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Gill Sanders

Insight

Are There Benefits of Having An Affair

In her new book Esther Perel suggests that there are benefits of having an affair.   I want to reiterate some of her arguments and add some of my own.


As a Couple Counsellor a couple will often come for a Counselling session for the first time when an affair has been discovered.  At this point one of the couple will not have definitely known, may have suspected but not confronted, and will be in shock.  The initial response is usually to blame the errant partner.


We need to talk about two things before the therapeutic mending can begin.   Firstly the shock needs to be understood and the issue of blame needs to be thoroughly explored.


This is the opportunity that Esther Perel talks about.   This is the golden opportunity that presents when a relationship is in breakdown to look at the reasons why.    This is the opportunity for forensic examination of and taking responsibility for each partners' part in the affair.    Yes.    Both halves of the couple have contributed to the making of the affair.


The therapeutic work then begins with transparency, commitment, goodwill and generosity of spirit on both sides to look at where the cracks were, what went wrong and what we can do to change that.


For instance: have you lost yourself in your current main relationship but rediscovered yourself, or another self, within another's gaze.   It generally isn't the actual sex (sometimes there isn't any) but the fantasy of sex, the attention and the secrecy.    Excitement makes the heart flutter.


i am not sure that forgiveness is ever possible but equally I am not sure that we need that to move on.   But we do need to draw a line in the sand and move beyond the affair. The line in the sand does depend on with whom the affair was conducted.    I mean that there is a difference if the person is unknown or is a best friend.    But to repeat we do need to move beyond the affair.   This is important and may take some time.


Truthfulness and transparency are paramount and is the only way forward.   Love doesn't hurt but rejection, loneliness and lies do.


 


Sexual and Love Anorexia

Avoidance of love, social and sexual nurturing for fear of:


Becoming visible


Becomimg vulnerable


Anxiety about sexual performance


Intimacy issues (means different things to different people)


Being rejected and or abandoned 


Not being good enough or enough


Defining sexuality   


We hide behind social media, being busy, substances, and perhaps retreating into a fantasy world.


And the payoff is that we are isolated and alone and that in itself feeds the anorexia and the belief that we are unlovable as we are.


I think that sexual and love anorexia is not about the lack of sex but the lack of intimacy and the real pain of feeling unloved and not wanted, and the lack of meaningful relationships.


In my opinion it is impossible to have a meaningful relationship with anyone if we are hiding our true self especially if we are hiding our true self from ourselves.


Anorexia, of whatever type, is about not being cogniscent or acknowledging of our own needs.  We all need to belong, to to a community, to a family, to a circle of friends and sometimes to another person.    However some of us do not recognise those needs if we have always managed without them.


Rejection

I think we all go to great lengths to avoid this feeling, of all the emotions, the most painful.


We stay in relationships, we stay out of relationships, we are terribly nice to people we hate.   We are very polite to people so that we can keep our jobs.   We slide away from parties without saying goodbye so that we do not reject others.  We are just terribly nice so that 'we do not rock the boat'.


One of the reasons we may go into therapy is to find out whether we are acceptable as human beings in our true and real state.    We may find that voicing our deepest fears about who we are hold less value when spoken out loud to a therapist.   It is important that we find a therapist who accepts and values who we are in our deepest darkest self.


When we are accepted and respected for who we are we may be able to learn to love ourselves.   And when we learn to love ourselves then rejection from others will not hold as much power as it once did.


We will find that rejection is in the head and heart of the other person and that we are lovable just as we are.


It doesn't mean that feelings of rejection won't hurt, they will, but loving ourselves may enable us to move out of relationships that ultimately do not work for us.


 


Receiving Love

I think for some people, certainly for the majority of my clients, receiving love is the most difficult thing that we do as human beings.


i find that feeling love from my heart is a relatively easy emotion to feel and give to those for whom I feel it.  This is very different from receiving love.


Receiving love involves a whole orchestra of 'other stuff' which very noisily gets in the way.   Firstly and most importantly if you were not the recipient of unconditional love in your original family then the thought that you might be lovable is not an active thought. If you are indeed shown love in the present day it might very well whistle over your head unless someone like me points it out.


Your orchestra is comprised of learned and ingested phrases mostly underlining the fact that you are 'not good enough' in whatever which way you choose to think.   There will be one instrument playing louder than others in your head. This may well be playing the theme tune of  'How can I fit in?  Who will love me?   How can I be lovable'.   This is a constant theme in my practice.


By contrast the clients who come in and tell me that they do not care what people think about them are indeed those people who care the most and are the people who find it most difficult to receive love.   We all care what people think about us.


Most interestingly the clients who come in with their own bottle of water and refuse my offer of a glass of water are the people who find it most difficult to receive love.


Being accepted as who you are by a therapist can be the beginning of receiving love.


Fat Sex. Or Other Excuses For Not Having Sex.

One of my clients said she was not having 'fat sex' with her husband.   She was not going to have sex with him until he was fitter and leaner and so was she.   She wouldn't even let him see her naked.   Naturally this was not something they had discussed.    It was something she had decided six years previously.


I wonder what other excuses we use to put between ourselves and our sex lives?   Why do we deprive ourselves of skin and skin contact, sexual pleasure and intimacy with what seems such a flimsy reason.


i have worked with one male client who would not even ask a girl out for coffee because he had erectile dysfunction and the thought of not being able to 'get it up' or 'for long enough' on the third date precluded him from asking for the first.


There is a certain type of person who dresses up in a rubber suit, or an animal suit or simply cross dresses - this  I think hides their vulnerability and allows them to take on another identity and enables them to be sexual.


There are a myriad of reasons why a sexual desert exists in long term relationships.  I don't have the answers but maybe we could think what the questions are.


A non sexual relationship rarely works in the long term because sex becomes much more important when it isn't there.


Depression, Connection and Love

Love nurtures us if we can let it in.   If we cannot and do not either recognise when it is there or are not able to receive it we can become depressed and deprived of nurture.


Without love our life can become barren and dependent on other substances (remember love is stronger than heroin) for nurture and/or oblivion.   One of these other substances could be a created fantasy world.   But these substances are external and therefore not part of our core being.  


We can become dependent on an outer world which can crumble and is out of our control.


We need to build our internal foundation which I think has to be based on giving and receiving love.   I think receiving love is our most difficult challenge.


Casual Sex in the Hook Up Age

Is it good or bad for you?


I think it all depends on what you are looking for.   If you are looking for marriage, romance, and happy ever after, you may not find it.  If you are looking for someone or something to boost your self esteem you may find that unless you are looking for someone to BE your self esteem.


You may feel bad after the sexual encounter if too much alcohol was involved or you didn't practice safe sex and if the sex was mind blowingly good you may not understand and be depressed if the other person wants no further contact.


The more interesting point I think is this.  Is having casual sex a betrayal or an infidelity within an existing relationship?  My opinion is that they can be two different things and if we look at the Ashley Madison furore there are definitely issues about casual sex outside of existing relationships.  Take a look at the secrecy and shame.   What is that about?  Is it because you cannot ask for your sexual needs - whatever they may be - to be met within your relationship and have to look elsewhere.  Why is that?


Why is it so difficult to get what we want from long term 'old fashioned' relationships.  Why do we need the casual encounters from Tinder, Grindr and sites like Elite and Ashley Madison.


is there an analogy between reservation and non reservation restaurants?  My tennis coach who is much younger than me loves no reservation restaurants because of the spontaneity and choice.  I prefer a restaurant where I can make a reservation, the staff know me and I know exactly what I am going to eat.


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