by WGT Community Member
You may not know this about lifestyle weekend events, but many couples find that — along with all of the fun and sexiness of a multi-day event — some pretty deep emotions and discussions can arise. You may leap to the conclusion of “jealousy,” and that could be true for some, but that’s not the trigger that I meant. Jealousy isn’t the only emotion that can come up. There’s scores of other possible emotions and thoughts that emerge. Over and over, we hear about couples experiencing some of the tougher, deeper talks that accompany nonmonogamy while they are in the middle of a multi-day lifestyle event. There’s so much going on and so little sleep, perhaps that is why feelings can bubble up mid-event.
During the WGT Nashville meet & greet weekend, we experienced this firsthand. For us, it triggered a really good (if tough) conversation about our “why.” As luck would have it, that conversation was immediately followed by a really helpful and insightful workshop lead by Catherine of Expansive Connection Counseling, one of the WGT weekend’s offerings. Here’s a snippet of how it went down for us:
Saturday morning, we found ourselves hip deep not in sexy play time but in important couple discussion time. We started the morning spontaneously discussing what each of us wanted out of not only this event specifically, but out of the lifestyle in general. It was a good talk, and some really honest feelings were both shared by and honored by each of us — not the least of which was me telling my husband that I need more input from him (that’s not a euphemism). Because, I told him, in the absence of input, my brain tends to fill in the blanks. And my brain is not always very kind to me.
Our discussion included tears and hugging and the kind of good-stuff talking that makes relationships worthwhile. Then, a bit later, we headed to the WGT workshop with Catherine. I don’t know what we expected her to say, exactly, but imagine our reaction when a big part of it was this: “In the absence of input, our brains tend to fill in the blanks, and our brains aren’t always very kind to us.”
OK. OK. She didn’t say that exactly in those words. But it was close.
What she did was explain the role of the hippocampus as something of a sorter of files in the brain, one who likes to be efficient and one who tends to want to file things into our brain’s BS file (“Belief System”…what were YOU thinking it meant?)…even if those things aren’t necessarily accurate. Why might that happen? Because “Hippo” fills in the blanks when there is an absence of more valid input.
For example: When my husband doesn’t tell me I look sexy in my meet & greet outfit that I bought for the occasion, my brain tells me that is because he doesn’t find me attractive. I’m not sexy. I’m older. I’m not in my top shape. I have spider veins in places I wish I didn’t. I’m tired and my eyes have dark circles. He’s not attracted to me. Of course he’s not attracted to me. Who would be? I am not sexy. Who am I kidding?
See how my brain can be a real bitch?
So, yeah. Catherine basically told the group the same thing that I had said earlier that morning to him — I need input or else my stupid brain fills in the blanks, and my stupid brain can be pretty mean.
It’s great when a smart counselor validates the thing you said.
When I got done nodding smugly at him about how right I had been, I tuned in to another workshop participant’s question for Catherine, “How do we know it’s BS going in the file?” Catherine responded that what we need to do when our Hippo wants to file negative or harmful things in our belief system is offer ourselves other possibilities that may explain the input we *think* we got when we didn’t get any.
You know, like, maybe my husband didn’t tell me I’m sexy because he was busy getting ready for his own part in the weekend, and had other things on his mind. Maybe it had nothing whatsoever to do with me. Hmmmm…..maybe.
She also recommended simply asking for input, checking in with our partner instead of letting the Hippo have its way with our files.
“Hey babe, I’m freaking out because I want to look good for this event that I’m nervous about and you didn’t say anything when I put this on. I feel like maybe you don’t like it. Do you?” That gives him the opportunity to go, “Are you nuts?! You look hot. I was just preoccupied with getting ready, myself.”
Ah. Input. I can work with that. Maybe sometimes I just need to ask for it instead of filing erroneous reports in my BS file.
We left Catherine’s workshop with lots to think about and were struck by the fact that when a couple signs up for a sexy lifestyle event such as a weekend meet & greet with the Joneses, often they get a lot more out of it than sexy playtime and some new couple connections. Though it seems so antithetical, a lifestyle weekend can end up providing aspects of a much-needed couple’s retreat.