Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
I have a situation which bothers me a bit. I have never been in a relationship or if there’s a potential one, it never gets to cross to the commitment zone. Then for the past years , I have been confused with what I really wanted in my life, which I believe is what you call quarter life crisis. I have been concerned with my career and to the point that I took my Masters to check if it will bring me to the right path. To cut it short, I finished my degree (at a pretty young age) still feeling lost …and confused again. No love life, sex life (by the way, I was still a virgin then) and no directions at all.
When I felt bored because I have been used to doing a lot of things due to studying, I tried to download this famous dating app. I gave it a try and ended up losing my virginity with one of my matches. I know I was ready and never felt any regrets. And from then on, I have been engaged in this casual sex for months now.
For background, I am considered the good girl. No vices, with good grades , the achiever and a dedicated employee. I have good friends and I am considered as the amiable and jolly one. My friends don’t know about this dark side of mine. And even some of my matches were asking me why I am on it — coming from a good school with good background — and even wondering if I was a poser of what. I am not building myself up or bragging here.
Now, my questions are: Am I turning into a slut? Why did not I feel any regrets losing it in a very unacceptable way, while everyone’s considering it so precious? Is this something that I have to stop? Is this going to lead into something bad?
Thank you for your email.
You raise a number of very interesting issues. I would like to address your desire for a committed relationship and standards of behavior.
Relationships can be elusive. There are ways to maximize the chances of finding one but no way to guarantee that even if found it will be successful.
The irony of course is that frequently those struggling in problematic relationships wish that they could free themselves while those without a relationship only wish that they had one. What is in play is our all too human capacity to compare reality with fantasy, a game where fantasy nearly always comes out top. Who, after all, daydreams of an abusive boyfriend when it is so easy to conjure up a Prince Charming?
The best you can do is to make sure that you remain open to friendships: in the workplace, among your friends, at parties, social clubs, even church groups! You can also meet people online, of course, through the wide variety of dating sites available.
Ultimately there are no guarantees. Just remember that patience is supposedly a virtue and that too much time spent on casual relationships may reduce your chance of something more committed, if indeed that continues to be what you want.
As for your own behavior and the questions that perturb you, it is important to recognize that we all have a number of personae. Most importantly, there is the internal persona, the real ‘you,’ known only to you and partly hidden (not only because of the impossibility of sharing each and every one of our thoughts) from the outside world. It is this persona that we need to keep well-balanced if we are to lead mentally healthy lives, which in effect means we need to have a coherent sense of morality and to act in accordance with it.
We also have external personae which we present to the outside world. These reveal us within certain parameters defined by our membership of the relevant group. For example, consider a person who is (in no special order) a wife, mother, daughter, sister, member of a church, sorority, band, sports club etc. etc. In each of these roles, she will reveal different parts of her ‘self’ and seek to reconcile her inner persona with the external persona required to retain membership of the relevant group.
Problems arise when there is a clash e.g. a spouse who wants a separation/divorce, a minister who loses belief in his god, a member of a purity ring group who is no longer a virgin and a failure to resolve such clashes can result in serious mental health issues.
So when you ask questions about your behavior such as “Am I turning into a slut? Why did not I feel any regrets losing it in a very unacceptable way while everyone’s considering it so precious? Is this something that I have to stop?” what you are really asking is whether how you are behaving externally can be reconciled with who you really are.
This in turn triggers another question: whose standards am I prepared to accept as guidelines to how I live my life?
Membership of most of our groups is flexible and should seldom give rise to serious conflict yet we humans have an almost unlimited ability to complicate our lives. How often do we hear “what would the neighbors say?” or variations on this theme, involving our families or friends or co-workers etc.? As in so many things it is all a matter of degree: neighbors’ opinions may matter a lot if you want to play loud music at 3am but hopefully not when considering responses to spousal violence, teenage pregnancy, or murder.
As for the issue of indulging in casual sex while you await a more committed relationship, it appears from your account that you were happy losing your virginity, are happy with your current style of life yet wonder whether your ‘dark side’ will have ill effects. What now gives you cause to pause and consider seems to be rooted in the dissonance between who you are in this respect and who you are expected to be by your friends and ‘even’ some of your matches.
Perhaps you should try to clarify in your own mind by what standards you judge yourself and decide whether they are the ones you really wish to live your life by. If you are happy with your current lifestyle, after all, why stress yourself worrying about alternatives based on values you do not share?
Your final question is “Is this going to lead into something bad?” The short answer is no, provided you take the usual precautions and avoid such things as STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Please write again if you have further questions.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. Perhaps I am biased, but I feel Mr Baer has tackled all the major issues that need to be dealt with. Thus, I am free to merely add luster (says moi hopefully) to the pearls of wisdom he’s shared.
For example, his suggestion that everyone has several personae. In your case, your hidden (true) persona seems to be a large part of your life, unshared (so far) with anyone, since no one knows of what you call your dark side (though others like myself might consider it your independent, semi-wild-but-that’s-perfectly-ok-too-as-long-as-you-haven’t-hurt-anyone-who-doesn’t deserve-to-be-hurt-including-yourself side).
An organizational psychology tool which can be used to approximate but certainly not equate Mr Baer’s goals is The Johari Window, a technique used to help people better understand their relationship with themselves as well as others. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings for mapping personality awareness and is nowhere as deep or inclusive as a “goal” that Two Pronged hopes you achieve, which is in quotations because, of course, knowing and liking yourself is more a process than a set goal. If you’re particularly blessed, you will continually learn and thus set new goals for yourself not only in terms of relationships, but also in terms of aspirations, legacies, etc.
The Johari Window/House can be conceptualized as having 4 rooms: Room 1, the part of ourselves that we and others see; Room 2, the aspects that others see but we are not aware of; Room 3 is our private space, which we know but keep from others; and Room 4 the most mysterious room where the unconscious or subconscious part of us is seen by neither ourselves or others. (Read more here.)
In group organizational psychology, a major goal would be to expand the open space, resulting in greater knowledge of oneself, while voluntary disclosure of the private space may result in greater interpersonal intimacy and friendship and, of course, better team spirit. In that sense, the exercise JOHARI always has a positive — that’s how it is in motivational work and I am all for it in organizational settings.
In clinical settings, however, the Johari window can be used as a starting point. It helps visualize more clearly your 4 rooms (aspects) and determines what parts of yourself you want to make more open and what parts you want to remain private. If you have to move a characteristic from one room to another, that’s okay, even if people remember what your previous windows were like and talk about it.
No one knows you better than yourself and what aspects you want to keep private and make better known. Just be relentless in distinguishing your true/real/unadulterated self from your public personae and liking/respecting/taking care of the former so much more than the latter. If you want to take a risk and share a deeper part of yourself with even one other person, that’s well and good since disclosure makes for deeper friendships.
But only if you want to. If you are not so open to others, it is not YOUR fault; perhaps it is merely a matter of time, until you meet the right person/people/group where trusting more of yourself feels right.
When you say “My friends don’t know about this dark side of mine” all the Johari window does is encourage you to open up, share your dark side, if you will, so that others will be given the chance to accept you, “warts and all.”
Mr Baer suggests and my clinical experience confirms one last suggestion: the question if the dark side you refer to is really something to be hidden because it is shameful and unacceptable or if it is merely behavior that your upbringing and/or society have labeled as such and you have uncritically accepted.
Who knows, your supposed dark side may actually make you a dark knight helping fight not the villains of Gotham City, but something much more important: cookie-cutter behavior, predictability, prejudice and conformity for no other reason than conformity’s sake.
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