Stories from inside and outside the straitjacket


I’m doing a 10-week Landmark seminar at present called Sex and Intimacy, and this week’s session was a particular knock-out listening to the breakthroughs people are getting.

For myself, I’m still in the midst of it, still inside the straitjacket. I’ve gotten the context in which I view these matters, and it’s dumb: that being in a relationship occurs to me like a prison (hold the advice, please; I know this is nutty and not real, and in this matter, as in all matters, knowing makes no difference) and that not being in a relationship means free but lonely. That’s the straitjacket. Just two simple-minded and untrue extremes, and nothing else. That’s the absence of possibility, the piece of my past in the future.

Others have had breakthroughs already and there were two extra-delicious stories.

One man in his early 40s shared about his marriage to his wife of 17 years. A few months ago they had separated and he’d moved out. Then he started the seminar and got a breakthrough. Since then, he’s moved back in with his wife, and as he said the other night, beaming from ear-to-ear:

I’ve discovered my wife newly. We’ve been married for 17 years, but it feels like three weeks.

A blue-collar worker, he also told us he’d been sharing all about it with his mates at work, which in Australia, so the cliche goes, would be something only a madman would do. And he said this amazing thing: “You know, when I talk to them about it, there’s this thing that happens. This softness comes from them …”

A woman then shared. Aged in her early 70s, she’s given decades of her time and service to others, and is a powerful, salt-of-the-earth type.

She told us her husband had died 10 years ago, and since then she has barely given a thought to matters of sex and intimate love. Since doing the seminar, however, something had started to shift, and she’d begun listening newly to what was possible. She discussed it with her daughter on the phone and her daughter said, “Mum, maybe you’d like ‘friends with benefits'” and the woman, who’d never heard the phrase before, laughed and found the idea amusing and freeing.

Since then, she’s taken it on as a possibility and is having lots of fun listening to herself in this way. She also shared it with a long-time friend of a similar age who is still married, and the friend said, out of the blue, “You know, if R [her husband] died, I’ve sometimes thought I might like to try being with a woman.” And, again, the woman was struck by a whole new possibility, something that had never occurred to her before.

As she was sharing all this, the woman was a picture of delight. She said her daughter now rings her up and asks her whether she’s found her “friend with benefits” yet, and the woman said, laughing, “I say no, he hasn’t turned up yet and I’m having fun anyway.”

Makes a change from talking about the weather, what?


Image: Collective Invention, 1934 by Rene Magritte


16 thoughts on “Stories from inside and outside the straitjacket

      • Well, I really enjoyed this piece. There’s a fine line sometimes between being openly vulnerable and merely confessional. You got me thinking here which I appreciate … and the picture is perfect !


      • Well said, about the distinction between being vulnerable and merely confessional. The latter shores up our inauthenticities.

        I have to screw up my courage to be vulnerable on this blog, to give up the looking good for a while, and then I think of the countless people out there who are suffering, in despair, thinking about leaving their marriage, thinking about an affair, telling themselves there’s nothing for it because they’ve “fallen out of love”, and of the children. And maybe continuing the marriage will not be the answer or maybe it will, but in all cases, they can deal with their circumstances with power and freedom, and they can continue to honour their marriage vows to love and cherish the other to the end of their lives regardless of whether they are married. I think of people suffering in this way, and it astounds me that I’ve got access to something that transforms this, that has whole new realms of life open up, this body of distinctions from Landmark, and I want to tell people that it’s available for them too by going along and paying some modest amount and sitting in a conference room for 3 days and having the best conversation they’ve ever had in their life. And people think it won’t work for them, and I say it does, it will. That’s my promise, that’s my declaration.


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