How do we know that we desire someone, or that they desire us?
Are we reading the body language correctly? Maybe we're making assumptions about other people's feelings. The thing to do here is to communicate clearly with the other person what you'd like, and listen very carefully to what they say they'd like.
Clear, respectful communication is essential in intimate matters. If the other person avoids the point, if you begin to feel that they're not to be trusted, or if you feel that they don't understand or respect what you're asking, maybe you'd better look elsewhere, or come and talk things over with a counsellor.
Beginning an intimate relationship
If you're starting to feel attracted to someone, but don't really know what either you or they think just yet, simply expressing the desire to be with them and being good company is a good start.
Consider: would it be better if you just remained as friends? Are you reading the body language correctly? Maybe you're making assumptions about the other person's feelings. How do we know that we desire someone, or that they desire us? The thing to do here is to communicate clearly with the other person what you'd like, and listen very carefully to what they say they'd like. If the other person avoids the point, if you feel that they don't understand or respect what you're asking, or you begin to feel they're not to be trusted, maybe you'd better look elsewhere.
Even if they are interested, are you really looking for a partner right now, or worried that it's not going to happen, so just going along with something, or settling for less?
Are you reacting to pressure from friends to be sexually active, or to have a relationship - any sort of relationship? Are you being led into something you don't really want, or starting something that the other person doesn't really want? Maybe you need to change, or at least examine, your behaviour and expectations. There may be a need to look at how good you are at asserting yourself, or considering the needs of others.
It's a good idea to ask about the other person's sexual history, and be prepared to answer the same questions, too. How about safe sex? STDs and unexpected pregnancies aren't a good idea, are they? Sex is about fun and pleasure, after all, but there's a lot to consider.
As it goes along
Although a source of great satisfaction, relationships on a more intimate level can also be rather confusing.
When people are really connected to each other, they usually feel more able to express what they're feeling than in more distant relationships, whether communicating through words or behaviour. It can then become more difficult to separate our own feelings from what the other person is expressing, and moods can change within minutes.
Issues to consider when confronted with difficulties are:
- Time together - Are we meeting in the way both people want? Is your time together enough, and do you have enough energy and real availability for one another?
- Affection - Are you hearing and saying the words you like, and touching each other in a friendly way?
- Sex - Is this the source of pleasure and comfort it should be?
- Friendship - Do you support the other person, really listen to them and encourage them? Do you feel this support in return?
- Communication and problem-solving - If there's a problem, but the other person avoids the point, or you begin to feel they're not to be trusted, or that they don't understand or respect what you're asking, then that's another problem.
- Jealousy - Do you feel pushed aside by someone else? Do you feel you're getting the right sort of attention? Are you giving enough back to the relationship?
- Reactions of others - Are family and friends trying to stop the relationship? Should you listen to what they're saying, or do you need to assert yourself?
- Directions - is it unclear what sort of relationship it is, and where it is going?
Ending an intimate relationship
When a relationship ends, we often experience a variety of feelings.
- We sometimes feel 'stunned' or 'shocked' because we did not anticipate that the relationship would end in the way that it did.
- We are often in denial.
- We experience a great deal of anger towards our partner and also towards ourselves.
- We may blame ourselves for the relationship break up.
- We often bargain with our partner not to go by saying "I will change if you stay". This strategy only works temporarily. Your partner may stay in the relationship for a little while longer because they feel guilty, or because they care about you, and deep down they do not want to hurt you. Eventually, the relationship becomes even less fulfilling than before. It ends.
Regardless of how much we compromise, some relationships are time limited, they will ultimately end because people's needs change. Relationships are useful in shaping us into stronger, more resilient people, and teach us how to experience love, joy and, sometimes, sadness, intense pain and grief. These feelings are normal and necessary in the process of growing and healing, so that we can eventually move on and engage in other more fulfilling relationships.
Look after yourself and your emotional needs. Be patient. Another relationship will come your way when you have allowed your feelings to heal and have processed the lessons from the previous relationship.
If you would like to talk to a professional counsellor about your feelings, contact Counselling and Psychological Services. Speaking to a counsellor can give you much needed support in the early days after a breakup, and a more clear perspective on your options.