In preparation for a sex life

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Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Mar 24, 2015 3:38 pm

I think that maybe perhaps I could be approaching a place where I'll do some of the things one does to have something of a sex life. Outisde the one I already have with myself, that is. But as the count of qualifiers to that sentence shows, I feel like I still have so many questions left. About the cultural, social, interpersonal and emotional sides to it... all things I kind of managed but it was a mess when I was sexually active before. (Early-to-mid 2000s)

So rather than write 1500 words and ask about everything at once, which among other things would require me to try to think about everything at once, I'm making a thread now that I will update at need, because I suddenly figured out that you could do that.

I'll probably figure some of the stuff out just by having it out there in writing – my mind has showed itself to work that way – but I'll also be happy for input and advice and/or pointers to reading material that I can research on my own.

*

The first set of questions concerns trying to work out what kind of sex life I'd like to have. Something that will probably change and evolve constantly, but I'd at least like a general idea. So I can know something about how to look for it, how to communicate about it, and when... I'll probably come back to questions like that. But for now... I see some contours of the sex life I imagine, but other parts of it elude me... and some of the elements of it have been in my head for a while, and my feelings about other things have changed a lot since then...

I'm quite certain I don't want a monogamous relationship, not now, probably not later. That's been kind of with me for a long time, including back when I was in relationships... we talked about it in one, but broke up before we got that far. Another one was actually open when it came to sex, but for my part that only drove home how bad I was at finding partners. Frustrations about that went on for a long time after the relationship itself ended.

On the other hand, I would like to have regular partners, one or more, and would like them to be people I do more than sex with. But I don't want too go to deep with emotional commitment, at least not at the moment. And that's one of the things I'm confused about, why is that such a strong preference with me? I used to think it was because I'm so at beginner's level with emotions, I wanted to learn more first... but when I think of it, I'm not sure spending time together but with less commitment is actually easier? I suspect it might even be more complicated rather that than less.

But still, there's something scary about emotional commitment in particular, and I don't know what, and that's a thing I'd like to figure out. I mean... it's scary for a lot of people, maybe someone can tell me the more generally scary aspects of it? A part may also be the problems I've had with boundaries before – respecting those of others as well as maintaing my own – which has brought both pain and (sometimes well-deserved) feelings and guilt and shame into my earlier experiences with intimacy. I've gotten a lot of better with boundaries though... Yet another thing I'm thinking is, I'm not really sure about what emotional committment means. Uhm, can someone here tell me more about that?

Then finally, for now, I have this idea in my head that I'd like from time to time to meet someone in appropriate settings and ask if they want to go home with me that night, I mean, now that I have a home and everything. And something in my head says that this is a bad thing to want, even though I suspect it is not, and I'd like to know where that something in my head is coming from. Or that it is strange to want one-time-encounters in its own right, and not only as a substitute for something regular, and I'm not sure why I believe that either. And I may need, at some point, to separate my wants for this now from the near obsession I had with it back when I was confused with everything and frustrated with inability to find partners.

I may also have some more practical questions, but those I'll get back to later, because I'm already halfway to those 1500 words I weren't going to reach, and I've either asked or implied a lot of questions already... And I've also got a bit more overview of everything, I think. But still, does anyone see things I don't about what I want and why and ethcial and practical considerations around it?
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Post by The Wisp on Tue Mar 24, 2015 3:47 pm

I can't offer advice or perspective, but for what it is worth I pretty much want all the bolded items as well in an ideal sex life, so you're not alone in wanting those things.
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Post by eselle28 on Tue Mar 24, 2015 4:15 pm

Hirundo Bos wrote:
I'm quite certain I don't want a monogamous relationship, not now, probably not later.

This one's not my area of expertise, but seems like an area where there's room to do some preparation. There are some great books out there about ethical non-monogamy, and if you haven't read them, it might be a good idea to dive in a bit. If you know non-monogamous people in person or online who have the time and the energy to educate others, you also might want to talk to them a little bit. If you don't know any, it might be worth it to consider seeing if there are groups for non-monogamous people in your area. Knowing people even just as friends can provide you with some helpful resources.

On the other hand, I would like to have regular partners, one or more, and would like them to be people I do more than sex with. But I don't want too go to deep with emotional commitment, at least not at the moment. And that's one of the things I'm confused about, why is that such a strong preference with me? I used to think it was because I'm so at beginner's level with emotions, I wanted to learn more first... but when I think of it, I'm not sure spending time together but with less commitment is actually easier? I suspect it might even be more complicated rather that than less.

But still, there's something scary about emotional commitment in particular, and I don't know what, and that's a thing I'd like to figure out. I mean... it's scary for a lot of people, maybe someone can tell me the more generally scary aspects of it? A part may also be the problems I've had with boundaries before – respecting those of others as well as maintaing my own – which has brought both pain and (sometimes well-deserved) feelings and guilt and shame into my earlier experiences with intimacy. I've gotten a lot of better with boundaries though... Yet another thing I'm thinking is, I'm not really sure about what emotional committment means. Uhm, can someone here tell me more about that?

This is something I'm more familiar with, and your suspicion that relationships that involve spending time together but that don't involve emotional commitment can be quite complicated is often (though not always) correct. As for what emotional commitment means, to some extent that depends on the people involved. I generally consider it to be offering to be around for someone in the future, in a way they can plan on and maybe rely on a bit, and being able to rely on them feeling the same way in return. With that often comes a bit more intertwining of lives, including things l like being willing to be there for someone when they're not in fun sexy mode and are instead sad and need comfort or stuck doing something dull and need company. The extent to which that occurs depends, again, on the people involved and the relationship.

I can see the appeal of something more casual to someone who hasn't had a lot of relationship experience. If everything seems new to you, signing up for several different levels of newness sounds a little intimidating, especially if you're not entirely sure what sort of person you want to be with yet. I'm not sure if that's where your feelings come from, but it's where some people's come from. I wouldn't say that the boundaries issue is a good justification, though. I would say that the sort of relationship you describe requires more boundaries and more communication to avoid causing pain and messiness than some other kinds of relationships. I would say that if you propose a relationship like that to a woman, it's fairly important to set the limits at the lower (I'd like to grab a drink together before we go back to my place) and the upper (I'm not up for monogamy or a committed relationship) ends of what you need. You may need to initiate the discussion. If she's had relationships like that before, she may have her own limits. If you're unfamiliar with this kind of thing, I'd suggest aiming for a level of friendliness that doesn't rise to the level of hanging out like you would with your other friends. You can have a drink or watch a movie with someone without ending up spending all weekend and much of your week with them, and keeping some limits tends to avoid confusion.

On another ethical note and one that kind of ties back into what I wrote a couple paragraphs above, both a fair thing to do and one that's likely to prolong a friends with benefits relationship is to keep an eye on the extent to which you're asking your new friend to interact with your less positive emotions or day to day struggles, and whether you'd be willing or able to reciprocate as someone who identifies with being at the beginner's level of emotions. If you can't, that's a good sign that you should be steering those emotions in some other direction than toward your new friend. I won't go into the rants I'm sure you've already seen about unequal contributions of emotional support, so I'll just say that friends with benefits is one of the areas where that can lead to the most confusion and pain.

Then finally, for now, I have this idea in my head that I'd like from time to time to meet someone in appropriate settings and ask if they want to go home with me that night, I mean, now that I have a home and everything. And something in my head says that this is a bad thing to want, even though I suspect it is not, and I'd like to know where that something in my head is coming from. Or that it is strange to want one-time-encounters in its own right, and not only as a substitute for something regular, and I'm not sure why I believe that either. And I may need, at some point, to separate my wants for this now from the near obsession I had with it back when I was confused with everything and frustrated with inability to find partners.

Well, for whatever it's worth, I don't think it's a bad thing to want. Aside from lots of aspects of culture holding it up as a sign of a man being ultimately desirable, there can be something very exciting about someone completely new who you're carried away with and who is probably equally enthralled by you. (That's the myth at least. Sometimes it's what happens, and other times the motivations on both sides are a bit different.)

I do think that this is an area where many people - even those experienced with sex and love and used to being able to regularly attract partners - need to temper their expectations a bit. It's a fine thing to pursue, but should be done keeping in mind that this is an activity that men generally feel much safer doing than women do, and that even PUA type guys are more likely to get a woman's contact information the first night at a bar rather than take her home. I'd suggest that men who are specifically pursuing this go into it only when they can have a mindset of not being angry at women for not having the exact same desires, and I'd advise people of both genders to be willing to be flexible and up for dealing with complications if they take someone home or go home with someone. You're dealing with someone who you fundamentally do not know, and at least in my experience, that can sometimes means your new partner comes with a side of odd behavior, unexpected living situations, or unusual expectations about either sex or the nature of your hookup. Basically, it's something I think is best viewed as a bonus rather than the only goal and gone into with good boundaries but flexible expectations.
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Post by Guest on Tue Mar 24, 2015 4:43 pm

So.... take all of this with a grain of salt, because it is entirely my experience, and I am neither competent to say what's happening in your head or at all knowledgeable about whether this might be a trend.

That said...

What you said about emotional commitment resonates with my worries about my inability to provide deep emotional support to people.  I have, from time to time, shied away from the idea of forming emotional bonds because I am afraid I will let people down.  It's not that I don't care about a person or want them to be happy, but, especially in the abstract (a hypothetical future partner), I think two things:

1. If I form a deep emotional attachment to someone, they will expect things from me.  And if I cannot give them those things, because I am broken (says the ugly inner voice), they will be hurt.  If I keep people at arm's length, it is safer for them.

And the corollary:
2. Asking someone to provide emotional support to me is too much to ask.  I think I can be an attentive and caring lover.  I think I can be a fun date.  But actually asking someone to help me sort out the tangled knots of my psyche is a job I wouldn't wish on someone I like, so it's better for everyone to stay a little distant.

Now, for me, these hypotheticals tend to melt away with real people.  I find that as I spend time with people, I warm up and open up, and the emotional commitment happens whether I want it to or not.  This isn't the case with everyone, obviously, or probably even most people.

Again, I don't say this because I think it's necessarily the case for you.  But it's a perspective I thought might help.

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Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:57 pm

Wisp, it is useful to know there are other people who want similar things. Or, I knew that already, but hearing it gives it more substance, makes it into something I can work with. So thanks.

Questions around emotional committment are also becoming clearer to me – what it is, how to define and communicate about it, finding upper and lower limits... I do have a sense of what my upper limits are. I think the thing I mostly don't want with emotional support is to be available at short notice. Especially when I'm planning to spend time by myself, I'd like to be able to not change those plans. And I'd like to not be the person someone turns to if they're likely to harm themselves. And even saying this, here, about a hypothetical future relationship, makes me feel... guilty in a way.

These preferences are colored by anxiety, and have roots in specific events, and I'll deal with them more fully in therapy at some point.

And yeah, I also don't want to be so intensely close to someone else that I begin to lose my sense of self, because that's something that has happened in the past. At the opposite end of the same scale, I've sometimes felt that I'm betraying a partner if they're not in my thoughts at all times... I don't want to feel that a lot either. But both those things are probably up to me, and my skills with self-regulation, and my skills with preferences and boundaries and communication. And I do believe those skills have improved lately.

I'm having thoughts on asking someone to go home with me as well... there's a lot there to disentangle, fifteen years old anxieties to take out of it, and going over what it means to see it, as eselle says, as a bonus, not the most important part of my (possibly approaching) sex life. But I think I'll rather get back to that later, let one set of thoughts sink in before I get on with the next.
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Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Apr 28, 2015 5:31 pm

Time to try and get back to this thread... my head has been full of other matters for a while, like moving. But I stil have some internal work to do about sex.

The last bolded item in my post, spontaneous, go home with me tonight?-sex had such a hold on me in the past. If you'll go back with me for about fifteen years... I was in a not very good place mentally, and in a not very healthy relationship. And the relationship was open, but I was unable to find anyone else, and couldn't understand why, and that inability became a symbol of every other, incomprehensible inability I had. The idea got etched into my brain that to prove I had any worth at all as a human being, I had to find someone to go home with.

It stuck with me after the relationship ended. It stuck with all through the next, monogamouos one, where frustration because it wa now out of the question kept eating at me. (I'm ashamed to say I shared more of that frustration than I should have with then girlfriend.) It stuck with me after it ended, but I still couldn't get anything to happen. It flared up each time I saw people I knew go home with someone, all of the rage and contempt I used to feel about myself that had actually very little to do with sex. But then, at some point, it faded away... into some corner of my mind, as I was starting to work on other aspects of my life.

This takes us almost up to where I am now. To the work I've been doing, for the last two years, to start again with sex, from a hopefully better place.

During the last couple of years, I've turned back to the goal of having some sort of sex life, built on some better skills than before. I figured out, early on, more or less the same thing Eselle said above: The scenario where there's all this immediate passion and I take some home with me that night would be nice, but it would be a bonus; not the beginning, or middle, or end of my sex life. I was a nice-if-it-could-happen sexual fantasy, and was to be seen alongside other fantasies of that kind.

And with that thought sorted into the right box, I went on with the soulsearching and skillbuilding I've been doing since. Only, and the reason why I went through the narrative, I think it's been leaking out of that box again since then. Because when I saw it named only a bonus, it felt like a new and sudden insight. And a lot of worries fell away.

- How do I carry around the type of condoms I'm not allergic to when it's summer and I don't have enough pockets?
- What if I had someone to go to bed with, but my sheets weren't clean, would I ask them to wait outside in the hallway as I changed?
- What if I hadn't washed my hair in too long?
- What if everything happened so fast that my autopilot took over and I couldn't initiate the necessary set of conversations?

It felt like a sudden insight to realize that all of these worries were connected to the go home and have sex tonight-scenario. With sex that could be talked about in advance, with someone I already knew a bit, they wouldn't really come in the way. And I already have the abilities I need for that.

Huh. I didn't think of that until just now... I already have the abilities I need for that.

So what I need to do is to sort out what ideas and emotions belong to things I'll spend time and active effort looking for, and what are just reflexes stemming from those confused ideas from fifteen years ago. The ability to find a partner there and then is no longer releveant to my self-worth, or essential to my sex life, if it happens, it will happen as a bonus.
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