In the last post, I talked about how the Sexual Avoidance Cycle starts with disappointment. Disappointment is all about your unrealistic expectations. It is the literal definition of disappointment—“the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.” Your expectations are the problem. Your expectations of yourself, your partner, and what sex is supposed to be and look like. The ideas in your head often overshadow your experience. They become the measure of your sexual success or failure.
Every time you feel like a failure, like something is wrong, or like you are inadequate, you will be less inclined to approach sex again. Holding yourself to an arbitrary standard, no matter where it comes from, is a buzz kill. Holding yourself to a standard that is grounded in your integrity and core beliefs is important, but you may withdraw if you aren’t living up to what you expect of yourself. As soon as you feel like you need to perform, to be a certain way, or for certain things to happen, you leave the present moment and sit in judgment of yourself, your partner, and your sexual interaction. If you are meeting your expectations, sex is probably working—for now. But since so many expectations are arbitrary and unrealistic, you set yourself up for feelings of failure at some point in the future.
You may or may not know where you developed a lot of your expectations. Over time, you have developed ideas about how sex is “supposed” to work. You have ideas about what to expect from your partner and ideas about how conflict should be dealt with or avoided. Your family and your past relationships have taught you a lot about these things, and most of it goes unquestioned until you take the time to examine it.
Your expectations are also framed by culture. Think about how sex has been portrayed around you: in the media, school, sex education classes, and peer groups. You receive a lot of information from all these places, and you weave it together to create a picture of sex and sexuality. Sometimes these messages have been loud and explicit. Sometimes sex has seemed almost invisible, and no one was talking about it. Either way, your brain puts together a picture of how sex works, what it means, and how you are supposed to feel about it. You build an image of what to expect. By the time you started to be aware of sex and were becoming a sexual being, what were you expecting? What specific ideas did you form about what sex should be? How are those expectations showing up now and leading to feelings of disappointment? Can you let them go?
Watch the Just the Tip Tuesday presentation about this:
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