“I’ve decided that as long as I’m confident that I alone have his romantic and sexual feelings, I can share his time and attention with her, albeit with a struggle,” Andrea said about Michael and their extra-marital affair in the book, A State Of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel. This book offers a original perspective on monogomy and focuses on infidelity specifically, that has plagued so many marriages. Ultimately, I found myself asking the following question. Can romantic and sexual feelings stay alive in a monogamous marriage that also shares domestic and household responsibilities or is that too much weight for a relationship to bear? Is there a way for a partnership to thrive in this structure or is infidelity or forced celibacy paired with years of unhappiness and unwanted expression of sexual desire the price to pay for a lifetime of love and companionship? And how can personal style play a part in the self-expression that may also lay dormant with sexual desires. Let’s explore.
Can Love and Lust Co-exist?
I am personally invested in the answer to this question, although I won’t say why– because it’s deeply personal and not my story to tell, but it’s lead me to explore the topic of marriage and inspired by the pages of Perel’s latest book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. As a stylist, I tend to see most things through a fashion lens and immediately began thinking of how personal style relates to self-expression of sexuality. I thought about some of my own archetypes, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O, and how historically speaking those two women were opposite in many ways, but shared the same man. While I don’t know the story, because really only the three of them know what really happened, and I can’t speak to someone else’s life events, I can say that two different archetypes were at play here. One one hand you have the Jackie O archetype, the mother, nurturer and caretaker, a woman of undeniable, unshakeable strength who was just as vivid, beautiful, and alive with sexual desire as Marilyn Monroe, who embodied more of the vixen, screen siren, and goddess of love and sex archetype desired by countless men, but was she ever really loved? Both women represent love and lust, separately. In the book Esther Perel turns to therapist, Jack Morin, who named this dilemma the love-lust split, where “one of the key challenges of erotic life is to develop a comfortable interaction between our lusty urges and our desire for affection with a lover.” Esther Perel further conceptualizes this divide in the male mind, and how the woman is perceived when it comes to his sexuality, and states, “The part that loves, that feels intensely attached and responsible is the good boy. The part that lusts becomes the bad boy–ruthless, subversive, irresponsible. I could sum it up as follows: They can say “fuck me” sexually only when they have said “fuck you” emotionally. Callous as that may sound, ever man who has lived with this relational framework recognizes it on the spot.” I surely recognize this in a lot of my male clients. Sometimes, it plays out as a disconnect between sex and love, where some men have had to fantasize in order to orgasm.
How Can Personal Style Help?
I thought about the time I was living in New York City, working in the marketing and PR industry, and always, perfectly dressed to the nines, wearing a simply chic ensemble of cat-eye sunglasses, pencil skirts, black pumps and blouses on repeat for many, many years of my professional career. When I left that job and moved out of New York, one of the first (and not so bright) things I did was ferociously donate all of my blazers, pants, skirts, and business casual clothes to anyone who wanted them. It was a dramatic act driven by the feeling of freedom. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was literally itching to get out of those clothes and express other parts of my soul, my sexuality and personality. As soon as I graduated from nutrition school at the Institute of Integrative
Nutrition, I was out. I went on a four-year self-discovery deep dive, doing trainings in everything from spirituality and yoga to sexuality and relationships and entrepreneurship. I was hungry for change, and as a fashionista style was the first place where I made some serious shifts. I traded in the blazers and pencil skirts for Teeki yoga pants, curly hair and naked dancing in the desert. Why did I go from one extreme to the other? From working in PR in the concrete jungle to naked dancing in the desert? It’s because I had been suppressing my own desires and expressing just one dimension of my personality for so long. My soul was crying for release. This can be very similar to the feeling of trying to fight back the erotic rush of infidelity.
The Link Between Sexuality and Personal Style.
While I don’t pretend to hold the solution to extra-marital affairs or the love-lust dilemma, I have seen how personal style serves as a powerful catalyst for self-expression of one’s sexuality. Dressing your deepest desires does have a direct correlation to feeling like you are expressing more of who you are, what you want, and it helps you embody the feeling that you want to feel, and step into expressing that part of your personality that sometimes has laid dormant inside of you. Like in my case, where the craving to let my wild woman come out and play is captured in the photo above of me dancing in the desert. I think changing up your personal style can have a huge impact on how you feel, and how you show up in life, and how you show up in your sexuality. Instead of keeping the wild woman inside my mind like a fantasy, I embodied her in real life. This came through in everything I did from cooking new exotic dishes to expressing my sexuality in a new way.
In her book, Perel shares, “I have a playbook of interventions to help people reconnect with the sensorial, sensual, sacredness of intimacy, which involve a lot more than just talking. I collaborate with sex educators, trauma therapists, Tantra practitioners, sexological body workers, dance teachers, fashion consultants, acupuncturists, nutritionists– anyone who can help. Sexuality intersects with all these modalities.”
Imagine dressing the same way for 20 years. You get up, go into your closet, and grab the same polo or dress shirt and pair with the same old cargo pants. You’re dressing on auto-pilot. How are you supposed to really step into the desire of let’s say the archetype of James Dean if you’re dressing that way? The thing about archetypes is they are clues to the parts of your soul that already live inside of you. If Marilyn Monroe or Superman resonate with you, it’s because you embody that same archetype inside of you. And archetypes help you discover your unique sense of personal style. I feel like if more people allowed themselves to express their desires across the various modalities that Esther Perel lists above (nutrition, fashion, dancing, sexological body work, etc.) then it would help us express our desires more, and maybe just maybe 20 years of dormant sexuality and desire wouldn’t come out in an extreme expression of infidelity. I’m not saying personal style is the single-handed solution. But I have seen how it transforms confidence, and has invited my clients to step into versions of themselves that they didn’t know they could be. There’s a reason Wonder Woman wears a specific costume into battle, because it ignites her inner Wonder Woman!!!! There is a psychological science to this shit. No wonder it feels like so much work to express your sexual desires when you’re dressing like the guys on the golf course for twenty straight years.
Start playing with your own personal archetypes. I highly recommend the book, Archetypes: A Beginner’s Guide To Your Inner-net by Caroline Myss, to start. She dives into general archetypes of The Athlete, The Visionary, The Caregiver, The Rebel, The Queen, and covers both strengths and shadows in the book. This way, we can learn what gives us power and what drains us based on our personal archetypes. She also lists solutions to help with some of the shadow work that comes with the playing field. If you’re looking to learn more about your sexual archetypes, Jaiya has created something called The 5 Erotic Blueprints. You can find out which one you are by taking the quiz on her website here. She also has this YouTube video that explains the different blueprints and what each one needs to feel sexually satisfied. Play with your archetypes, and erotic blueprints this week and see how it helps you shift into expressing different sides of yourself.