I look at eroticism, sexuality, consensual non-monogamy (CNM) and monogamy. I see and embrace their fluidity. How was it decided to focus on these parts of life?
The reason is that relationships and sexuality are primary drivers of personal development (and are therefore “stressful”). They both tap into identity, and people’s sense of self. It’s where people define themselves and their lives, outside of their work.
Commitment & desire
People want to find out how they can commit and want at the same time – not just one or the other. That’s true regardless of the number of partners in question, gender, orientation and seemingly across culture, at least in my professional experience in Seattle.
Shaping adult character
Committed relationships (or the lack thereof) shape adult character more than any other single factor. They challenge the ways we attach(commit) to others. They challenge us to express – with integrity – how we “want to want” each other.
Desire left untended
But this side of the commitment deal is often left vague or not tended to. If they haven’t already occurred in your relationships, differences in desire are nearly 100% likely to affect your relationship(s) for one period or another, and they can’t all be easily explained away. Unless tended to, desire problems are as likely as anything else to end your relationship.
A peek into differentiation
Differentiation offers a path that keeps a keen edge on desire, without diminishing the importance of commitment. But the predominant forces of life – all the stuff of commitment – can move relationships away from the tensions of desire, into an easier-to-manage-but-blander “team” mode. That’s an adverse medium or mode in which to develop one’s erotic self.
Commitment is not sexy
Commitment isn’t sexy much; all of the necessary agreements amount to less tension than differences provide, hence less eroticism. Differentiation is not only about the tensions of desire, but about self-managing the anxieties that often arise when partners are more self-disclosing about their eroticism.
I use human and personal development as vital contexts in my work. This tends to displace moralizing, which relies on a good/bad lens. I replace it with the responsibility for knowing one’s motives; and for acting with integrity – of saying and doing the same (damn) thing. Integrity is the heart of commitment.
Emotional immunity v. jealousy
What hopefully results from personal development is emotional immunity. Imagine being emotionally more independent of other’s emotional states — but not distanced or less connected. Like any other form of immunity, it is shaped by exposure to the world & intimate relationships.
People who transition from monogamy to an open relationship usually struggle with their immunity to jealousy. I see it coming from sexually open relationships that people can build for themselves. Holding one’s own sense of self, as an “out” poly-amorous/fidelous person (or partner) is difficult, similar to coming out as gay 30-35 yrs ago (my non-scientific estimate.)
Looking ahead, I see a need (true for all therapists active online) to blog about gender and sexual orientation. This includes a clear view of the broad range of their oppression.