I was mentioning, in the first part, the four psychological dimensions on which couples are studied. Of them, I had left aside Consensus—views on fundamental things like plans for the future, money, religion, politics, and so on. We’ll look at it now.
Caveats: Firstly, we will go outside intimacy and outside of coaching. This isn’t my work, but it doesn’t mean I don’t see it come up in sessions. Secondly, these topics are significant but do not feel pressured in any way to do any or all of these. This article is an awareness read. So keep your heart light while reading this article, as well as afterward.
What are some important ”consensus” topics in intimate relationships?
1. What does my intimate relationship mean to me? Is it the main thing of my life? Is it the only big thing, or do I have others? If God forbid, I lost it, would that be equal to me messing up my entire life? If I have other things, do I build them proactively? How much energy do I invest in my relationship(s)? These questions aren’t easy for most of us. Sometimes it takes years or entire cycles to get through them. Some of us are maybe more stubborn, and we just won’t let go of our ideas. For instance, I do that a lot. That is why I have no judgments here. I do invite you to sit with these questions at one point.
2. What do I want from my intimate relationship? ”Life partnership” is a common expression in the conscious sexuality field. I use it a lot in my work. If we’d feel into it, we might find that our focus shifted from intimate relationships as social status or being in line with the world to an opportunity to grow or means to build ourselves and our lives. This is primarily applicable if we believe in life goals and achieving them. Also, this perspective depends on our life context: does it make it possible for us to pursue even a third of our goals? If this entire perspective is overwhelming, exhausting, or ridiculous, then don’t worry! This perspective isn’t for you. Not everybody goes into relationships to grow or develop. Some just want to live them or have them or feel as if something is missing if they don’t have them. Totally human, I’m not in the position to judge or to say you should think otherwise. Most likely, you will partner with people who see things the same, and this entire article is just an extreme or once-in-a-lifetime reading. It’s all cool. 🙂
3. Who am I outside my relationship? Do I want to be someone outside of it? Do I want to be known as something other than the husband or wife of X? Do I build my identity around other things too? This one is much more challenging to work with than it seems. Many single people today feel pressure from society at a given point to get a partner. As if they aren’t complete or enough in society to be celibate. Here’s one delicate example: I’m working in this field, intimacy coaching, as a single woman. I’m holding out until I meet a compatible life partner. I do not have any regrets. This was a conscious choice I made a long time ago. My choice, however, has been seen by some as a sign that I << shouldn’t>> be facilitating this work. I definitely disagree with it, as I do not define sexuality only with having a partner. Some people do, and I don’t judge or hold them up to other standards either. I actually work with people on various topics: some want to better show up with their partners, others want to overcome a few pesky beliefs or personal fears they had. Intimacy coaching can be done both with and without an intimate partner. But, the courage to ask yourself this question and then own and embody your answer with self-love is definitely not easy.
4. What are the potentially conflicting aspects of intimate relationships or life partnerships? Here are some things I look at:
Trust and loyalty overall—not just sexually speaking. I’m speaking of the very root here: trusting the person next to us, how much trust they put in us, and how we hold those no matter what challenges arise or mistakes we make. This one does have an impact in intimacy—if you can’t trust the other person, how can you be so vulnerable and intimate with them and reach peaks of pleasure? You can’t skip on trust and loyalty but expect intimacy to thrive. It’s a no brainer, but the actual work of trust and loyalty is no easy job.
Food and nutrition. How much do the partners in the relationship have in common? In case the relationship is okay, this topic can make everyday life a bit more challenging. It’s rarely the source of problems. But when other problems arise in the relationship, our eating style can add to the pile of reasons to take distance from our partners.
Personal intimacy. Here, I mean the broader aspect of physical intimacy that includes personal care such as grooming, calming or de-stressing, hygiene, rest, or recovery. These can sometimes put a lot of tension on the beauty of intimacy (yes, I’m guessing you might have imagined how!), so it’s a good thing to find out how much personal space each one of you needs in the relationship.
Relating to money. I’m not referring to how much each one earns, but to definitions, beliefs, and approaches to using money. Many problems arise because of many unworked issues with this topic. Yes, significant gaps in money values can be a reason to break off relationships. This is no joke. And, when something as sensitive as our primary means of survival is a problem, naturally intimacy is impacted drastically.
Children. This subject is among the most delicate ones possible, with a high impact on the quality of our intimate lives. The way I see it, you need to believe in this, be committed to this, and genuinely have the build for it also. Looking around, I feel not everyone is fit to be a parent. And those who are parents have my profound understanding of the amount of work this takes. I know that sounds dramatic, but this is more valid after having trained in this field. We have heavy legacies from past generations, and bringing and rearing children in this world is a big task. Every therapist on the planet will know this.
Communication and conflicts in the relationship. Many people dread this topic. Some can’t stand the idea, others have conflicting or criticizing communication patterns (which bring partners to wits’ ends), others will have all the energy possible to dissect all details. It’s important to know how much “talk” our partners can carry. In relationships where things aren’t discussed at all or where there are gaps in communication capacities, things go berserk.
Relatives and society at large. Yes, I left this for last, but it’s important too. We live in communities, so at some point, this topic will come up. How much do others have a saying in our relationship? How much do we decide with others in mind? There’s no correct answer here, just yours! And your partner’s.
These are all significant consensus topics that show up in relationships as well. I don’t deal with them in my work as they belong to psychology, not to sexuality coaching. Yet, I do see how they impact intimacy.
As said initially, don’t feel pressured to unload all of these on your partner. Instead, know of them and pay attention in your initial stages to as many as you can. When you do look at becoming an official couple, see how many you can bring up. Also, do not assume that one discussion will suffice for life. If only it were that easy…