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Real Connection – Relationship Reality

“Life delights in life.”  — William Blake

How do we connect with other people?  Do we rely on conflict, suffering, manipulation, gossip or one-up-man ship?  Do we create relationships that can be controlled safely and then call that “reality?”

Real connection requires two people, both wanting to be in the relationship, to approach each other as equals.  A good relationship brings us happiness, growth and a satisfying feeling of closeness.  We can be ourselves, without adjusting our beliefs or behavior to please the other person or to keep up the relationship.  The moment we abandon our equality, we have a power struggle, not a relationship.

Previously, the only connections we made were between us and a hunger and an appetite that was never filled.  Once we began our process of personal growth we began to enjoy the real connections with people; the true joy that comes with giving and receiving.


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Integrate Healthy Sexuality Into Life

Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation.  The other eight are unimportant.”  — Henry Miller

Henry Valentine Miller (December 26, 1891 –– June 7, 1980) was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms, developing a new sort of novel made up of autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association and mysticism, one that is distinct always about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller, and yet is also fictional. His works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. Henry Miller also was known to write travel memoirs and essays of literary criticism and analysis.

It is good and healthy to laugh about sex – as long as the laughter is on the side of life.  Sex, after all, is part of the life force, and if it is surrounded by caring and honesty, it leads to a joyous intensification of our relationship with others and with the world.  Then sex, like laughter, integrates.

Too often, laughing about sex betrays uneasiness, shame, disgust, and the want to hurt.  We talk about “dirty jokes” and consign sex to the bathroom.  We split off sex from other feelings and surround it with taboos and rituals and mockery.  Viewed in this way, sex isolates us.

We need to learn to talk about our sexuality in a proud and affirmative way. Talking and laughing in a group, or with a friend, or with a loved one, is one of the steps we take to bring sex into the open to take its place as part of the diversity of life.  Own your sexuality.  Talk about it without shame and claim it a vital part of life.

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Setting Healthy Boundaries

“No one else can set your boundaries for you.” — Lois J.

Let me start out by saying that I am not an expert at setting boundaries. The setting of healthy boundaries has proven to be my single most challenge I face in my personal growth work. That being said, what I am going to share in this blog is what I have learned to be true about the setting of boundaries, and what I strive to integrate into my daily life.

I have learned that one way to create boundaries with people is to show priorities in our relationships. In the past, I believe that out of my loneliness and neediness, I may have talked to anyone, whether the person wanted to listen or not. In the mixed up world of my uncontrolled bi-polar disorder, I often withheld my true feelings from people close to me, but perhaps spilled them to someone outside my inner circle, say such as my new “best friend” the cashier at Fry’s.

As I now grow in self-esteem, my relationships improve and I act to meet my needs. Then I have a better sense of who everyone is in my life. I make choices in my relationships and take responsibility for them. I learn to bear the pain of boundaries that aren’t respected and enjoy the serenity of those that are.

I no longer need to give myself away in bits and pieces; I know now what it is to feel whole. I can simultaneously have acquaintances, friends, and intimate relationships, both sexual and nonsexual, in my life. I can trust that I will act appropriately and that my boundaries will keep me safe.

I know that there are some people in my life that will doubt the validity of my commitment to this level of understanding of boundaries. But I am a work in progress and this is truly the knowledge that I have gained.


In Love v. Being “In Love”

Loving v. Being in Love”

Someone said to me this morning that he believes it to be true, that people can be in love, but not “in” love. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this belief stated. So, I wanted to venture off to do some research of my own on this “Loving versus “Being in Love” concept. I would have said being in love is the single most wonderful and important thing. It’s an arbiter of chemistry. However, I have found that like some, it may be argued that being in love is a short-lived sensation that is not sustainable. Perhaps loving and respecting someone are more important.

Being in love is short-lived:

At times I wonder if the sensation of being in love is a chemical imprinting phenomenon perhaps even exclusive to heterosexuals. The coveting, jealousy and exclusiveness might stem from the nature driven side of sex for reproduction; the desire to perpetuate ones offspring at the exclusion of competitors.

In our society, the traditional heterosexual marriage model is the only socially supported model for establishing and maintaining long-term sexual and affectional relationships among gays and lesbians. This model has never been really appropriate or functional for same sex relationships. Although many same-sex couples still try to adapt the marriage model in one form or another, most now avoid relationships that completely conform to it in favor of relationships in which roles are not so rigidly formulated by gender role stereotypes.

Naturally, this movement away from the marriage pattern, along with the realities of same-gender relationships, makes for differences between gay and non-gay partnerships. There are also differences between kinds of relationship characteristics typical of gay male and lesbian couples because of differences between genders and the ways men and women are socialized. These differences create different problems and raise different issues. In spite of these differences, however, there are some general relationship issues that are common to both gay and non-gay couples.

Same-sex relationships are similar to opposite-sex relationships in that they are both built on love, mutual caring, and trust, communication is an essential element to the continuing success of the relationship, and both must negotiate roles, rules, and expectations. One of the biggest differences between gay and non-gay relationships, however, is that same-sex relationships lack roles models.

This may sound unromantic but I think questioning the basis for behavior is at times important to evolve either into or beyond a state. All that you say resonates to be sure, yet too often have I seen madly passionate in-love individual’s burn out of their passions. “Quick to light, quickly to burn” I believe the old adage goes… And with it yes- the pain and fear…

Be assured I am not at all questioning our desire to feel in love; we all have this aspiration. I question only for myself, since my partner has communicated to me on several occasions that this kind of passion has changed for me and with it the feeling of being in love. I agree love and respect – are a given. Now rapture for someone must extend to a sense of great potential for that person as an individual and as a partner. Coveting and jealousy have evolved into deep feelings of contentment of knowing that you are watchful of and watched by someone. I can’t quite approximate the sensation with language but I am aware of the rare quality of a person from whom I seek to give and receive that type of attention; their vision and affection becomes integral to one’s evolution, not simply supportive of it. I recall the time when my last partner and I met, and those weeks and months in the beginning of our relationship that he and I were unable to make even simple eye contact with one another because the rapture, the overwhelming brilliance and joy seemed blinding. We could not look at each other without seeing a future- and yet, has that feeling not lasted? Was it meant to? Are all states of “being in love” eventually replaced by a deep mutual love, respect, affection, and (if lucky) persistent attraction.

Being in love is foundational:

Without a doubt, love and respect are centrally important. Without respect and trust you have nothing, maybe just some hormones.

However, there’s something Freud called ‘the over-valuation of the love object,’ and I think that’s essential. That’s the phenomenon of believing your love object is incredibly special, even if rationally you know that all people are imperfect. Your beloved’s eyes shine brighter, their remarks are cleverer, their smile is truer, their insights are more insightful, their comfort more comforting – generally that the world is a better place simply because they, apart from all others, are in it. Your life is a better and finer thing because that person is sharing it with you.

You have to feel that no substitute is possible because of the ineffable uniqueness and specialness of your loved one. And that feeling of eminence is partly delusional, and partly based on the lock-and-key-like fit of two unique yet compatible personalities coming together as they deepen their mutual understanding over time. To me, that set of feelings is “being-in-love,” and I believe no relationship can survive without. Without that feeling, you’re constantly aware that the world is full of adequate substitutes. I also believe that this sort of being-in-love is not short-lived but foundational, even if it goes through fluctuations and phases.

Love, however, is by comparison a relatively non-relational way of caring for someone: it means that you care about and are committed to someone else’s happiness and well-being around equally to your own, and are willing to put in work toward achieving that. This sort of love is altruistic and relatively selfless but it doesn’t draw you to someone and make you want to inhabit a private or exclusive sphere. That love you could have for a mother and a brother and humanity in general. It’s non-possessory. Does that make it a ‘better’ sort of love, higher, more virtuous? Perhaps, but also more tepid & impersonal, and lacking in any compelling sense of why you give love and effort to one person and not another.

In-love love is exclusionary, jealous, protective, devoted, involved, inspiring, and covetous (among other things). The flip side of being in love is the potential for real hurt and loss. And nearly everyone becomes more loss-averse and risk averse over time, as well as – more detrimentally – more self-protective and resilient. There are benefits, yet it means one build walls on all sides. So over time there’s a gap between one’s conceptual view of being-in-love and one’s ability to do it – or, really, to allow it.

The fact that it becomes harder or rarer doesn’t make it less real or less important.

Conclusion
As I get more experienced I find myself willing to compromise less and less. I know what works for me and even more so what does not. As for love, I have never been as hurt as when I have been in love. Similarly, I have never unintentionally hurt someone as much as when that person was in love with me and I was not (despite wanting to be). For that, I cannot apologize enough. Despite my outward rationality and coldness, I am a romantic at heart. And, as an eternal optimist, I continue to believe in the archetypal importance of being in love.

 

The Challenges of Accepting and Loving Life

“Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It’s not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end.”

I know I’m not alone in my lingering fear of pain and the way I try to flee its onset. In the past, I would do almost anything to avoid being hurt, and I was unwilling to take risks in my emotional life. I remained in a love-less relationship for 16 1/2 years and a in a second, controlling, compulsive and impulsive relationship for nearly 11 years, then endured a 5 year abusive relationship because I didn’t want to feel the pain associated with ending those relationships.

Deep down though, I knew I was playing a dangerous game with my sanity. But at least I wasn’t making myself vulnerable, or so I thought. Life without pain I have learned is an impossibility. The same is true of love. Our loved ones may grow away from us for a while, or they may become sick, leave us or die. We cannot control life. Accepting it and loving it as it is, with everything that is unpredictable and painful about it, is one of my greatest challenges along my path of personal growth.

I can accept pain as a part of life, even as a part of my growth and health. I can accept pain when I have attained a sense of serenity in my heart. I must give up the false sense of power that results from closing myself off from pain, and, at last, I will feel fully alive.