When Sex Clouds The Issue

sex gets cloudyThere’s a belief going around in some circles about women and broken relationships. It’s commonly said that the only way for a woman to get over one man is to get underneath another one. There are some women who swear by this standard and will move quickly into another intimate relationship after their marriage or relationship fails. Whether or not you believe in using sex as a means of ridding yourself of a new man and cementing yourself with a new, there can be no question that sex can be relationship-defining.

While some proponents of casual sex will say that using sex to grease one’s ego, to make oneself feel good, or for recreational and relaxation purposes is no big deal, the research confirms otherwise. Sex has an inherent component which glues individuals together; regardless. In other words, we don’t just have sex and get away scot free; there are consequences to sexual joining, no matter our motivation.

The hormone Oxytocin plays a significant part in our sexual encounters. It fosters feelings of connection and belongingness when we hug, kiss, touch and orgasm with our partner. While this binding is an aspect of the built-in spirituality of sex, it does not need ideal relationship conditions to occur. There is nothing written in the fine-print of sex to suggest that sexual oneness or binding or connection, only occurs with marriage vows or when there is love in the relationship. It in fact occurs with all types of sexual encounters. This means that when we misuse sex to prove a point about our worth, value or desirability; when we seek out new sexual opportunities just for the fun of it, we may actually be doing more harm than good. We may be contributing to our own emotional confusion by connecting ourselves indiscriminately to someone else, while still being tied to a previous spouse or partner.

Premature sex can encourage a false sense of intimacy. Even when we think we’re simply being casual, the passion of sex can mess with our heads. It can mimic love through its intensity and this can cause us to gloss over the glaring flaws in the new individual we may be having sex with. The headiness of sex can also prevent us from facing our own neediness or low self-esteem. Sex alone can never be an adequate therapy for feelings of worthlessness. In fact, the individual who falls too quickly into sex after a break-up proves that she is unable to stand on her own two feet.

Because sex is what it is, it should never be used to test-drive a new man, particularly after a woman has been hurt. Sex too soon will cloud the issue of the pain and rejection a woman must deal with in her own heart; particularly if her previous relationship has been marred by infidelity or abuse. This type of replacement sex, especially if it’s ‘good’ will get the hormones going and will foster feelings of attachment. Such attachment, however, is premature and shallow and is hardly the foundation for a better relationship with someone new.

So what should we do in the face of a relationship’s demise?

Evaluate: Understanding why a relationship ended is a critical aspect of moving forward into emotional health. This involves knowing our relationship style in terms of whether we were too clingy, insecure, demanding or even the model partner who just got a raw deal. This is also a time for taking responsibility, if in any way we contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. This should allow us the capacity to change those aspects of ourselves which we may need to and is also critical for our personal growth.

Reconnect: Using the time when a marriage or relationship ends to reconnect with ourselves, to clarify our relationship values and to determine what is really important to us, should be far more important than indiscriminately jumping into another man’s bed.

 Treasure Transition: In the event that we are entirely the victim of a cheating or abusive partner, then our relationship transition period is a time to take fresh stock in determining what we will no longer tolerate from any man. It should also be a period of self-affirmation and even forgiveness. Taking bitterness and resentment forward will be harmful to any prospective relationship. This is why we need time to grieve what we had so that we can be healed of the effects of a painful relationship before moving on. Sex can cloud this issue and leave us exposed and vulnerable to further abuse.

While the desire for human connection and intimacy is understood, using sex as a short-cut to such is counterproductive. If at the time of a break-up, we forego this essential period of reflection, healing and growth, we could easily find ourselves smack dab in the middle of another bad relationship.

Denise J Charles is Director & Relationship Coach at Better Blends Relationship Institute e mail betterblends@gmail.com

Is All Sex Created Equal?

What's in a one night stand?

In an article that touted the benefits of one-night stands for women, the writer, Abigail Wick, responded to one of her reader’s queries about the positivity of one night stands, by stating and I quote: “my philosophy about life is seeking pleasure and avoiding needless negative emotions. There are so many means by which to sustain this path of non-harmfulness to oneself and others–for some it’s long-term love, celibacy, free-love, whatever. All of it’s good, (emphasis mine) just so long as it’s healthy and happy!” If I was in any doubt as to how this current age will be defined in the future on matters of sex, I doubt no more.

When it comes to the issue of sex, we seem to be living now in the STANDARD-LESS age; an age where we seemingly apply more care and forethought to the care of stray animals then we do to the guarding of our own sexuality. But then again, that in itself may be an antiquated notion. Sex by several of today’s proponents is whatever you make it; it carries no intrinsic core value other than what you may choose to give to it; if you’re so inclined. Of course people have equal rights and the freedom to do whatever they want with their penises and vaginas. They could rub them against a tree, a chair, a sharp object, cut them off, gouge them out, or put them in or around 1,000 different people. But really, to suggest that all choices in life are equally “good, healthy and happy” is as ludicrous as saying that our actions are devoid of consequences; regardless. People can choose to sleep with whomever they want, whenever they want, but to try to convince intelligent people that the context within which we have sex is inconsequential, is ludicrous. How could all sex be healthy and happy?

This argument is tantamount to saying that there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy eating, or that the distinction between wholesome, organic food and food that is laced with harmful chemicals and preservatives is just a figment of the imagination. What about the other things we measure; like schools, health plans, financial investments, record-deals, contracts, parenting skills and the like? We have implicit standards for such things by which we judge whether they are good or bad. We know that some things in life are unfavourable; even when we like them, even when they make us smile (like sweet, gooey desserts, tons of fried chicken and loads of pizza!).We also know that some unpopular things, like regular exercise and whole-grain cereal, are also good for our health; even though they make some of us cringe.

The point is that standards and our ability to judge what is wholesome, beneficial or a “best practice”, are implicit aspects of what make human beings discerning creatures with superior intelligence to animals. We don’t just operate on instinct; we have the ability to think things through and to judge and act in our own best interest. Why pray tell are we trying to fool ourselves that sex is any different? There is all manner of sex but don’t let’s trick ourselves into believing that all sex is equal. Because sex is wildly orgasmic does not mean that it is necessarily “good, healthy and happy” as Miss. Wick would have us believe.

Are casual encounters as harmless as they are cracked up to be?

There were some other interesting elements to Miss. Wick’s argument. She maintained that 50% of women felt that uncommitted sex was more free or liberating. According to her, it gave them “a chance to explore (their) sexuality without the fun being bogged down with heavy meaning.” At the same time, she admitted that women love pair-bonding, and as such only a small percentage, 25%, felt that they were able to have sex without becoming attached. So in essence, a whopping 75% admitted to getting attached through sex.

If my Maths serves me correct, this means that of the 75% who felt that sexual connection was unavoidable, 50% still insisted in pursuing casual encounters. This is virtually the same as using a drug which you know is bad for you but you do it nonetheless because you are addicted by the high it gives. When we pursue something which we know intuitively is not the best for us but are chasing the thrill it brings, we tend to call this dysfunctional behavior. Yet where sex is concerned, we are afraid or unwilling to admit that a life of one-night stands (pursued for the thrill despite the experience of connection) is indicative of an area of dysfunctionality.

As I’m at pains to point out in my book “How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain!”, Oxytocin is the “love hormone” which fosters the feeling of belongingness and connection during the sex act. It intensifies feelings of intimacy; particularly at the point of orgasm. The hormone doesn’t care whether you’ve known your sex partner for two minutes, two months or two years; it just does what its supposed to do! Theresa Crenshaw M.D in her book “The Alchemy of Love and Lust” refers to Oxytocin as some sort of hormonal “super glue”, which makes the idea of casual sex a difficult pill to swallow. Its existence goes against everything that is taught about the meaninglessness of sexual encounters.

Claire Daniel, author of “The Power and Science of Sexual Touch” confirms that Oxytocin ruins what should have easily been a quick “get away”. In other words, it doesn’t allow us to “get up and go” without leaving some part of us behind. If this act of emotionally connecting and then disengaging takes place over a series of one night stands, how emotionally healthy can this be? What about those who never manage to disengage (75% of women)?  Sex seems then not to be as meaningless and casual as we would like to make it, since our hormones are in serious over-drive, working so hard to connect us with our sex partner. And I have a serious problem with a philosophy which suggests that women come into true sexual liberty when they begin to mimic the sexual behavior attributed to males for centuries. Does the woman (or man) who hops from bed to bed really remain untouched or emotionally unscathed by this activity?

I admit that some women may believe that they are good at ‘disconnecting’ after they have had anonymous or casual sex but our hormones confirm that we are not necessarily wired to experience sex in connectionless mode. If we agree that there are intrinsic standards in all areas of human experience, then let’s get rid of the “standarlessness” that we so easily attribute to sex. The quest for pleasure should never be an end in itself. It should instead be tempered by a reflection on our actions and their consequences. All sex is therefore not necessarily created equal.

 

 

 

 

Are There Really Different Types of Sex?

“Not all sex is alike…There’s intimate sex, anonymous sex, gentle and sensitive sex, rough and aggressive sex, sex that expresses love, sex that’s purely physical, sex that is emotionally connecting, sex that is isolating, raw sex, spiritual sex, naughty sex, sterile sex, boring sex, passionate sex, spontaneous sex, planned sex, playful/experimental sex, routinized/scripted sex, selfish sex, selfless sex, self-conscious sex, freeing-abandoning sex…” Dr. Richard Nicastro

I read the above as the opening paragraph of an article entitled “Passionate Sex Creating a Sexual Playground Together” by Dr. Richard Nicastro, a psychologist and marriage counsellor. While I think I understand what the good doc was trying to say, I do wonder about the accuracy of his initial thesis. Is it that there are different “types” of sex floating around out there in the relationship stratosphere for us to grab hold of, or is it that we encounter sex differently at various times based on our needs, experiences and understanding of sex?

Our natural relationship journey will see us encountering sex differently.

He went on to describe a multi-layered sexual-self which interacted with sex in different ways at different times.  With this I wholeheartedly agreed. A couple could then experience a dilemma if the factors which drove their sexual relationship in early marriage changed after a number of years. For example, in the early years of hot, heavy passion, a couple may take certain sexual risks and try to “push the envelope” to add dynamism to the sex life. As the years roll out however, the sexual-spark may become dimmed and as a result how sex is enjoyed, may change. But is it that this reflects two separate “types” of sex or is the couple merely responding differently to their natural relationship journey? And is sex solely determined by our individual experiences and preferences or is there such a thing as a preferred sexual ideal that we should all strive towards?

If we carefully examine how we look at the other aspects of our lives, we will admit that in most areas, we respect the concept of an ideal scenario. We generally believe that the principles of a healthy body include good diet and exercise. Even though we may not always practise it, we believe that sound financial management includes the ability to save, invest and also to be disciplined and frugal in spending. The level of dedication and hard work that we apply to our studies, to a large degree determine the success we experience in our careers and so on. We understand fully in most other areas of our lives; that fulfilment is contingent upon how much we are willing to commit to the principles of the ideal.

Although a few of us will succeed in life while apparently “breaking all the rules”, this does not deny the existence of various success ideals. For example, for the entrepreneur who never had a formal education, but has a natural knack for making money, the principles of good financial planning must still hold sway if he is to be a successful businessman. An accomplished leader is capable of balancing the servant-hood of leadership with his/her ability to direct; this is the preferred scenario of good leadership.

If we accept this understanding of a “success ideal” in other areas of our lives, why are we perhaps unwilling to apply this concept to sex? Is it because where sex is concerned there is often an underlying thread of selfishness which urges us to place our own needs first, do as we please and to hell with the consequences? Are we afraid that the idea of an ideal may perhaps curtail some of our sexual freedom?

While I do agree that sex is experienced differently based on what we know and understand about it, I still believe that our human sexuality should be affected by what I term the basic, intrinsic, created values of sex. And sex is too important an activity not to require some forethought.

Sex is too important an activity not to deserve some forethought.

Like anything else in life, sex is not valueless and simply confined to our individual realities. It does not exist in a vacuum but is connected in a larger than life way, to our collective humanity; after all through it the human race survives. This is why our sexual decisions affect those closest to us; it’s never just about “doing what makes us happy!” If it were, then rape and abuse as “sexual experiences” would be acceptable.  These sexual values or principles, of which I speak, include selflessness, serious commitment, honesty, vulnerability and openness to giving and receiving pleasure without shame. Of course this list is not exhaustive. While we may have relatively good sex without following these said values, I do believe that our connection with them has the potential to give us the best sex ever. So whether sex is perceived to be naughty or nice, spontaneous or planned, sensitive or aggressive, then these values should still hold sway; especially in a committed relationship like marriage.

Instead then of separating the act of sex from the individual by giving sex a label or type, it may perhaps be important to reframe how we perceive it. In other words, there is sex, but then there are different types of people at different levels of emotional maturity, with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, needs and expectations who will then experience sex in all the ways that Dr. Nicastro suggested.

Does this mean that some of us may not prefer to have sex in a way that is distinctive or individual to us at any given point in time? Of course we will have our individual sexual tastes and preferences and these are certainly not set in stone. Be that as it may, it is important to recognise that on the road to great sex, we should perhaps strive towards discovering the “sexual ideals” which are more likely to grant us a fulfilling sexual relationship.