If you are in love with a person with whom you have a friendship/sexual relationship, who is kind, compassionate and a “good friend”, but is unable to reciprocate your adoration, it can be extraordinarily painful to navigate that relationship in a way that is not consuming for you. It’s hard not to feel as if you are losing yourself. In order to be “in” it and keep it alive, you continually infuse life into the relationship, if you can call it that, by having to compromise your well-deserved longings for more. You try to convince yourself that you are okay with less in return, just to keep the connection. You may pretend it is not so, but this experience levels you and shatters you over and over. You become more confused about what you deserve and can have in this or any potential romantic relationship for that matter. It also heightens the desire, the incentive, the overwhelming “need” to win over this person once and for all so that your self-esteem will be “restored.”
In the beginning of a relationship, before a woman feels trusting and open, and both parties are working to deepen the emotional connection, the pressure can make it difficult for a woman to achieve orgasm. But it was shown long ago that one of the most arousing aspects of the heterosexual sexual experience for men is being able to turn on a woman. Many women learn through time that the more sexually expressive they allow themselves to be (or seem), the more their partner enjoys the sex. This means that, especially early in the relationship, women may fear that if they don’t orgasm during sex, they will appear to be unresponsive, deadened, and their partner will lose interest. Their anxiety, even shame at “how long it takes” may end up compelling them to fake orgasm.
As painful as it is—and as backward as it seems—there is a common experience in which a woman sleeps with a man in the hopes that sex will encourage a more consistent relationship, and then is disappointed when it doesn’t work. Maybe it’s a pattern that started in college or even high school: A girl who feels interest from a guy sleeps with him because she feels like it’s just the beginning. She remembers what he said before sex—that he was into her, found her attractive, liked her—so she is hopeful that a relationship will grow out of a night of sex.
Of course, there are men who have sex quickly and still work toward cultivating a meaningful, intimate relationship afterward. But in my practice I have seen and heard both sides—the woman’s disappointment when no relationship materializes, and the man’s waning interest when sex occurs quickly in the dating process—and vice versa, of course.
Despite women’s progress in shedding some of the shame attached to their sexuality, there is an over-arching message that many women have received through time, warning them not to have sex on the first date “or it will ruin your chances for a second date.” The religious, biological, scientific, and self-esteem related implications of this message are beyond the scope of this post. But the fact remains: In general, women are held to a very confusing and difficult standard when it comes to having sex early in a relationship. It just is that way.
This predisposition is an intrinsic part of personality or may be borne of earlier experiences, including the models men grew up with, their previous positive or negative relationships, their temperament, and social norms (as shown in classic studies including, THIS). Regardless of a man’s relationship to having a relationship, the patterns he creates tend to fall into five simple categories.
Infidelity can be seen as actual cheating. Unfaithfulness is that, but can be something else as well: wishing your partner were not your partner and wanting out, but not being able to leave. It’s becoming guarded in a way that separates you from your partner, as if you are angry strangers. It’s widening and solidifying the void between you. In an unfaithful relationship, you lack trust in your partner. Unfaithfulness encourages distraction and vice versa – beyond the physical distraction of intimacy with another person or the fantasy of being without your partner, it’s the process of dismissing your partner into the background, whether overtly or very quietly, in favor of all sorts of instant gratification. In this day and age, in this world of cell phones and Facebook and Twitter and all-too-easy ways to connect with your ex from high school, it’s incredibly challenging to stay authentically present and emotionally connected and committed to your partner for the long haul.
Whether it’s online dating or out in the physical world, there are a lot of people looking for and trying to establish a friend with benefits arrangement, or “FWB”. The problem is, when an FWB hasn’t had time to develop organically, the label doesn’t fit and may add pressure when it’s intended to take pressure off. When you’re entering a new arrangement, calling it an FWB is confusing because it doesn’t reflect the complicated nature of what you’re trying to create with someone you barely know.
It can be extraordinarily painful to be in love with a person with whom you have a friendship/sexual relationship, who is kind, compassionate and a “good friend”, but is unable to reciprocate your adoration. How can you navigate that relationship in a way that is not consuming for you? It’s hard not to feel as if you are losing yourself. In order to be “in” it and keep it alive, you continually infuse life into the relationship, if you can call it that, by having to compromise your well-deserved longings for more. You try to convince yourself that you are okay with less in return, just to keep the connection. You may pretend it is not so, but this experience levels you and shatters you over and over. You become more confused about what you deserve and can have in this or any potential romantic relationship for that matter. It also heightens the desire, the incentive, the overwhelming “need” to win over this person once and for all so that your self-esteem will be “restored.”
Remember back to your first relationships: was one person the pursuer and the other the pursued? Especially when you were experimenting with what it meant to like and then love someone, there can be imbalance in the relationship—one person is more invested in pulling the other close. This imbalance creates the experience of insecurity for the pursuer. And amid this insecurity, instead of participating equally in the creation of a relationship, one person may use the tools at their disposal in the attempt to engage their partner in emotional reciprocity.
Sex can be one of these tools.
Young or old, gay or straight, for many people there’s nothing like making yourself believe your partner is on the prowl to give your relationship a little kick. Would he betray you? Is she flirting? Do you think your partner is cheating? Do you accuse him or her of these things? Maybe you have reasons to be nervous, but here’s another explanation: many of us, for a multitude of reasons, subconsciously and/or consciously create feelings of insecurity in our relationships as a way to get back the passion we once felt.
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