. Husbands, boyfriends, sons, even plain friends, have to be vigilant for those needs and offer them a word of solace, some compliment and even flowers.

On a regular basis we must remind them how much they mean in our lives and how grateful we are for their company with us in those critical junctures. Don’t wait for any special occasion or event, just say: “thank you” and “I love you” whenever you become aware of her irreplaceable presence. Do it.

Our fellow blogger might not have consciously intended to inspire this article with her words but as Jacques Lacan, the French psychologist, said:

“Dans tout acte manqué, il y a un discours réussi.”

Whatever the initial motivation was, the important thing is that we listened.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The Impossible Love

-“Doctor…I think of him all the time—sadly our love was not meant to be.”

Victoria X. is a successful and enchanting middle-aged lawyer that has a beautiful family of five, a loving husband and four gifted children. However she still longs for that older man that seduced her while she was a college student with his wits and poise; they had a tumultuous love affair but it ended when he refused to leave his wife for her. Hr own Impossible Love.

Considering that I have heard many similar stories during my medical practice, I decided to use that concept in my novel “Madame D.C.” as one of the plot drivers. Maurizio, one of the three main protagonists, is being coached by a uniquely mellifluous counsellor that camouflages as an innocuous bank clerk in Coral Gables. The maliciously manipulative character aims to give him a unique emotional compass in the treacherous path to reach Emily’s heart so he would become inevitably, tragically beholden to “it.”

“Maurizio entered the cavernous lobby of the Coral Gables bank at ten in the morning, barely one hour after it opened, with no customers in sight. Mr. Roth’s secretary had left him a message the day before, telling him that his loan had been approved and that he had to come to sign the paperwork.

Maurizio could not believe that the fastidiously staid bank would take that risk with someone like him devoid of any significant credit track record. In fact he had filled the application forms expecting a negative outcome.

It turned out differently. He had a friend inside with unusual powers.

After he was done signing, Maurizio thanked Mr. Roth’s secretary and went out to the main lobby to cash a check for his weekend expenditures. Everybody seemed to be either taking care of a sudden wave of customers or taking their breaks, for which he stood in line for the next available clerk.

-“Psst… Maurizio, come here,” said a voice carried by a rare scent.

He walked up to the far window where Lucy was waiting. “Are you free?”

Lucy smiled broadly. “I only show up for VIP customers like you—”

-“Thanks. Just want to cash this,” he said passing the check across the ledge. -“Got my loan finally…. Thanks for putting a good word for me.”

-“Don’t know the half of it… Roth first rejected it but a top dog overruled him…He owes me ‘cause I helped him get rid of his rabid mate. Sad story.”Maurizio put the dollar bills in an envelope and was ready to leave.

-“Thanks… It’s time to go back for the lunch—”

-“Wait a minute…How come you don’t have a girl-friend yet?”

-“I don’t know…Funny that you’ve asked because I just met a nice girl.”

-“Well, then don’t let her go away…Grab her…Fast… Give her what every woman secretly desires in her heart and only a few can obtain—”

-“What? A nice car? She has a Jaguar already.”

-“NO.”

-“What? A diamond ring? She has a rock already.”

“NO.”

-“Mmm…What can she possibly want? I know—a Falcon jet.”

-“NO…It’s the illusion that has prodded women to go through the travails of procreation for ages…And toil so hard for their children and spouses.”

-“Don’t play that sentimental card with me.”  Maurizio twinkled his nose.

-“Er…I’ll tell you in exchange for a tiny winy favour… Deal?”

-“Sounds fair…Okay. What does that rich uptown girl covet?”

-“An Impossible Love—the more twisted, the better….Colonize her mind, hijack her dreams, confiscate all her hours—put some poetry in her life.”

Maurizio was left speechless by the logic of his Caribbean Celestina.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone?