Most people have a celebrity that they go ga-ga over, someone dripping with sex appeal. Catherine Hakim, a sociologist in England, has a new phrase to quantify that special libido stoking quality that some people have, calling it ‘erotic capital.’ Well we have social capital—people who have a lot of friends and acquaintances and are good at networking, economic capital and cultural capital meaning a great artist for instance, or a very knowledgeable person. Why not erotic capital? This is what we used to call sex appeal. Of course in terms of capital this doesn’t just mean getting a lot of dates or finding your perfect match but it’s also an asset in climbing the ladder to success. Any type of advantage you can use for gain is referred to as capital. Sociologists have long studied the other three types mentioned above. But erotic capital helps people get ahead in a lot of ways, yet has been ignored by sociologists by and large. There are six main characteristics to erotic capital according to Hakim which are: sexual attractiveness, beauty, sexual competence, likeability-social skills, liveliness and style. According to Hakim sexual capital is learned. You don’t necessarily have it from birth. It’s also something that works on one group, not just a particular person or persons.
Some people have erotic capital but fail to use it to their advantage. So how can you engage your erotic capital? First realize that it depends on your gender. Women have far more erotic capital than men. They should be using it more to their advantage according to Hakim. Since men have a far more developed sex drive, women’s erotic capital is worth more. Hakim writes on this saying, “Men’s demand for sexual activity and erotic entertainment of all kinds greatly exceeds women’s interest in sex.” Experiments have shown that more attractive people are regarded as smarter, given more breaks and get ahead easier than those not so easy on the eyes. What she may be ignoring however is that there is a social and societal standard against women using erotic capital to their advantage. In fact, they may be labelled negatively by society for using their erotic capital to get ahead. What’s more women today feel that they often have to work harder, competing with online porn and the internet for male attention. With technologies like this in place, is erotic capital as powerful or useful as it once was? Certainly both sexes are aware that smiling, eye contact, flirting and other such similar moves can open doors where other forms of capital can’t. For more on this topic, read Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim.
Stony Brook University recently released a study that proved couples experiencing “romantic love” can keep their brains in the same state as when they first fell for one another. Bianca P. Acevedo and Arthur Aron led this study where they discovered that the regions of the brain where motivation, desire and reward exist, the dopamine rich areas were active just in the same way as a couple who experienced romantic love for years. Romantic love was defined by researchers as “intensity, engagement and sexual interest.” Those who experienced romantic love enjoyed a healthy, long relationship where each person felt high levels of self-esteem and satisfaction. This means that long term, romantic love is possible and is experienced by many couples today. Of these findings Dr. Acevedo said, “Couples should strive for love with all the trimmings… Couples who’ve been together a long time and wish to get back their romantic edge should know it is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires energy and devotion.” So what can couples do to maintain or renew that spark of love and keep it going as an eternal flame all their lives long? Make sure to embrace romantic love and forgo the fantasy bond.
A fantasy bond is a psychological term developed by Dr. Robert Firestone. This is an illusory connection one creates when one cannot bond with someone due to an earlier emotional trauma and fear of intimacy, but one also fears loneliness and isolation. This fantasy bond is then created as a way to pretend to connect with a partner without actually connecting with them. Sometimes it’s done when a person sheds an important part of their personality in order to fit into the relationship. Explains Dr. Firestone, “Perhaps the most significant sign that a fantasy bond has been formed is when one or both partners give up vital areas of personal interest, their unique points of view and opinions, their individuality, to become a unit, a whole. The attempt to find security in an illusion of merging with another leads to an insidious and progressive loss of identity in each person.” It’s important to keep one’s identity intact in order to experience romantic love. One has to lower one’s defenses in order to be vulnerable and find real love. We are allowing a person into our inner sanctum and that can be really scary. People then form a fantasy bond as a go-to area where they don’t have to lower their defenses yet can pretend to take part fully in the relationship. The other partner however will remain unfulfilled and seek to bond, while the first will get irritated, angry and continue to avoid vulnerability. Recognizing and taking steps to unravel a fantasy bond, should one exist in your relationship, is the first step to finding real romantic love. To learn more about fantasy bonds, read The Fantasy Bond: Structure of Psychological Defenses by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D. and R.D. Laing, M.D.
We all know what infidelity is, but when asked for specifics it can be hard to define and varies from person to person. Some people think a little natural flirting is completely innocent while others think it crosses the line. The definition has further been blurred by smart phones, social networking sites, texting and email which separate us from our real world decisions and make things we may not say offline much easier to do online or via text. So how can you insulate your relationship against infidelity and give it the best chances of succeeding, particularly in the digital age? First, you and your partner should sit down at some point after you verbally decide to become monogamous. When you are officially a couple talk about what cheating actually is. For instance, it’s normal for guys to look at other women. But if he’s staring at someone and ignoring the lady across the table from him, this is a no-no. Texting or emailing anything sexual to the opposite sex is probably off limits. The lines blend when it comes to close colleagues at work, or longtime friends of the opposite sex. How will this work? Is sharing secrets with a friend or work colleague before your significant other cheating for instance? That’s something for the two of you to work out.
When you decide to be monogamous, don’t just think about how your romantic partner feels, consider your own vow. You’ve made a promise to be the caretaker of this person’s heart. Monogamy doesn’t mean giving up your freedom. You have the freedom to choose to be monogamous, to choose to be in a relationship at all. It is a free decision you make yourself to be true to this person and honor your promise or not. It’s really all up to you. When feelings bubble up that make you question or waver in your decision, before acting upon them talk to your partner. Don’t make rules that your partner can’t follow. He or she will just get upset with these rules and all the rules will sooner or later become invalidated. Make sure rules make sense. If there are underlying anxieties or self-esteem issues attached to one partner’s desire to make constricting rules, perhaps these issues should be discussed and brought out into the open. Parameters both people can live with and operate comfortably under should be set in motion. One of the most important things to exist for a healthy relationship to occur is mutual trust. When trust and respect are worn away the relationship is no longer healthy and infidelity may occur. Don’t lie to your partner. Always tell the truth. Hurting your trust bond will put the relationship into a tailspin. Always maintain yourself, your independence and the values that are most important to you. You may be in a relationship but never give up who you are and don’t ask your partner to either. For more advice, read What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by John Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver.
What’s the number of Americans under the age of 30 who believe in a soul mate? A surprising 80%. The idea is that the perfect person someday will appear out of nowhere. You two will be caught up in one of those Hollywood style whirlwind romances and live happily ever after. The couple hardly has to lift a finger for each other and everything falls right into place. Though comforting, this is very far from how love in real life works. Lifelong loving, healthy, satisfying relationships take a lot of time, effort and enthusiasm to grow and prosper. So with such an investment required how do we know when a relationship is worth fighting for, and when it’s best to let it go? Try some of these techniques before calling it quits. First we have to accept the fact that relationships at times can be complex. Not only are you two separate individuals, you both come with different emotional baggage that somehow has to fit together. Though falling in love can be the most uplifting experience in one’s life, it can also be rife with terror, confusion, anxiety, fear and even sadness. When we get close to someone, instead of fear subsiding it can actually grow. Some people become defensive and hurtful memories from the past bubble up to the present. So when determining whether or not to end a relationship the first question to ask is how much our own baggage and emotional state is contributing to the problems in the relationship.
Remember you can change yourself 100%. That’s the only person you can ever change for sure. You can always push the eject button on this relationship at any time. Playing the blame game doesn’t have any way out. It’s more frustrating than fulfilling. Ultimately you have to see what problems you are truly bringing into the relationship and what problems your significant other is bringing. Can these be reconciled? If not then perhaps it’s time to hit the road. But if you truly care for one another find a way to work things out. Why not reflect on the reasons you first got together? If you’ve picked someone who you notice has the same negative qualities as your earliest caregivers, most likely your parents, in order to heal some childhood trauma, and your lover is overbearing, negligent or over critical than perhaps it’s time to rethink this relationship, and what you need to steer clear of picking these types of people for partners. The initial spark for good or ill is likely to fade. Make sure you have the right compatibility going forward to make one another happy. Is your past impacting your relationship today? Do you have a fear of intimacy that is pushing your partner away? What other baggage do you bring to the table? Evaluate this. If you are merely in a rut, try breaking up your routine. Find new and novel ways to spend time and reinvest in your relationship. Decide to disarm together and try to repair your bond. If you can’t, split your ways amicably and figure out what needs to be done to make your future relationships successful. For further reading try Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D., Lisa A. Firestone, Ph.D. & Joyce Catlett, M.A.
Compassion, understanding and love sound like they should inhabit every part of our everyday interactions. But it seems that so many people have a hard time accepting these. In couples counseling often one partner will show love, respect or affection for their partner and be met with an angry response. This isn’t an uncommon response. Many people react negatively when met with accolades, love or gratitude. Even a small compliment can make someone angry or suspicious. So why do some people feel threatened by love? There are many reasons. Some people developed psychological defenses in life early on to protect them from pain or rejection. These positive emotions then cause the person anxiety. The person has a hard time evaluating these positive emotions. Are they real or some kind of trick to get past their defenses? Childhood traumas can make love seem scary and dangerous. The person feels compelled to hurt the one who loves them. They push their lover away, punish them and distance themselves from this person emotionally. Their defensiveness comes into the fray. Their antennae are up seeing love as a kind of danger. Generally they don’t know why they act this way. They just get swept up in their emotions and justify it later on pointing to something in their lover’s behavior as the cause.
Another reason may be that experiencing this love may bring up trauma from the past. These are feelings of pain and sadness that the person had blocked out. Feelings of loneliness and abandonment felt as children can crawl up to the surface. Then they fear being hurt or laid bare as they did all those years ago. Love can also cause an identity crisis. They don’t know who they are anymore. They’ve associated themselves with these negative emotions for so long they can’t seem to overcome them. These emotions have become a part of them and they don’t know how to let go, or who they will be should they let go. This negative self-view started when they were children. Children automatically idealize their parents and see themselves in a negative light. This is a natural survival mechanism. But those who have sustained a childhood trauma get caught up in this negative view of themselves. Any form of success such as a close, loving relationship threatens this comfortable negative self-view. People feel more comfortable in their own image of themselves, even if it is negative, than stepping out into the unknown, even if a chance at love stands on the other side. For some, acknowledging this new love can break the fantasy bond they had with their parents, where they thought their parents were loving and kind. It is difficult to break out of a fear of being loved. But all hope is not lost. Self-help and therapy can move one from the fear of love category to one who embraces love and happiness with their heart wide open. To explore this topic further pick up a copy of the book Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky.