Wisdom about Relationships and Sex

Come home, practically all is nearly forgiven.
–Inscription on a postcard found by Alex Kapranos in a flea market

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.
–Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step, p. 78

A good marriage is when only one person is crazy at a time.
–Charles Strozier, quoting Heinz Kohut, Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, softcover edition, p. xvii

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t encounter a couple who discovers in therapy that long-held beliefs about the other’s likes and dislikes are completely inaccurate. Such mistaken convictions typically are solidified when subtle signs are either misinterpreted or never tested again.
–Jack Morin, The Erotic Mind, p. 279

I kept undressing
long after all the clothes were gone.
–Alice Fulton, “Hardware”

The imagined future is as powerful a formative influence on the present as the remembered past; thus, developing and amplifying satisfying future pictures can help start a distressed couple on the road to desired change.
–Phillip Ziegler and Tobey Hiller, Recreating Partnership, p. 25

He just thought quietly, ‘So this is love. I see. I was wrong about it too,’ thinking as he had thought before and would think again and as every other man has thought: how false the most profound book turns out to be when applied to life.
–William Faulkner, Light in August, ch. 20

Relationships begin spiraling downward when, rather than seeing their partner’s behavior as arising from legitimately different priorities or ways of maintaining emotional stability, each partner interprets the other’s behavior from within their own framework. From their own way of looking at things, the other person appears as insensitive, selfish, misguided, irresponsible, lazy, controlling, etc. (e.g., “I would never treat him the way he treats me!”; “I would never get upset over such a little thing!”).
–Brent Atkinson, Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy, p. 227

I am not recommending the long-term relationship as a preferred state; it is a very hazardous condition. But of course that is also what makes such relationships interesting.
–Stephen A. Mitchell, Can Love Last?, pp. 55-56

You suck for saying I’ll never change
And I suck for never changing
–Kenny White, “Working on a Way”

We believe that it is misguided to view differences as anything more than differences: they’re not inherently problematic, intolerable, or even distressing. In fact, it is the notion that differences are problematic that has to change if couples are to become more accepting of one another. Differences, at the end of therapy, are natural, inevitable, and perhaps even desirable.
–Neil S. Jacobson and Andrew Christensen, Integrative Couple Therapy, p. 43

One of the most profound and universal realizations of later childhood, a realization that probably is never totally integrated, is the discovery that one’s parents are not necessarily representative of the human species, that one has grown up in an idiosyncratically structured family with its own peculiarities and dramas.
–Stephen A. Mitchell, Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis, p. 275

Mrs. Tulliver had lived thirteen years with her husband, yet she retained in all the freshness of her early married life a facility of saying things which drove him in the opposite direction to the one she desired.
–George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, chap. 8

Erotically healthy people recognize that sexual fantasies and behaviors operate in two separate yet related spheres. Consequently, they grant themselves greater imaginative freedom than those who are less healthy. People who function in the world effectively and with respect for others are noted not for the purity of their thoughts but for the wisdom of their choices.
–Jack Morin, The Erotic Mind, p. 313

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
–Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

Poor communication is more often than not a symptom of collusion and a maintainer of collusion. Poor communication reflects an implicit rule of limited intimacy through shared avoidance of self-disclosure and self-exposure. Improved communication allows real differences to be revealed. Private fantasies about the idealized partner may be a natural part of early romantic attraction, but engagement with the real partner is essential for genuine long-term intimacy.
–Alan S. Gurman, “Integrative Couple Therapy: A Depth-Behavioral Approach” in Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy, p. 413

I know that one of us, I’m not saying who, has got rocks in her head.
–The Mountain Goats, “Orange Ball of Hate”

Couples with dysfunctional relationships are often caught up in conflicts about “the truth”: “That’s not what really happened—,” and similar statements are frequent. In competent marriages, there appears to be a well-developed and shared ability to recognize the less frequent occasions in which the truth is important (“The tax deadline is tomorrow. We’ve got to get the form to the mailbox”) and those more frequent occasions when subjective reality is far more important than the truth.
–Jerry M. Lewis, Marriage as a Search for Healing, p. 76

When choosing a partner, we are choosing, along with that person, a particular set of problems that we will be grappling with for the next ten, twenty, or even fifty years.
–Daniel B. Wile

Despite the vast differences in their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.
–Dennis Barry, Dothan, Alabama

Therapists and clients alike often share a mistaken belief that gaining insight into the hidden roots of troublesome symptoms leads directly to more fulfilling behaviors. . . . I’m not suggesting that self-awareness is useless, just that it promotes change only insofar as it emboldens you to try something out of the ordinary. Those who insist on spontaneous, “natural” change inevitably stick to the status quo–the only thing that truly comes naturally. Insights call your attention to the kinds of risks that are necessary. Then, if you can rise to the occasion, your courageous, unnatural choices will yield far more results than any amount of armchair analysis.
–Jack Morin, The Erotic Mind, p. 251

It was an odd friendship, but the oddness of friendships are a frequent guarantee of their lasting texture.
–Ford Madox Ford, Some Do Not…, ch. 1

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon has followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.
–Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, pp. 45-46.