Non-sexual relationships in our lives
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. -
People often rob themselves from enriching their lives through friendships. The primary cause of this deficiency is the assumption that all opposite-gender relationships are sexual. How sad it is when we don’t allow ourselves to form close relationships with others, out of a fear that closeness and intimacy always have to involve sex.
Non-sexual relationships are the primary sources of our personality development. Children raised in isolation from human contact, develop into little more than living creatures. They rarely develop a personality we would readily identify as “human.”
Most children develop their personalities from practicing what they see or experience. If all they see or experience is non-human contact, they imitate and develop non-human characteristics.
Psychologically healthy parents don’t view their parent/child relationship as sexual. Healthy brothers and sisters don’t see their relationships to each other as sexual. Certainly not all childhood or adolescent relationships are sexual in nature. Why should we equate adult friendships with the opposite gender as sexual?
In our culture, we do not have many non-sexual examples for relationships. Even advertisements equate sex with selling products. Most relationships portrayed in the media are either violent or sexual in nature. What kind of relationships are our children exposed to on a regular basis? Whatever their nature, such relationships will be practiced as “normal” by children exposed to them.
When we are witness to abusive, violent, or dysfunctional relationships, we often cast them out of our lives. We stop talking to one another. We may remain distant for years without remembering what happened to create the distance in the first place. We shy away from forming friendships out of fear we will be rejected or hurt. We fear commitment to a relationship when we believe it requires self-sacrifice or “giving up our freedom.” We invent reasons to serve as rationales, justifying our dissolution of relationships, or not forming them in the first place. We avoid forming non-sexual relationships, when we fear sex has to be involved at some time.
Very few of us know how to create and maintain close, healthy and non-sexual relationships. For those people, here are a few suggestions.
Create “intellectual intimacy” with both sexes. The old “platonic relationship” refers to friendships where the bond is intellectual in nature. Intellectual intimacy reflects how we talk with one another, the ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions we share. The topic of our communication isn’t as important as the process of interacting and the bond which is thereby created.
We can form relationships where emotions are shared, wherein values are asserted, where viewpoints are exchanged, or where honest self-revelation occurs. Each of these characteristics can form the foundation for a close relationship to develop. Clearly, sex doesn’t have to be a part of every relationship.
Relationships can also bring laughter, music, beauty, delight, excitement, joy, compassion, support, caring and love into our lives. They depend on how much we are willing to trust ourselves and others.
The ideal non-sexual relationship is characterized by: slowness of development; appreciation of individual differences; acceptance of one another’s shortcomings; non-judgmental attitudes; quick forgiveness; sharing of hugs and affection; spontaneous expression of one’s thoughts and feelings; honest identification of one’s expectations of the relationship; quick apologies for mistakes; even quicker expression of feelings of love and enjoyment. Notice that if you avoid relationships due to beliefs that all of them involve sexuality, then you miss out on all this richness human relationships can add to your life.
Relationships. We often can’t seem to live with them. We always can’t fully live without them. Learn and practice healthy relationship skills, and you add enormous depth to your personality and your experience of being alive.
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life coach from Wellington, Colo.