By Joshua Hoe
I was thinking today about feelings of entitlement to sex that come in relationships.
You know, when you feel it is a biological right and something you are supposed to get as part of your signed relationship agreement…and can get grumpy about when it doesn’t happen.
No matter what a relationship is, it probably should not come with entitlements…Entitlement seems to me a close relative of objectification…Another technique we can use to make someone controllable, knowable, the way we think we want the world to be.
And What About Love?
Sounds like the title to a bad 80’s hair band song…(ummm it is).
I always try to think about love as being when you care about someone as much or more as you care about yourself.
(Of course, when you care too much, we addicts are often at risk of co-dependency and trying to control things too much – but that is a subject for another day).
Love should certainly not be conditional on a partner’s sexual capabilities should it?
What if your partner has a car accident and is rendered no longer capable of having sex…would you no longer love (her/him)?
My inner devils advocate responded “that seems an extreme analogy, most people who don’t want to have sex are capable.”
I thought about it a bit longer…
If there is something making someone feel uncomfortable about sex shouldn’t you care more about whatever that “something” is than you do about getting laid?
Shouldn’t you care more about that “something” than you do about yourself, if you love your partner?
I shared this thought with a friend and they said “Yes, if someone was in a hospital bed you wouldn’t feel entitled to sex…but, if they have something upsetting them emotionally about sex, it is like them being in a hospital bed that you cannot see.”
Really true. Great insight.
Of course, most of the time, sex lapses in relationships happen because there is not enough time in the day, there are too many responsibilities (kids, work, commitments etc).
But sometimes, sex is an emotional minefield. I know it has been for me.
Treading Too Carefully To Care
For years I pushed all of my emotions away and tried to mistake sex with love…and a healthy relationship with lots of sex.
Then I pushed all of my emotions away and tried to cover them up with sex…often with partners other than the one I was committed too.
Then, after two separate people made me really understand how terrible I was…I withdrew into myself and could not handle any sexual contact outside of fantasy.
In all of these periods…one thing was constant, sex was ONLY about me (to me).
It certainly was not about caring, or being present, or intimate.
I was either only giving myself physically (never emotionally) or totally withdrawing. I was incapable of connecting in any way beyond the physical.
Yup…An emotional minefield
Recovery + Intimacy
Recovery is certainly not about sex…But, I consider recovery to be like emotional training wheels on the bike of intimacy.
By learning to be present and care about other people you connect with in recovery, by actually paying attention, by caring about their problems, by knowing the little things about them…You are learning to be emotionally connected to another person.
It was like I grew up and never learned intimacy correctly, I faked it all the time but I was like a robot imitating what I thought I saw the people do.
Recovery has gradually gotten me to where I feel very close to people…where I care about people in a different way.
Instead of seeing people as aliens I fear, or aliens I withdraw from, or aliens I manipulate…I am learning to really care.
That is probably a little extreme, I always cared, but it was more in the abstract…like I didn’t trust them to care for me, so there was always a distance.
I had one long time girlfriend who cared so much that ANYBODY could have seen trust would NEVER be an issue, and I ran from her too.
The part of me that let people in was broken really young…and it has taken decades to reactivate it (robot language).
In programs, when they say we are emotional cripples that is certainly true of me.
I kind of feel now like all that would matter for me are the following few things:
- Am I really present with my partner, no matter what my partner is talking about…do I really listen, not just by being physically there…by caring because she is talking. Do I care enough to listen when she would need me to listen, even if it interferes with my agenda?
- Do I think of her always as her own unknowable subject – as someone I love because I can never entirely understand her..because she is who she is, not who I want to control and enjoy.
- Is sex just a means of getting satisfaction or, as it should be, an end…what comes from true intimacy and partnership…what comes from trust and love? I kind of believe that the sex that is born of desire, lust, and the need for satisfaction is false…only a walk down the path of acting out (where what matters is ONLY me).
After well-over five years of total sobriety from sex (and I mean total), I know for a fact that while we might have a biological sexual response at times (nocturnal emissions), we can do just fine without sex.
My desire for love did not die, and I suspect my desire for sex did not either, but I know I am as happy and well-adjusted as I have ever been waiting for it to be right (truly intimate).
Twenty years ago, I would have thought that statement was insane.
I still do not believe all relationships have to end in marriage…or that the only time to have sex is after marriage…But, I now do believe that sex should be about love and come from love.
I do not believe that should, in any way, be enforced…But, I do believe, for me, that is the ONLY place a positive sexuality can come from.
What do you think about love, intimacy, and sexuality? I would love to hear from you, feel free to leave a comment!
As always, we do not identify ourselves with any particular program or organization and we hold no leadership role in any particular program or organization. We are not therapists and do not pretend to be. The purpose of this blog is to share experience, strength, hope across the recovery community.