How do I resolve my sexual conflict?
Penny Bell Says...
Hi there, I remember your question in your last letter, which was to do with attracting a man interested in a long-term relationship. This question is a different one which concerns an inner conflict you seem to be experiencing regarding your sexual feelings and your expression of them. It seems that you are caught between the idea of not denying your sexual urges or feelings, and your values, which are that waiting for the right person and a commitment (you say you have considered waiting until engagement) before committing to the sexual side of a relationship is important to you. You say there is a difference of opinion amongst your friends as to what is “reasonable”, so you don’t actually know if your values are “reasonable” or not. There seems to be further conflict for you about sexual behaviour – you talk about “going partially sexually” which just made your boyfriend at the time angry. So there’s an “all or nothing” question there – how far is too far? It sounds like you feel as if you’re walking on a sexual tightrope; whichever way you go could be wrong and you could end up in the ditch. To complicate things even further, you are thinking that sexual repression in your early life is now causing you to feel sexually wild, even explosive. You ask if it’s healthy to have the occasional sexual encounter in order to satisfy your urges, then you ask the opposite question “how do I ... wait for one that is worth it and then trust and go all the way?”.
All inner conflict divides us. One part of us wants to do/think/feel something and another part wants something completely different. If it’s deciding whether I want a mango or a strawberry, it’s a simple matter of one part giving reign to the other – either way I’m going to enjoy it. But for you, this conflict has powerful implications and consequences. Waiting for the right guy means suppressing those sexual urges and perhaps also enduring the feelings of neediness, emptiness and loneliness that you speak about, whereas satisfying your sexual urges could lead you to “feeling like a whore”, in your words - feelings of guilt and shame. So you are fairly evenly split down the middle here into two distinctly differing parts.
If I were your therapist I would be interested in how each part feels about the other, and what each part would say to the other, in order for you to find some congruence on this. For example, I would get the needy sexual acting-out part to say how she feels about the laced-up conservative part, and continue the conversation about the effect this has on her feelings, attitude and behaviour. And vice versa. When I do this with some folks, it turns out that each part is kind of mad at the other for sabotaging their life! There can be some pretty strong feelings in there, and a whole lot more underneath. You use some tell-tale words, like “whore” (indicating guilt and shame) and "wild" and “explode” (indicating an anxiety about self-control) that hint of what lies beneath. Finding out what is causing this conflict, what is the belief underpinning each side of the debate, takes some good therapeutic work.
The thing is, I’m not in any position to advise you as to what is right or wrong for you, and neither am I in a position to help you explore this conflict to the point where you find peace with it. Suffice it to say that sometimes, you just have to sit with it until you know what is right for you. And self-exploration, so that you know what is reasonable for you, regardless of what anybody else in the whole world thinks, will be the thing that helps you resolve this.
So I’m going to reiterate what I said previously: To gain a better sense of self, and to discover for yourself what you truly believe is good for you and for your future, some work with a therapist would be very helpful. This will also address what you have so aptly described at the end of your letter as your need for your emotions and thinking processes to be resolved, or congruent. As you become more comfortable in your own skin, with more of an ability to trust your own perceptions and decisions, you will be more able to discern what is right or wrong or good or bad for you in your relationships not only with others but also with yourself.
Page last updated Feb 14, 2013