Chemistry in relationships: we all want the connection and sensual spark that’s there in the beginning to stay there as the relationship grows. But chemistry in relationships is often a mystery סדנת מיניות לנשים – what it is, how to harness it, and why, so often, it flickers and fades.
The other night as I was sitting with a friend, waiting to get into a hot tub spa, she was telling me about her Master thesis, an extensive research project into chemistry in relationships, with an angle on what makes a woman most sexy and attractive. She boiled sexiness and attractiveness down to two things: a woman who is both “right” with herself and sensually alive and satisfied.
When I was 18, there were only 93 pounds on my 5’5″ frame, and I thought at least I was on my way to looking good. Although it had been 2 years since I had a regular menstrual cycle, I spent my days thinking I was unattractive and still too fat, dreamt at night of the food I wouldn’t eat in waking life and was on my way into a deep depression, I remember thinking with pride, “I am what everyone wants to be: thin.”
Over the next 7 years, I clawed my own way out of that eating disorder and body dysmorphia, but I’m an unusual case. It’s beyond epidemic, it’s pandemic: women and girls hate themselves, deeply. We mistrust our bodies and desires and strive control them any way we can. Something like more than 50% of American women would rather lose a limb than be overweight; I’ve heard it said that the average American women spends 80% of her time thinking and worrying about her appearance. Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry in the world’s richest, most well-fed country. Eating disorders begin as early as age 8 and 9. The newest rise in cosmetic surgery is labiaplasty – alteration of the vaginal lips – some say to look more like porn stars. Women run, like hamsters on wheels, after any method to become what we think will have us become sexy and attractive, no matter the cost to our bodies, health or spirit.
The reason women (and men, too) want so desperately to be sexy is to grasp the commodity our culture holds highest: love.
Funny, glorious, misunderstood thing, this love.
Love isn’t owned, given, taken or withheld. It can only be experienced. Love only exists as a verb. And the key to know if it is love you are experiencing is if you enjoy it and if it brings you pleasure. If you enjoy a thing or a person, it’s love; if it brings you pleasure in the doing of it, it is loving. Conversely, if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not love. It could actually be something like striving for acceptance, assuaging guilt, trying to be a good person or manipulation – but it is not love.
We all know, even though we might roll our eyes at the cliché of it, that in order to love others, we have to first love ourselves. Although that is more easily said than done, especially in a culture that teaches us to mistrust our bodies and impulses and desire, and has labeled those coming from women as the seed of all evil and sin. Our culture points outward for acceptance, salvation and love, anywhere but to ourselves.
So, then, what a radical notion, instead of reaching constantly outward, to look beneath our very noses. What a radical thing to say that what it means to love yourself is to enjoy yourself. And that the best thing to trust is your own body, your own desires and, ultimately, that what brings you most pleasure and joy. In the section of my website, Your Relationship With You, you’ll find key information and exercises to bring these rather radical notions into your relating with others.
Attractiveness and sexiness actually comes from an entirely different set of factors than superficial beauty.
So, back to the premise of my friend’s thesis. How to get “right” with yourself? The first step is to start noticing what IS, rather than what we wish to be so. We spend all our time wishing things were different, pondering why they are not different, trying to make them different, all in order to conform to our ideas of how things should go. Never do we think, in what parallel universe could things actually be different than they ARE? It is a uniquely human trait to spend so much time ignoring what IS, and creating elaborate fantasies where things are different, bent according to our ideas of what would be most convenient for us. It’s a form of craziness and certainly a source of suffering.
The second step after noticing what IS, is to notice what is already good. Our lives and selves are rich, full, convenient and blessed, if we only stop to notice and put our attention there. Something magical happens when we find something to approve of, the way things ARE, right now, right here. We “get right” with reality; we get “right” with ourselves. Approval helps us shed layers, like an onion, to find beneath a clear and wise and radiant self. Of course this is not that simple: we know really well how to disapprove, complain and find fault, so approving, especially of ourselves is an anarchistic, revolutionary act.
An extraordinary thing happens when you put genuine, positive attention (called approval) on something: it becomes beautiful. A woman who approves of herself becomes innately beautiful, radiant, sexy. A woman who approves of herself is “right” with herself, the way she is, in reality, right here and right now. She doesn’t wait to start approving of herself for the fantastical time in the indeterminate (but surely imminent) future when she will be perfect. She does it now. Today. Against the tide. Again and again and again. Whether or not she feels like it – since she usually doesn’t!
She doesn’t wait for the circumstances of her life to line up just right, she celebrates what IS, NOW. She doesn’t wait. Reasonless, and for all the best reasons, she loves herself into a sexy, attractive, radiant being.
Another funny thing happens when a woman becomes “right” with herself (approves of herself): she trusts herself. She examines the idea that inside her lies the seed of sin and that her body is a sinful temptation – and she discards the notion. She tries on the idea that her desire and her pleasure can be an instructive, generous guide, rather than something to be mistrusted. She realizes that her desires guide her to what is most pleasurable; and she realizes that if it is not pleasurable to do, it’s not loving. She realizes her desires guide her to what she enjoys most, hence what she loves most, and hence to be loving herself and her life more and more of the time.
Each act of approval, on herself, another or the world, is another act of love. Love is simply positive attention. Period.