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Honesty and transparency are traits that we currently believe we value in our society. We are big proponents of authenticity and believe that it should be super simple for people to stop lying on their online dating profiles, to be honest about whether they want a second date and whether sex really is just friends with benefits or something more.
The reality is that honesty and transparency require very high levels of emotional intelligence. True intimacy requires comfort with emotional vulnerability and our culture is very far from comfortable with emotions.
Further, dishonesty drives fear and fear drives sexual desire. Clinical anecdotes from my work as well as the work of other couple’s therapists have found that women sometimes experience the fear of abandonment (anxiety) and respond by making themselves more sexually available in hopes to keep the relationship going (it is also one of the main premises of the pickup artist movement). We are all more aware of the term “negging” which uses back handed compliments to lower someone’s self esteem in an effort to make the manipulator more physically attractive — and research indicates that it works in some cases. In essence, there is not a real biological reason for us to stop lying to each other. We are used to the drama and equate the drama with sexual attraction and eventually love. It is really all we have been taught.
Think back to your middle school days. You probably got your first introduction about sex in the context of fear. You were told you would get your heart broken. You were told to watch out for STDs. You then had the awkward conversation with your parents as a pre-teen about the HPV vaccine. Then everyone’s fear enveloped you making you fear you would get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. We talk about “losing” our virginity and A LOT of pressure is placed on young people to guard their virginity.
There really is no other aspect of our life developed in as much fear as our sex lives.
To make things more complicated, after you have been raised in an environment that equates sex with fear, you begin to associate the feeling of fear as the same as sexual desire. Most people cannot differentiate the differences felt in the body. This, on top of our entire dating industry which has built an empire on teaching you to hide who you really are to “get” the person you are really interested in, has amplified the basic biology. We simply arrange our lives to avoid fear — the fear of rejection, the fear of being seen, the fear of commitment and the fear of real intimacy. So when that person shows up and we feel fear, we mistaken them as the love of our life. When the reality is, that signal of fear could be a cue that it is the wrong person for a long term relationship (they could be the right person for a lust filled affair but few of us differentiate between lust and love).
In summary, we have trained ourselves to have more sex but little connection and intimacy.
Which brings us back to the topic of why is honesty and transparency so hard. It takes extraordinary people to transcend the basics of not only our biology but our cultural conditioning to get to a point of being interested in real intimacy. It also takes education for most people to realize that sex is so much more than a physical act and moving past our fears of emotional vulnerability are worth it.
So until we begin to value intimacy in the form of emotional connection in the same way we value physical intimacy (and bring them together as an example of our ideal relationship) there is zero incentive for any of us to be honest and transparent in the process of dating.
What Do We Do Now?
We all need a new education on what sex, seduction, and sensuality really is about. We have lived far too long in a world that glorifies the physical act of sex without acknowledging the deeper, psychological and emotionally transformative experience sex can be. Deeply connected sex and real intimacy does exist and those people with high levels of emotional intelligence are far more likely to to get to a place of deeper intimacy than others. But for the rest of us (including those who do not have a desire to traverse the great ocean of emotional intimacy) how do we handle the changing dynamics of dating and sex?
Whether we like it or not, there is an evolution of change coming. We can call it a new kind of chivalry emerging but few people will be brave enough to truly embrace it for it will require a deepening respect for feminine leadership qualities and deep trust that if masculine energy surrenders to feminine leadership, everyone will get what they want (if feminine energy respects how hard it is for masculine energy to surrender control after thousands of years of conditioning). As we can see with the increased attention paid to increasing levels of sexual assault, domestic violence and the emergence of alt-right groups that support the abuse of people (and women in particular), this transition is not going to happen without a lot growing pains. Toxic insecurity is a prevalent problem across the country and we are very confused by the changes in our culture as they conflict with our biological urges.
Thus, in our personal lives we all need to be more sensitive and respectful to everyone who does show up and value honesty and transparency. They are likely to be our future and the antidote to the toxic insecurity we are currently surrounded by. We also need to be careful not to get reactive and angry when we see silly things in an online dating profile or someone struggles to tell you they do not want a second date. Honesty is not easy for everyone and we have not been raised to believe in its value. Your ability to see the kindness, even in a not so stellar attempt, reinforces positive change. Your anger and outrage only reinforces old ways of interacting. It is basic psychology — ignoring bad behavior and reinforcing positive behavior works best when we seek to change the status quo.
The Role of Personal Development in Opening up to Emotional Intimacy and Sexual Intelligence
Most of us believe that we are good with emotional intimacy simply because we are in long term relationships or in a marriage where we share all our emotions with our partner. Then we wonder what happened with our sex life. Emotional intimacy is not about sharing all your emotions or relying on your partner to take care of you emotionally. It is in using those skills to ask for what you really want in your life — not in being dishonest and placating to your partner. In a sense, what we think is emotional intimacy is another form of dishonesty that drives many people to hire a dominatrix or have an affair when the life of the relationship has gone out the window.
Just like too much of a focus on the physical act of sex can ruin an otherwise great connection with long term potential, too much focus on just emotional intimacy and friendship can create havoc in one’s sex life. We really need a balance of both to unlock the kind of relationships we dream about.
How do we get there? We have to learn to have more fun on our own. We have to learn how to channel the power of fear into something more exquisite. We have to take the time to do the things on our bucket list. We have to prioritize our own growth not out of selfishness but out of an understanding that our growth only benefits our partner and our relationships. We have to stop using work and money as an excuse for the reasons why other aspects of our life are lacking in joy.
We also have to learn that we can have intimate relationships without it leading to sex.
This is not easy for most people especially in the middle of our loneliness crisis but the more work we do on cultivated our own joy and creativity, the better at differentiating those people whom should occupy our sex lives from those people whom we simply enjoy spending time with.
And the only way to get to this place of discernment is to learn what drives your personal passion and desires. It is time to start exploring for we can’t expect to provide the type of security our future partners will need if we haven’t experienced the joy in exploring the world ourselves. Honesty and transparency become easier to achieve when we live in a place of joy.
Previously published on medium.com
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