Part 5 – Attractions and Affairs

Issue 114

Part 5 – Attractions and Affairs 
Attractions Are a Part of the Process
by
Hal & Sidra Stone

Attractions perform a number of important functions in most of our lives.

First of all, they bring great vitality with them. If we never experience sexual attractions, it is quite likely that we have disowned an important self and have thereby cut off a major source of psychic energy.

Secondly, they break bondings, and they break them with a vengeance! There are few things that catch the attention of a partner with the intensity and immediacy of a good solid attraction to someone else. Thirdly, they alert us to what is missing within ourselves or within the relationship.

It is extremely important, therefore, to make our attractions a part of the process of relationship. This does not mean that we must compulsively comment every time we notice somebody attractive. It is unlikely that a continuous commentary of this type is coming from an aware ego; it is more likely to be a power play from a controlling mother or controlling father.

Sharing attractions from an aware ego almost always involves some hesitation and discomfort. When we love someone, we usually wish to spare this person pain, and we always risk hurting the other when we talk of our attractions to someone else. In addition, most of us have a guilty child within who fears that somehow when we hurt our partner with this revelation of our perfidy, we will be punished in return.

Last, but definitely not least, our vulnerable child fears abandonment every time that we are brave enough to discuss our attractions with our partner.

However, attractions do play an important part in the process and sharing them does help to move things along, although sometimes the movement can be fairly uncomfortable. For instance, attractions break bondings. When a couple is cozily bonded, this bonding will usually be unconscious; they will not be aware of the fact that they are bonded. If one or the other (or both, for that matter) start to experience attractions outside the relationship, this is the relationship’s way, if you will, of signalling that something is off in the way they are connecting to each other.

If they are in a solid bonding pattern, they will try to ignore the attractions and work things out on their own. These attractions then tend to become stronger and more numerous. Perhaps something will happen to break open the bonding pattern but, if nothing else works, talking about the attractions forces the issue. When we talk about our attractions, we automatically move out of good parent or pleasing child and must look to the totality of our selves and the complexity of the relationship. We are no longer playing it safe and exposing only our more reassuring selves to one another. In this way, we begin to become aware of and separate from the bonding pattern with which we have been identified.

The alternative to sharing our feelings and fantasies is to begin to lead a secret life. What happens here is that we live with a partner, but more and more time is spent living inside our own head. Our secret fantasy life can easily become more interesting and intense than the actual relationship in which we are involved. This can even develop to a point where our partner is tolerated sexually by virtue of the fact that the fantasy partner or partners are substituted for our real partner during sexual relations.

This secret life is a very natural phenomenon that develops in primary relationships. As it grows, we generally feel guilty about it and so we have an even stronger motivation to keep it private. It is obvious that at some point, the real relationship is going to suffer and eventually a serious deterioration in the quality of relationship will take place. Intimacy in relationship cannot live forever alongside an ever-growing secret life that is directed toward other men and women.

On the other side we have relationships in which a decision is made by the couple to live out their sexuality freely, so long as there is some measure of discretion involved. Sometimes there is the added proviso that the partners not become seriously involved with another person, and that if this happens they will tell each other. We are very pragmatic about relationship. Our feeling is that what works, works. There are many people living in such open relationships who are very pleased about the way they work. Many of these relationships also come to an end. Interestingly enough, we have not met very many people who have made the choice for an open relationship in a second marriage.

The main issue in these kinds of open relationships is the status of the vulnerable child. We have spoken of this before. Many of our different selves absolutely love the idea of an open relationship. The vulnerable child does not feel this way at all and, generally speaking, will gradually remove him – or herself from the partner. This has an interesting effect, because as the child is removed, some deeply satisfying energetic exchange between ourselves and our partners disappears. This is a physical as well as a psychological fact and, as this energetic exchange disappears, we are more and more starved for outside relationships that might bring it to us.

 

Part 4 – Attractions and Affairs

Issue 113

Part 4 – Attractions and Affairs
Everyone Has Attractions…continued
by

Hal & Sidra Stone

Laura  had  lived  out  her  Aphrodite,  her  sexual  self,  during  her  adolescence.  She was sexually active,  and she loved to take drugs, dance, and stay out all night.  However, the disapproval that this elicited from her classmates was distressing to her basically sensitive nature.  After graduation,  she left town,  another self in her took over, and she disowned the Aphrodite self that had been such a major part of her life.

Laura,  or more accurately the proper woman in Laura, married  a quiet, sensible man who was completely out of touch with his own sexuality. They lived a life devoid of the excitement of her past. She was able to maintain this lifestyle for a number of years until she met Ned, her tennis teacher.

Ned was the disowned self that she had left behind.  He romanced all the ladies,  drank,  took drugs,  and generally acted the tempter. Laura found herself hopelessly attracted to Ned.   She began an affair with him even though this put her marriage and her hard-won social status at risk.  She found herself taking drugs again, and she found herself sneaking money away from the household accounts to give to Ned. Although she kept trying to break the relationship and to  “reform”  herself for a second  time,  the pull to this disowned self was irresistible.

When we look at marriage relationships in general, we often discover that it was a particular self in a person who got married. Sometimes the man or woman is aware of what is being sacrificed or disowned.  At  other times there is no awareness on any level, and the disowning is complete.  The more extreme the disowning process,  the more extreme is the attraction likely to be to someone who carries the disowned energyThese kinds of attractions happen as a way of forcing us to meet, and eventually embrace,  our disowned selves.

Let us contrast this particular attraction and affair with the attraction that Henry feels. Henry is a  strongly sexual man who is in touch with this sexuality.  He is like many men: he loves women. He notices attractive women wherever he is, and he feels a thrill and a desire to have sexual relations with them.  This attraction  is non-specific but strong.

From time to time Henry experiences discomfort with these sexual feelings because he knows that his wife feels very vulnerable with them,  but he knows that if he tries to deny them, all the sexuality disappears  from his life. Henry walks the line between honoring his attractions and acting upon them.  Because he does this, they do not gain power in his life. His sexual self is a part of his life and a part of his relationship to his wife.   Unlike Laura’s,  it is not disowned.

Henry relates to his wife from an aware ego, honoring his sexuality but protecting their relationship and staying related to the needs of her vulnerable child (and his, too). He enjoys the feeling of being attracted and does not feel compelled to hide it, but,  at this point in his life, his choice is to remain monogamous.

Part 3 – Attractions and Affairs

Issue 112

Attractions and Affairs
Everyone Has Attractions

by

Hal and Sidra Stone

Attractions   are  a natural  part  of our  everyday  existence. What we do with them and how we handle them is the real issue.

Of course, as we have described briefly in the last section, there are other parts of us that feel quite different from our vulnerable  child.

Our  sexual selves, which  might  include (amongst others) Aphrodite, the satyr, the playboy, and the open marriage  or free love advocate,  all yearn for multiple partners.   These  selves are extremely  important and  carry with them much energy and a high intensity of feeling. Their attractions do not lessen just because we wish, from an aware ego, to engage in an intense,  consciousness-enhancing relationship  that includes  the  vulnerable  child.  Needless  to say, this poses quite a problem.  Talk about embracing  the opposites!

None  of us can deny these selves to save our relationships. This would just put us back in the position of disowning some parts in favor of others. And it does not necessarily work. The fact that we would rather not acknowledge a self does not in any way make it disappear.  If we feel very strong and deep attractions for other people and try to stuff them down into the unconscious,  these feelings simply go underground and begin to operate in the dark. When these feelings operate in the dark we do not see or know what is going on. But our partners  and our friends  usually do. We may not notice the way we stared or blushed or stopped talking when someone attractive  came by,  but  those others  with  us are very likely to see. Most definitely, the vulnerable child of our partner  knows, and knows immediately.

These  attractions  can  range  from  a  mild  interest  and delight to an intense fascination.  They  may happen  all the time  or just occasionally.  When  attractions  are extremely intense and become a preoccupation,  it is usually a sign that something serious is missing in the relationship or that something important  is not being talked about. The following is a classic example of a strong attraction signalling that something is missing from a relationship.

After many years of marriage, Joan became less thoughtful of Peter and stopped planning exciting things for them to do together.  Their children  were  teenagers  and  they  occupied  her completely.  At  this time,  Peter was facing the added  financial pressures  of college tuition  and emotional pressures at work. It seemed as though his life had no fun in it anymore.  He found  himself intensely attracted  to a young woman at work. She was bright,  happy and extroverted, and she always seemed to be having a good time.  He thought about her constantly  and wished that he had the courage to have an affair with her.

Something is missing  in  Peter’s  marriage,  and he is drawn to it when he sees it elsewhere. Somewhere along the way he has lost his natural connection to his own playfulness. He has become identified with being responsible  and serious. Before he met Joan, he had no connection with his own playfulness  and  fun-loving  side. Joan brought  this  out  in him. He needed her to bring this out in him, because he had never fully embraced  it as a part of himself.

Now, his playful child, who had been cared for by Joan, is  no  longer considered  important  and  feels  abandoned. Joan’s attention has switched to the couple’s children; she has fun  with  them  and  with her girlfriends.   He  misses  this element of lightness in his own life, and he is naturally drawn to this energy elsewhere. His attraction to the young woman in his office is intense.  He spends much time daydreaming about her and wondering  what life would be like with her instead of with Joan.

Most of us are used to thinking about attractions  on thebasis of our physical feelings, and these can certainly become very powerful in these situations.  However, the fascination and power of this attraction is at least in part a function of the fact that the young woman is an expression of a disowned self in him with which he desperately  wants to connect.

Attractions  that  are based on disowned  selves can become extremely  powerful.  These  kinds  of attractions  can become obsessions that will not release us despite all of our attempts  to extricate ourselves. They  can often monopolize our energies, inexorably drawing us out of our current relationship.  They  can draw us into behavior that is very destructive  or non-productive,  or they can open us up to a very new and creative kind of relationship. In the next Voice Dialogue Tips, let us look at a few examples of this  kind of disowning  and  see how the relationships  might be impacted.

 

 

Part 2 – Affairs and Attractions

Issue 111

“Attractions and Affairs”
The Vulnerable Child in Relationship

by

Hal and Sidra Stone

The  vulnerable  child,  as we have said before,  is one of the most essential ingredients  in a truly  complete relationship,for the child is the basis of our deepest intimacy. There may be many wonderful points  of contact  between two people. The  couple  may  be  able to  function  beautifully  together physically, emotionally, and professionally, but, without the child, something indefinable is missing, and there is always a yearning for something more. It is this yearning

The vulnerable child, from our perspective,  is the gateway to the soul. If one’s child is not available, soul contact is very difficult with another human being.

There are many times in any relationship when the vulnerable  child withdraws.  This  is natural  in the ebb and flow of life. When  bonding patterns  develop,  as shown in previous chapters, the child usually runs for cover, and there is a feeling of emptiness  and loss. The  reconnection  to our vulnerable  child and its reappearance  in the relationship is always a time for rejoicing.

However,  it is a most unusual vulnerable child who can tolerate  the pain of a  partner who has other  relationships. The inner child is extremely sensitive. Although we may not know that  our  partner  is having an affair,  our  vulnerable child  senses  it  at  some  level and automatically  begins  a process of withdrawal from the partner.  It is this astounding sensitivity that the child brings to the relationship, and it is the same sensitivity that causes it to withdraw.  Our rational mind may explain our fears or doubts away, but it cannot convince the child.

It follows that if we want a truly deep commitment and if we want the child to remain a part of our relationship, we will have to find some way to assure its safety. Whether or not this can be done in a non-monogamous  relationship is the real question.  Our experience so far is that the vulnerable child cannot  handle the reality of the other  person  having other partners,  particularly  when those relationships  become sexual. At this point,  the child withdraws  at some level.

We must remember  that the child is unimpressed with theories.  It wants to be loved and it wants to feel safe. From its point of view, we can have any kind of non-monogamous relationship we wish. It, however, will not participate. 

Once the child disappears,  there are a variety of ways in which we can make things all right. We can shift over to the sexual track and decide that two can play this game; in this way we open ourselves to different  sexual experiences.  We can identify with our rational mind and develop a philosophy and rationale  as to why monogamy  destroys  relationships and  prevents  growth.   Whatever  subpersonalities   we shift into, the child will be gone.

Staying  with the child means staying with one’s pain. This is the hardest thing in the world to do. But staying with the pain might truly make things right again by keeping the vulnerable child in the relationship and allowing the relationship to continue its teaching. This does not mean, however, that we become victims, suffering mightily at our betrayal by our partner.  It simply means that we stay with the process and see where it will lead us.

Part 1 – Affairs and Attractions

Issue 110 –

Part 1 – Affairs and Attractions 

by

Hal & Sidra Stone

 There  is a most memorable  interchange  in the Kazantzakis novel, Zorba the Greek. Zorba is talking to the narrator  of the book, a rational  writer  who is fearful about getting  into a relationship with the deliciously attractive village widow. He says: “You don’t want any trouble!  And pray, what do you want, then? Life is trouble,  death,  no.”

This  pretty  much  sums up the question  of attractions and affairs in primary  relationship.  If we are alive, we are going  to  be attracted  to people  on many  different  levels. We may be drawn physically,  emotionally,  psychologically, spiritually,  or any combination of the above. How we handle these attractions is one of the most complex issues of primary relationship.

 So, we are bound to agree with Zorba.  Life is trouble;  death  is not.  You will see, however, how a  knowledge of the selves and of bonding patterns  can help you to navigate in these particularly  difficult waters and how these, too, can help you to use your relationships  as teachers.

 To begin with,  our different  selves feel very differently from  one  another  when  it  comes  to  our  attractions  and affairs. Our  sexual and lustful selves are generally not at all monogamous;  they  are frequently  attracted  to other  partners, and they generally want to be sexually involved.

 Our free spirit, in a similar fashion, wants to do whatever it wants to do whenever  it wants  to do it.  It does not  like to feel imprisoned  by the boundaries  of relationship.

Our  selfish side wants  to do what  gives it pleasure.

Our  rational  and “New Age” sides may feel that jealousy is inappropriate,  that personal freedom is everything,  and for this reason anything that anyone does is just fine. For these selves, life should be excitingly spontaneous,  free of constraints,  and unconcerned with consequences.

 On the other  hand,  our inner conservative wants us to have nothing  to  do  with  affairs  and,  depending   on  our background,  might even be judgmental if there is any hint of attractions.

The responsible parts of ourselves will generally reject any kind of feeling or behavior that would even suggest that we might not be behaving responsibly in our primary relationship.

The  good father and good mother  also would have a difficult time with  outside  involvements.

We might also have a strong ethical side that rejects affairs, and possibly even a strong control  side that refuses to allow any kind of attraction  to be experienced.

We have only just begun to see how complicated this can become.  In a wonderful  Catch-22 fashion,  our inner critic may criticize us because we are having affairs or even feeling attractions.  It might,  however, also criticize us because we are not  feeling attractions  or because we do not  have the courage to have affairs.

We can even be drawn  into affairs without  feeling particularly attracted.  Our  pleaser can involve us in an affair for no other reason than the fact that he or she could not say no, because this might mean hurting  the other  person.

The  son or  daughter  side of us  might  get involved to have someone take care of us, and the power side might get involved largely to dominate someone else.

Along with  all of  these  is the  driving  power  of  our  sexuality, amplified and supported  by many of these different  selves.

 On yet another level, we might find ourselves drawn to someone who touches a very deep soul space in us or brings forth intense feelings of love that we have never experienced before.

Our inner child may feel sparked by someone outside of our primary  relationship.  Our magical child may be cued off by  someone  with  a rich  imagination  and  an intuitive nature.  Our  playful child might be met by someone who is capable of bringing out this part of ourselves.

Many of our selves, then, may be powerfully attracted to the  idea of an affair.  However,  one of the most  powerful selves that  needs  to be  considered  in  the  whole  issue of attractions  and affairs is the vulnerable child, and he or she has a whole different  kind of experience of this matter.

A fine kettle of fish! How are any of us even to begin to deal with these intricacies of the human psyche? Where can we possibly turn to try to sort out these complex conflicts and begin to make decisions  that truly  represent  who we are, rather  than  decisions that represent  the automatic  and unconscious responses of the primary  selves who are currently running  the show?

The more aware we are of these different selves, the more direct experience we have of them, the more real choice we have about what we do in life. It is not up to us to tell you how to live your life and what is the right or wrong way to behave. What we can say is that the more awareness and experience you have of who you are, the better off you will be in making these decisions, and the more you will be in control of your life and your environment.

Let us begin our examination of attractions and affairs from the standpoint  of the vulnerable child. We have chosen to start with the child because of its very important  place in relationship in general and primary  relationship  in particular.