The blog is a little late this time as it was a public holiday and long weekend and I spent it with my partner, catching up with mates and relaxing. The relaxing included reading a book that was not for uni, "The seven levels of intimacy" and it prompted me with this week's topic.
So often when people talk about intimacy they are often talking about sex, it is certainly part of it but there is so much more. For me, intimacy is the 'knowing' of another person, their likes, dislikes dreams, goals, deepest thoughts and fears. And this is also what the book talks about, what the seven levels are and how to create and even recreate this in your relationships.
We start with small talk (1) and facts (2), the first 2 levels, you know the conversations you have when you are first getting to know someone, pleasantries, what did they do today, what music, film, hobbies they like etc.
You then move along to their opinions (3) and their hopes and dreams (4), the intimacy is building as you delve deeper into the person, this is when you start to realise that you do or don't have things in common on a much deeper level. Many relationships falter at this stage, you may have surface things in common but nothing else, there is not enough intimacy to maintain a relationship, you either move this person to being an acquaintance rather than a friend, or you walk away. It is also a time when some people, those who get swept up on the moment, those who have unrealistic expectations or are lonely and desperate, may ignore the fact that they dont really have anything in common, or think they can change the person, these relationships falter in time or go very pear shaped.
From there intimacy moves forward and we discover each other's feelings (5) and then their faults, fears and failures (6). This is where we bare our souls to each other, we have now moved to an even deeper level, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and exposed, this has taken a great deal of trust in each other.
Finally we move to the seventh level, legitimate needs (7), the needs of the soul and where we work together to meet each other's needs, where we come to support each other to be the best version of ourselves.
As this intimacy develops so does love, it can be companionate and result in life long friends, or it can be romantic and be the start of blossoming partnership. All of this takes quality time together to achieve, for some the sharing and common ground is found quite early, but for most it takes 3-12 months to achieve.
And for many in long term relationship some of this can get lost along the way, life gets busy, we think we know all there is to know about each other, we get stuck in a rut......but it can be resurrected. We cam take the time to explore these seven levels and see where we are at now and see where we both want the relationship to go.
So watch this space for a workshop aimed at building the seven levels of intimacy and getting you back on track and working in partnership to achieve your joint relationship as well as individual vision.
Today my family celebrate the birth of my eldest grandchild, 8 years ago, it is one of many at this time of year, 3 down and 4 to go over the next month. And there seems to have been an inordinate number of birthdays and anniversaries over the past few weeks. It got me thing about how we celebrate those milestones in our lives.
We celebrate, births (and then the same day every year), relationships and their anniversaries, in some cultures other milestones like puberty and menopause, and finally the life people have lived as they part this world. So many of these are celebrations of sexuality and us being sexual beings but so often our culture does not celebrate and promote healthy sexuality.
So how can we each as individuals and a society, celebrate and promote sexuality, sensuality, eroticism and sex?
Sex Positivity.......what is that you ask? The comic below, from www.ohjoysextoy.com , answers this questions in an easy to read manner. I personally don't like the term 'tolerance', I much prefer celebration but I guess we must start somewhere.
For me, sex positivity includes understanding we enjoy different things and that's ok, as long as they are safe, sane and consensual (the BDSM mantra works in many areas) and just because it does not 'float my boat' does not mean that it is wrong, just different, promoting education on all things sexual so that people are empowered by knowledge to make healthy sexuality choices, and that sexuality covers a whole range of things, not just sex. Sexuality is also how we identify our gender, sex, sexual orientation, it is what turns on our minds (fantasy), and our bodies and the sexual activities that we enjoy, it is our bodies and what they can do for us, give us pleasure, reproduce and allow us to experience sensuality alone or with others.
What it does not mean is that you have to enjoy everything that other people enjoy, that you have to do everything that other people do or that you have to promote things that do harm to people or are non consensual.
So now take the time to explore how sex positivity works in your life, is it something that you are already, or is it something for you to consider as you move forward on your journey to acheiving your sensual potential?
This week has really flown by and its Friday and blog day again, so what to write about today????? On pondering this I looked over the things that had popped up in my life over the last week and relationships seemed to be a theme. And seeing as I am attending a wedding of a friend tomorrow it seemed apt to explore what I have learned this week.
As part of my uni placement I have been attending, Building Better Relationship, workshops at a local counselling service, and it has been interesting to watch the 5 couples over the past 5 sessions , explore the dynamics of their relationships and work as a team to improve their communication, conflict styles, and over all the way they understand each other and work together.
I have also had some interesting online and in person conversations about relationships, what people expect, what they get in reality and how to work towards what they want and need. How many of us have bought into the Disney and Rom Com idea of how men and women are supposed to be in relationships, what the being together is going to look like and how the other person will automatically know what we want and how to be?
The one thing that I found coming up over and over was the expectation that our partner will be our 'soul mate', 'twin flame', 'other half' and will meet all of our needs. Personally I feel that is a lot to ask of one person, for them to be 'all' of themselves and 'half' of you as well, it also puts a lot of pressure on the relationships. We all have many people in our lives, both family and friends who fulfill the needs we cannot fulfill for ourselves, someone to talk to about important decisions, to cry on their shoulder, to be silly with or to just be silent with, our partner can do some or none of these, they can be other things to us as well.
When we have other people and interests in our lives we are always experiencing new things to bring back to our relationships, we take the pressure off our partner to be the 'be all and end all' for us. In the early days of a relationship we still spent time alone, with our mates, doing our sports, hobbies etc and had new and interesting things to share when we were with our new partner. There is no reason we cant continue to do this as our relationship and the intimacy between us grows, it maintains a level of mystery and distance which are healthy. Esther Perez talks about this as being the way to increase the desire in our relationships, as desire can often diminish as intimacy increases, but we can get it back.
And finally the most important relationship of our lives is the one we have with ourselves. This can sometimes be one of the hardest for us to have, we may have bought into negative messages about ourselves, or how we were supposed to be and found ourselves lacking. We may not give ourselves the priority we deserve, do we care or love ourselves enough, do we nurture ourselves, do we put others first and suffer due to that?
I know it is something I sometimes struggle with, putting work, study and family first and thus putting more stress on myself. We are all human and can often forget that if we dont look after and love ourselves and take the time to work out who we are and what we want and need in life, we can make unwise choices in our lives and not be there or have enough for the ones we love.
So my challenge to you and to myself is to " Remember that YOU are the most important relationship you will ever have, nourish and nurture yourself so you can have the energy to do so for others". Are you up for the challenge?????
Well uni is back and I am on placement with a wonderful sex therapist and a local relationship counselling service and studying statistics for my research next year.
It is fun and exciting to be on placement and with like minded people, learning new things, observing groupwork and presenting in my area of expertise to other professionals. But on the other side is statistics, not so much fun, like learning a new language, confusing and a real struggle. This is the second time I have attempted this subject and I am feeling very negative emotions about my capacity to understand the concepts I am being presented. This is unusual for me, I love learning new things and I am confused about my struggle and reaction to learning these concepts.
Have you ever felt like this in areas in your life? Confused, bemused, feelings of incompetency and possible self fulfilling prophecies of failure filling your head....this is not like me, where is this coming from, why am I not up for this challenge when I am up for many others?
This has led me to process where this is coming from, what are the core beliefs this is bringing up....possibly some time in my distant past when I was told I was not good at or could not do..... this, or that, or something else.
Those messages we are given when we are younger, by family, friends, school, church, workplace or society will inform our values and our sense of self. Many years later we may see things differently and then out of left field something will occur that will take us back to that place of doubt, worthlessness and confusion, echoing those messages from long ago.
So how do we deal with these old core beliefs that can inform how we react today?
Firstly we need to work out what that little voice inside is saying to us, what old message are they repeating that we had forgotten was there.
Once we work out what the core belief is that is behind the feelings....."I cant do maths"......"I am not good at understanding new concepts"...what ever it may be......it is time to look at other times when we have done these things, or things that are similar, well.
So, I have learnt new concepts in the past, I have done OK (maybe not brilliantly, but OK) in maths, so this belief is not really based in fact now, maybe at some time in the past it was true but things have changed.
Do I want to hold onto this belief if it is not true, of course I don't.....time to let it go, time to stop letting it get in the way of what I am going to achieve.
We all have the capacity to fall back into those old core beliefs and we also have the capacity to overcome them. Whether it be study, work, relationships, sexuality, identity or anything in our lives....we can move forward and embrace new challenges, ideas, and ways of being.
That is what I plan to do.....what about you?
Richelle has had a passion for sexuality and sexual health since 2001. She has worked in the field since 2006, providing sexuality education in schools, and adult education in the topics of diverse sexualities and gender identities, LGBT health issues, sexual health and LGBT relationships.
This is a space for me to share with you my journey as a Sexologist, the things I learn and the people I meet and what I think and feel along the way.