I have struggled to object, disagree, to rock the boat in romantic partnerships – fortunately, the only superpower a human being has is to evolve: to defy ingrained behavior, take a deep breath, and change. So I have. Armed with some degree of self-understanding (and some compassion), I now put on my metaphorical Wonderwoman Underoos (I grew up in the 80s), and allow myself the vociferous voice of dissent. This doesn’t mean I don’t attract partners who drive things or dominate with their story, just that I can butt in when I want to, or even find the strength to leave when I don’t have enough of a voice.
It’s all about my core wounding—my father was absent during my childhood, so I have tended to become a wonderful cheerleading partner in love, repressing criticism, in order to keep men around. It took me a while to be able to have some empowering behaviour around it, because when it comes to healing around one’s core wounding, it’s not easy – and I question whether there is ever complete healing. I think there is, instead, the possibility to become aware, then compassionate with oneself about it. One might then transform the way one responds to it when it arises, or find a healthier way to experience it.
Core wounding emanates from an initial experience of pain which then forms the psychic foundation of how we operate in life, including in our relationships. It inevitably binds itself up with sex and lust. An absent parent, an early rape or molestation, a big domestic upheaval like moving far away. It normally stems from events which rock the foundations of emotional security and therefore embed themselves in our psyche. The difference between arousal, love, and desire is critical in understanding how one’s wounding operates. The parental blueprint too, which I’ve also blogged about, is a key factor in igniting lust.
Our wounding can lead us to repeat a pattern in a relationship, such as an inability to stand up for oneself, or to attract the same type of partner, over and over again. Some examples would be a fatal attraction to those needing saving (life’s chronic victims), being drawn to violent or abusive partners, or unavailable partners, or to partners who dominate.
What I have learned both personally and professionally, is that the wound is the source of so much lust; and yet, paradoxically (as I touched upon earlier), healing that wound doesn’t mean we are not drawn to the pattern, but rather that we have an opportunity to find a healthier manifestation of it, whilst maintaining the lust the wound might evoke.
So rather than being drawn to a victim-type, you might be drawn to someone who graciously accepts support, but then sorts himself out (help is needed and accepted, not demanded on drip, eternally). Rather than being drawn to a violent partner, you find yourself lusting after someone who is a martial arts expert, or does pro boxing (I do actually know someone who had violent partners in the past who has a healthy relationship with a boxer now—he’s aggressive, but not with her). As for the unavailable partner, as Jack Morin famously asserted in his book on eroticism, being ‘just out of reach’ is hot. But rather than having to partner with someone emotionally unavailable (or married to someone else, ha ha!), you might find someone with time constraints. Some limitations on unfettered access can create the distance that makes the lustful difference.
It’s reassuring that our psyches can operate in this creative fashion, that we can rewire our experience of wounding, and still maintain the spark without damaging ourselves. To do so requires a commitment to growth, some self-awareness, and often it’s only when the stakes are so high that it’s even worth risking change.
I had a client a while back seeking relationship counselling; she was attracted to men who were domineering, sometimes aggressive, but after a dose of self reflection, she had taken some time out from relationships. The stakes were pretty high, given that her relationships had often become abusive. Subsequently, she found herself with someone she considered softer, and their sexual dynamic evolved with her as the dominant partner. At this point she started to see me, wanting to expand their sexual repertoire and her response. She seemed to enjoy her dominance in their sexual play: there was some sense of emotional security from having control. However, it was only when the tables were turned that she found the lust factor exponentially increased. When in a context of absolute emotional and physical safety, her partner allowed himself to become sexually aggressive, it was way more than hot—it was explosive. It was still about her core wounding, but from a healed, yet still highly eroticized place. This is the reason that much of kink and BDSM can beautifully draw from wounding, heal it, eroticize it, and make it playful.
As an ending to this post, I’ll share a poem I wrote about a lover from long ago, who lived with some deep wounding around an absent father. Whether or not this played out in subsequent partnerships (I have no idea), there was, in his life, a certain pastime that seemed from the outside to have a certain resonance with his inner life.
It’s a reminder to myself that healing might go on for a long time in the deeper layers of our psyche, and that perhaps we should even be grateful for our wounds. Wounds can lead us to incredible lust, to the transcendence of forgiveness, or just to a place of release, which might also contain joy.
There is a boy
on the shore;
from where he sits, sky and sea merge, both so far and so empty.
He’d like to feel that endless space contain him like the arms of God,
the way a father holds his son.
He dives into the surf and in the void he is
soul of salt, returned to the source,