Attractions and Affairs
Everyone Has Attractions
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.