There has been much research on "attachment parenting," which emphasizes the deep need babies have for skin-to-skin holding and emotional nurturing. In particular, babies who are breast-fed by warm and nurturing mothers have been said to do far better physically and emotionally earlier in their development.
Regardless of the breast-feeding question in particular, early aspects of our upbringing are inevitably instrumental in our development later in life. Try asking yourself: was my mother warm and caring? Was she cold and unavailable? Was she overly available and/or smothering?
If your need for physical "mothering" was not met as a baby, then you may actually experience confusion between sexual desire and a deep need to be taken care of. In other words, you may subconsciously be sexualizing your need for this kind of care.
What do I mean by this? Take Samantha, 32 and single, a client who consulted with me because she was confused about her sexuality. While she had always been sexually attracted to men, she somewhat suddenly found herself falling in love with a woman. Yet she told me that while she loved cuddling with her new partner, Pamela, she did not, in fact, enjoy sex with her.
During our work together, it came out that Samantha had also been raised by cold, unemotional and distant parents. She revealed to me that she can't even remember ever being held by her mother. Samantha didn't even realize the absence of parental love in her past; she also didn't realize her resulting feelings of need to be held and cared for by a loving, nurturing presence.
We realized that Samantha actually wanted Pamela to take care of her rather than be her lover. Unconsciously, Samantha was sexualizing her need for a mother figure, because no one ever told her that it was normal for her to have this need, given how she was raised. The moment I explained this to her, it became clear.
Fortunately, Pamela understood and was willing to hold and nurture Samantha as a friend. Within a few months of receiving the love she needed, Samantha and Pamela mutually decided to move on. Samantha was ready for a relationship with a man and Pamela wanted to have a relationship with another woman. Pamela let Samantha know that she loved her and would always be available to take care of her, as a close, nurturing friend. Once Samantha realized her deep, elemental need for parental love and care, she was actually no longer confused about her sexuality.
Another instance of confusion between sexual desire and an elemental need for parental care emerged for another one of my clients. Don sought my help because he and his wife were having sexual problems. His wife, Eileen, was turned off by him because of his neediness and sexual addiction. Don always wanted sex: he used it to build instant confidence, and to fill his sense of emptiness. After some time, Eileen was no longer willing to be used this way. She told Don that his nagging approach to sex made him seem like a needy little boy, which was a turn-off. She wanted him to behave as a mature and self-assured man.
But like Samantha, Don wasn't properly nurtured as a child, and he was sexualizing his need for this kind of attention. In fact, his mother had alternated between rejecting and smothering, which left Don feeling unnurtured and confused. The problem was that Eileen could not be both a lover and a caretaker, a mother figure, to Don. When Don realized that his desire for sex and his need to be taken care of were not the same thing, he agreed, for the time being, to stop using sex with Eileen as a means to "feel better." Eileen agreed to give him the care he didn't receive as a child, provided that Don kept working with me, and with himself, to learn how to practice self-love. Eileen assured Don that she would be open to having sex with him again — but only once he built up his inner resources of confidence and self-care.
It took two years of hard work on Don's part to learn to love himself and heal his feelings of emptiness from childhood. It wasn't easy for him at first to accept being held and nurtured by Eileen rather than have sex with her. But gradually, he learned to fill his emptiness with love for himself and for Eileen. Gradually, his need for mothering healed and he was able to move into his personal power. And gradually, Eileen's sexual desire for him returned.
In our society, it's generally not easy to ask for the kind of deep, attentive nurturing you might need from friends and family members, particularly if this was an essential need missing from your early development. Samantha and Don were lucky, but for many of my clients, it takes a lot of time to find someone who can help them to heal their need for parental/maternal care. If you know you have this need and you set your intention to get this need met, you will find a way.
It all starts with learning to love yourself, which you can do by taking our free Inner Bonding course.
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