Over the past several months, I have been researching the topic of sex for a book that my colleague Meg and I are writing on non-contact sex crimes. Doing so has gotten me more interested in studying healthy sexuality.
Since so many of our clients come to us in distress about various intimacy issues, including partner betrayal, sexual addiction, pornography addiction, sexual/intimacy anorexia, we set a goal for our clients to be able to embrace healthy intimacy and sexuality, though to achieve this can seem like a long and arduous road.
While our focus at Namasté is to assist men and women in healing their relationship with themselves as well as their relationships with their loved ones (especially so that they may experience healthy intimacy and sexuality with their partner), the topic of healthy sex and intimacy isn't fully addressed for awhile since so many come to us literally in crisis due to acting out behaviors, or having just found out about the betrayal.
At any rate, it is an important discussion to be had. Therefore, this blog is the first in a series of four where I will talk about healthy (relative these days, I realize) sex.
I am currently listening to the audio book mating in captivity by sex therapist Esther Perel. In it she explains that in her years of working with couples she has found time and time again that "Eroticism thrives in unpredictability" (2006). At first when I heard this statement I thought, "Of course eroticism thrives in unpredictability; I see it everyday with my clients who are male and female sex addicts." But as I continued to listen to Perel, I realized that she was referring to the typical eroticism experienced in all relationships, not just eroticism experienced in one's addiction. Although there are definitely similarities.
Perel explains that the more we attach to someone the more we have to lose. Therefore, she says that we do our best to seek out predictability in our relationships, often at the expense of passion, excitement, and the unpredictability in which eroticism thrives.
Think about the relationships you have been in; there was always a honeymoon phase where you felt lust and limerence towards your partner. You couldn't wait to see them, to spend every moment with them. You felt an immense amount of joy and laughter, ease and pleasure just at the mere sound of their voice. There was something especially sexy about not knowing everything about them; the mystery of getting to know them was indeed alluring.
Then what happens? For many reading this, an addiction poisoned the relationship. The castle crumbled as the betrayal of porn, mistresses, chatrooms, strip clubs, drugs/alcohol, gambling, etc. all of the above, crept in. However, perhaps other typical life events may have also occurred (especially if you are getting healthier in your recovery). For instance, maybe you moved in together, had children, experienced the physiological changes that come with aging, have increased stress, have too many deadlines and not enough time, have pent up resentment and anger, or illness...
These are real issues that everyone will likely face at one point or another in their lives. Add to this our efforts to find the comfort of predictability that everyone ultimately wants and it literally has the capacity to drain the life out of the excitement, passion and edge that we felt at the onset of our relationship.
I have heard many couples say, "We have a great relationship, I feel so close to him/her, but we don't have sex." In a thorough assessment process, we may indeed find that their is trauma, betrayal, or physiological issues that are impeding the sexual part of the relationship. I used to discuss with couples the importance of being connected via intimacy (non-sexual, talking,etc.) outside the bedroom to be connected inside the bedroom. However, I am learning that there may be more to this for eroticism to occur longterm....
Perel asserts that, "Separateness is a precondition for connection.... Too much closeness can impede intimacy...[and] increased intimacy decreases desire."
Wait a minute....what? Too much closeness can impede intimacy? Increased intimacy actually decreases desire? For some, what Perel is saying may not be true. Intimacy may actually increase desire, sexual adventure, and eroticism within the relationship. I have worked with many couples who increased their level of connection and intimacy and their sex lives flourished. But what about the couples that have intimacy and closeness but struggle with eroticism, desire, and having sex?
What if there is something to this idea of needing some unpredictability and mystery in the relationship to maintain a healthy sense of sexual desire longterm?
For couples struggling with betrayal, predictability is elemental in re-establishing safety and trust in the relationship. After all, with the addiction came a hell of a lot of unpredictability, uncertainty, and crazy-making scenarios. But in general, outside of an addiction-filled relationship (or if you are in recovery), what if there is some truth to needing a bit of uncertainty to maintain the awe that was felt at the onset of the relationship? And if there is some truth to this, how do we rekindle the mystery?
As you begin your week, take some time and consider the following as you think about your current partner and relationship:
What caused you to fall in love with your current partner? What drew you to them? What did you notice? What about them lit you up inside? Why did you "pick" them to be your longterm love companion? What was it about them that was different from others you dated; that led you to choose them to be your partner longterm? What keeps you together? What would it look like to have some mystery in your current relationship? Can you create that in a healthy way? Do you really know everything about your partner (many think they do but don't)? Have you taken the time to step back to watch your love companion at a family gathering, or listen to them talk to others and found yourself noticing how attractive, sexy, beautiful, or hot you feel they are? Have you taken a moment to see them outside of the predictable world you two live in and look at them with new eyes? From a different standpoint?
If, as Perel argues, eroticism thrives in unpredictability, is it possible for you and your loved one to create some healthy mystery in your relationship to test out her assertion? If so, what might that look like?
Stay tuned for part two of our discussion of "Sex" in a series of four....
As always, precious ones, know that you are SO worth it.
*This blog is based on Esther Perel's book Mating in Captivity (2006).
Check out what's happening at Namasté~
JUNE 24TH PROFESSIONALS EVENT: Earn CEs: Email email@example.com for a flyer! Come listen to expert neurosurgeon Dr. Don Hilton talk about Porn Addiction as a Public Health Issue and how to talk to your clients about healthy sexuality.
JUNE 24th FREE COMMUNITY EVENT: Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a flyer and learn ways to protect your family from porn in a porn culture. Dr. Hilton will speak at this event as well; Fight the New Drug, Jackie Pack and I will do a panel discussion on healthy sexuality.
JULY 16, 17TH: Mastering the Trauma Wound Weekend Workshop with Candice and Cari. Come learn how trauma has impacted your brain and body, as well as simple mindfulness based tools for healing your mind, body and spirit! Only seven seats available! RSVP (or for a flyer): email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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