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Author Topic: 5.13 | The Role of Sex in Dysfunctional Relationships  (Read 3839 times)
VitaminC
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« on: October 19, 2016, 09:45:06 AM »

The Role of Sex in Dysfunctional Relationships

Some dysfunctional relationships have highly enmeshing sexual connections.

This workshop explores the various uses of sex as a coping mechanism and how that may have influenced the sexual relationship we co-created with a person with BPD traits.

For example, some people use sexual seduction to attract and please others and to compensate for shortcomings they may feel in themselves. Another example is that some people equate sexual conquest with having self worth and being loved and admired. Both are coping mechanisms and it's not hard to see how two individuals like this coming together can be both rewarded and devastated by the physical relationship and have distorted perceptions about the relationship and love.

As reference, we encourage participants to read a review here.

Workshop questions

Please base your comments on those made by others in this workshop and on either the referenced reading or other reading you may have done yourself.

Please DO NOT discuss your own sexual relationship in detail - that is a better topic for a personal thread on your relationship.

Some questions we would like to consider:

  • What is the difference between healthy sexual motivations and unhealthy sexual motivations?
  • What are some common dysfunctions that drive sexual relationships into unhealthy areas?
  • What are tell tale signs of our own unhealthy sexual motivations?
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2016, 07:58:01 AM »

 OK... .I'll give it a shot with first post.  Full disclosure:  I've not read the book, but I did read the post about the book.

  • What is the difference between healthy sexual motivations and unhealthy sexual motivations?

I think all motivations are ok, taken in small "appropriate" doses.  There are times when I "just want to have sex" and I'm not really that into pleasing my wife.  Not necessarily bad, unless that starts to become the norm.  

Bigger picture:  I would say the big difference between healthy and unhealthy sexual motivations is if you approach sex as a "shared" experience.  So, a person that "prefers" a real human body to masturbating (unhealthy).  A person that prefers to share the sexual experience with someone else (while at same time enjoying masturbating from time to time) is likely healthy and they have clearly separated things in their mind to understand they are now part of a shared experience.  (a relationship)

  • What are some common dysfunctions that drive sexual relationships into unhealthy areas?

Projection:  A person that hold another person responsible for their feelings or "assigns" their feelings to someone else, will likely approach sex in the same way.  That the other person is responsible for "making" them feel good and creating a good sexual experience for them.

push-pull:  A person that "emotionally" pushes someone away and then gets scared they are "chasing" someone away is likely to use sex (often devoid of talking or emotional intimacy) to "pull" the person back in.  In the "afterglow" of sex, perhaps the "non" makes emotional statements that get the "pwBPD" to start getting worried that they are "too close" which starts the pwBPD thinking about how to create emotional distance.  

You can quickly end up with a situation where it "appears" there is lots of emotional closeness, because you are having enormous amounts of sex, but verbally not much intimacy has happened.

  • What are tell tale signs of our own unhealthy sexual motivations?

So, I'm assuming this question is for "nons".  When we (I) "feel empty" and approach sex to "soothe" myself I'm essentially doing the same thing as a pwBPD.  I justify it by saying I don't do it as much or perhaps "blame" them for my emptiness.

Is this the kind of post or discussion you were thinking about?

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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2016, 08:43:33 AM »

  • What are some common dysfunctions that drive sexual relationships into unhealthy areas?

Sex Too Soon

Since we were kids and were given reasons like:
  • you’ll look slutty
  • they’ll lose respect for you
  • Because the chase is over and they lost interest
  • Because it’s like eating dessert before dinner

And, of course, the cow metaphor which I never understood... .been drinking milk my whole life and never owned a cow. I've really messed up, I suppose.

I think a more significant reason not to have sex too early is that sex is a biolpgical (physiological) bonding process (oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine and norepinephrine pathways)... .many of us will start biologically bonding to the person we are sleeping with and that could mean entering into a relationship largely based on initial impressions/attraction and biological bonding... .this can connect us to unhealthy people before we discover that they are unhealthy.

I noticed over the years that many of the relationships discussed here were conceived when members were in a wounded state (e.g., just divorced, lost a job, etc.) and the relationships were very sexual, very fast - the sex became a healing salve for an emotional or ego wound.
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BowlOfPetunias
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2016, 12:10:44 PM »

So far, this thread overlooks one of the most frustrating aspects of sexual relationships with BPDs--witholding sex and/or losing interest in sex.

For example, promising to have sex one night and then creating reasons not to have sex (My favorite TV show is on!  or Let's have family game night!) is emotionally shredding.

The basic reason why many of us are involved with BPDs and stay in relationships that others would run from is low self esteem and low confidence.  The beginning of the relationship is unexpectedly great--He/She really likes me!  He/She wants to have sex all the time!  I win!  But then the drama starts and the sex tapers off.  

I don't think there is anything pathological in wanting/needing sex in and of itself.  Feeling attractive and wanted is a basic human need.  There is nothing wrong in feeling better about yourself when someone else shows interest in you.  Sexual need/desire becomes a problem when it becomes the main or only basis for your self-esteem, as is the case with some BPDs.  But wanting to have sex with your husband or wife more than once a month?  Feeling bad because they reject your advances or make excuses to get out sex that the two of you had planned?  That is normal, not dysfunctional.  The dysfunctional part is that you are in a relationship that the law and social custom says is by definition sexual, yet there is little or no sex.  This might not be a problem if you have an open relationship, but it is extremely hurtful when your partner insists upon monogamy--very few, if any, BPDs would agree to an open relationship, at least not on the part of the non.  Cheating on the non?  Sure.  And that, of course, is another level of dysfunction that needs to be addressed in this discussion.

Sex also becomes a problem when it is used as a way to avoid intimacy.  That often happens in the start of relationships with BPDs.  (If they please us sexually, we won't see their flaws!)  And, of course, cheating by BPDs avoids intimacy with their non partners and opens up the opportunity for sex without intimacy outside of the marriage.
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2016, 12:19:00 PM »

What is the difference between healthy sexual motivations and unhealthy sexual motivations?

Possible reasons a person has sex, that I can think of... .
  • To feel connected, alleviate loneliness
  • To escape
  • To please and be accepted
  • To earn, gain, receive
  • To attempt to regulate emotional state of either self or partner
  • To make a statement, prove a point, punish
  • To share expressions of any variety of feelings
  • more... .?

My thoughts are that sex feels healthiest/best to me when it is mainly a method of sharing/expressing something that already exists, and that both parties are present and able to "hear" the intentions the other is communicating with their actions.

There are lots of times I have sex and it is about the "Sexual Trance" feel for myself, or the other person, but not so much a shared experience happening. The Sexual Trance info makes me wonder a bit about motivations... .
(It will be interesting to hear other thoughts about trance vs engagement.  I'm still pondering.)

I worry when sex is used a a vehicle to attain, make something happen, either for an individual or for the persons involved.  (Better to stay away from thoughts of what one may expect it to result in... .ie: devotion, loyalty, satisfaction of loneliness, self esteem etc.)

I find it safest when sex is thought of as something to be enjoyed for it's own sake.  (No matter if it is Trance Sex or a sharing of something deeper) Then if there is additional shared meaning and shared connection, well, that is even better.
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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2016, 12:31:51 PM »

Our member survey based on Schnarch's innate sexual styles is interesting:

Based on the member comment on the boards, I might have expected more opportunists and fewer "other-validated".  May be the disconnect between what members sometimes say and what they mean or how vocal the smaller group's are. For example, how often have we seen comments about wanting to get involved in a friends with benefits basis after the relationship dies. There are likely a lot of conflicting emotions in those cases.

Surveys really help put things in perspective. This is a really good one.

Survey: Take it here

Click to enlarge

Sexual predators focus on their partner’s reactions but for sadistic reasons. The other is not seen as a separate human. Generally this involves the pain or fear of another and a sense of control by the predator

Opportunists are primarily focused on their own sexual needs and having those filled by another. Sometimes it is likened to just preferring another body to masturbating.

Narcissistic Engagers use their partners to provide “ego strokes”, a way to get a reflected view of themselves as having sexual ability and being attractive.

Other-validated people place a greater importance on others in their own right.  This might be the sexual equivalent of what we call co-dependency.

Truly Connected Here we see our partners as “a bona fide separate person” whose satisfaction is as important as one’s own. If we are truly connected, we are able to manage our sexual (and other) anxieties and insecurities, we are able to soothe ourselves. We are able to be intimate both emotionally and physically – to share ourselves openly, to accept the “core personality and potentials” of our partners and ourselves. 
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2016, 01:28:31 PM »

That is interesting! People might consciously say they want to try FWB. However subconsciously their values are quite sticky. There's not much change between Prior vs Last relationship. When it comes down to it we behave consistently with our past values.

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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2016, 03:28:02 PM »

I read the book several years ago. I think that unhealthy motivations are primarily self-centered in nature. IOW, what do I get out of it. For some people, sex is a substitute for something that is missing from their life, an easy way to make themselves feel better.

Dysfunctions that play out in the sexual relationship might include: codependency, self-centeredness, lack of empathy, self-medicating, etc.

My own signs of unhealthy engagement are a deep sense of sadness about the experience, inability to say 'no', using sex to self-soothe without addressing the emotional needs.

Schnarch comes from a viewpoint that couples should be completely differentiated from one another.
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« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2016, 04:17:02 PM »

If we look, there are patterns that run through our relationships. The one with our BPDs might have been the one that crystallized some of those patterns and we are, possibly, therefore in a better position to observe them with a bit more objectivity and curiosity.

For those of us that discovered something less than healthy in the way that the sexual dynamic played out (and this is by no means everyone here, I am sure), this is an opportunity to dig around a little bit.
  
So, I'm assuming this question is for "nons".

So, yes, formflier, all these questions are for us, whether we choose the label "nons" for ourselves, or not.

When we (I) "feel empty" and approach sex to "soothe" myself I'm essentially doing the same thing as a pwBPD.  I justify it by saying I don't do it as much or perhaps "blame" them for my emptiness.

One question that might be asked is, in what way is it soothing then? Clearly, it can be a release of tension - in a similar way to going to the gym or indulging in any physical exercise that also requires a degree of concentration, thus giving our minds a break.

But they are not the same thing, as most of us would agree, I think. We don't have to accept Schnarch's full framework and see Spritiual Union as the epitome of sexuality to think that sex is, for many of us, more complex than a good workout. The results of our Poll suggest that, as I am interpreting it.

In what way are we being soothed by physical intimacy, especially when the emotional intimacy may be lacking in the relationship?

I noticed over the years that many of the relationships discussed here were conceived when members were in a wounded state (e.g., just divorced, lost a job, etc.) and the relationships were very sexual, very fast - the sex became a healing salve for an emotional or ego wound.

In this way we might become convinced that a strong sexual chemistry is indicative of a deeper connection. The above is true for me.

*I don't think there is anything pathological in wanting/needing sex in and of itself.
*Sex also becomes a problem when it is used as a way to avoid intimacy.

I would agree with you, BowlOfPetunias, as would Schnarch, on both of your points. I am thinking about the ways I myself might have used sex to either avoid or simulate intimacy in my own relationship. Whatever about my BPD, I did this too.
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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2016, 04:42:56 PM »

Schnarch comes from a viewpoint that couples should be completely differentiated from one another.

Bowen's concept of "differentiated" appears over and over in family theory. It's about dependence on approval and acceptance. As Schnarch points out, couples should be completely differentiated from one another - not overly dependent on approval and acceptance - and this should carry through to their sex life. You don't want to be aloof or needy in your sexual intimacy.

How many of us are? According to the survey, most of us are not as well differentiated in our sex life as we could be and creates problems. I look back at my own life and I can see how this played out. As empath points out, we can reach a higher level if we can better differentiate ourselves.

The concept of differentiation appears in a lot of our reference material. Its a big part of avoid relationship drama. See Karpman Triangle

Bowen explains that people with a poorly differentiated “self” depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform.

Bullies depend on approval and acceptance as much as chameleons, but bullies push others to agree with them rather than their agreeing with others. Disagreement threatens a bully as much as it threatens a chameleon.

An extreme rebel is a poorly differentiated person too, but he pretends to be a “self” by routinely opposing the positions of others.

A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can either support another’s view without being a disciple or reject another view without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.

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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2016, 05:12:03 PM »

I think a more significant reason not to have sex too early is that sex is a biological (physiological) bonding process

My therapist told me that there is a 'love' chemical in the brain for a woman that is released after she has sex with the same man 5 times.  That studies have shown 5 times to be the thing to trigger feelings of love.  So, women should therefore be careful having sex just for fun with the wrong man. 

If it's true, according to another workshop I was on, that most BPD's partners are not capable of emotional intimacy (if I run across it I'll link to it here) and that physical intimacy becomes a replacement for the real deal - then of course we grieve losing the sex.  For us it is the only way we know to connect with others.  So it makes sense we place such a high value on it. 
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2016, 06:50:01 PM »

Sex also becomes a problem when it is used as a way to avoid intimacy.  That often happens in the start of relationships with BPDs.  (If they please us sexually, we won't see their flaws!)

This rings true to my experience and seems to be a common theme here. But is it so simple as avoiding intimacy, period? Many relationships described here seem shot through with anxiety about intimacy, and constant suspicion/uncertainty about the partner's "true" thoughts and feelings (and this seems to apply to both partners, not just those who exhibit BPD traits). To me, that suggests that we're not talking about avoidance in the straightforward sense that I might leave work an hour late to avoid traffic. We're talking about relationships in which both partners crave intimacy but are unable and/or unwilling to create a genuine sense of trust and openness that would allow for emotional intimacy. The result will be some dysfunctional form of intimacy. I feel like many of us posting here are scarred as much by the forms of intimacy in BPD relationships as by lack of intimacy.

Sex can become an outlet for that craving for intimacy. When I reflect on my own experience, I don't feel my ex and I were trying to avoid intimacy through sex. In hindsight, we seemed to want to create a sense of intimacy all at once. Like others who have described their relationships here, we shared too much too soon, sexually and emotionally. As Skip suggests, an intense sexual relationship too soon can lead to a sense of bonding that raises expectations and demands before the partners really know each other and before a foundation is laid for resolving the inevitable tensions that will arise in relationships.

So I would say one unhealthy sexual motivation is the desire to create a sense of intimacy too fast. It can be a sign that we want to bypass, or plough right through, the need to work at the relationship in other ways. I feel like my ex and I became so invested in our sex life because we believed we were so great at it that everything else would surely just fall into place. There was also a possessive aspect to it -- I think we both felt our sex life was so intense that we would wipe out all memories and thoughts of other partners. It made us feel above mundane relationship stuff. Talk about inflated egos. Needless to say, it's a long, humbling way down when the relationship crashes and burns. And when it starts to go bad, with so much invested in sex, then it's natural for the tensions and suspicions in the relationship to become linked to sex -- in the form of possessiveness, jealousies, cheating, coldness. And, conversely, we might then focus on recreating that initial sexual connection as the needed fix for the relationship.

To return to the questions, then, I think the craving for intimacy can be an unhealthy sexual motivation if it's out of sync with the rest of the relationship. It can lead to the dysfunction of focusing on the intensity of the sexual connection as the measure of the health of the relationship -- especially if we look to the sexual connection as the source of what's right or wrong with the relationship, rather than as embedded within the relationship as a whole, as one piece that fits within a much richer connection.

Of course, it depends what we're looking for. I'm not arguing that sex should only happen within the context of a deep and meaningful relationship. No doubt, sometimes people are in fact looking to avoid intimacy the way they avoid traffic. But my sense is that the experience of most people in "BPD relationships" is of avoidance more in the sense of a craving for intimacy that doesn't find a healthy expression. Maybe this is often the result of expecting the sexual connection to do to much work in creating and sustaining intimacy.
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« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2016, 07:11:09 PM »

In my own case I started out by asking just 3 questions:

* Why I was so much more responsive to and excited about my BPD partner than any other I'd had previously  (with all of whom I had healthy and mutually respectful relationships)
* Why it added to the frisson to torment myself with thoughts of the woman with whom my BPDex cheated on me (why did I deliberately hurt myself with these thoughts? did I really think so little of myself that I wanted to punish myself in this way?)
* Why the sense of psychological danger I felt myself to be in also added to the frisson

My own unhealthy motivations included:
*being prepared to sacrifice emotional honesty and genuine intimacy for the feeling of being adored and singularly important to my partner (Goddess/Narcissist here)

My own Dysfunctions:
* initially ignoring and then losing sight of the difference between intensity and intimacy
* imagining that both my BPD partner and I were inhabiting the same psychological space when we were intimate (I'm specifically referencing Schnarch's "Truly Connected" - in our Poll, this would be closest to the "Truster" - this is an overactive imagination, perhaps, a willful wishfulness on my part
* some kind of self-hatred that led to a self-punitive drive that became part of my sexual landscape for a while. I was really shocked by this realisation, when I had it.

Tell-Tale Signs of my own unhealthy sexual motivations:
* allowing the gradual separation of sexual intimacy from other parts of our relationship - our communication in every area worsened, but our physical attraction kept on.
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2016, 07:57:06 PM »

* initially ignoring and then losing sight of the difference between intensity and intimacy
* imagining that both my BPD partner and I were inhabiting the same psychological space

I've seen this statement on a lot on "urban legend" websites and it's generally accusatory of the ex-evil-partner. I question if these two things are actually points on the same scale.

It sounds to me that there was a belief that "I believe good sex means a good relationship" or good enough relationship.  If we want intimacy and we know what it was, it would be pretty clear if it was not present. If it's not there, there must be a underlying reason like:

Lack of commitment, fear of vulnerability / exposure by either partner or bad relationship dynamics or shame or selfishness on our part, shame or selfishness on our partners part.

I think we all should all be careful not to be too quick to blame this on our partner - it could very easily be us.
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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2016, 08:46:09 PM »

Excerpt
My therapist told me that there is a 'love' chemical in the brain for a woman that is released after she has sex with the same man 5 times.  That studies have shown 5 times to be the thing to trigger feelings of love.

I think that is probably oxytocin - except that it is released in both genders and every time a person orgasms. It is also stimulates labor contractions and is pretty powerful stuff.

Telltale signs for me also include sexuality occupying a greater portion of my mental space during the day - I know something is off then. It's almost like an obsession in that even when it was harming me emotionally and spiritually, I could not stop. There were several different reasons for that. Eventually, as I became stronger and healthier, I was able to draw a healthy boundary and stopped. I couldn't continue without an emotional connection that was positive.

I think the sexual aspect reflect the dynamics of the other aspects of our relationship with a person in some way.

I should probably say that sex was not the original basis for my relationship with my husband due to our personal religious beliefs. It was only after our marriage when things happened sexually, but it did become dysfunctional.
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2016, 09:45:16 AM »

If it's true, according to another workshop I was on, that most BPD's partners are not capable of emotional intimacy (if I run across it I'll link to it here) and that physical intimacy becomes a replacement for the real deal

We need to consider to what degree we ourselves are capable of emotional intimacy. Before that we need to be sure that we have a working knowledge of what that looks like to us and an honest assessment of our own capability and openness to it.

* initially ignoring and then losing sight of the difference between intensity and intimacy
* imagining that both my BPD partner and I were inhabiting the same psychological space

I question if these two things are actually points on the same scale.

It sounds to me that there was a belief that "I believe good sex means a good relationship" or good enough relationship.  If we want intimacy and we know what it was, it would be pretty clear if it was not present.

Again, I am struck by how easily and frequently we use the term "intimacy" and hold it up as an ideal, without, perhaps, fully knowing what this means to us and questioning to what degree we are really capable of it.

If we can claim for ourselves that we know what it is and are then prepared to accept a (poor) substitute - the question we have to ask ourselves, surely, is why?

Lack of commitment, fear of vulnerability / exposure by either partner or bad relationship dynamics or shame or selfishness on our part, shame or selfishness on our partners part.

These are reasons to which I relate.  I do not hold my partner responsible for my own lack of commitment, fear, bad faith, poor communication skills, or selfishness.
I can do nothing at all about his notions about or abilities with intimacy - but I can certainly look at my own.

... .So I would say one unhealthy sexual motivation is the desire to create a sense of intimacy too fast.

Yes, if we, using Bowen's and Schnarch's definition of "differentiation", are poorly differentiated as individuals, we will look to another to complete us in some sense. We will look to another to fulfill needs we do not fully and clearly recognize and/or accept in ourselves. We will have expectations that are not realistic or even fair. We will look for the feeling of being connected, or intimate, or together and try to find it in our sex life, (or our joint living arrangements, or shared hobbies, or social media status, etc). We will not, if we are healthily differentiated, use sex to speedily get that happy feeling of being intimate.

If we have strong core, a well differentiated self, a clear idea of who we truly are, then we will return to that and make a reasonably calm assessment of what is happening in a relationship and balance this against what is happening. This is what the Karpman Drama Triangle and our resources here on Boundaries all state - approaching them from slightly different launch points - but arriving at the same place.

Those who value their individuality take responsibility, are self-reliant and act with self-respect.

Being realistic about values is important. If we have an unusually large number of uncompromisable independent values / core values, we may be too dogmatic to have a relationship with very many people. At the same time, if we have so few independent values, or such a weak commitment to them, we will then be "undefined" to ourselves and to others and the only values that matter are those of others. The latter is common in codependent or enmeshed relationships.


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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2016, 06:30:14 PM »

Telltale signs for me also include sexuality occupying a greater portion of my mental space during the day - I know something is off then. It's almost like an obsession in that even when it was harming me emotionally and spiritually, I could not stop.

Focusing "too much" on sex at the beginning of a relationship presents a major challenge. There's a reason we talk of "falling" in love -- that thrill and excitement of surrendering to longing and passion, and of feeling our lover surrender with us. If the connection is powerful and feels great at first, it's awfully hard to stop ourselves at that point and say to ourselves, "wait a minute, we should dial this passion down." That's why, if we've been through the experience of falling too hard too fast, followed by a painful detaching processing, it's important to reflect on it all before we fall for someone again.

Near the end of our relationship, my ex would often say, "it all came so easily at first. We always did everything right physically." Even at the end, I loved hearing that, which tells me I had an unhealthy desire for that kind of validation. So here are some thoughts on other signs of dysfunction and unhealthy motivations:

*Feeling that sexual performance and the intensity of the sexual connection will determine the worth/desirability of the romantic relationship

*Feeling that sexual performance and the intensity of the sexual connection will reflect profoundly on my own worth and desirability

As with most things in life, the challenge here seems to lie in reaching a healthy sense of proportion. It's not unhealthy to see sexual connection as an important part of a romantic relationship. But if we elevate to a place of obsession or prime importance, that is likely a sign of dysfunction in the relationship.
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« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2016, 04:00:08 AM »

There's a reason we talk of "falling" in love -- that thrill and excitement of surrendering to longing and passion, and of feeling our lover surrender with us.

This notion of "surrender" is interesting to me. What happens when we surrender and to what exactly are we surrendering?

I'm going to refer back to the idea of a healthy level of differentiation and say that "surrender" can be positive and lead to a connection that Schnarch, and maybe Bowen too if he'd focussed on sexual intimacy, would describe as a temporary state of fusion. We can go right in there, relinquish control completely, but not lose ourselves in the process.

If we are not well differentiated, that surrender is a release of control that we find hard to return from. That's when unconscious needs and desires are met and we can easily become overly reliant on the partner who seems to make this possible for us. 
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« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2016, 04:31:58 PM »

Sexless relationships often lead to a relationship dysfunction cascade if not resolved in some way. Certainly, this is not always the case and there are many successful sexless relationships.

The dysfunction cascade looks something like:

Phase 1 It becomes clear that a sexless relationship is evolving. The one partner wants to know why it happens and to repair it. The couple talk about it and try to find ways to rekindle.
    
Phase 2 Nothing changes, significantly . There is more sexless living, one mate being completely fine with it, while the other is struggling. This goes and goes until the frustrated mate can no longer tolerate it or realizes life is too short to live this way.
    
Phase 3 The frustrated mate starts building a wall to protect their vulnerability. They often retaliate, and starts living as a roommate, brother and sister, family style. The relationship breaks down. The frustrated partner becomes weak, starts being anything and everything just to have some sexual contact, giving but not getting back. Alternate sexual outlets are pursued - porn, prostitution, affairs.

Sexlessness can bury a relationship.

Resolving a sexless relationship is about identifying and resolving the problem facing the disinterested partner or the relationship. It could be us (not loving, selfish lover, not taking care of ourselves, abusiveness), it could be them (physical issues, emotional issues, shame, etc.), it could be the relationship (lack of caring, connecting), or is could be combinations of it all.

Sometimes it can't be solved. Some couples can still love. I can think of situations of physical problems, but it can extend to any problem. Sometimes its just a bellwether of the failing of the relationship.
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« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2016, 05:11:07 PM »

This notion of "surrender" is interesting to me. What happens when we surrender and to what exactly are we surrendering?

In the relationship that brought me here, a big part of "surrendering" was giving in to the feelings of lust and sexual desire (and, in a reflected sense, of being lusted after and desired). What I was surrendering was my investment in work, family, friends, hobbies, reading, writing ... .I really let a lot of things wilt that gave me a sense of self. The image that often comes to mind now (not at all a romantic one, and maybe that's for good reason) is of a healthy bacterial culture being wiped out by some overpowering drug. Now I'm rediscovering my interests and other relationships and slowly rebuilding that sense of self (which, in the analogy, is the bacterial culture, I suppose Smiling (click to insert in post) )

I agree that it's important to remember that biological drives are a powerful force in sexuality, and that we have base animal instincts in this sense. At the same time, for us humans base animal instincts are always expressed and caught up in social contexts that are complex and "artificial". As much as we might envy the seeming simplicity of other animals who don't have to worry about the "meaning" or "worth" of their instincts, we can never simply "be" are animal instincts. We can surrender to them in various ways for various lengths of time, but that will have consequences (some good, some bad) for how we relate to our social environment, other people, and our sense of selves, life project, etc etc. It's hard to escape the head space of being human!

Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I was surrendering, not so much to the feelings of lust and sexual desire, as to the fantasies and stories that my mind built around those feelings -- that this was a once-in-a-lifetime sexual and emotional connection, that this person "got me" in a way that no one else ever had, that I understood her just the same, that if we snuck off to have sex at work it was because the connection was just so intense (and not that we were just two people exercising poor judgment and indulging our fantasies).

I think that's what I mean by saying that, as humans, our base animal instincts are always (at least potentially, or implicitly) caught up in our self-image, social relationships, life projects, etc. I don't mean to carry this too far -- I mean, sometimes we're just hungry and decide to eat whatever is at hand. But sexuality tends for many (I would guess most) people to be an important component of our self-image and our thinking about ourselves. So even though there is a "base" physiological foundation for our sexual drives, it's no simple task to separate that from other aspects of our sexuality. Though, on reflection, maybe it is possible to separate fairly clear physiological components in cases of dysfunction or illness. I'd be curious on hearing other thoughts on this.
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« Reply #20 on: October 23, 2016, 10:30:27 AM »

Which of these ring true for us?

This is not to suggest that we can all diagnose and label ourselves as "Sex Addicts", but that if we can consider many of these behaviours and drives on a spectrum, we might find that we have relied on sex to fill emotional needs that might have been more healthily met in other ways.

There are biological / physical needs, certainly. There are also, as we all know well, many other (often unconscious) drives. It can become a problem if we are not aware of the underlying psychological drives and confuse the physical needs with the emotional ones. What do people think?  


Signs of Love or Sex Addiction

Constantly seeking a sexual partner, new romance or significant other

  • An inability or difficulty in being alone
  • Consistently choosing partners who are abusive or emotionally unavailable
  • Using sex, seduction and intrigue to "hook" or hold onto a partner
  • Using sex or romantic intensity to tolerate difficult experiences or emotions
  • Missing out on important family, career or social experiences in order to maintain a sexual high or romantic relationship
  • When in a relationship, being detached or unhappy, when out of a relationship, feeling desperate and alone
  • Avoiding sex or relationships for long periods of time to "solve the problem".
  • An inability to leave unhealthy relationships despite repeated promises to self or others
  • Returning to previously unmanageable or painful relationships despite promises to self or others
  • Mistaking sexual experiences and romantic intensity for love
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« Reply #21 on: October 23, 2016, 11:12:39 AM »

And I agree, its a good checklist of potential unheathy practices/red flags to consider when evaluating our own behavior even if hasn't risen to the level of an addiction.

but that if we can consider many of these behaviours and drives on a spectrum, we might find that we have relied on sex to fill emotional needs that might have been more healthily met in other ways

I have often thought of sex addiction like other addictions... .its not so much the spectrum of behavior (certainly no harm in social drinking even though alcohol is toxic), it's when the behavior becomes destructive and compulsive.

I think we have some sex addicts in our community. I think we have also have some reformed sex sex addicts in the community. I suspect that they are  largely a subset of those who identifying as "Opportunists"(purists) or Narcissistic-engagers" (studs and goddesses) in the survey. Curious what others think.
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« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2016, 09:27:41 AM »

Interesting workshop, might I join?

* What is the difference between healthy sexual motivations and unhealthy sexual motivations?

Intent.  Healthy sexual motivations include sexually pleasing yourself, sexually pleasing someone else, or both.  Unhealthy sexual motivations, seems to me, revolve around compensation for something.

If someone's into inflicting pain and someone else is into receiving it, more power to them, no worries, positive intent.
If both partners are into blissed-out, self-centered, trance-like emotionally disconnected sex, no worries, positive intent.
If both partners are using sex as a component of emotional intimacy, same same.

If one partner is using sex to exert power and control over another, not because the other is into it but because they're compensating for feeling powerless, negative intent.
If one or both partners are using the intensity of sex as a way to avoid intimacy, and if it ain't workin' screw harder, not necessarily negative intent, just a settling for less than the relationship could be, due to a lack of courage to go to the next emotional level, and maybe feelings of being trapped there.

*What are some common dysfunctions that drive sexual relationships into unhealthy areas?

Well, the two stated above, plus I just thought of another: someone who hasn't explored their sexuality much might couple with someone who brings out sides of them they didn't know where there, and the partner may not be willing or able to help them explore, they just do what they do, so the sexual awakening becomes like an addiction they're facing alone, uncharted territory with no map and no guide, thrilling, titillating, exciting, not necessarily dysfunctional, unless it occupies all thought, becomes obsessive, and is disruptive to someone's life.  And the partner is key, if they join and help, if they create an exploring party, no map, no worries, follow the sun, great, but if someone ends up going it alone, "lost" can happen.

*What are tell tale signs of our own unhealthy sexual motivations?

A loss of control, fun in bed, but unhealthy when it spills into other areas and becomes uncontainable.  And then as mentioned, compensation and intent, uncovered with asking why?  Why do I want to have sex with this person now?  What is it giving me?  Am I using sex to avoid anything?  Am I focusing on giving or taking?  Am I making either one wrong?

A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can either support another’s view without being a disciple or reject another view without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.

I do pretty well at that in general, but god I suck at it in romantic relationships.  The wheels fall off.  There's been discussion of the confusion of intensity for intimacy, which I didn't do, but I definitely "used" intensity as a way to avoid intimacy, which only sorta worked for a short time.  So intimacy.  The additional mistake of labeling external validation and acceptance as intimacy, or is that a component of intimacy, there's just more?  How do you bond with someone emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sexually, yet remain differentiated?  I'm getting a better idea, mostly by failing at it miserably many times.  

So key number One?  Pick better partners.  So when we go down into the emotional muck together, where mutual vulnerability, risk, courage, fear, resentment, forgiveness, acceptance, vulnerability, yadda, all show up, do we have the ability to put the wheels back on that cart, be our own pit crew, or when they fall off they stay off and we go barreling over the cliff of dysfunction?

Lately it's been about sex scarcity vs. sex abundance.  If we're coming from a place of scarcity, which I spent my youth doing, borne out of insecurity and low self esteem, we're going to take what we can get and make the best of it, and while we're at it, might as well confuse physical intimacy with emotional intimacy and look to get all of our validation needs met there, this chance coupling we've fallen into, so when that falls apart we feel like absolute death.  I think I'm done with that, too wearying and hurts too much.  

So today, show me sweetheart, show me why hanging out with you would be a great idea and add to my life, because when we get in the thick of it I'll likely default to an other-focus and depend on you to validate me, even though I'm doing so much better at validating myself.  So  show me why you're worthy of that role, and if you're not, that's OK too, maybe we can have some of that blissed-out, emotionally disconnected sex just for the heck of it, we'll both feel good I promise, on the way to us both finding the real deal.
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« Reply #23 on: March 15, 2018, 06:23:05 PM »

" A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can either support another’s view without being a disciple or reject another view without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy."

When two people who exhibit well differentiated selves, connect sexually, I believe it becomes an enhancing but not dominating feature of the relationship.

When untreated wounds exist which threaten the healthy balance of the relationship, they will also play out sexually.

If I look at my known experience in a BPD relationship, I accepted sex as a proxy for love. I didn't know any better, nor that I was wounded. I was happy to provide the intensity which my ex craved, yet the desire for intimacy and love is what ultimately drove my decision to leave.

I'm learning that it requires alot of growth to develop that love independently before I can share it with someone and become "truly connected". It's a work in progress. It's hard to know when I'm ready
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