Looking for the best relationship you can have?
If so, here are three things to ask yourself.
1. Do I REALLY want a great relationship?
Sometimes we want things to change and yet, on the other hand, we don’t. Life can get cosy and change always shakes things up – especially if it arrives in the form of a new lover who touches our soul in a way we’ve never been touched before, and who may have even come to us from way beyond our normal social circle. Yes, we’ve been hoping for the love of our life but perhaps we’re more comfortable with it remaining just a hope rather than a reality. Reality means we have to deal with the practical results of our dreams. Yikes!
It’s not unusual to hear someone say they’re hoping to meet a significant other, but then when they get the opportunity, they back off, making excuses. Maybe they’re waiting for something else to happen first – for a career to take off, or to lose weight and shape up. Maybe they’re just plain nervous of the implications of having a dream come true and then having to live with the consequences.
Even if we’re in a relationship we’re not quite happy with, are we willing to make the effort to move it to the next level? There are times when we moan about a partner or a situation, while deep down it somehow suits us that it isn’t quite as we’d like it to be. Perhaps it lets us off the hook in terms of having to step up to the plate ourselves. If our partner isn’t all we’d like them to be, well, at least we don’t have to change either. Or maybe it’s easier to get out and start afresh.
The practicality of loving another also means sharing time and energy that we may have been using for other things. It also means opening ourselves up and revealing our hearts, allowing our inner most dreams and desires to surface, with the scary possibility of not being reciprocated. But we can’t have it both ways – saying we want a great relationship while all the time holding back. If we have mixed feelings about being part of a deeply fulfilling relationship, then the likelihood is that our experience will mirror that uncertainty. Better that we be totally honest with ourselves than sit on the fence.
2. Am I ready to love, and be loved, unconditionally?
To answer this question honestly means flipping it around and asking ourselves how well we’re able to love ourselves. For another to reach us deeply or to come anywhere close to loving us unconditionally, we have to be open to it. If we still struggle to like aspects of ourselves or to treat ourselves lovingly, then no matter how much another loves us, there will still be part of us that doubts it or that thinks they are mistaken. And, let’s face it, who can manage to accept themselves wholeheartedly all the time. It’s like the old school report: ‘Self Love – Room for Improvement’. We can all learn to love ourselves a little better.
So, how do we do it? That’s not something that can be answered within the space of a short article but there are a few small things that can start to tip the balance in our favour.
- Spend quality time alone – get to know yourself as you would expect a lover to. Take yourself for a walk. Go to the movies. Sit and chill. Who are you when you’re alone? What are your different faces and moods? Befriend the faces you hide from others as well as those they see.
- Work with the inner critic. We all carry voices in our heads – voices that nag, criticise, compare and generally put us down from time to time. Those voices are not us, though, no matter how familiar they are and we have the ability to gradually shift their comments to more helpful ones by taking the time to catch them as they arise. Rather than giving them free rein to say what they want, take the higher ground and challenge them. Speak directly back to them. If they are saying something constructive, then take heed. Otherwise tell them (as forcefully as you can) to back off if they can’t say something useful. These voices usually come from somewhere outside of ourselves – the legacy of parents or the mainstream media to which we pay too much attention. Tracing their origin can help to diminish their influence on our lives, if it doesn’t eradicate them completely. (A good therapist can help shift the more stubborn ones).
- Look at your life as if it belonged in a novel – with curiosity and wonder. You could even spread some of the main ‘events’ out on the floor in front of you on pieces of paper so that you can see them from a little distance. Interesting characters are never perfect and, with a shift in perspective, you may see yours in a different light. How would you script the next stage of this character’s life? Aren’t they as deserving of deep love as anyone else?
- Do something genuinely nurturing each day. Make yourself a special meal, or sprawl on the sofa listening to music – whatever makes you feel held, perhaps what you’d like a lover to do for you. And if you don’t know what that is, then you’re work is to find out. Someone who can nurture themselves is a great lover to have – they don’t need you to do it for them and yet they intuitively know how to do it for others.
- Try to see yourself through the eyes of someone who might love you deeply. What is it that they might like about you? What do you wish they might discover that no-one else has? By connecting with the deeper wonder of who we are, we develop the ability to see others in the same way. We get less hung up on our lovers’ flaws and more able to see the amazing person that they also are.
3. Am I ready for deep sexual intimacy.
Oh, this is a toughy! Like love, our openess to sharing deep sexual intimacy requires that we’re comfortable in our own skins and sexuality in the first place. It requires that we can accept ourselves as we are. Guys, you love it when a lover takes you in their mouth and relishes the responsiveness of your shaft. But, genuinely, how accepting are you of your own penis and balls? I know plenty of men who still think the idea of swallowing cum is slightly disgusting, which makes me wonder how they can accept that a lover might enjoy it. Is your partner’s desire a reassuring substitute for your own acceptance of your shape, size and taste? And women, how much do you use the old feminine arts of concealing and revealing to minimise those parts of your body that you’re not so comfortable with? Lying in a particular pose on the bed perhaps, or remaining half-undressed, or dimming the lights?
Although we may trade off our deepest desires for emotional comfort, we all really yearn to have someone love us, flab, scar tissue, moles and all. There is part of our psyche that longs to be touched by fingers that find us beautiful no matter how our brains and society may judge us. Like our openness to love, though, if we don’t find a way of being comfortable with our own bodies as they are, we’ll never believe that another can find beauty in us. We’ll think they’re just being nice or trying to flatter us. And if we can’t find the deeper beauty in our own bodies, how can we see it in another? No matter how attractive a lover is when they first appear, if we want to do a longer-haul with them then part of the journey means coming to terms with bodies that lose tone, change texture and, God forbid, fart, belch and get sick at the most inappropriate times.
And what about those hidden sexual urges that we tip-toe around, confining them to a private fantasy world or struggling to find expression for them in the absence of an understanding lover? So often we screen our sexuality through the eyes of the world around us, accepting only those parts that seem to fit what we think others are comfortable with and hiding or denying the rest.
There is another way, though. When we spend time getting to know ourselves – not through the hands or minds of others but through exploring and experimenting with our own bodies directly – we find out who we really are and we send positive messages of self-acceptance to our bodies and brains. Self-pleasuring – through touch, massage, masturbation, with and without the aid of vibrators, fleshlights and other tools – leads us back into a direct relationship with ourselves. That direct relationship, which is based on curiosity, tenderness and pleasure can, over time, bring confidence and self-awareness. For so long, self-pleasuring has been considered a substitute for sexual intercourse while what it really has to offer, apart from pleasure, is self-discovery and understanding. It can sometimes take a while to break engrained patterns of quick-fire masturbation and to work through layers of shame, regret and sadness before the body opens to being pleasured by our own hands. But a body that feels good in itself and is open to receiving pleasure is one that is more ready for deep sexual intimacy with a lover.
If this all sounds like a load of hard work, then I guess in one way it is. It’s a question of priorities, really. If we value the fulfilment and enrichment that comes from deeply satisfying intimate relationships, then the effort it takes to deepen our connection with ourselves is well worth it. If, on the other hand, we’re happy enough scooting along the surface of life, well that’s another matter. I can’t help thinking, though, if you’re reading Raw Attraction then your heart is hungry for the deeper experience. And, I have to admit, I consider the ability to self-love and self-pleasure, never mind the willingness to leave the comfort zone from time to time, all part of healthy living.
(Originally published 2014 in Raw Attraction)