I was in an elevator in downtown San Francisco with my fiancée and her friends when I realized my life needed to change. I made a joke, something I love to do. One of the friends laughed, but my fiancée glared at me. The moment we were alone, she whispered in my ear, “Don’t ever do that again. You embarrassed me.”
I realized that I had spent our whole relationship walking on eggshells, trying not to upset or embarrass this woman. All I wanted to do was make her happy. I’d been trained all my life to this point to make women happy. You know that saying, “Happy wife, happy life?” I was raised to believe that if you made a woman happy, that would be all you needed as a man to feel content. And if you couldn’t make her happy, you could at least avoid disappointing her or pissing her off.
All the people-pleasing in the world couldn’t save this relationship. My fiancée was beautiful, brilliant, and incredibly talented. She had an Ivy League education, and an almost effortless sophistication. People were naturally drawn to her. My mother adored her. And she had chosen me, and I felt entirely out of my league. This was especially true as I was – and am – HIV positive. It’s hard to find someone who can be so accepting of that status. As a result of all this programming and the circumstances, I could never say “no” to her. Only later did I realize that part of the reason she was so discontented was exactly because I couldn’t say that word.
To make the relationship work, I’d completely shut down the playful, joking side of myself. Ask around – I’m a funny, lighthearted guy. There were many things my fiancée loved about me, but that part made her uncomfortable. So I tried to shut it down, but sometimes it just slipped out – like that day in the elevator with her friends. After she spoke so sharply to me, I realized I needed to be with someone who wouldn’t be ashamed of me. That whole awful moment in the elevator crystallized for me that something had to change. I just didn’t know what. We didn’t break up that day, but soon thereafter.
After the breakup, I started looking at every modality I could to shift things in my life. I started going back to synagogue every Shabbat. One day, I met a woman there named Courtenay. We talked for a while, and exchanged numbers, and I thought no more of it.
A few months later, Courtenay gave me a call, and we ended up going out on a date. She told me that she practiced Orgasmic Meditation. It sounded wild. I couldn’t imagine doing it with someone I didn’t know well. She mentioned there were classes to learn. I decided to give it a shot.
The first time I OMed, I was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t just worried I would do it wrong, I was worried about the meditation aspect. My mind is always wandering. What if I couldn’t focus for those 15 minutes, and the strokee could sense my distraction, and everything was ruined? None of the things I was worried about happened. What I learned was that this was a goalless practice; it was impossible to make a mistake. I could be completely me.
That was several years ago. OM has become a central part of my life since. I made deep and lasting friendships through OM – and yes, found relationships too. It's been this extraordinary vehicle for connection, where both partners get what they’re longing for most.
I remember a while ago, I was in a partnership with a particular woman, and I felt as if she kept putting up walls between us. I wasn’t sure if she really wanted to be with me, and it drove me crazy; I was genuinely in love with her. We had a couple of fights that had us at the brink of a breakup, but we were both committed to the practice. We decided to see if OM could help us connect. I brought all of me to an OM with her, and bam – right through my finger and into my chest I got to feel her love for me. Everything she couldn’t verbalize was flowing into me. Right there, in the middle of the OM, I started to cry. I could feel how she loved me so viscerally, and I knew that even when she got angry at me for whatever reason, her love was stronger. All that validation I’d wanted to feel and share – I was experiencing it at last. It was so deeply moving.
I’m still with the same partner. Like every couple, we have our ups and downs. What we’re able to see is that each has strengths the other doesn’t. I don’t feel “one down” to her, and I don’t feel like it’s my job to always say yes to her and make her happy. We have this practice that keeps us attuned to each other. OM is about revealing our truest selves to each other, reminding each other of what we’re here to do and create together. I finally feel safe with someone. I’m not walking on eggshells, terrified I’m going to embarrass her. She has felt the fullness of me as a man, and I’ve felt her core – there are no secrets. In that openness and stability, I can finally let down my vigilance center. I’m still playful, still the jokester, but I’m not scared anymore.