“You are a smart girl. You will figure it out.”
This was the only insight my mother gave me around relationship and sex.
I remember “the period” talk when I was eleven but I don’t think she ever acknowledged I had a body or a heart after that. So there was no discussion about men, marriage and sex—at all. Ever.
I appreciate that my mother believed in my intelligence and trusted me (or maybe she just did not know what to say), but a little guidance may have been helpful. Though I guess you can’t give what you don’t have. Although I did not have any teen pregnancies or STDs, I did make a lot of errors in judgment and chose a lot of men for the wrong reasons; I battled with self-worth, confusion, anger and the shame of even having desire. I created relationships from default. It dawned on me recently that after nearly a decade of marriage much of what I created in my relationship and bedroom was done out of fear of becoming my mother or living like my parents.
“I’ll just do the opposite,” I thought, “And all will work out.”
I mentioned this insight to a friend recently and her response was, “Isn’t that what everyone does?”
I know I was creating from what I did not want rather than what I really did much of the time. I was acting in reaction to what I experienced as a child and the inevitable coping mechanisms that came from that. As an adult I was determined to not be, do, experience or cope in the same way my parent did and certainly not to be my parents in any way and yet at the same time I was drawn into the drama and perpetuated the same story that had been playing out for generations in my family.
Looking back on my relationships, I realize I often chose men who were at one level needy which affirmed by desire to feel wanted, and at another level totally unavailable to stand in the place of loyalty, depth and true power. This gave me a perfect reason to never truly invest in the relationship and every reason to have an “escape plan” which allowed me to feel safe.
My boyfriend in my teens and 20s was a weed dealer, bike thief and aspiring poet. His words were full of love and adoration for me but he was furious that I wanted to go to university and not help him expand the “enterprise.”
Nearly 20 years later, he sent me a Facebook message wanting to connect. When I did not respond, he wrote back what a bitch I was and had always been. The good news is that I did not grab the rope—instead, I had a realization about the level of drama, co-dependence and just plain bizarre behavior I took for normal relationship activity at one time in my life.
We either model consciously or unconsciously the patterns we saw as children or we try to do the opposite. This of course creates a whole buffet of interesting and agonizing issues. Even in those of us who are working to raise our consciousness and heal the wounds of the past, the story is powerful and the triggers are often easily tripped. We then reach for our coping mechanisms to feel safe even though we often are safe, just triggered and the whole incident may just be a projection of those unhealed wounds.
I married an expressive, emotional and wonderful man but when he is stressed, tired and triggered, he tends to raise his voice. This triggers me. Suddenly, I am five-years-old again and facing the wrath of my stepfather for not peeling potatoes the right way. My wounds are triggered, which trip my coping mechanism that is “F*ck-you. You are not allowed to talk to me like that. How dare you.” And I push away or push back just as hard.
Fortunately, I have become a little more sophisticated and am aware of the triggers and now just walk away or breathe. Trust me: when two people are triggered and triggering each other, no good can come.
My husband is working with his triggers, as am I. Relationships and marriage are a wonderful mirror and a wonderful means to discover where the pain still lay and how we really want to be as our authentic rather than triggered selves. I did not have a great model for marriage or relationships and had almost no guidance as I said but I am willing to figure it out. I look around our society and don’t always see great models of love and sexuality either but feel great hope in what is arising in both men and women on our planet.
So, this is not a criticism of our mothers (or fathers)—I am in deep appreciation of all that I learned, gained and received even when the learning was done through pain or in opposition.
I also acknowledge that I live in a time where there are many more resources including ancient teachings from the East and First Nations people that call us to love ourselves and heal through love. As well, the consciousness movement gives us permission to examine our own personal stories, the stories of our ancestors and our culture in a mindful way. These were not available to my mother.
I do want to experience great sex, great relationship and a great sense of self, so I am figuring it out. It is not always easy or fun. There are times I still want to run for it but I really do want to feel worthy, happy and connected. I want to live unencumbered by shame, by rhetoric and even by past personal trauma and story and create love relationships grounded in wholeness rather than wounded-ness. My hope is to create my own vision for love, sex and relationship based on what I truly want rather than in reaction to what I don’t want.
I have personally felt the freedom, joy and power of coming into an awakened and purposeful relationship with my own loving heart and alive sexuality. I have also struggled with my own sense of unworthiness, my confusion as an independent woman in the role of a wife and my fear about love and shame about sex.
As a life long seeker, however, I decided to dive in and see if I could overcome my trauma about love and intimacy not by avoiding it but by allowing it. This is not always easy. My husband and I have not had an easy walk and I am never sure what will come but I do know the healing power of love and sexuality.
I know my relationship with my husband has forced me to examine deep pain in myself and choose powerfully. Intimate relationships are some of the most devastating mirrors and also some of the most powerful paths to joy.
So thanks Mom for your “Not knowing, can’t say” approach—I am willing to trust myself now too.
This is an excerpt from Shasta’s soon to be released book, Happy! Sexy! Shameless! What Your Mother Did Not Know About the Birds and the Bees…
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Ed: Bryonie Wise