Part 5 – Attractions and Affairs
Attractions Are a Part of the Process
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.