One of my best friends and I were having a conversation recently while we were going for a walk. I was telling him about someone who I had just met who had begun to tell me that he was about to ask a girl he had been dating for a month to marry him. The guy was 19 years old, a virgin, she was 21, and, just came out of a serious relationship. It reads like a textbook rebound.
Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher star in a recent movie called No Strings Attached. The premise of the movie is about Ashton Kutcher, who recently found out that the woman who broke his heart is having sex with his TV star Dad (Kevin Kline). In a self-destructive, drunken act, he calls up all of the women in his phone to see if they’ll have sex with him so he can get the thought of his Dad and his ex out of his mind. He finds himself in a long time friends apartment (Natalie Portman) naked. After being explained about his drunken overnight sob story, and, some butt naked dancing, he finds himself in a vulnerable moment, having sex with her. Soon after, they come to agreement that they want to be friends with benefits. Through out the next weeks and months, Kutcher starts having feelings for her. The whole idea of the movie is, Can a person have sex without emotional or relational attachment?
I think there are five stages of relational development and relational intimacy, regardless of the relationship.:
Stage 1: Stage 1 is the point in a relationship where you talk about things like weather. You talk about how over priced gas is, and, that gas cost 1.10 when you started driving. (2003 for me)
Stage 2: Stage 2 is the point where you can talk about your interests. Often these things consists of things like sports, celebrity gossip, or what books you are reading. (I am currently re-reading Wicked and Leron Shults Reforming The Doctrine of God)
Stage 3: Stage 3 is the point where people talk about things they are passionate about, things they have opinions about. These are things like Politics, Religion, Money, etc…. (You can call me a Mystical Pentecostal Mennonite. If that isn’t to contradictory.)
Stage 4: Stage 4 is when people begin to tell you what is going on inside of them. They tell you about their emotions, they struggles, their fears, their pains. This is where we really open ourselves up and become vulnerable. (This is as far as I am willing to devote to a blog).
Stage 5: Stage 5 is the point where you can introduce physical touch to a relationship, with or without it being sexual.
As a man, I have seen my own struggles with these stages. When we live within a culture that teaches men to be strong, to not have their emotions, its quite easy to become detached from our inner life. I think this is why it is so hard for men to develop, grow and transform. People who create the greatest internal and external transformation, are often transformed within themselves. They must have a grasp of what is going on inside of them. Men who can have this, and, are able to maintain what is natural to them, reason, create great social change.
Most women, especially older ones, that I have met seem to struggle with this less and less. However, like all human beings, when something traumatic happens to you, and, you fail to address, it is easily to become fearful, anxious, and numb. Women, often have greater faith than men, because, Women are often better with the ambiguity, grieving what is painful because they’re more in touch with their emotions, they’re able to handle being powerless better than men. This leads to a greater depth of faith. Women, who are able to hold onto the ambiguity, darkness and emotional side of life, and, develop what is natural for men, the rationalization and reason, often make great catalysts for change.
When we look at the issue of sex, it is no wonder why women are better than men. When Sex is understood, as the subjective self that comes in contact with the objective self, when the inner life of people, connects to the outer life, than sex becomes not only a great act of physical pleasure, but, even more so, an emotional and spiritual connection. Soren Kierkegaard once said “Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” When sexuality is thought of as an orgasm to achieve, rather than the unifying internal relationship displaying itself in an external manner, it’s about one person and not the other. So, when you skip the stages of relational intimacy, its hard to have good sex. Sociologists have done extensive studies that show that couples who have been together 20-30 years often have the greatest sexual satisfaction and sexual frequency.
For those of us, who are not having sex (we hate you), we cannot escape our absolutely, fundamental human need of physical contact. Studies have shown that a human being needs at least three hugs a day to maintain emotional well-being (12 for emotional thriving and improvement). As the son of a massage therapist, I see countless articles, accounts, and personal experiences of how much this improves my life, not only physically, but, also how much it improves my spirit. Psychologists show how children who are not breast-fed, or, are not held or are not touched enough suffer deep-rooted emotional problems. It is absolutely essential for our relational needs to be touched.
When we as human beings look within ourselves and try to discover who we are, our identity exists only within relationship. The relationship between me and myself, the relationship between me and others, and, the relationship between myself and God. When we look at all of our memories, most of the time, they exists with other people in it. When we look at what pleases us the most, it involves one of these relationships. Relationship, community is who we are. So are we developing these relationships so we can be the most whole we can be? Are we nourishing our relationships so we can have the greatest human experience?