A WAY FROM HOME FOR THE WEEKEND, I WAS GETTING READY FOR BED when someone knocked on my hotel door. It was a participant in the seminar I was teaching. I had noticed her many times during my presentation and found her very attractive. There was very strong physical chemistry.
As she silently entered the room, she looked straight into my eyes and without saying a word unzipped her skirt and let it drop to the floor. My jaw dropped along with it. “I want you,” she whispered. My mind went blank. I didn’t know what to say. My body rejoiced, but my mind began to panic: after all, I was so happily married, and I dearly loved my wife.
My uninvited guest continued to undress, and while my mind was trying to get a grip on the situation, every cell in my body was saying yes . Still, I somehow managed to stand my ground and hold back.
Without missing a beat, she moved toward me and began to unbutton my shirt. Time seemed to stand still, and nothing existed except the explosive passion of the moment. At the first physical contact, I felt an electric shock shoot through my entire body. In the next moment, I remembered my wife and pulled back.
I said, “Excuse me, but I am married. I can’t do this.” As if the scene had been perfectly choreographed she confidently responded, “It’s OK, I’ll never tell.”
I politely explained, “My wife has little antennas. She knows everything, and this would only hurt her and our relationship . I think you’d better go. She just smiled and said, “But don’t you want me to stay.
Although I was a believer in monogamy, I found myself suddenly beginning to reconsider. My mind flooded with rationalizations. How, for instance, could something that felt so good be bad? Why couldn’t I be a loving husband at home and also have a little extra pleasure on the side?
Finally, after much discussion and emotional struggle I asked her to leave. I was able to restrain myself because I knew having an affair would hurt my wife. Although I felt I had done the right thing, I could not sleep.
For hours my thoughts continued to churn. I had resisted temptation, but my mind began to question if monogamy was really necessary. I could not understand why having sex with a willing partner was wrong. I thought maybe monogamy was an outdated tradition and should be “overcome.” After all, a loving marriage should not be a prison. People should be free to do what they want. Why couldn’t I do what my body wanted to do?
On the other hand, I certainly didn’t want to do anything that would hurt my wife. I myself had been betrayed in a past relationship, and I knew how it felt. The last thing in the world I wanted was to cause her pain, and I certainly wouldn’t want her to betray me. Maybe monogamy really was important and I just didn’t understand why.
Tossing and turning in bed, 1 considered the pros and cons of having an affair. My body was saying do it, my heart was saying don’t do it, and my mind was trying to figure out a way for both to be happy.
Before falling asleep I finally concluded that if I could assure Bonnie of my undying love for hei then maybe it wouldn’t hurt her if I had occasional discreet affairs. I reasoned that as long as the affairs were brief and recreational, then possibly there would be no negative emotional repercussions. Thinking this was a good solution, I decided to share with her my new ideas when I returned home.
I was excited to see Bonnie, and almost immediately we enjoyed great passionate, loving sex. Afterward I told her the story of what had happened on my trip. She was crushed. She asked, “Do you love the woman?” I explained that my attraction to this woman was only physical. Feeling completely rejected, she asked me if I still loved her. I tenderly said that I loved her more than anyone in my life.
She asked what the other woman looked like and who she was. I answered all her questions, assuring her that we had done no more than talk. Taking Bonnie gently in my arms, I apologized for hurting her.
After some time, I proceeded to share with her my new thoughts and feelings about monogamy. Although I was hoping she wouldn’t mind if I had discreet little affairs, her response not only changed my mind, but it changed my life forever.
I began this memorable conversation by saying , “I didn’t do anything with this woman because I would never want to betray you. But I would also very much like to have your permission to have an affair. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It would just be for fun. And I promise to be very discreet and do it only when I am out of town.”
Before I could finish, Bonnie began to weep, but distressed as she was, she spoke to me with astonishing strength and clarity. I will always remember her words because they affected me so deeply.
She said, “John, I would never want to tell you what you can do. You don’t need me to he your mothet nor do I want to be. All I can tell you is my experience. I am already trying so hard to be open and give you the trust you deserve. I don’t want to give up on loving you. I want to grow in love and trust for you.”
With tears running down her cheeks she continued, “I have been left before. If I thought you were possibly having affairs when you left to teach your seminars, I would begin to close up. I would always be comparing myself and trying to just measure up. I would never feel good enough.”
Then, after a long pause, she said, “I don’t know whether it is right or wrong. All I know is that it would be too difficult for me to stay open.”
In that instant, my mind became crystal clear, my rationalizations melted away, and my heart was filled with an even.deeper, more committed love for my wife.. I was so grateful that Bonnie could share her feelings with me in such a magnificent way. I was able to listen without becoming defensive; there was no criticism, blame, or judgment in her words; I felt no need to justify myself. I was able to hear her real legitimate need, think about her words, and respond freely.
In that moment, I knew that Bonnie loved me and truly wanted me to be happy. I also knew that regardless of whether an affair was morally right or wrong, she needed monogamy as a requirement for growing in love. She needed to feel special in order to love me in an open, receptive, and responsive way . And that “specialness” was based on the security of monogamy.
Like many men (and some women), I had imagined that having an occasional “fling” would make no major impact on my marriage. I was wrong. I hadn’t appreciated the sacredness of sex or that monogamy, and not just love, is the cornerstone of lasting happiness, passion, and intimacy. If Bonnie and I had not shared our feelings that night, I would never have understood that.
And why should I have been expected to understand in the first place? My father didn’t understand any more than his father did, and my mother would never have felt entitled to tell him about her need to feel special, certainly not with the strength and clarity Bonnie exhibited. My mother’s attitudes were forged in another time, and her strength was of a different kind.
In the fifties, when I was growing up, my father secretly confessed to my mother that he was having an affair. What had probably started out as a moment of passion gradually became more serious, and he asked my mother for a divorce.
My mother loved my father and was deeply hurt. Instead of sharing her tender feelings and thereby showing him how much she loved and needed him, she became strong, and in the most loving way she knew said, “If that’s what you want, then I will give you a divorce. Let’s think about it for a month, and then you decide.”
Fate intervened when, a week later, my mother discovered that she was pregnant with their seventh child. With this new responsibility, my father decided not to leave her and the family. My mother was very happy, and nothing more was said about his “other interests.” For several years he continued to have affairs in other cities, but they never talked about it.
Though they never divorced, this was a major turning point in their relationship. They continued to love and support each other as husband and wife, but something was missing. The loving romance and playfulness of love slowly began to disappear.
When I became an adult I eventually heard the rumors of my dad’s affairs and asked him about it. His response was “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” As I persisted in asking more questions, that is all he would tell me.
I realized that this was the way he had justified his affairs. He didn’t want to hurt my mother and had rationalized that if he was discreet, she wouldn’t be hurt.
To some extent he was right. My mother seemed to be OK with his affairs and never broached the subject or asked him to stop. What neither of them knew was that without monogamy they would eventually snuff out the delicate and tender feelings of affection that attracted them to each other. Like many couples, they mistakenly assumed that it was natural to lose physical attraction and passion after years of marriage.
After my father’s death, Mom and I came across a snapshot of him with one of his mistresses. When my mother saw it, tears came to her eyes, tears that were not shed when he was alive. I knew why she was crying. I could feel her pain at seeing him so open and free with another woman, seeing in his eyes the sparkle they had once shared but which had gradually disappeared from their relationship.
I also felt the personal pain of never having seen my dad so happy. He’d been a loving father, but often moody, angry, or depressed . In this picture, in his secret world, he was charming, helpful, and happy. This was the father I’d longed to know and be like.
When I asked my mother why she thought he had felt the need to stray, she answered, “Your father and I loved each other very much. But as the years passed I became a mother, and your father wanted a wife.” I was amazed by how she was so accepting of his infidelity. She told me, “1 admired your father for staying. It was a great sacrifice on his part. He had strong desires, hut he didn’t desert us.”
On that day I could finally understand why he had betrayed her: he had stopped being romantically attracted to her and just didn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t know how to share the responsibilities of a family and also he romantic. He didn’t know how to bring hack the passion and joy in their relationship. If he had known, he would not have given up and strayed.
I also realized that my mother had done the best she could. She knew too well how to he a loving mother, but was not adept at the art of keeping romance alive. She was following in the footsteps of her mother and her mother’s mother. It was,
after all, a different world then, with different rules.
In the days of my mother’s youth, with the depression followed by World War II, survival was more important than romantic and emotional needs. People just didn’t reveal their inner feelings: my mother was too busy raising six and, later, seven children to explore her feelings. Even if she had, she would never have considered sharing her heartaches with Dad, and she wouldn’t have known how to unburden herself without making him feel controlled or defensive.
When my father decided not to leave, she was enormously relieved that the family would stay intact. Like her female ancestors, she put the good of her family ahead of her personal needs. My father also put aside his personal needs and honored his commitment to the family by staying married but, like his male ancestors, continued discreetly to have affairs on the side. And, despite everything, my mother assured me that they loved each other very much, and in many ways grew closer through the years.
While my mother’s and father’s story is common to many people of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, we men and women of today want, expect, and require more from our relationships. At a time when the whole basis for marriage has dramatically altered, we no longer mate for survival and protection but for love, romance, and emotional fulfillment. Now, many of the rules and strategies our parents used to keep their marriages together have become ineffective and even counterproductive.
Unfortunately, it could be said that we all have Ph.D. ‘s in conducting relationships that are just like our parents’, since we lived with them for eighteen years or more and unconsciously learned how to behave and react from them. For this very simple reason, childhood experience heavily influences the quality of our relationships in later life. Look at how close, without even knowing it, I had come to reenacting my father’s behavior. But look, too, at the enormous difference in the way Bonnie and I reacted to and dealt with it . That’s what this book is about.
You see, even if our parents dearly loved us, and did everything they could to be examples of strength and love, they could not teach us what they did not know. They could not give us solutions to problems that did not exist in their lifetimes. We, their heirs, are pioneers in a new frontier, facing new problems that require new strategies. We not only have to master new relationship skills but must also shoulder the additional burden of unlearning what we learned from our parents. And what are these new lessons and rules? What do we, the men and women of today, need in order to feel fulfilled?
Women today no longer primarily need men to provide and protect on a physical level. They want men to provide on an emotional level as well. Men today also want more than homemakers and mothers for their children. They want women to nurture their emotional needs but not mother them or treat them like children.
I’m not saying that our parents didn’t want emotional support; it was just not their primary expectation. It was basically enough for Mom if Dad worked and provided . It was enough for Dad if Mom managed the house and kids and didn’t constantly nag him.
But what was good enough for our parents isn’t goodenough for us . We are no longer willing to make such enormous personal sacrifices. We demand and deserve lasting happiness, intimacy, and passion with a single partner. If we don’t get it, we are prepared to sacrifice the marriage; personal fulfillment is suddenly more important than the family unit.
Recent national statistics reveal that an astronomical average of two out of four marriages end in divorce, and the rate is rising. (In California, the figure is three out of four.) Over 50 percent of America’s schoolchildren come from broken homes, while over 30 percent of babies are born out of wedlock. Domestic violence, crime , drug addiction, and the use of psychological medication are at an all-time high. Without doubt, the breakdown of the family is largely responsible for such alarming statistics.
These new problems raise critical questions. Are we to turn back the clock and deny our personal needs and suddenly make the family more important? Could this be the answer? Are we to serve our sentence and simply endure a marriage that is not emotionally satisfying for the sake of others? While these strategies have worked to ensure our survival in the past, they are not options when our priority is personal fulfillment.
In most cases, the solution is not divorce nor is it self-sacrifice. Instead, the answer lies in learning how to create relationships and marriages that support our personal fulfillment. This is not only possible, but necessary. Divorce has been the only solution for many because they just didn’t know what else to do.
Our parents simply could not teach us how to have relationships that fulfill our emotional and romantic needs. Without the knowledge of how to get our emotional needs fulfilled, the reality of marriage has, for many, become an emotional prison. However, with the new knowledge of how to fulfill our emotional needs and create lasting passion and happiness, marriage and family are no longer obstacles hut can again be the means to fulfilling our personal needs.
There is nothing bad or narcissistic about wanting more than our parents did. The truth is that times have changed, and our values have changed with them. The new problems we face are not symptoms of failure hut are the successful result of the evolution of our society.
Now that civilization, to a great extent, ensures our physical survival and security, it also provides us with the physical freedom to be ourselves and achieve all that we can. To men and women of our parents’ generation, that freedom seems an undreamed-of luxury . No longer motivated by basic drive s but by higher needs, we expect more from ourselves and life . As a result, we look to our relationships for the emotional support to help us be all we can.
In this generational movement toward wholeness, women are developing the masculine side of their natures and men are moving toward acknowledging their feminine sides. Women want to be more than mothers and homemakers; they want to make a difference in the world outside the home. Men also aspire to be more than warriors and work machines; they want affectionate and loving relationships in the home, more time for recreation, and greater participation in child rearing.
The age-old distinction between male and female roles has suddenly blurred, creating confusion and frustration. At this time of transition, it’s hard to get the emotional support we need from our partners. After all, it’s taken thousands of years to overcome the challenges and hardships of physical survival; we are only just beginning to learn the rudiments of getting our emotional needs fulfilled.
While statistics reveal that millions of couples are facing the possibility of breakup, What Your Mother Couldn’t Tell You and Your Father Didn’t Know demonstrates clearly and simply why relationship problems are inevitable and offers a host of practical insights and suggestions for developing advanced skills to ensure more loving and fulfilling unions.
For those of you in a great relationship, these skills will make it even better. You’ll learn how to smooth the rough edges, iron things out, and bring back the passion of the first few years together . In fact, literally thousands of couples attending my relationship seminars have been delighted to discover a greater mutual passion than they ever felt before. And, in addition to making a good relationship better, these advanced skills ensure that your marriage will continue to grow in love.
If you are single, this book will be a revelation. It will give you hope that you can have bette r relationships . It will allow you to view past mistakes without feeling guilty or bad. It will make it easier to forgive those who have hurt or disappointed you. By clearly seeing others’ mistakes with the new awareness that they just didn’t know better layers of resentment will be released. This newfound openness will lighten your heart’s burden an allow you to draw into your life the perfect person for you. In addition, you will learn new skills so that you won’t unknowingly turn off this special person or create unnecessary problems.
If you are presentl y experiencing problems in a relationship, this book will reassure you that you’re not alone. In many cases, you’ll discover that there is nothing wrong with you or your partner. It is simply that your parents didn’t, and couldn’t, teach you the necessary skills for making a relationship work.
Over and over, I’ve witnessed couples on the verge of divorce miraculously fall in love again . Through discovering and recognizing their mistakes, they do not feel so powerless and hopeless. Their hearts open up again. Understanding their parts of the problem lets them release their blame and begin practicing new skills . As they quickly get results, their relationships are truly transformed.
After twenty-three years of marriage, Linda and Daryl were ready to give up and sign their divorce papers . Like so many couples, they didn’t really want to split up but weren’t getting what they needed from each other and knew of no alternative to divorce. All they knew was that staying in the relationship was like choosing to die emotionally. But, after they learned advanced relationship skills, everything changed!
What Linda learned: “I always thought my husband just didn’t love me or care enough when he didn’t do the things I expected. I felt hopeless, like I would never get what I wanted. When I tried to talk about making things better, he just resisted, and things got worse. Now I know that he was just doing what his father did. I discovered that he really did want to make me happy but just didn’t understand me. By learning how to approach him differently, I find he has suddenly become a different person. He listens to me, and I appreciate him greatly. Not only am I happy, hut he is too.”
What Daryl learned : “So many times I just didn’t know what she wanted . When she would talk, no matter what I said it seemed to make matters worse. When I tried to explain myself, she would just get more upset. Now I understand that she basically just wanted to be heard. I have learned to say less and listen more, and it actually works. She is so happy these days that I just want to do more for her. It is kind of embarrassing, but I suddenly feel alive again and I didn’t even know I was dying.”
To save their marriage, Daryl and Linda had simply to acquire relationship skills their parents couldn’t teach them. Daryl learned the importance of responding to Linda’s feelings. Linda learned the secrets of keeping a man happy. As a team they quickly improved their relationship by making small but crucial adjustments in their attitudes.
Only after these minor changes are made can the big shifts in the relationship take place. The secret to the effectiveness of the techniques I share is that they do not require radical sacrifice of who we are.
For example, to expect a man who doesn’t talk much to suddenly open up and share is unrealistic. However, with a little encouragement, the same man can easily focus his energies on learning to be a better listener . When approached in this manner, behavioral change is possible regardless of what we learned from our parents. Instead of focusing on what we can’t or don’t do, this book focuses on what we can do and how to do it.
Many of the participants in my relationship seminars report amazing results even if their partners couldn’t or, in some cases, wouldn’t come to the sessions. By just learning from their own mistakes and developing new skills for relating, the participants were able to generate dramatic and positive changes on their own.
The same thinking applies to this book. Your partner does not have to read it for you to improve your relationship . The skills I share deal with how you can begin today to get more of what you deserve in all your relationships. Certainly, change will happen faster if your partner does read it. But even if he or she is not interested, the secret of success lies in your learning and using its principles.
So how do women convince their partners to read my books? Men, after all, are very particular about the way in which they are approached. If you hand them the book and say “You need this,” it creates more resistance. But if you open the book to sections that describe. men and ask your mate if what is.written is really true, he may suddenly. become .interested.
This strategy works for two reasons.. First of all, men like to.be experts, and you’ll be approaching him as an expert on the.male perspective... Second, when he hears parts of this book , he. will quickly realize that it is not against men nor does it try to change them.. It is 100 percent. “male-friendly.”
In fact, women are generally amazed by the equal attendance of men at my seminars. They can’t believe that they’re seeing lots of males actually listening, nodding their heads in agreement, even laughing . I repeatedly point out that men are just as interested in improving relationships, but require practical strategies that don’t ask them to become feminine.
Since the enormous success of my previous best-seller, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, thousands of relationships have improved. In the first year, my office heard from over fifteen thousand readers saying that “the book” had saved their relationships. In some of the calls or letters, readers had more questions, practical questions like “What should I do when ..... or “What does it mean when...... “ or “How do I get him to..... or “What should I say when ... .. “ or “When do I ..... .. ?“ This book is also a response to those questions.
What Your Mother Couldn’t Tell You and Your Father Didn’t Know answers the questions that our parents could not. It points us in a new direction. It promises and delivers the necessary information for creating and sustaining loving and mutually fulfilling relationships. It offers a new seed that, when planted and watered, will grow into a relationship that is not only loving but easy.
I offer this book as a collection of jewels, pearls of wisdom and practical gems from which I have personally benefitted. I sincerely hope that they work for you as they continue to work for me and the thousands of participants in my seminars. May you always grow in love and continue to share your special gifts.
JOHN GRAY, Ph.D.
November 22, 1993
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993