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good love

good love

“I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love. I want a love that’s sure to stand the test of time. I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love.”

The longing for love in our lives can become more pervasive on February 14th of each year, a day many look forward to and as many dread. It can be a day of surprise (i.e., marriage proposals) or a day of disappointment (i.e, the surprise delivery of roses and chocolates never arrives). If we are among the disappointed ones, we may also experience envy on Valentine’s Day, wishing for ourselves the kind of affirmations others receive seemingly so easily.

I like that Anita Baker’s hit song, “Good Love,” qualifies what kind of love she wants – a good love. Too often we just say that we want love in our lives, that we lack love. More often than not, that’s not the case. We do have love, just not “good” love. If we can begin to acknowledge the various kinds of love and then begin to qualify them, we are well on our way to actually having what we desire.

“[O]ur experiences of love, and our loves, take multiple forms. Some thinkers prefer to reserve the name ‘love’ for a love that has normative content – that is, for loves that they consider to be good loves. Yet we know that not all of our loves are good, though they are loves. There are wise loves and foolish, good loves and bad, true loves and mistaken loves. The question ultimately is, what is a right love, a good, just , and true love?” (Margaret Farley, as quoted in Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual and Spiritual Goodness by dr. candi dugas [available on Amazon, $11.68 Paperback, $9.99 Kindle])

Farley suggests 3 criteria for good love:

  1. A clear and true understanding of whom you’re loving
  2. Your interior (i.e., your soul) connects with whom you’re loving (mutuality not necessary)
  3. Affirming whom you’re loving in ways that are honest about the person’s current reality and potential

No. 1 is in play when we do not objectify a person, only loving him for what we believe he can do for our egos, bank accounts, social statuses or careers. We are engaged in No. 2 when what we’re experiencing is more than words or even actions. And No. 3 is at work when we are not having an affair with a man committed to another relationship as if he was not, as if he were free to commit to us.

When any 1 or more of these 3 criteria is not present in our relationships, we have a mistaken love. Mistaken love is not when we think we love someone, but we’re actually feeling something else, like obligation. Rather, mistaken or false love is when we believe we have a love that does not match the nature of the relationship.

Let the love you have be the love that it is. Find out its name and call it out. If it’s not a good love and that’s what you want, end it; let it go. Then make it your business to get the good love you seek. You deserve it. And you can have it. “What you seek is seeking you.” (Rumi)

“If you’re the man I hear you say you are, I don’t quite understand why loving me is so hard. Never have I felt the need to be this close. Words cannot say, heaven only knows: I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love. I want a love that’s sure to stand the test of time. I wanna know what good love feels like, good love, good love. Morning, noon and night, forever all my life.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(c) 2017 candi dugas, llc

relationship intimacy: building longer term connections, pt. 3

relationship intimacy: building longer term connections, pt. 3

[Read Part 1 and Part 2.]

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings,infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up – if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible for each to see the other Whole against the sky.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

When I paused my story in Part 2, I was at home experiencing the most severe pain I’d ever known …

The next day, Saturday, after rolling out of the bed onto the floor for the seemingly 100th time, I pray, “Lord, I need your help. I’ve been down here on my knees more times in past 24 hours than I have in past five years!” I was at home all day alone since Stacy was attending our son’s father-in-law’s funeral. Then finally the third day, Sunday, I begin to find some relief. While watching a movie, with a sense of amazement, of complete surprise, I realize that I’d uttered the same words to both my wife and to God, “I need your help.” I realize that I have two persons to whom I could say those words. I weep.

 The following week, we decide to go see the movie, The Butler.  While riding, my wife asks me, “Do you want me to get you something for our anniversary?” To this I reply, “If you need to you can, but there is something that you need to know, and that is whatever you purchase, it will pale in comparison to what you have already given to me.” There is silence between us. We just look into each other eyes, and then we smile.

In Part 2 we also listed two of three steps toward developing intimate relationships:

  • Understanding that achieving relational intimacy is messy.
  • Intentionally seeking a deeper level of intimacy with another.

Now, the third step is the process of becoming a more differentiated individual. As such, we must be aware of the fact that we will discover how utterly alone we truly are. For depth – for physical and sexual intimacy to happen – it seems that self-healing of our early life’s (i.e., childhood) relational injuries is necessary. Further, this work may require us to nurture a relationship where we can be and become our true selves; committing ourselves to looking at our earliest physical/sexual encounters with honesty and openness.

Physical and sexual intimacy evolves, but not without conversation between the partners. It seems to me that the ultimate aim in this aspect of the intimate relationship is for both partners to feel mutually accepted as individuals; and, to have mutual respect for each other’s uniqueness, along with learning to respect that uniqueness within oneself and the other. Unfortunately, this process is not for the faint of heart and may only be possible in a therapeutic relationship and space of safety.

part 3 lovers

Image: iloveblackart.net

Similarly, relational intimacy experienced during times of crises creates additional longings. When we encounter difficult personal situations, (e.g.; deaths of parents, children, spouses; the loss of a job, a change in physical health, etc.), we long for our familiar other, to provide a place of safety, so that our painful emotions/feelings are free from judgment. These areas require having an understanding individual when we are experiencing periods of extreme vulnerabilities in our lives. During these moments significant others, without realizing it, can often abandon the persons in our key relationships because we do not know how to hold the existential pain of those close to us in moments of crisis.

Finally, deep relationship intimacy occurs when our defenses are relaxed enough to allow our significant others to develop a capacity for emotional openness. Further, this level of openness therefore enables our loved ones to risk being vulnerable long enough to share aspects of their psychological and spiritual pain. What is relaxed is the unsupported fear of those others who will judge us for expressing our authentic selves.

When a significant other (i.e., spouse, parent, sibling, friend, etc.) for example, is able to observe me and to be with me in my moments of temporary anguish, I am healing within my innermost being. Still again, when I have a sudden epiphany about a long-lost childhood experience that is rooted in pain and trauma, and my loving other responds with affirmation, compassion, confirmation and empathy, then I am experiencing depth of intimacy—healing. My appointed and significant other is providing for me a holding space as I work through my anguish and my tears! The following example illustrates my point:

A mother hears her son’s painful memory of not being touched or physically held by her as he expresses this memory to his significant other. His mother is present during this open conversation. His mother, in turn, offers her recollection of her son’s account of their early life relationship. She affirms that his memory is accurate and true as her son had recalled and then offers a self-disclosing fact about herself. [She admits,] “He is right; it [her inability to touch or experience physical closeness] was about me. I couldn’t be available to the touchy-feely [because I didn’t know how] because I was afraid.” To this, the son replies, “That’s right.”

In that moment, the mother openly, without becoming defensive or attempting to protect herself from potentially hurt feelings, provides a longing hunger for her son. She receives the affection that her son has for his mother. This act is a deeply healing and transformative moment for both; in short, it is relational intimacy in living color. This moment is a non-judgmental and non-anxious response. His mother is able provide, as both are now adults, an important holding space for both to heal. Every child, from infancy throughout adulthood, hungers to know her or his parent is willing to receive her or his deeply abiding affection for that parent, mother first and then father.

The quote I used to open the final post in this series is a favorite poem of mine by Rainer Maria Rilke. It sums up the level of relational intimacy to which I’ve been reflecting. Again, I share it:

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings,infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up – if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible for each to see the other Whole against the sky.”

Thank you for taking the time to reflect with me on relational intimacy. I look forward to being with you again soon via one of candi dugas & associates’ publications. Until then, take good care.

NOTE: In my narratives, I change the names of others than my own to protect individual privacy.

© 2016, James Bernard Kynes, Sr.

The Rev. James Bernard Kynes, Sr., M.Div., LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) practices at Crossings Counseling Center, Inc., in Decatur, GA. To read more about him and/or to connect with him, visit his website (http://www.jamesbernardkynessr.com/index.html), email (bkynesr@gmail.com) or call (404.378.2232).

Featured Image: iamaliminalbeing.blogspot.com

relationship intimacy: building longer term connections, pt. 2

relationship intimacy: building longer term connections, pt. 2

[Read Part 1.]

“Dread is an alien power which lays hold of an individual, and yet one cannot tear oneself away, nor has a will to do so; for one fears what one desires.” ~Soren Kierkegaard

When we left my story, I was sitting with a client in ever-increasing pain.

After completing that session, I am now thinking that I should drive myself to the emergency room. Then, another thought, “Call Stacy.” So, I call my wife and luckily, she answers her cell. (It’s also a good thing that she is a wonderful and outstanding nurse.) “Stacy, I need your help,” I express in a very slow and vulnerable voice. She replies with the same level of emotional affect in her voice, full of empathy and concern, “What’s wrong?” I tell her what is happening.  She directs me, “Call your doctor. I will meet you there.” Immediately, I experience a sense of clarity to balance the intense moments of crisis that I was having.

At the doctor’s office I learn that I might be passing a kidney stone. To confirm this, Stacy takes me to the hospital. The pain now very severe, I am agitated and restless. The ultrasound confirms that I have a 5mm stone and they can only keep me if it is 6 mm or larger. So, my wife takes me home and I experience the most severe pain that I had ever known.

What I also know is that human beings fear relational intimacy. “I fear getting hurt,” says one young man in his early 30s who ends another relationship before it becomes too serious. Unconsciously more than consciously, our desire for relational intimacy seems to create an invisible sense of dread long before we are able to experience authentic affection from others and authentic compassion and self-love for ourselves. Take our quote above from Soren Kierkegaard, “Dread is an alien power which lays hold of an individual, and yet one cannot tear oneself away, nor has a will to do so; for one fears what one desires.” Developing a significant relationship with regard to intimacy of depth is a lifelong process. This process, therefore, requires patience and longsuffering, and may create feelings of dread before we experience a sense of inner peace within ourselves. The process is arduous, difficult, perilous and gradual. Moreover, this reality applies to any relationship where two individuals are seeking to develop meaningful memories with another human being.

This blog series is about the challenges and opportunities of developing intimate relationships, not about marriage, per se. Marriage is a metaphor for perhaps the most intimate of all relationships. So, my aim in sharing these thoughts is to help create an ongoing dialogue among and between individuals that take their relationships with themselves and others of significance, seriously. Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “Marriage is difficult, and those who take it seriously are beginners who suffer and learn!”

Let’s begin with understanding that achieving an intimate relationship is messy. It is messy because we as human beings, are unaware that we are committing ourselves to being a living and reflective mirror image for another person. This dynamic is messy in that we see ourselves in the other person. An internal reflection of ourselves becomes possible. In other words, I am agreeing to be of help to the other person in seeing herself or himself, as well as looking at myself, being played out before my very eyes in real time – my virtues as well as my flaws, my strengths as well as my weaknesses, and my possibilities as well as my limitations. In this mirror reflection of myself, I am going to see every aspect of my childhood relationships, my parents (adoptive or biological), siblings, cousins and other relatives—grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and neighborhood playmates and friends—every aspect. Moreover, if I do not remember cognitively everything, emotionally, I do. In the words of Howard Thurman, “I am looking for myself in you, and perhaps I cannot find myself until I find it in you.”

Man fears hide psychology emotions cartoon illustration

Additionally, in this mirroring process of “looking for myself,” we as individuals will early and often attack the negative images (played out through actions and behaviors) that we see in the other person. We fail to realize that at our deepest cores, we are attacking aspects of ourselves. A woman, 50 years of age, recently exclaimed in her therapy session:

The parts of my father that I did not like, I later began to see them in me. I made a conscious choice not look closer at those parts of me because I did despise my father. I am coming to realize that I have been despising myself as well because for years I have tried NOT to be like him; and now, I am discovering that in so many ways I am like him—the parts that I despise. I was like him in my two failed marriages. And I see it more clearly today.”

As she is transforming this deeply internalized and mirrored self-image of herself, it becomes possible for her to deepen the emotional level of intimacy with her, first, and others second. 

Next, let’s seek a deeper level of relational intimacy. As individuals we live by our own collective misconceptions and internalized models about what intimacy is. Consider a few commonly made statements:

  • “I thought that I would not feel alone once in my marriage.”
  • “We need to have more intimacy.”
  • “Something’s missing; we seem to be growing apart rather than closer—I want more intimacy, not necessarily sex, but not to feel like this … lonely.”

Moreover, the social images associated with intimacy models, for instance, visual expressions such as couples locked arm-in-arm or warmly embracing each other in the public sphere or even holding hands. These are outer expressions of closeness, possible relational warmth with another relationship of familiarity. Yet, when these expressions are seemingly lost, we utter statements like:

  • “We used to have such a close relationship.” or
  • “We used to cuddle all the time and I don’t know what happened.”

I often hear individuals, men more so than women, using the intimacy word primarily in relation to sexual intercourse. Physical/sexual intimacy is an important part of the relationship between committed individuals. It may become one of depth if we are able to commit to the relationship rather than having a “friends with benefits” arrangement. According to David Schnarch, author of Passionate Marriages, achieving meaningful sexual intimacy requires the individuals to be able to become a well-differentiated self. Differentiation in this context means that as individuals, we are able to work sufficiently through our own interpersonal and intrapersonal wounds, in the process of becoming one, with ourselves.

Return to sexNspirit next week for the 3rd and final post in this series to discover the 3rd step toward achieving relational intimacy.

NOTE: In my narratives, I change the names of others than my own to protect individual privacy.

© 2016, James Bernard Kynes, Sr.

The Rev. James Bernard Kynes, Sr., M.Div., LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) practices at Crossings Counseling Center, Inc., in Decatur, GA. To read more about him and/or to connect with him, visit his website (http://www.jamesbernardkynessr.com/index.html), email (bkynesr@gmail.com) or call (404.378.2232).

relationship intimacy: building longer term connections

relationship intimacy: building longer term connections

Seldom or never does a marriage develop into an individual relationship smoothly without crisis. There is no birth of consciousness without pain.” ~ Carl G. Jung

It is Friday, August 9, 2013 (two days before my 38th wedding anniversary). I am in my office conducting sessions, when around 8:30 a.m., I began experiencing a subtle and dull pain in my lower abdomen. I thought, while listening to my client, “Do I need to go again to the bathroom?” I did not. Yet, the pain continued and gradually increased with intensity and discomfort. It is now 12:30 p.m. and I am sitting with another client, adjusting my sitting position from left to right – then left again – and then right again, in greater and greater pain.

“Are you okay?” asks my client. “I don’t think so, but I’m okay for now,” I replied.

This painful crisis is about to turn into a birth of consciousness regarding emotional intimacy. Of course, I don’t know it at the time. All that is consuming me is my physical pain and my attempts to complete my day’s calendar of clients. In the following posts of this 3-part series, I will share more of my story that day. For now, let’s begin to consider what it means to be intimate in our relationships, a quality that is not a given part of them, simply because we participate in each other’s lives.

Secure attachment in an intimate relationship is essential for our individual healthy senses of self-esteem and worth! This reality is especially true in moments of emotional, existential, psychological and spiritual crises.

lovers lower

Intimacy refers to “a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person; a close association with, detailed knowledge, or deep understanding of; the quality of being comfortable, warm, or a token of familiarity, affection, or the like.” (Dictionary.com) Relational intimacy begins during the second trimester between the mother and the developing fetus and later, her newborn infant. Neuroscience now informs us that significant communications from the mother’s emotional life passes on into the fetus’ developing neurons. It is important that the emotional relationship between mother and child is protected by those close to her, helping her with the caring of and tending to this developing bond. When this protection happens, the emotional health of both mother and child can create a secure attachment. The emotional support for the mother is essential, enabling the newborn to experience her (or any significant caretaker, e.g., the father) as an emotionally available and safe other. We then hope that the infant is able to take in the non-anxious presence from the mother’s sense of self into its developing identity.

In the absence of a secure and emotionally available caretaker, psychological disorders (which will vary in degrees from individual to individual) have a greater chance for affecting our relational development from infancy to/through adolescence and well into our adult life for years to come. Anxiety and depressive disorders, bi-polar (a brain chemical disorder that unless diagnosed and treated by a professional, can be exacerbated by environmental stress) and others can play a major influencing factor on how well relational intimacy develops. Yet, if mother has a good enough emotional support system, one that can provide a nurturing environment for her and her baby, then she has a greater chance of being emotionally available to help her child develop and grow with less anxiety and other potential disorders. And if that happens, we are able better to create and nurture for ourselves fulfilling, intimate relationships with our significant others.

Return to sexNspirit next week to discover the source of the pain I experienced a few days before my 38th wedding anniversary and to read my take on the key that prevents us from developing relational intimacy.

NOTE: In my narratives, I change the names of others than my own to protect individual privacy.

© 2016, James Bernard Kynes, Sr.

The Rev. James Bernard Kynes, Sr., M.Div., LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) practices at Crossings Counseling Center, Inc., in Decatur, GA. To read more about him and/or to connect with him, visit his website (http://www.jamesbernardkynessr.com/index.html), email (bkynesr@gmail.com) or call (404.378.2232).

sexuality + spirituality

sexuality and spirituality: doing it differently

Each Sunday in October – live in person and online

Impact’s 2015 “Sexuality + Spirituality Experience Series” builds upon the wildly successful one that we produced in 2010. Five years ago we shared that God created sex to be good for creation and that we will not prescribe to anyone how they choose to engage or not in sexual activity. So, how do we make these decisions, the kinds of choices that help us to live with integrity within ourselves, before God and with others? Impact helps us all make these determinations by providing the tools for each person to make her/his own informed, educated and spiritual decision(s).

For further understanding, we invite you to join us this October as we unpack, affirm and celebrate what it means to be a whole, integrated person in God, one who is simultaneously and beautifully sexual and spiritual.

We are excited to share the good news of God’s love for all with our community – where all means ALL. Impact always endeavors to create safe and relevant space for worship of God and service to the world. We look forward to your joining us every Sunday in October – 8am, 10am, 12noon – in person or online (http://www.impactdoingchurchdifferently.org/live/)!

*Some content may not be suitable for all audiences.

the spirit of thanksgiving . . .

family at thanksgiving

Image: madamenoire.com

Gratitude and its expression make all the difference in the world!

However, the holidays – even the one centered around gratitude – can be an odd time of year with any of our relationships. Since too many of us are inclined not to handle well difficulties or issues during the rest of the year, attending/hosting social gatherings tend to trigger emotions that we seem to be able to ignore or suppress better during less stressful times of the year.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift of the holidays – an opportunity to address that which we’ve been ignoring/suppressing. Psychology Today has fabulous advice on reducing anxiety during the holidays in a brief article published this week, “Healing the 3 Hidden Sources of Holiday Stress.”

You may also want to check out our other electronic publications for Thanksgiving:

I hope that the pure essence of Thanksgiving is at the center of this year’s holiday for you and yours.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

best,

candi

(c) 2013 candi dugas, llc. All Rights Reserved.

love & erotica in film: 10 of my favorites

love & erotica in film: 10 of my favorites

For the next five weeks or so I will share 10 of my favorite love and erotica films. (Not pornography – there is a difference.) I am not giving them any particular ranking. Nor am I declaring with this series of posts that these are my top 10 of all time. Yet, as we produce Desire’s Kiss, a film that celebrates feminine sexuality and spirituality, these films come to mind. (To learn more about Desire’s Kiss, click here.)

image

from celeb.com

I kick off the series this Tues., Oct 9th. Which favorite film will I share first? 😉 I hope you will share your favorite films with me as well, along with any thoughts on my list and responses to my comments. I’m enjoying this already! 😉

(You’ll know best when I post the next film by subscribing to sexNspirit. Check it out to your right or below.)

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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