Hi all..there were a whole load of photos for this post but I’m in Croatia on a nightmare of an internet connection and they’re not loading so I’ll have to use word. Sorry.
So I’ve been thinking about sex in a long term relationship and wondering if/how/what keeps the passion going once the two year dreamy phase has passed.
- If you have any answers please let me know by hitting reply of come join our private Facebook group by emailing asking me and I’ll connect you.
So…long term sex.
I was watching this fab TED talk where the very sexy and French Esther Perel talked about the inherent dichotomy in long term relationships.
In order to stay together in a healthy relationship we want to be able to trust out partners and rely on them. We want to be open with them and for them to love us warts and all. We see each other at out most messy. Look after each other when we are ill, share responsibilities, chores, child care and money. We want to feel safe and known by our long term partners.
And that, in some ironic twist, is the death of passion claims Ms Perel.
Because wanton lust and desire are bed fellows with mystery, danger, adventure, risk and the unknown.
- How do you react to this?
- Does it make sense to you ?
Ms Perel’s words make a lot of sense to me.
This is why fantasy works. When we have a crush about someone we work with or someone we see on the train we can imagine what we like – the romance, the kink, the tenderness. We never ever dream about who gets to take the bin out and so the sex in our fantasies is always amazing – No wonder the porn industry does so well.
I can see that in my previous long term relationships the sex has been hottest at the start because or precisely those things; mystery, distance, imagination and risk.
The sense of not being known frees me up to do things that push the boundaries, I can reinvent myself as the person has no other me to compare me to. There were none of those day to day drains and strains to get in the way of when or where or how often or for how long we had sex.
- How was sex in the early days of your relationship?
- How has it changed as time has gone on?
- What has made the difference?
As the relationship develops and we get to know each others friends and family, likes and dislikes we have also become in some ways socialized into being a couple and so our sexuality has been socialized too.
However, so far, it feels different this time for me. Now I’m writing this as a woman, obviously and I’m not even going to attempt to speak for the male half of this equation (although he has read this pre-posting)..but for me it feel different from before and I was trying to think about why.
I was with the boys at football presentation night on a blazing summer’s night. It consisted of a lot of ruddy youths and clapping and so Partner had agreed to arrive later. So there I was sitting clapping yet another 11 sporting heros when I looked over to the door and saw this guy leaning against the door in a while T-shirt, jeans and shades. I fancied him immediately and took another sneaky peek..no harm in looking.
And then I saw that it was Lovely Man. Bingo! What a result, I got to go home with some guy I fancy without even talking to him.
The shift of perception was that I saw him again from the outside, as a stranger who had nothing to do with me, who I knew nothing about and who knew nothing about me. There was a distance between us in that moment that wasn’t just to do with the chairs in the sweaty village hall.
The distance was due to lack of expectation, lack of information, lack of knowledge and therefore a newness, a riskiness, and excitement in that moment.
Which got me thinking about ego states.
Let me briefly explain this aspect of Transactional Analysis. I’m going to simplify it.
Each of us has different ego states: Parent, Adult and Child.
If you imagine that Parent and Child are like filing cabinet draws which contain what we have learned to date.
The Parent Ego State is where we hold all the messages we got from big people or influential people. As a kid this would have been our parents, teachers, neighbours and now it will be trainers, leaders; anyone who has power and makes and impact on us.
The Child Ego State is the filing cabinet drawer is the sum of all that we have learned ourselves over the years. So it contains our inner two year old, out teenager, out twenty year old self and so on.
The problem with filing cabinets is that we rarely clear them out and so we are often influenced by out dated information.
The Adult Ego State is the here-and-now problems solving, information gathering part of us that takes things into account and makes decisions that fit this situation and time.
What’s all this got to do with sex?
When we first meet someone, my 3 ego states meet his 3 ego states and we are separate. There are 6 ego states in operation and because we don’t know each other we shift about.
I think to start with we spend a lot of time have Adult Adult conversation – finding out information about each other, deciding where to go, what to do …together as Adults. We wouldn’t dream of telling the other person what to do (Parent) or sulking (Child) at the start because we know they don’t have to be there and so we don’t have any expectations.
Then as time goes on and we get to know each other we assume we know each other and so we use Adult less and less and we move into roles. I very easily move into Parent which in one way is great for the other person as I organize things, get things sorted, I time plan, I book ahead. My Parent is nurturing, caring and empathetic. I can look after you when you are ill and sort out your problems.
The down side of my Parent is that it can be bossy, controlling, rule driven and Critical.
However, a partner with a strong Parent is great as it means you can get drunk and she’ll drive, play football and she’ll look after the kids, loose things and she will find them. However it also means you get told off.
When we get stuck in these roles we call it a symbiosis.
Symbiosis is when instead of 6 Ego States between the 2 of us we have narrowed it down to 3. So instead of 2 whole people, we two really have become one.
On the left you can see Parent and Adult Ego states of one person and on the right the Child Ego State of the other person which act as one whole person and not as two. There should be two columns of 3 Ego states equally matched. This is symbiosis.
Well I know that my previous relationships have become symbiotic.
So I got to be Parent and they got to be Child. The pay off for me was that I got to feel in control which on one level made me feel less insecure and at another level didn’t as I knew that they were there because at one level they had to be psychologically.
- Have you ever had a symbiotic relationship?
- Which roles did you play?
- What were the positive and negative payoffs?
Another negative pay off was that we went off sex..because having sex with your Child isn’t sexy not is having sex with a Parent (unless of course you’re dressing up in which case whatever floats your boat!).
So what’s different this time?
Well there are still 6 Ego States in this relationship. Sometimes he’s Parent, sometimes I am. Sometimes it’s the other way round. Often we are in Adult. We use Adult to ask for the other Roles from each other so I might request that he make dinner (Parent) if I want to rest (Child).
Sex happens in Child, in Free Child to be precise and we seem to be able to get into Free Child together…we invite each other to play.
So this time there is no symbiosis, there are 2 people and sometimes that means disagreement and conflict because we are two people who are trying to share a life and so we are both looking after the needs of all our Ego States as well as those of the kids involved. This can feel risky as we sometimes don’t agree and the risk is always that we walk away. The risk of not disagreeing is turning from 2 into 1 and neither of us is up for that.
This also matters because in order for there to be passion and desire the thing or person that we desire needs to be separate from us. We can’t desire something we already have. We desire what we don’t have
- How is the desire in your relationship? Give it a mark out of 10 where 10 is high.
- Think of someone or something you strongly desire and give it a mark
- What makes the difference?
So what’s made the difference for me? Many things. First of all I am different after the divorce. I know I can survive on my own, I can stand on my own two feet in the world in all ways and have friends who I know, like and trust. I don’t NEED him. He’s a bonus not a necessity.
Secondly I reckon it’s my age. My biology isn’t shouting out for kids. Been there, done that. Now I want a partner I get on with and enjoy and not a father to my children.
Also I know how to feel sexy on my own…I can take responsibility for my own pleasure…and so can he we can communicate about it and ask for what we want and need.
Thirdly, he’s one of the most boundaried people I know. If he doesn’t want to do something he doesn’t and if he does, he does. There was no way he was going to let my Parent turn him into a Child. He’s his own man and doesn’t need me either. This is great for me as I don’t have to look after him; he’s more than capable of looking after himself.
Also because he’s not the father of my children I have fewer expectations of him and any expectations are negotiated via Adult and are not just assumed. For example I don’t assume he will pick the kids up from school if I’m late..I ask him.
Because he doesn’t have to stay, he doesn’t have to be responsible for us. And I don’t need him to stay..I can ask him to leave and still be OK. And we both know and talk about that.
Does this make our relationship ‘weak’ I would argue not. We choose to be together, there is no obligation. We would both be sad it it ended but we know life carries on in a way I didn’t when my first love ended in my 20s and I thought my world would end.
Does it mean that we both live with some uncertainty? Maybe. I can’t tell you that we’ll live happily ever after, but maybe that’s the truth for all relationships. We never can predict what the future will be, we just kid ourselves we can and as someone who has been divorced I know dreams are just that.
The here and now reality is that there’s this bloke that I like most of the time and who appears to like me most of the time and we spend time together.
Neither one of us has control over the other (although we try at times and are both pretty good at pushing back against being bossed).
And that distance and lack of expectation is sexy. Not being controlled is sexy. Knowing that he and I are free to leave any time is sexy because we can’t take it for granted (and we sometimes do).
So we have the trust the sharing and the caring and there is also enough distance for passion.
- What keeps the spark in your relationship?
- Does any of this make any sense to you? If it does can you do anything differently?
I’d love to hear your take on all this so if you hit reply and and ask to join the Facebook Group we can do that there or you can of course email me in private.
That’s all for tonight.