Posts Tagged ‘attachment’

I Love You, but You Don’t Turn Me On

April 6, 2011 2 comments

Someone wrote to my Forum at about his partner of 20 years never being turned on by him. He claimed that she had been hot with other lovers outside of the marriage, but with him there was “No Lubrication” (title of his post).” They are in therapy and he asked if there is hope.

I told him, yes there is hope.

My biggest concern would be the couple and therapist failing to identify the real cause.

One possibility: Many people have trouble feeling sexual passion toward a “secure attachment.” They only get turned on when their lover is one of three things: 1) New, 2) Forbidden, or 3) Hard-to-get.

If your relationship has been calm, stable, and caring for a long time, this can be the problem! The sexual dynamic can peter out (if you know what I mean).

The antidote involves a whole new growth process, beginning with recognizing the real cause.

This paradox (the more secure the relationship, the lower the sexual passion) is extremely common. One partner or the other, after being able to take the other for granted, becomes sexually indifferent. So many husbands feel passionless toward their wives because they are “sure” of them. They benefit in all sorts of ways from the safety and longevity of the relationship – and have all sorts of positive feelings toward their wives, but the even-keel of the relationship reduces the sexual heat.

Likewise, so many wives lose sexual interest toward their husbands once they become “comfortable shoes.” This is why so many people in long term relationships have attractions to people outside the marriage – or why they “get headaches” at bedtime – or why the divorce rate is so high.

Partners can easily take each other for granted. The security and safety they give each other becomes like the air they breathe but can’t see. Recognizing this as the problem sets a whole new process within the relationship in motion – if the couple is motivated.

Usually it is only one side of the couple that begins to feel turned off. The other side usually craves more sexual attention – precisely because the rejection served as an aphrodisiac – intensifying the sexual desires for the “unavailable” spouse.

So what is the antidote? The couple must work together, all pressure must be removed, but a great deal of the onus is on the partner who has lost sexual interest. He or she must set about to integrate her sexuality with her attachment feelings. In other words, s/he must learn to experience sex not as a hot conquest of a hard-to-get lover, but as a more sober expression of deeper feelings like caring, trust, and respect.

As obvious as this sounds, this is not an easy accomplishment for a lot of people whose sexuality has become linked with “pursuit.” Without the 1) Newness, 2) Forbidden-ness, or 3) Hard-to-get-ness, there is no aphrodisiac, their libido remains low.

It is nearly universal for insecurity to act as an aphrodisiac. When you sense your lover pulling away, your sexual energy toward him intensifies, motivating you to seduce him back into your bed. The key is to retrain your sexuality to respond even when this emotional tension is not present.

It involves a kind of Tantric approach to sexuality. You are no longer waiting for your passions to be spontaneously aroused by a hard-to-get lover. Since your partner is not hard-to-get, you must tap into your own creative energy. It takes time and patience – and a new way of looking at a new level of sex – a type of sexual caring, sharing bond that can grow and develop between two people


Am I Still Attracted to the Unavailable?

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Someone wrote to me describing a dilemma that is very common. You finally realize that you’ve always been attracted to the wrong type of people, and now you’re attracted to a new person. The bind: Am I still in the pattern or is this one new?

It’s hard to tell at the beginning of a relationship, because usually both parties remain a bit of a mystery for a while. Will she lose interest as soon as I get attached? Will he change his mind about me? So, due to the unknowns, “beginnings” create the right chemistry for people who are attracted to the unavailable.

What also makes it hard to tell is that when you’re pursuing someone, you tend to put your best food forward. Your “evil tendency” to lose interest as soon as you become sure of him or her — isn’t showing. Your new partner’s tendency to get in over her head and then pull back — isn’t showing. So you play it out to find out if you’re still in the pattern.

Pursuing someone who is “hard to get” has a whole different feeling than getting involved with someone who “isn’t going anywhere.” If you’re abandoholic, the latter feels a little getting sucked into a vat of peanut butter.

Pursuing someone who is slightly out of reach might feel more like gliding through air with a welcome breeze against your face, than getting sucked up against a sticky, gooey surface. The slight breeze is the person resisting you – keeping you at arm’s reach – blowing you away. But this is the feeling that you might associate with “passion” or “being attracted” or even “being in love.”

This pattern is hard to break because it involves being able to gain this insight, and then changing your values. And even after you’ve done a great deal of work on it, it still involves playing out a few beginnings before you find someone whose “staying power” you can deal with.

Can’t Let Go of a Bad Relationship?

November 8, 2010 15 comments

Do you know someone who stays in a bad relationship? What hooks them? The standard answer is that they don’t feel good enough about themselves. They don’t feel they deserve better. Their have a low sense of entitlement.

While self esteem is certainly a factor, many of these people started out feeling much better about themselves than they do now.

Being constantly criticized, rejected, neglected, or abused eventually pays its toll. The low self-worth you see is not always the CAUSE of their being unable to leave, but the RESULT of having been treated this way. Once they feel low about themselves, they lose the strength to get out.

But there is more to it. They have become traumatically bonded.

A traumatic bond is created when pain is inflicted into the attachment. This bond is stronger (just like epoxy glue is stronger than rubber cement) than a non-traumatic bond. The more traumatic the bond, the harder to get out.

There are examples of this everywhere in nature and science. Researches found that when training a duck to “imprint” them, when they accidentally “stepped on the duck’s toe,” the duck imprinted them more than before. Science has conducted myriad experiments that demonstrate the power of “pain” to strengthen the bond. It’s the principle fraternities use in hazing where they humiliate or hurt their pledges to instill greater loyalty in them.

But there is still another factor which really cements people to the abuser. They get hooked by the “intermittent reinforcement.” The abuser, every once in a while, will give them what they need, i.e. “a pat on the arm” or saying “love you” or “bringing home a paycheck.” It’s intermittent.

If you ever studied classical conditioning (Pavlov’s dog and all of that), you may remember that if you want to “train” a rat to respond a certain way, rather than giving a steady reward (i.e. sugar pellet), give it only intermittently. Intermittent reinforcement is more powerful than steady reinforcement.

This explains the paradox of relationships. If your partner mistreats you in all kinds of emotional or physical ways, you run the risk of getting deeply hooked in.

You’d think it would work the other way – that if your partner made you feel secure, safe, and comfortable, you’d have a hard time leaving. But the irony is that many people feel freer to leave someone who has made them feel secure. Ever hear “nice guys finish last?”

But if they are made to feel chronically insecure, heart-sick, anxious, or hurt, they can get caught up in the drama of the abuse and locked into the dynamics of the relationship– especially if every once in a while, their partner gives them a little crumb of love — intermittent reinforcement.

If you are in a traumatic bond, you not only suffer from your partner’s criticism, blame, betrayal, unreliability, or neglect, but you suffer from beating yourself up for allowing it to happen.

You feel guilty for not being able to leave. Your friends may get fed up with you for being so stuck. Even your therapist loses patience. You feel judged. You feel weak. You feel ashamed of yourself.

Someone responding to the unhealthy relationship described in my last blog wrote:

I was happy to receive this message because it confirms the bind so many people are in. The more infrequently the “crumbs of love” are offered, the more hooked you are. You become conditioned, like a rat in the cage.