Friday, April 28, 2017

To Be a Good Listener, Empathy is Key

One of the most compelling lessons I learned around how a man survives in a long-term committed relationship centers around communication. Specifically a man must be a good listener. That means he must a) hear what his woman is saying to him, and b) recognize that sometimes she just wants you to listen and not solve the problems she's telling you about.  Even if the subject matter holds little interest for you, it's sufficient if all you say in response is, "OK," or "I hear you," or "I understand." The little snicker you hear inside your head right now, dear reader, isn't the wrong response. There is definitely an element of "give her just enough to satisfy her" -- but I've learned that this element rarely appears.

When I say that a man must hear what his woman is saying to him, you should not default to the minimum level of listening.  This involves active listening. Your woman is trying to get her idea, her thought, her concern, across to you, and if you aren't actively listening, you will miss a detail.  This matters a lot when her idea, thought, or concern is about you and/or her relationship with you.  If you're not careful, your "listening" will be perceived as dismissive.

Sitting in a therapist's office in couples therapy, it's extremely difficult for me to give only minimal attention to what my wife is saying. Every word is important, and I've learned over the past 14 weeks that giving her the space to get out what she wants to say saves me having to hear that I'm not really listening to her, but only waiting to say what I want to say. Repeating back what she's said sometimes works, though if I do it too often she thinks I'm condescending to her. I make eye contact, make sure my arms and legs are uncrossed, and that I'm sitting up straight and looking attentive.  But that's only the superficial stuff. I can do all of that stuff perfectly, but if my response doesn't show her that I've heard her then none of it matters.

I used to think I was really good at listening; what I've learned is that I am only good at showing that I am a good listener. I'm good at looking the part, but I have never really gotten that I haven't been fully invested in the listening process.

During one particular moment this past week, DW and I were having a tough time reaching each other. At one point when I was stressing something to her that was important to me, she put her hand up and asked me to stop. She looked over at the therapist and said, "I want you to notice this."  Then she turned to me: "I asked you to stop not because I disagreed with what you were saying, but because you have 'The Tone' in your voice."  "The Tone" is her way of describing how I speak in a way that really gets under her skin. Rather than get defensive -- I had heard her complain about "The Tone" for years -- I just decided to take it in.  "I was beginning to tune you out the way I do when you get that tone in your voice," she said. "At my age, I think I've come to know a lot about life," she continued, "and when you speak to me that way, I feel dismissed, as though I haven't learned anything on my own, and that your perspective on things is all that counts. And I know that your heart's in the right place, but listen to me, Porter -- I have been listening to you speak to me this way for years." She was tearing up now.  "I don't want to tune you out, but I also don't want to feel dismissed anymore."

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, aware that DW has in the past criticized even this response as dismissive. I opened them again, fidgeted in my seat, scratched my chin, and looked up and away, as I tried to think of what to say, and how to say it in a way that didn't have The Tone. I thought about how many years she'd been telling me this and how it'd made her feel. And I wondered why I hadn't ever gotten what she was saying to me. I'd always said, I hear you," and "I understand, honey," and had sometimes said, "I'm sorry you're feeling this way." I then imagined myself being on the receiving end of a stream of empty words, only to be disappointed when the thing that had bothered me had come back to sting me again.  How frustrating and how demoralizing! I put myself in DW's place, and I finally could feel what she was feeling.

I leaned forward, put my hands on hers, and said, "I see how hard this has been for you. I'm so very sorry."  She nodded, wiped away her tears, and thanked me.

For the remainder of this week, DW and I have had a great time together. Even if what we're doing is mundane, and it frequently is, we are making the best of it, and using the time we have alone together to be loving and caring.  More to be revealed, I'm sure, but for now we're in a good place.

To be a good listener, which is an essential part of survival in a long-term committed relationship, a man must be empathetic toward his woman. Empathy completes the connection, creates intimacy, and builds trust. The end.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Dealing with Setbacks

In our first therapy session in two weeks, DW and I got into some heated arguments. It started over money. As I've written previously, income has been tight lately, and I'm now looking for a new gig. There are some opportunities on the horizon, but it looks like I will be at least four months without an income.  That's why we have an emergency fund -- to cover us when the bills are greater than what we take in.  I never really sweat things because I've been in far worse situations than this, and I know it's just a matter of time before things right themselves again, so long as I keep plugging away.

DW, on the other hand, positively freaks out when money is tight. She seems to believe that we'll go from where we are to zero TOMORROW and we'll be on the streets.  This, when selling our house alone will put close to a million bucks in our pockets.  That's a long way from homelessness, but there is where she goes in her mind.  I simply can't understand that fear, that inability to keep a positive attitude. It's not about a shift in her mindset, it's her wiring. But it's just in the area of money. When her dad passed away, she and the rest of her family told each other, "We got this."  Then knew things would be OK, despite the fact that they all hurt terribly and missed him a lot. But with money, there is no "we got this," there's just a short spectrum between "We're broke" and "we're OK, but it's not enough."

The therapist kept putting the brakes on our conversation, because DW kept going to personal insults rather than dealing with the issues I was raising around trust and teamwork. All she kept saying was, "Stop being such a dick," and "You're talking to me like I'm a child."  Even when I wasn't, which suggests to me that she knows deep down that she's uninformed and behind in her knowledge of how the world works, but she lashes out rather than admits she doesn't even know what she doesn't know.

On top of that, she's dealing with a close relative in the hospital and the upcoming one-year anniversary of her father's death. In other words, stressed to the limit. I feel fear, and I feel stress, but I know it's all going to be OK.  For some reason she can't or won't go there, especially around money. "You and I just see money differently," she said more than once. Well, babe, that's fine, but one of us is less realistic than the other, and I'm pretty sure it's not me.

As we neared the end of the session, the therapist asked me to ask DW a question about what she felt ready to discuss.  DW had nothing at first, but eventually she said she wanted to talk about sex, but there was no time.  I asked if she'd like to talk about it at home, but she said she wasn't really ready after all. So I made dinner while she relaxed and got one of our kids from sports practice.

This was a setback in our counseling, but it's temporary. It's a blip.  I'm not going to blow this out of proportion, and I hope that DW doesn't either. You deal with setbacks by staying mindful of the arc of the whole process.  We are five months past her discovery of my sleeping with Mel, and there has been a lot of progress made in communication, intimacy, and healing. One uncomfortable hour in front of our therapist isn't going to derail that process.  This is how I intend to keep showing up with DW.  In a month, when we're at the six month mark, we will have begun the process of resolving our sexual differences, and a plan will at least be discussed about where to go from there.  She'll have a crystal clear understanding of where I am by that time, and some clear choices to make. I can only hope she makes the right ones.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sexuality is Like Food Choices

It's been three weeks since my last post.  Not much going on.  DW and I are still talking, still working things through. I've basically backed off the express train to OpenMarriageVille for the time being, content to take care of myself daily (and to get a little help from DW once a week).  Counseling is still on, though our therapist is out of town this week, so we'll pick things back up next week.

Business is way down and I'm about to make a move again, as I sense some economic changes that are going to affect my employer, so even if I could fuck other women, I don't want to invest the cash right now when I have big bills to pay.

My life is intentionally boring right now.  I figure that when we hit the six-month mark since the discovery of my infraction (which will be mid-May), I'll resume with some gentle pressure to move into the next phase, which would be the solution to the incompatibility problem.

How would I describe our problem with incompatibility? Well, let's say DW and I have a favorite restaurant that we go to all the time.  And let's say that, nearly every time we go, DW orders the same dish.  Not a bad dish; I even like it myself, and have sampled it from her plate from time to time. But it's the only thing she orders when we go there.  I, on the other hand, love nearly everything on the menu.  Each time we go, I'll either order something on the menu that is different from what I ordered last time, or I'll go with a special that's not on the menu. DW doesn't like most of the things I order, mostly because they have red meat (which she doesn't eat) or some sauce or spice on it that she doesn't like.  She's content with her one dish, and while I like that dish, I couldn't be satisfied ordering it every time.  In fact, I'm like this at most restaurants; I typically try new things all the time, whereas DW will stick to something tried and true.

The same is true when I cook at home.  I am always looking for ways to tinker with dishes I prepare, especially if they're from a  recipe I'd found online.  DW has just a few dishes she prepares, and she does them the same way every time.  A lot of that has to do with our kids' limited palates, but even that goes to how she defines herself: first as a mother, second as a wife.

Staying on the food theme for a little longer, I fully accept the fact that when we go to our favorite place for dinner, she'll order the same dish.  I will likely have a bite.  But it won't ever be enough for me.

This is how our sexuality is. If DW wants to be celibate for the rest of her life, or if she realizes that she likes some things about sex but dislikes most everything else, that's fine. At this point I've accepted her for who she is. But it goes both ways. If she wants to be married to me -- and I am pretty sure she does -- she can't require that I be celibate as well, or limit myself to what doesn't satisfy me. It's not who I am, and she needs to accept me for who I am.  Those are my terms.  She can work around it, work with it, or reject them.  Each of these choices has a consequence, one of which is divorce. We will get to a discussion of these terms, and it will be soon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

WCSD Journal Post March 20, 2017

My DW and I had a pretty uneventful week.  The last therapy session got bogged down in immediate issues, such as dealing with the kids and working better on the proper way to communicate with each other. I didn't object to any of it, but as I wrote in my last post, I'm itching to get laid pretty fucking soon.

The last weekend found us dealing with the kids -- sports competitions, homework, food -- and we spent very little time with each other.  Unfortunately, DW got her period over the weekend, so that meant some very unpredictable emotional outbursts.  She lost her cool more times than I can count. And I just know that when I bring this up with her she'll blame my tone of voice, or the kids' rowdy behavior (which was a little over-rowdy given how little quality time we got to spend on things other than homework), and she'll take very little responsibility for her role in everything.

I know that I'm supposed to navigate this minefield of her emotions without complaining, and I really am not doing that.  I take care of what I need to take care of -- master my territory, listen, care, cooperate, be emotionally connected, and come up with innovative ways to make her happy -- and she's supposed to feel so well supported that she doesn't act out like this.  But in some ways it's horseshit.  Her emotional outbursts are governed by hormones, and externalities might soften them a bit, but they never entirely eliminate them.

Our early morning affection sessions also took a turn over the weekend, and this morning we spent very little time touching each other.  Plus, the TV was on, and it's supposed to stay off.  I just didn't have the energy to deal with that so I just let it go. Tonight I'll bring it all up just so we can keep present with our communication.

Meanwhile, I keep reaching out to Mel just to keep fanning the flame of interest.  She shares my dismay that we haven't been together in over four months. She's still looking for a new job, and that's not going well, and she hasn't found a new SD, so getting back to an arrangement would solve multiple problems for her.  How do I bring her back into my life if and when DW and I come to terms with an open marriage? It's going to be tricky:

  1. I'd have to figure out a way to introduce DW to the concept of an allowance for Mel when my previous disclosures omitted it. 
  2. I'd have to probably change Mel's name since I gave it to DW at the outset of her discovery. That part should be pretty easy, actually.
  3. I'd have to make sure Mel's emotions are held in check. I know that she's got feelings for me or she'd have easily moved on from me.  If she were to get too emotionally hooked, that would feel like a high for me, but it would be a dangerous one.
Tick tick tick...

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Post-Sugar Itch

I lost my virginity the day after my 18th birthday. A high school friend, P, came over to my house one night, and we disappeared into my bedroom, way in the back of the house away from everyone. It lasted all of ten seconds before I unloaded inside her (she was on the Pill).

Because I was a very shy young man, I rarely hooked up during college.  I had sex with P a number of times throughout college, but they were few and far between, and it was not unusual for me to go longer than a year without having sex.  I did hook up with another girl when I was 21, but she was not a student. I had one sure chance to hook up with a classmate during my last year, but I was so petrified at being so inexperienced, I blew it, spectacularly (she was in my apartment, on my bed, practically touching herself).

My shyness and insecurity did not disappear with college graduation, however. I had random sex with another former high school acquaintance, and it was nearly another year before I had sex with P again. That would be our last time together.

Three months after that last time with P (who, incidentally, died of a heart attack two years ago), I started seriously dating the woman who would become my first wife. From that point over the next ten years or so, I had sex regularly, and often (as should any young man in a long-term committed relationship with a willing partner).  Then I took a break from sex as I began exploring sex addiction in a twelve-step program.  I began dating a new woman, J, but we didn't have intercourse for the first six months of our relationship (we did touching and oral) as I tried to develop a deeper understanding of my sexuality. Once I'd been inside her, the relationship lasted only one more month before I took another break that lasted five months.  The next girlfriend lasted about four months, and I was completely celibate again for six months after that, until I had sex with DW. That six-month break before DW was the longest I'd gone without sex since graduating college, and I haven't gone that long without sex since DW and I got serious with each other.

This month marks four months since I last had sex with anyone, if you don't count the two brief hand jobs DW gave me since she found out about me and Mel. If I'm being honest, I don't see myself having sex again for quite some time unless DW and I soon agree on an arrangement for me to seek fulfillment again outside the marriage.  I didn't see this coming, though I certainly was not totally surprised when she found out and things came to a screeching halt.  It's been my goal to resume sugar activity with DW's full knowledge and input (though not necessarily consent), and I've been steering discussions in that direction, both in and out of therapy.

However, I've concluded that before we can get to that point, both of us need to develop a better way of communication that is rooted in trust.  One reveal that DW made this week during treatment was that she's not quite comfortable with physically intimate time with me, as she struggles not to visualize the fact that Mel and I have been naked together, that she has had my cock in her mouth and her pussy, and that I've put my tongue in Mel's pussy as well (btw, I do NOT use that language in treatment, as it would only serve to shock; we keep language purely anatomical).  To DW, the feel of my skin on hers still carries some pain.  So I've backed off a bit. Still, I pressed her to move forward with something, even if it makes her a little uncomfortable, because that will signal to me that she realizes her role in shutting sexuality down between us, and is willing to take steps toward my side. So, with the therapist acting as a mediator of sorts, we agreed to spend a little time each day being in physical contact with each other. No TV on, no kids around, no other distractions, no thinking of the day's to-do list. Just being in the moment together, touching, working on growing more comfortable being intimate, talking about feelings. If she feels good with it, or even gets uncomfortable with anything, she needs to be present enough to articulate it right then and there.  Staying silent is not an option.  This exercise builds both intimacy and trust, as well as creates safety in being physical.  We have chosen early mornings to do this -- we must do it at the same time every day -- and for the past two days, it's been pretty good. She has come to me and put her arm around me in bed, where we hold each other, sometimes kissing, for several minutes.  She's made no attempt to press this any further, but we haven't yet talked about that, and I won't until we've done it for a week and can dig into it in therapy.

I know that people are reading this and going, "What the fuck is with your wife? What wife would completely withdraw physically from the man that she claims to love?"  Or, "What the fuck is wrong with you? There are plenty of women who would love to have a man want her as much as you want your wife.  If she can't figure that out, the hell with her!" Both points are valid, I'm afraid. But there's a huge factor in this, which is our family. For me it's simply not an option to break up my family while the kids are still young and dependent on both of us.  Call it a question of my honor. Had my younger child been a little older when DW had fully renounced sex in our marriage, I probably wouldn't have begun sugaring in the first place, but simply would have said, "This isn't acceptable to me. We work out an arrangement where I can take care of my needs on my own, or I'm leaving." I have come very close to articulating this condition (without the leaving part).  This may still be an option in the future, but that won't be coming from me. It would have to be DW's decision that the marriage is over. If she decides it's over, then we're done and I proceed, guilt-free, back into the sugar bowl (assuming I don't have to fork over everything I have in the divorce settlement).

I'm speculating a lot here, and we're currently nowhere near the point where this is a serious option, as we are making progress and getting along well.  As time goes on, intimacy must increase and full, unconditional trust must return to the marriage. If not, we all know what will happen next. But for now, I'm in the moment and making the best of things.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How Much Longer Will the Young Girls Want Me?

I am in my mid-fifties. In decent shape (though need to be in better shape), have all my hair which is not entirely gray, keep myself impeccably groomed (no stray nose or ear hairs), and can still get a very full erection and keep it as long as needed.  I am at the peak of my earning power, have a decent net worth, and rarely, if ever, have cash flow issues.  I am practical, not extravagant; financially disciplined, not profligate; low-key, not ostentatious.

I started my journey in the Sugar Bowl when I was in my mid-forties, making half what I make today, and less attentive to my personal grooming habits than I am today, though by no means sloppy or gross.

So check out this graph I put together:


This graph represents all the women I had sex with (the X-axis) in order from Anita to MJ, and their ages when I first had sex with them (the Y-axis). The average age for this collection is 27 years old, but they have ranged in age from 19 (Nikki and Chica) to 43 (Katie).  Throughout the nearly eight-plus years that I was actively in the Sugar Bowl, most of the women ranged from about 24 to 30.  The only one who's gotten steadily older ... is me.

I confess that I'm a little depressed by this data.  Each year since things with C/Hayden ended, I make a point out of raising my minimum age up one year.  C/Hayden was 25 when things ended in September 2012, so that was my minimum age through 2013. the average in 2013 was 26, but Wanda was younger, as were Sam and Naira.  In 2014, when I raised my minimum age to 26, Audrey, Leah, Belle, and Star were all at least that age, as were all but one of the girls Audrey and I swung with; the average was nearly 28.  In 2015, when my minimum should have been 27, I was with College, who was 20, although the average was over 28.  In 2016, when the minimum age went up to 28, I had Gemini and MJ who were younger, but the average was 28. If I manage to get back in the game this year, the minimum will be 29.  The trend was definitely upward, so I did what I set out to do, for the most part.

I raise the age each year because, in my mind, I don't think younger women will be interested in a man in his mid-fifties.  Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I saw it then. I still see it that way now. If, or when, I get back in the sugar bowl, I'll get back in shape, lose weight, and take some new pictures.  I think I can pass for mid- to late-forties, so that might buy me time before women in their twenties are no longer interested. Meanwhile, that means I'll be looking for women in their early thirties before long.  As I wrote a long time ago, I tend to believe that once a woman hits that age, she starts shifting in her thinking toward something more permanent and meaningful than a short-term arrangement. Those who don't, who are delaying or abandoning marriage, will then become my main "hunting ground."  I think the selection will be much slimmer.

One thing to note here is that I'm not simultaneously raising the upper limit on my age range.  It's still 35, with possibilities to go to 40 for the right woman.  But women of that age tend to have kids, which is a deal-breaker for me unless they have readily available child-care arrangements available and can support them without an allowance from me.

#firstworldproblems, amirite?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Refining Communications in a Marriage

Nearly three months ago, I wrote a post about communication.  Here's the crux of the post:
In a long-term, committed relationship, it's too important to leave things unsaid. If you want something from your sweetheart, say what it is. Don't ever not say what it is. Avoiding the topic creates tension and resentment, erodes trust, and ultimately poisons the relationship.
There are ways to say what you want without being hurtful, but if your sweetheart feels hurt by what you're bringing up in a respectful and honest way, it's not as important as your saying what it is you want.  Hurt feelings can heal; broken trust can too, but it's much, much harder. So opt for hurt feelings over broken trust.
In over 15 years of marriage, DW and I were, I thought, pretty open with each other about a great many things.  In our last session, however, I learned that DW feels unable to be vulnerable with me because of how I often react to her communication with me. She has said that, during times when we're just talking about anything, she'll often see me roll my eyes, or audibly sigh, or otherwise express something negative, when she really wants me to listen better and take in what she's saying. As a result, she said, she feels unable to be vulnerable with me.  "It feels like you think I'm stupid or something," she said.

I'll admit I can be difficult to talk to sometimes, particularly after I've weighed options in a given situation and I've made a decision. At times like that, anyone trying to talk me out of what I'm thinking will need to be very persuasive. In my career, I had a boss jokingly tell other members of our team, "Arguing with Porter is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. If you're not totally prepared to back your position up with solid facts, he will shoot you down where you stand."  That's really true. I was raised by a father who was, and is, an insufferable know-it-all, except he wasn't nearly as informed as he should have been (and isn't must better today, either).  In order to get my way, I would have to be fully armed with facts in order to make a persuasive case against his opinion about pretty much anything. Luckily, I have always been an avid reader and I absorb information like a sponge. I gravitated early in my adult life toward a career in journalism because I felt that the clearest, most effective way to communicate was through writing, after researching and taking my time to get everything straight.  I was a reporter for my college newspaper (a rather large daily) for two years, but sadly, the money just wasn't there when it was time for me to get a professional job in that field. Still, my career path did take me into financial services, where I started as an analyst responsible for digging deep and finding facts and reporting them.  I would say that on the whole it's been good for me to have this constant need to get to the truth about stuff; it's in my blood now, and I hope that I'm able to pass it on to my children.

A couple of the traits I inherited from Dad was 1) impatience, and 2) wearing my heart on my sleeve, a lot. These show up everywhere.  In my mind, it's always, get to the fucking point already! You think I have time to wait for you to make your case? On top of that I sometimes struggle with being able to hide how exasperated I am with the whole thing, or I get too excited about something cool when I should be chill. That last thing is something about which I passionately instruct my kids. "Be cool," I tell them. "It's great to get excited sometimes, but sometimes it's great just to sit back and not give all of yourself away so that people can read you like a book.  Make it a little harder for them to get a good read on you."

So when DW sort of drifts into wanting to tell me something, I can sometimes show all of these character flaws. I said to her, "If I'm rolling my eyes, you need to know that it isn't about you necessarily. Impatience is sort of a default state for me; something I need to work on, obviously, but I'm telling you that you should take it with a grain of salt and not too personally."  I also said, "If I'm frustrated, or really digging something, you also know how I'm feeling, whether I'm being demonstrative about it or not. None of it is directed at you unless I'm telling you it's about you."  She took that in and I think it's really going to help her when talking to me going forward.

Then it was my turn. "Sometimes it looks to me that your whole life is one, endless to-do list," I said. "I have heard you running down your list as you walk through the house, all day long. I've woken up in the morning, rolled over to take you in my arms, and the first words out of your mouth have been, 'I need to get up and let the dog out to pee.' When you do that I feel frustrated and neglected, and it puts distance between us. The story in my head is that you do that to avoid intimacy, and it has shown up in how you available you are physically, and how disconnected you are to me and the kids.  I want you to take time to notice more of what's around you, to show gratitude for all that's great in your life, and to be present for me, especially when I'm reaching out to you romantically or sexually." DW acknowledged all of these things as true.  "We really need to get better at communicating with each other," she said.

One other thing that really hurt was when she said she saw me as overly serious and not very fun, particularly around the kids.  She compared me to a friend of ours, who is always mixing it up with his kids, and ours when the families get together. I had a thousand different facts to back me up, but I chose instead to focus on my emotional reaction. "I think, if you think about it," I said, "you'd be able to remember a lot of times when I'm with the kids, either one on one or together, having a blast."  She said that perhaps she wasn't articulating herself correctly.  "I want there to be more fun in the house," she said.

"What you want to see, bring," I responded. "I bring playfulness, a lot.  Where is your sense of fun? Where's your joy, your passion?  After you get home from work, you don't engage with the kids about much beyond their homework, and a lot of that is yelling when they don't hop to it as quickly as you'd like. After that it's dinner, more homework, dishes, making lunches, washing up, and falling asleep within ten minutes. Let's face it: you and I are so often in task mode that we really struggle to have fun."  She agreed.

The last thing we covered had to do with efforts we made over the last week to be physically intimate. Twice in the last week, I suggested that we sleep naked and close together. One night DW came to bed wearing a pretty sexy nightgown, short and revealing in all the right places. DW has a great body and it's pretty irresistible for me. The second time was early morning and she got up to use the bathroom. "Come back naked," I said.  She came out topless and climbed into bed. Both times I reached out and started touching her, but nothing was reciprocated.  I got frustrated and felt disappointed. I made a point to acknowledge her effort, but I confessed I liked things to move along more quickly (my impatience, perhaps).  She said in the session that she did what she felt capable of doing, citing nervousness, discomfort, and fatigue.  These have been her go-to places for years to avoid intimacy. "If you want us to move forward and into new territory," I said, "you're going to have to get away from what feels comfortable."  She agreed, but said she couldn't get the thought out of her mind that I'd been skin to skin with someone else, and it inhibited her. "Of course," I agreed, "I'm not really in a rush with us.  It will happen with time, so long as we continue to talk.  But I told you last week that I have been starving for your affection. You are looking at what I did as some huge crime, but in my eyes what I did kept me at home rather than out the door."  I made a note in my mind that I might have to work even harder to convince her to step aside while I explored sexuality with other women. I know we'll keep trying this, and I'm not expecting to have my cock inside her at all, but if we are both working on intimacy, she'll need to make more of an effort.