Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

The People Who Shape You


This time of year we often look around our lives at all the people in it. And we may think about the people who used to be a part of our lives and our now gone. This can be an opportunity to consider the way we have been shaped and the ways we have grown in relation to the people with whom we have shared our lives. Relationships are not always easy. But they do always offer us new information about ourselves and, if we look deeply enough, about the way we want to be in relation to others.

There is a concept from Southern Africa, Ubunto, which can be defined in many ways. But one powerful definition says that a person is a unique person through being with other people. It speaks to the way we are shaped by others in our world; that in fact we are co-creating one another through interaction. This is a dynamic way of seeing who we are, not fixed but in constant change through relationship.

So maybe this year, take some time to look at your relationships through this lens. How has each person shaped who you are and how you move in the world? What did you learn from having each of these people in your circle? What parts of your self does each person bring out? What do you value about each relationship? Think about the fullness of who you are, so many aspects and insights. Our humanity dancing with humanity, so many daily moments of contact and non-contact. Wonder about the ways you avoid being affected by others and why. Wonder about the times you open yourself up to connection and what that asks of you.

And maybe when the people around you are trying your patience (it happens to all of us), you can get curious about who shaped these people and how their humanity is also in response to relationships past and present.  How might your presence have shaped them? Remember that we are all co-creating together, responding, learning, changing. Be thankful.


Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

Let’s bring into the light the persistent saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater”. I think this knee jerk response does not serve us.

First let’s agree that humans are very complex and varied beings. There are lots of reasons that people have affairs. There are lots of ways affairs play out. Whether you want to believe it or not, there are many good people who love their partner and have cheated. For some of these people, the affair was a breaking point or a wake-up call or an hour of bad judgement. These people may feel horrible about what they did and are exquisitely aware of how it could hurt their partner. Doing something outside of one’s own integrity, crossing one’s own moral boundaries and beliefs, is something all humans are capable of and it can cause us great pain. This is not to excuse the risk taken or the potential damage done. But I think it is important to differentiate this from someone who just doesn’t care about the damage done.

There are people out there who will cheat repeatedly. I actually think they are the minority. In fact, the one study I was able to find that tracked serial infidelity found that only .5% of people who admitted to having affairs had engaged in multiple affairs. Surprised? Just another example of the stories we tell about infidelity being different than many of the realities.

So are you worried about a partner with infidelity in their past? Some things you might want to pay close attention to:

Does this person lie about a lot of things to a lot of people? A casual relationship with lying speaks to a pattern and little lies make big lies easier. And bear in mind, if they lie to others, they are likely to lie to you too.

Does this person treat you insensitively in general? Are they mindful of your feelings and courteous about your needs? Patterns of selfishness or inability to consider your feelings are perhaps larger issues, including personality structures that may be resistant to change.

Does this person genuinely want to be monogamous or do they seem motivated by the social expectations and social privileges that come with monogamy or the appearance of monogamy? How can you tell? You can ask directly but you can also note how they talk about relationships and sex, what benefits they get from being in a romantic partnership and how they deal with their own desires and inhibitions.

Does this person engage in bullying or pressuring to get you to have sex with them? Do they pout or withhold affection if you are not available for sex? These patterns may speak to some compulsivity or entitlement that can affect your relationship.

Is this person very impulsive? Do they love someone one day and then hate them the next? Do they use drugs or alcohol in ways that can lead to bad decisions? Do they seem to always be searching for a new rush or new intensity? None of these things necessarily will lead to infidelity but they can make the stability of long term relationships challenging.

Does this person have a solid understanding of what led them to cheat before? Does this understanding include an attitude of fairness for everyone involved or is it blaming? Has something changed for this person?

In truth, there is no test to tell you if a person will cheat (contrary to the many magazine articles out there). But a past experience with being unfaithful is simply not a clear sign that someone will be unfaithful again. We have great capacity to learn and grow and also great potential to find partners who we love more deeply and with more passion than we could have previously imagined. Look to the patterns you see now in your partner. Don’t rely on generalizations; we all deserve more than that.




More of What Makes My Head Explode


I was meeting with a new client who is concerned because she is not feeling much in the way of sexual desire and it is causing problems with her husband. As we are talking and I am getting the bigger picture of her life, she mentions that she brought up her lack of desire with her psychiatrist and the psychiatrist told her to “drink a glass of wine” and that should help. HEAD EXPLODING. Now aside from this being pathetic advice and not related to increasing desire in any way (more on that in a bit), I should mention that the client in this story is 5 years sober. So I can only imagine that this psychiatrist was so thrown by the topic of sexuality that she gave this knee-jerk inappropriate, if not unprofessional, piece of advice.

So for those of you reading, let’s clarify why this was bad advice, for anyone, not just a client in sobriety. Alcohol – in small amounts! - can lower our inhibitions and help us relax. True enough. But sexual desire is not equivalent to low inhibitions. If someone is not feeling sexual, it is just as likely that a glass of wine will only make them uninhibited enough to say, “no way, I just want to watch the game”. Supporting someone who wants sex but feels inhibited or ashamed about it is totally different than helping someone who wants to want sex but just currently doesn’t.

There is so much to explore and consider when you are working with someone with desire issues and so many deep and insightful places that conversation can go. What a waste to stop the exploration with a throw away, impersonal “solution”. Desire is mysterious. It can require us to look deeply and with compassion at the intersections of our needs, identities, life phases, and relationships that all pull and draw us in sometimes conflicting directions.

Bottom line : We can do so much better than this. We should be doing so much better than this. For therapists and other professionals out there, the time is now. You don’t all have to be sex therapists. Hey I want to keep my job. But it is part of your responsibility to be sexually aware enough to provide someone with a clear-headed space to bring up sexual concerns without getting shut down. If you feel lacking in this area, be compassionate with your own place in a sexually uninformed culture and then seek out good training and education. Have good referrals; take sex seriously as the nuanced and valuable thing that it is in our lives.

And if you are someone looking for sexual support or exploration, there are people who are able to be supportive of you as a unique person. They are out there. I promise. Keep looking.

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Interested in trainings on sexuality and relationships? Get on the mailing list for Melissa’s upcoming trainings, follow along on the Facebook page or bring Melissa to your area or organization by coordinating a training. Send Melissa an email to connect - melissa@mf-therapy.com