Ask Abdi: What Is An Appropriate Partner?

The Question

I find that my physical attraction to men is based on a narrow spectrum so that even if a man displays many other attractive qualities….if I (frankly) do not want to suck him….no number of those other qualities will measure. I definitely do not want to be connected intimately to someone under those particular circumstances and I recognize my damage and understand (intellectually) my choices but I still cringe at the idea of choosing to be with a partner because they’re the “healthy” choice, while feeling a physical disconnect.


Abdi Answers

What you describe about physical/sexual attraction to an unhealthy/inappropriate partner is true for many of us. As you seem to understand, we can internalize and then sexualize early childhood wounding as a survival mechanism. The fact that you intellectually understand this dilemma but still feel helpless to the attraction is also common. This is the nature of unconscious material. So start there and start examining on an emotional level and not just purely intellectual the nature of the wounding.

Remember that this is not an either/or equation (great sex with a psycho/no sex with Mr. Perfect). There is a middle ground. In my clinical as well as personal experience, when one is wounded one does not have much conscious choice in the matter. What you describe (” to be with a partner because they’re the “healthy” choice, while feeling a physical disconnect”) is not a possibility. Most likely, one keeps choosing the same unhealthy pattern over and over or stays in the same one over a long period of time. Once the pain pushes us until it is unbearable, we start making different choices. What you describe is attempting to remedy this through will power which never works. The healing process is gradual. It is akin to being diagnosed as a diabetic and having to give up the consumption of sugar. Some people do it soon after finding out about their condition, many struggle for years and some might have to lose a toe or worse before they give it up.

As to your point specifically, there is no doubt that sucking and fucking an inappropriate partner is highly charged due to the nature of early wounding. It is the definition of “negative pleasure”. The question is at what price? How much of our actual relationship do we spend in that zone? And how much pain are we willing to endure for it the rest of the time? Again, it is not an either/or situation: great sex and pain/no sex and ease. That binary thinking in itself is one of the symptoms of addiction. When the pain is turned up enough, we make different choices. Or not.