23 C
New York
Friday, June 14, 2024

Can Success Ruin Your Sex Life?

Must read

by Helen Singer Kaplan

It seems you can’t be both. The woman, who shoulders responsibility as if it were a chiffon scarf, makes top decisions and argues her way through business conferences by day couldn’t possibly be cozy, comfy and sexy by night. Or so some think.

To be successful at work is to be solitary at home, according to the conventional “folklore” of our society which says a woman only has so much effort and effectiveness, as if she were a cup containing eight ounces and no more. What she pours for one purpose is lost to the other parts of her life. Consequently, if worldly ambitions flourish, her emotions must harden and dry.

Certainly movies have reinforced this idea. Consider poor Mildred Pierce, the driving character portrayed by Joan Crawford in the forties. Separated from her husband, she baked pies to raise money, parlayed the profits into a restaurant, diversified into packaged baked goods and dedicated herself to success. Meanwhile her daughter Veda was having an affair with her second husband. Mildred lost business, child and spouse to discover real happiness lay with the man she’d sent away in the first place.

Does Achievement Destroy Happiness?

Handsome Man The Trent

Melodramatic, certainly, but superficial glances at the lives of prominent women seem to bear out the saga. Profiles of Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir reveal that as their political success increased, husbands faded from their lives. Ambitious Coco Chanel twice spurned the intimacy of marriage, rejecting English industrialist Boy Capel and the Duke of Westminster, to wrest fame and financial security on her own.

Such examples feed the myth that achievement destroys a woman’s chance for a happy sex life. Nothing could be further from the truth. My personal experience as well as my years as a medical doctor, analyst and sex therapist have taught me that a career, especially a gratifying and successful career, can improve one’s sex life, a term I use to include not just the physical functions of orgasm, but emotional satisfaction, too.

The working woman who likes her job, does well at it and uses her intellectual capacities with pleasure had interesting things to share with a man—the events of her day, the people she’s met, the creative process she is involved with. Her world is wider than that of the woman who stay at home and knows only about her house, shopping and, if she has them, children—all subjects which can bore others, including husbands. Also, a career makes a woman more attractive in other ways by giving her confidence, enhancing her feelings about herself, plus such practical assets as money and leisure time.

Success in business means approval from others which gives a woman confidence. Instead of being shy, she’s able to put herself in the position of meeting men and reaching out to them. She has the money to take care of her appearance, buy pretty clothes and the right cosmetics. She’s able to afford exciting vacations, good restaurants and hotels. And with money comes more leisure time because she’s able to pay others—maids, cooks and nurses—to do energy- and time-draining chores like cleaning, cooking and babysitting.

Success Anxiety

Woman Thinking The Trent

As more women pursue careers and follow up on new opportunities available to them, sex, with its implied emotional commitment, need not take second place. On the contrary, a successful woman who is also attractive, warm, sensitive and charming is highly desirable to most men. The fallacy that success will ruin sex and love life is a product of success anxiety, a prevalent creeping feeling that we aren’t allowed to have everything, that reaching success will exact a heavy toll. Success anxiety has many origins. Partially it is rooted in childhood’s double and contradictory message: Be a winner. Don’t hurt anyone. Later in life, we see that if one wins, another may lose. If we succeed, someone else may fail and suffer. We’ll hurt that person and we’ll be bad.

We are often not consciously aware of our conflicts about success. Nevertheless success anxiety can govern our lives in a most damaging manner. For example, a girl who has dates unconsciously feels guilty that her sister doesn’t; shell pick fights with her boyfriends so she stays home, too. A daughter meets a man with some of her father’s wonderful qualities but throws up obstacles to his love because she fears her mother will be jealous if she doesn’t have the “best” man for herself.

Unconsciously and unnecessarily, such women all fear success. The truth is, success-related power and money can enhance the sex life of a healthy person. We all like to know influential people and want to share their limelight, so just as women are drawn to successful men, so men are drawn to creative and productive women, provided they do not deliberately or unconsciously belittle them. In addition, success can bring a woman to the attention of men she would not meet in an obscure job. The active female attorney us likely to attract in a more significant way the businessmen and lawyers with whom she works than the secretary of her law firm.

Men and Successful Women

It is true some men initially resist the thought of a woman they love having a career. This is usually due to male insecurity. Men, whose role up to now has been to support their families and to take care of women, feel they won’t be needed anymore. A man may want to keep a woman economically independent because he thinks that’s the only way to hold her, that he has little value as a human being part from his provider role. But I have never seen a woman’s career destructive to a healthy partnership.  A love relationship is the most important ingredient is most women’s lives, yet I never hesitate to counsel a patient to develop a creative career. It may lead to a temporary stormy period with her mate, but once she demonstrates that she still values and needs him, they grow closer because they have more to share, more money for material comforts, and because success is simply attractive.

When success is the product of the healthy human desire for creative expression it is never harmful. A thriving career becomes a problem only if a woman uses that career to express hostility and contempt for others. Then “success” can be truly destructive.

Workaholism—For Men Only?

Office Romance The Trent

It may sometimes appear that the upward-bound business or professional person is unable to find time for social and family life. The truth is, such people are afraid. Fearing sex and personal involvement, they throw themselves into a job to the exclusion of all else. They hide from themselves and others in devotion to career. Up to now this has most often been true of men who are afraid to be found inadequate in bed or to commit themselves to a woman or to risk being hurt. They labor nine or ten hours a day, take business calls at home, and socialize exclusively with business acquaintances during the week, then head for the golf course on Saturdays and Sundays, determined to be a club champion. Seeking to foster a prosperous image, they acquire cars, money, clothes and prestigious homes, not for the pleasure such things bring, but because they are the trappings of success. It’s true they accomplish a lot, but they hide their human needs by getting overly involved in the pursuit of power.

Fewer women fit this pattern, because most were cut off from corridors of power, and felt limited to marriage, home and family. Even if they feared sex and emotional attachment to a male, they forced themselves to adapt to that life.

Now that there are fewer pressures to marry, women who fear love entanglements can immerse themselves in their jobs and will probably win promotions based on their dedication and hard work. Many will think they lack time for a love life, but the truth is they wont allow themselves opportunities for love and sexual intimacy. And they wont be happy.

What Success Is

Woman Professional The Trent

The truly contented person is one who has achieved true love and intimacy with another. To most, the ultimate success is sexual happiness with its sense of physical well-being and emotional commitment.

Some people wont allow themselves this happiness because they fear success. They may go after love, be seductive, make themselves attractive, say all the right things, and then, when there’s a chance of a good relationship, they panic and ruin it, or they may find themselves unable to perform sexually.

In sex therapy, we deal with the problems created by unconscious fears of love and sexual success. This can uncover deeper emotional conflicts. For example, some are so frightened of attaining success that they unwittingly sabotage themselves just as they’re about to achieve whatever they prize. I call this last-inch success anxiety. They’ll strive up a mountain and then within inches of the top, they’ll turn back. An employee may work months for a raise and just before it comes through, fight with the boss. Someone else may want to be named company president, work long hours for years, cultivate the right people, pattern his or her life around this goal, then just before an appointment is assured, have a nervous breakdown.

Similarly, if frightened by sexual success, women can stop themselves just before they reach orgasm. In sex therapy we help the majority in a relatively short time. The problem is some women feel orgasm is total surrender to their partner; they fear letting go and losing control. Some also fear orgasm because they feel it would transform their lives into total success.

I treated one patient, a real estate agent in her mid-thirties who was similarly troubled, by explaining she was physically fine, but cautioning, “orgasm is just a simple muscle reflex. It won’t change anything else about your life. You won’t have a better marriage, you won’t make a larger salary or stop arguing with your brother, and your children will still get on your nerves. All it means is that your life will improve in just one area.”

Once she accepted the notion that orgasm didn’t mean total success, she was able to reach a climax. She realized she had long feared attaining her goals, reexamined her life, and decided to study law. She’s now a prominent attorney and this illustrates beautifully the point that success isn’t incompatible with sex. In fact, success enhances sex, because the fact is, no matter how much we think we want fame, money and power, most of us really want a loving sexual relationships more than anything else.

Striving for success never leads a healthy person to avoid bed. For whether a human being realizes the truth of the situation consciously or not, to actually achieve a creative, intimate and joyful love relationship is to experience complete success in the truest sense of the word.

Culled from Harper’s BAZAAR Magazine

More articles

- Advertisement -The Fast Track to Earning Income as a Publisher
- Advertisement -The Fast Track to Earning Income as a Publisher
- Advertisement -Top 20 Blogs Lifestyle

Latest article