Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Tale of Three Relationships

Another one bites the dust... a celebrity marriage, that is, or at least the public perception of perfection. On the not-too-distant heels of Tiger woods' cheating debacle comes the news of Sandra Bullock's hubby, Jesse James, and his multiple extra-marital affairs.

But all is not lost in the world of high-profile, role-model, celebrity marriages... here are three examples of functional, loving relationships, each with their own unique flavor.

1) The (Semi-)Traditional - Amy Grant & Vince Gill

Amy Grant and  Vince GillAmy Grant and Vince Gill met in 1993 while taping an episode for Gill's Christmas show. Both were married at the time, and the Christmas show became a yearly collaboration as their friendship grew. Though they maintain that there was never any sexual impropriety during their marriages, their emotional connection was undeniable. Gill divorced in 1997, Grant in 1999 - and no, they were not in collusion at this point - and they married in March 2000 after a whirlwind courtship of less than a year.

Grant is one of the most influential Christian entertainers of her generation, and she took a lot of flak with the media for her divorce. Nonetheless, they seem to have created a successful family to include Gill's daughter from his first marriage, Grant's three children from her first marriage, and their own young daughter.

Some of what makes this monogamous marriage work is their willingness to learn from their previous marriages. Grant is quoted as saying, "You get into a second marriage and you go, Oh man, some of those weird dynamics, those were just me, and I've just dragged them off to the future! I shouldn't have been so hard on that first chapter!"

Knowing when
not to talk, asking for support instead of resenting not receiving it, giving up being right for it's own sake, and getting clear on (and telling the truth about) your own motivations are some of the tips they use for creating a productive partnership. "A big reason why our relationship is so good," says Gill, "is that it begins with respect and kindness. If you have those two things on the front burner, then the rest is kinda easy." (Quotes from Good Housekeeping, Feb. 2010)

2) The Sexually Open Marriage - Mo'Nique & Sydney Hicks

Mo'Nique and Sidney HicksMo'Nique, shortly before winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in 2009's Precious, was profiled by Barbara Walters for her final Oscar preview show. Not only does she share her experience with child abuse at the hands of her elder brother, and why she doesn't shave her legs, she also discusses her third marriage to long-time friend Sydney Hicks - an open marriage.

Although she does not admit to having had sex outside of her marriage to Sydney, she strongly asserts that either of them could do so without ending the marriage. "That's not a deal-breaker," she says. "That's not something that we would say, 'Oh my God! Because you were attracted to another person, and because you happened to have sex, let's end the marriage.'"

By Mo'Nique's definition, an open marriage is one without secrets, in which you can tell each other your every thought and deepest fantasy, so that there are no surprises, and she credits this arrangement, her best-friendship to Sydney, and their deep knowledge of who they are for their ability to operate this way. "What if it's 20 times?" she asks, in response to Barbara's questioning of more than once. "So what?... I'm very comfortable and secure with my husband."

3) The Emotionally Open Partnership - John Byrne, Tilda Swinton & Sandro Kopp

Tilda SwintonAlright, technically this one isn't a marriage, as Tilda Swinton (Oscar-winning Best Actress for Michael Clayton) and her playwright partner John Byrne are not married, but given their twin 11-year old sons, and the fact that they've been together for 19 years, I'm inclined to include them. Here are some interesting facts about their partnership...

Byrne is 69, Swinton is 49, and Kopp, an artist, is 30. Byrne and Swinton, and sometimes Kopp as well, live in a large, rambling house in Scotland with Byrne and Swinton's twins. Although Swinton and Byrne ended their marriage over five years ago, shortly after which Kopp entered the picture, they chose to remain living together, and both men play a major role in the children's lives. "We are all a family," she has said. "What you must also know is that we are all very happy."

This is not, however, an example of the stereotypical polyamorous relationship - one with multiple emotional and sexual partners. "When you say you love the father of your children and you also are in love with someone else, they immediately assume you're all in bed together," Swinton is quoted as saying. "Maybe the unorthodox thing, it's sad to say, is that we [are] all so happy, and this comes as a shock to people."

I acknowledge and celebrate these couples, or triads, for creating relationships that fulfill them, and that will hopefully stand the test of time.

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Friday, May 14, 2010

Relationship Tip - Speaking Up

Speaking Up

You know how it is... there's something you need to say to someone, and the dialogue plays out in your mind. I'll say this, and then she'll say that, and then I'll say, and she'll say... and it seems reasonable. You've know her long enough to anticipate her responses pretty well, right? The way you see it, it's not going to be a pretty conversation, and someone's feelings could get hurt. Perhaps, says a small voice in your mind, you should keep it to yourself for now and wait for better timing.

Don't listen to that voice's advice! It may be out to keep you "safe," but safe does not always lead to happy and successful, and isn't that what you really want for your relationships?

Try this on for size:

1) Each time you hold off in sharing yourself fully - a concern, an indiscretion, an upset - you treat the other person like they're too weak to handle it. Essentially, you turn into Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men hollering, "You can't handle the truth!" Chances are that they're stronger than you think.

2) You also allow yourself to think that you know how they'll react. I know, you have all of your history together to tell you how they'll respond, but people can surprise you. When you hold yourself back, you deny them the chance to do just that.

3) Are you sure that you're anticipating their reactions? Often, we imagine a response that we're afraid to receive, even one that happened years ago with someone else, and apply it to our current situation. It feels like our current partner might say no, or respond harshly, but in fact, it was someone long ago who said such a thing, and we've yet to forgive them and/or ourselves.

Humans - we are such amazing creatures!

So the next time that you find yourself holding back, thinking about the response you want to avoid, the likely behavior of your partner, or trying to shelter their feelings, take a deep breathe, admit to your fears, and speak up.

Incredible relationships take incredible courage, and they're worth it.

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Erotic Adventure - Guide for Therapists

For those who may not yet be aware, I have written an published a choose-your-own styled erotica entitled My Erotic Adventure. What that means is that the first few pages set up a scenario for the main character... for whom you'll be playing the part!

You get to choose what she does as each choice arises. For example, if you choose to go find your friend Lynne, turn to page 4, but if you choose to stay and talk with Trevor, turn to page 7. Well, the choices get pretty spicy - to give or receive oral sex, to include another couple in your sex or put on a show for an audience, etc. Eventually, each story line must end, and there are 48 unique endings for your entertainment. You can read testimonials and sample sections here.

Well, My Erotic Adventure is now available with a Guide for Therapists, Counselors and Coaches. Including four detailed maps of the book's branching story-line, the guide reviews the Sexual Acts, Relationship Styles, Alternative and BDSM Activities, and beneficial inquiries covered in the content and/or experienced by the main character. Additionally, I've included suggestions for possible conversations that can be intentionally broached with a client by using the book as a therapeutic tool.

If you or someone you know is a psychologist, therapist, counselor, coach or mental health professional who deals with issues of sex, sexuality or intimate relationship, please recommend that they contact me to discuss how this guide may serve their client's development and progress.

Thank you!

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Sunday, May 9, 2010

G-Spot Controversy

The Grafenberg Spot, commonly referred to as the G-spot, is named after Dr. Ernst Grafenberg, a gynecologist known for his research on female genitalia. This little pleasurable area that he hypothesized in a 1950 paper has long been a cause of debate in the medical community, and has recently been the focus of a study that's come under criticism.

The study by researchers at King's College London in the UK studied 1800 female twins and published their conclusions in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Lead study author, clinical psychologist Andrea Burri, and her team suggest that the G-spot has no genetic basis "and that environmental or psychological factors may contribute to whether a woman believes she has a G-spot or not."* The study's discussion section, however, reflects that the questions may not have been asked in a way that accurately captured the information sought.

Problem: The research team did not physically examine the women. Instead, they gave them a survey that asked if they believed they had a "so called G-spot, a small area the size of a 20p coin on the front wall of your vagina that is sensitive to deep pressure?" (a 20p coin is consistent with an American nickel.)

They found that 56% of the respondents answered "yes" and that there was no genetic correlation -- meaning, both twins did not necessarily answer the same way.

To me, this study seems not to indicate a darn thing about whether a woman actually Has or Has Experienced her G-spot, only whether or not she "thinks" she has one. This is a study about female thinking in the realm of sexuality. Using this study to invalidate the existence of the G-spot is heinous.

To quote Elizabeth Landau of CNN, "...those women who can't orgasm from vaginal intercourse may feel inadequate, and knowing that the G-spot may not exist can take some pressure off."*

Excuse me?!

Or, radical concept here, we could actually do a physical examination of women and use the tried and true, "Is it here? How about here? What about here?" technique, and then ask them if they believe they do or do not have a G-spot.

I recommend doing your own study and drawing your own conclusions.

To quote Debby Herbenick, research scientist at Indiana University and author of Because It Feels Good, "Whether you call it your G-spot or the front wall of your vagina, or if you make up a silly name for it ... at the end of the day, it's what you like and how your body works."*

*"Finding the G-spot: Is it real?" by Elizabeth Landau, CNN, January 5, 2010

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Friday, May 7, 2010

Relationship Tip - Listening

Listening... Huh? What??

You do not listen. Don't feel badly about that -- neither does anyone else. Is it any wonder then that living with and having meaningful relationships with other people is often referred to as one of the most difficult things? We have classes on public speaking, but where are the classes on listening? If everyone is speaking, but no one is listening, it's no surprise that the divorce rate in the USA was 48% in 2008.

One of the challenges in communication is what I'll call Family Language. We were each raised in a particular family environment, where certain words were used in certain ways, and held distinct meanings. Unfortunately, there is no set standard for Family Language, and the meaning of a word or phrase for one family is likely to mean something different in another.

During a heated discussion in my mid-20s, I came to realize that, when spoken with a particular tone, the phrase "What?" to me meant "What is wrong with you, are you stupid?" I did not hear the single word my partner spoke, or even that he was asking for clarification or increased volume, I heard that he thought I was stupid.

That's another challenge with what passes for listening -- hearing our own interpretation of what's said. My family did not say those things to me, I was never told that I was stupid. For whatever reason, I took on that interpretation. Realizing that my interpretation did not represent my boyfriend's intention led me to the next question... If it wasn't true with him, was it ever true with anyone? Did my family perhaps not accuse me of being stupid?

This points to one way out of these booby traps -- listening for the speaker's intention. I know that my fiance loves and respects me and wants me to be happy. So when he speaks in a certain way, and my hackles rise, I have the opportunity to be responsible for my own interpretation and say, "Okay, I just heard you imply that I'm stupid, but I don't think you meant that, did you? Did I hear you wrong?"

If he DID mean to call me stupid, we get to have a very interesting conversation... but that has never yet happened, and when he didn't, I get to let go of being upset and actually be WITH the man who loves me.

So the next time your panties get bunched or (insert manly example here), verbally check what you heard with the person who spoke it. You might discover a false interpretation, and gain access to intimacy and connection. And who doesn't want that?!

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Back to the Beginning

I haven't always been a relationship coach. No surprise - it's the rare person these days who retires from the same career path that they began out of high school.

My first college degree is a BFA in Theatre. It was 1987, I was young and impressionable, and I loved to sing and dance, and to build things, as I soon discovered. However, while I may have classmates on Broadway, operating theatres around the country, and in major motion pictures, the theatre lifestyle left me craving stability, and I thought I'd left it behind. Enter an unexpected alignment and opportunity!

I am now the Production Manager for Inviting Desire - a work of original theatre about women's fantasies that opens to Portland, OR audiences on May 14th. The ensemble cast surveyed over 100 women about their desires, fears and fantasies in preparation for the show, took the responses, and has crafted 15 original pieces plus several improvisations that will make you laugh, consider, and be glad you came.

For those not within driving distance of Portland, consider recommending this show to your local edgy theatre company. Our intention is to package the creative process to support other companies in creating their own original works, in a way that works!

Viva la sexual revolution! Pass my beret.

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Monday, May 3, 2010

Relationship Tip - Purpose


We hear the stories all the time... Couple gets married, has kids, raises kids. Kids leave home, couple gets divorced. At first we might think that they grew apart over time, or couldn't reconnect to what made them love each other in the first place.

Here's another view point to consider: Perhaps they fulfilled the purpose of their relationship.

People build relationships in their lives for all kinds of purposes. My relationship with my accountant is for the purpose of supporting me in my tax obligations... not just for handling them, but for supporting me too. My relationship with some of my distant friends is for the purpose of coaching each other when one gets into a funk, for sharing fond memories, and letting the other person know that they're loved. We might talk once every six months, and that's enough to fulfill our purpose.

Not all intimate relationships are life-long commitments, nor do they need to be. Some people are together to provide companionship during a challenging transition, some to educate each other on differing points of view, some to share new experiences, to create an experience of something that had been missing, or of what does
not work.

Some purposes, like that last one, may only be visible in your rear view mirror, once they are behind you, but others can be declared up front. My relationship with my fiance is for the fulfillment of our personal missions (mine is
all people free to live the intimate relationships that inspire, and his is a world of peace and prosperity for all), for our continued spiritual development, and for playing in the world together.

Now, I have had past relationships that were for incredible sex, and this is not one of those! We work through the challenges of a less-than fully compatible sexual nature without it breaking us up, because that is not what our relationship is
for. As long as the purpose of our relationship is being fulfilled, nothing else poses a real threat. Our reason for staying together is clear and joyously binding.

The process of finding your purpose may not always be an easy one. We're taught that relationships should look, and feel, and behave a certain way. Setting that aside, however, and looking at what truly matters to you most, may point you toward a purpose that provides stability and clarity in a world of chaos and wondering, and so I ask you...

What is your relationship's purpose?

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -

Relationship Tip - Agreements

It's all about your Agreement.

We live in a world full of agreements. Many of them are taught - use the restroom for your gender - and some of them are enforced - stop at the red light. Many of them, however, are unspoken, and these are the ones that get us into trouble.

From such simple issues as how to load the dishwasher to complex conundrums like how to behave around the opposite sex, we often take it as a given that we're in agreement with those around us. Imagine our surprise when they bend or break our rules, or fail to meet our expectations!

Look into your life and consider where you think you're in agreement with your partners and loved ones. How to raise the kids? Views on monogamy? The kind of sex life you'd like to have 10 years from now - or tonight? Did you actually discuss this with your partner, or have you assumed that you're both "on the same page?"

Raising the question with a loved-one can be challenging, but it can also be surprisingly fun! You might like what you find out. Either way, having a generous and open conversation now could save you some difficult times in the future.

M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved -