Community: Moving Beyond the "War Between the Sexes" - Eric Best


Community: Moving Beyond
The "War between the Sexes"
Some symptoms: 4 different stories


"To understand the story of Jim and I it would be easiest for me to tell you in person.  A long story.  Suffice it to say I loved him, lost him, and he came back into my life professing love.  I realized what a scag he is and that nothing had changed except that a part of me wanted it that way.  I set myself up for a world of hurt which happened,"


"I bought a brand new bed for my master bedroom.  I LOVE IT!  It was delivered yesterday.  I have this kind of "pledge" I've made to myself... I don't want to share that bed with anyone who doesn't show great signs of being very much in love with me."


"I have done something tonight I am not proud of.  Currently I am drunk and know that I am this way because I have allowed myself to be hurt once more by the same man again.  I wanted to run, scream, whatever.  Most of all I just wanted to feel warm and loved.  I cannot believe that I have allowed myself to listen to him again.  He really did know all the right buttons."


"My father adored me as a child and in my marriage my husband did too.  That's all I really want.  After my husband died, I've looked and looked trying to find someone like that again.  I just want to have someone who will adore me."


Confusing Symptoms, Sex and the
Real Source of
Relationship Pain, Failure & Loneliness


        Why does there seem to be so much confusion, hurt and pain around the subject of relationships?  Why do so many relationships fail?  Why do so many relationships continue on in sometimes horrific conditions of abuse, conflict or neglect; or at best continue on in a slightly warmed up version of the "procession of the living dead" with little or no vitality or joy being present?   Is it possible that we are confusing satisfying the immediate symptoms of not having a relationship with the deeper aspects of human interaction which will truly provide for an enduring and deeply satisfying total relationship?  Is it possible that we have been given ideas handed down from one generation to another for eons (with the best intentions of the giver) which are really false or at best limiting when it comes to generating successful relationships?


        The answer seems to be dramatically "YES !" to both of these questions.


        To start out, let's look at the simple reality of ideas handed down from one generation to another, to another .... to yet another; such that finally the particular idea, or cluster of ideas, seems to be "natural", something that we "should just know" or something that is "just the right way to be".  One rather infamous example of this flow of a contaminated idea was the situation of the Hatfields and McCoys.
        These were two family clans located in
West Virginia and Kentucky in the latter part of the 19th century.   Somehow an initial argument started up between these two clans and through ignorance, mis-information, and bad communication;  the initial conflict escalated to a full blown feud that lasted through several decades.  The two families were isolated from much contact with anyone else outside of their very rural environment.  They were not only isolated, but also had a distrust of "outsiders".  This prevented any third, uninvolved parties from coming in and helping to negotiate an end to the misunderstandings between the two clans.  The results were literally deadly and lasted for many, many years.
        The situation evolved to the place that 2 perfectly innocence babies could be born roughly at the same time, one in each of the two clans; and these 2 babies would grow up with the thought given to them (directly and indirectly) that it was perfectly "natural and good" to kill "one of those damned Hatfields" or "one of those damned McCoys".  Time and time again, there would be incidents where someone would have "success" in doing exactly that.  One of those 2 babies, now grown up some number of years, would be killed.  Of course each time it happened, one clan had its own "natural" rage fueled condemnation of the opposing clan reinforced; and the cycle of loss, pain, despair, hate and violence deepened.

        Could the same thing (in a slightly milder form) be happening at times with men, women and the relationships they have, don't have, or seek to have with each other?   To present just a couple of current thought forms:  Are all men really just "scags" who want to get into a woman's pants, have a good time for a while and then leave?   Are all women really just "manipulators" who try to trap a man through sex, into being a "wallet" for them and their children?  Could these and other ideas, be false?  Are these derogatory surmises about the opposite gender, really generated from false ideas given to us about what is really important in a relationship?  Are these ideas seductive because they come from attempts to address an immediately present "symptom" or "hunger" when a relationship is not present; but which are false because they don't address deeper human aspects that truly support a relationship?


        All of us, both men and women,  have basic needs of safety and security.  In our culture, much of this first level of need gets focused upon having money, or having access to someone with money.  After this there occurs the natural needs of sexuality, sensuality, pleasure and comfort.   This involves not only the pleasure of sexuality, but also the needs for companionship and not being lonely; the pleasure and comfort of snuggling with someone at night as one example.


        There are certainly other needs that naturally occur for us after or in addition to these basic needs.  For example, the need to have some degree of power and control over one's own life and its direction is a fairly universal need.   It's easy to see this in just about everyone when they hit their teenage years and start struggling for independence from their parents.  Yet in adulthood in our culture, and removed from much contact with their original family grouping; many men and women who are not in 'relationship' are not faced immediately with questions about satisfying power and control needs. They are often immediately faced with questions of getting enough sex and warm sensual companionship.


        It hurts to be alone.  It is uncomfortable and unhealthy to not have enough sensuality and sexuality in our lives.  Science has finally demonstrated that sensuality and sexuality are biologically "good" for us.  In addition to loneliness in-and-of itself, we now know that one important aspect of "love" is the simple act of someone paying attention to us.  Particularly when we are removed from our original family (assuming it was at least fairly "decent"), being out of a relationship often also means we don't directly experience this basic element of being loved.   The sentence from one of this article's starting statements, "Most of all I just wanted to feel warm and loved.", speaks strongly to this initial set of basic needs and the drive to fill them.


        Here in lies the seduction.  Is is easy to want to finally get enough sexual and sensual pleasure again, and to feel appreciated and "loved" (someone is paying attention to us) because we are supplying that same sexual/sensual pleasure back to them.  It is also easy at times to start "trading" money/safety/security needs back and forth with sexual/sensual/pleasure needs.  Is there anything wrong with any of this?  Absolutely not!  What doesn't work is having the expectation (the idea) that doing this trading will generate a relationship that will last or which will remain vital and joyful.  A variation on this theme is the seduction of staying trapped in an old childhood perspective (an idea) like, "I just want to have someone who will adore me."  Here too, the old idea is not one which will sustain a joyfully vital relationship.


        Time and time again (just like the Hatfield's and McCoy's) we have been given  essentially unchallenged ideas that doing this "trading" is the right thing or the natural thing, or that if we just recapture what we had in a childhood relationship all will be well.  Yet if we pay attention at all, we notice that it really doesn't work long term for keeping a happy relationship going.

        We humans have other needs to be satisfied: needs beyond safety and security, and beyond sexuality and pleasure.   If we fully satisfy our basic needs for safety and sexuality/sensuality, we notice that there is indeed a need to have some power and control over our lives.   We notice there is a need to be loved and to love.  Beyond that there is a need to creatively express ourselves.  And finally there is an existential need to try to answer the questions of "What is life all about?", "What is this sense of unity I have with other human beings when I am really peaceful, all about?", "Why is there pain?", "What happens when I die?", etc.
        We just don't stop in our needs when the basic ones of money, safety and sexual/sensual pleasure are answered.   To have a relationship which is fully "successful", we as men and women need to establish a connection which supports not only safety and sexual/sensual pleasure, but also goes beyond this to fully support each person.  That is to fully support them in  experiencing success in developing their own power, success in being loved and being able to love, success in developing and expressing their own creativity, and finally success in trying to answer the fundamental questions of existence.


        Just as the Hatfield's and McCoy's were hurt by being isolated from innovative outside thought, so are we men and women hurt by being isolated in such a quest for a full and meaningful relationship.  We need to have others around us who know there is more to life than the old idea of money, safety and sex.  We need to be in a community of others who will support us (as we support them) in going beyond just treating the initial symptoms of missing "safety, sex, and pleasure"  when we don't have a relationship; to encouraging our success in meeting all of our human needs.

Eric N. Best, Ph.D.            (C)  Copyright  October 4, 2000

The Mariposa Group


"Relationship Supportive Community"
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