That depends on what you mean by love and what love means to you.
One illustration is the question asked by a Rose (on the Yahoo site):
Help! I don’t know what to do. My boyfriend and I are slowly starting a Taken In Hand relationship. Most of our relationship is already great, except for one thing. His friends from work go out to the strip club occasionally, and he likes to go with them. … He knew I had a problem with it, but I finally told him I wouldn’t mind if he went because I felt guilty about keeping him from his friends. I got so disgusted that I didn’t even want him to touch me. We got into a huge fight the next night about it. So my question is: am I supposed to submit to his wanting to go, or is he supposed to care enough about my feelings to not go?
The replies to this question show that some people think that this is about pornography and “co-dependence.” Both of these issues are relevant, but I think that it all comes down to:
Is he supposed to care enough about my feelings?
Visual pornography can still have significant effects, even if most people don’t end up having it dominate their lives. For example, one of the replies to Rose echoed a common complaint:
Do you also tell him he can’t look at porn or masturbate without you being present?
But this begs the question of why it should be expected that a man in a sexual relationship with a willing woman would want to masturbate while looking at porn.
And the New York Magazine article The Porn Myth provides an articulate, coherent and reasonable answer:
For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women.
Today, real naked women are just bad porn. …
The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy. The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman. Mostly, when I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike. They know they are lonely together, even when conjoined, and that this imagery is a big part of that loneliness. What they don’t know is how to get out, how to find each other again erotically, face-to-face. …
If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. …
I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend [with waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair] who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. … “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.” … the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.
She must feel, I thought, so hot.
Compare that steaminess with a conversation I had at Northwestern, after I had talked about the effect of porn on relationships. … [a boy explained] “I prefer to have sex right away just to get it over with. You know it’s going to happen anyway, and it gets rid of the tension.” “Isn’t the tension kind of fun?” I asked. “Doesn’t that also get rid of the mystery?” “Mystery?” He looked at me blankly. And then, without hesitating, he replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sex has no mystery.”
Visual porn can defraud men by diverting them from experiencing deep intimacy, to instead using a woman merely for masturbation. But even if porn didn’t desensitize, it would always “program,” because of the way that the brain processes images.
When you watch a performance, you are engaging mentally with the presentation and at least subconscious expectations are being created. But the same is not true for stories, which can be a great way to communicate, become enlightened and get new ideas. Stories allow you to picture your partner in those scenarios, while expectations remain somewhat vague. So pornography can be beneficial, as long as it doesn’t become a second-hand participant instead of a template.
As RhodeIslandRose said:
To us, the use of pornography is that it helps to express fantasies or desires that perhaps we’re embarrassed or don’t know how to express on our own. … What I’m trying to say is that there is nothing really wrong with porn (IMHO), so long as it is something that is bringing you together instead of keeping you apart.
So instead, what we do now is make our own porn, so to speak. We don’t take dirty pictures or anything, that’s not really our thing. But, for example, I’ve been known to send my husband an email describing one of my fantasies in the middle of the work day. He’ll whisper his into my ear when we’re curled in bed together at night ...
Experimenting, and laughing together as you make inevitable mistakes, brings you closer. And being anywhere close to perfect is never the point; a relationship is not a performance.
When a couple watches a porn video together, they can end up with preconceptions and expectations about how they should act and respond, from a stylized and edited presentation, instead of being able to freely imagine and anticipate, as they would from stories, or messages sent to each other. But whether this will create problems depends on the people involved.
On the other hand, inevitable problems arise when only one partner finds porn beneficial or even acceptable. If we are our minds and not just our bodies, a mental almost-relationship, like masturbating over porn or fantasizing about other people while having sex with your partner, is a form of infidelity—infidelity in the heart and mind.
This can be the most devastating to women, because the casual-sex justification that it was “only physical” doesn’t apply.
Another comment to Rose was that “Additionally, he should NOT give much weight if any to those feelings you have that come from ‘within your own head’ and aren’t the result of any direct actual impact on you or your life.”
All feelings exist in our minds. They can be expressions of our nature and needs, such as compassion and vulnerability, and they can be a response to an external injury, and so on.
The actions of an unrelated person, unless someone is being coerced into an involuntary transaction, are none of your business.
However, when a person intentionally enters into a personal relationship with you, the behavior of that person can never be completely independent of you, because it will have a “direct actual impact on you and your life” through your emotional connection.
As one Taken In Hand reader said, “My DH says he buys porno to get himself in the mood to do me, but what is wrong with me that he needs that? He says he only does it occasionally, but it is insulting and hurtful, even if it is only once a month or once a year.”
And, regardless of whether this is because men become desensitized or for some other reason, for those women for whom this would be devastating, it will harm them, the relationship, or everyone involved, because it is such a difficult issue. And it makes them feel not only unattractive and ugly, but inadequate as a woman and even worthless. It also makes many devastated women feel suicidal, and pushes some into parasuicidal behaviour, like wrist slashing, burning themselves, anorexia/bulimia, etc.
A woman should never have to justify her feelings, or debate why her feelings and needs should have value. If her man loves her, he values her and will change his behavior to protect her and help her to heal. But if he decides to disregard her well-being by demanding that she devalue and suppress herself to satisfy his whims, she is in a destructive and self-destructive situation, and should leave him and find a true partner.
Being dominant and having the final say in decisions does not become some narcissistic right to second-guess a woman when she reveals her vulnerabilities. Indifference is proof of an absence of love, and a person without the capacity for empathy is not fixable.
There are many ways to generate erotic intensity, but two very simple and effective ones recognize the natural modesty of many women. Make your woman feel so loved and valued that she becomes serenely confident, confident enough for it to stop occurring to her to feel self-conscious. Provide the boundaries and security of exclusivity, a loving and loyal relationship within which she can reveal and revel in her innate sexuality without feeling like a slut.
One “mystery of sex” is how increasing the psychological connection can redefine the intensity and scope of an orgasm. Bodies have rather limited capabilities and different ones offer little actual novelty. “Variety” is not the repetition of a mindless routine with an endless parade of similar detached partners. But emotional and mental possibilities are unlimited, and can dramatically amplify any experience and create deep connections with a trusting and willingly vulnerable partner.
For example, beyond taking her in dominant Taken In Hand ways, my fantasies are less about doing something specific to my woman, and more about exploring with her and discovering what she finds arousing and thrilling, what excites and scares her, and especially what she is embarrassed to admit that she desires, and then “controlling” her into fiery orgasms by pushing her limits, increasing the intensity to a bit beyond what she would have chosen for herself, to the point where she is begging for it to stop while hoping that it will continue.
The form of the emotional and mental intensity would be tailored specifically to her, and it would magnify her experience way out of proportion to the actual physical effects.
She would know that she was loved and completely safe, while neither being given a choice nor being overwhelmed, so she would have the confidence and “permission” to surrender and reveal herself by letting go completely. Trust followed by surrender results in mind-blowing experiences; and vulnerability that is protected and treasured creates profound connections.
And I would be responding to the thrill of having power over her, to her arousal, and especially to her desire and willingness to reveal herself to me (and note that this is not the same as simply submitting to me).
But this isn’t something that I would be doing “to” her. Instead, we would both be participating equally, but in different ways, in activities that would allow us to connect at ever deeper levels.
These levels are possible because focused interaction feeds back on itself. Her enthusiastic participation, her desire and arousal, and especially the attention and energy that she directed at me, would energize me and then be reflected, amplified, back at her.
And while intensity would ebb and flow, just like everything else in life, this ping-pong reassurance and reinforcement would be continuous, not just sexually, but in every aspect of our life. But this wouldn’t be possible if we were widening our focus, instead of concentrating on engaging with each other.
And this can be taken much, much further, in direct proportion to the bonds that have been built, and the understanding and trust that have been developed.
It can be taken to the level of being able to live primordial emotions, to the level of his being a “predator” and of her experiencing the arousal, helplessness and even fear that she desires, as reality in the moment, without having to protect themselves in any way. It would be primeval and without safe-words, but with a constant protective undercurrent of unspoken communication, an almost-psychic connection, that allows him to sense immediately if anything starts to go wrong.
She is able to let her guard down completely, without reservation, and make herself more vulnerable than many people can imagine, because she knows, with absolute certainty, that she is his only value and that there is no chance that she will be injured, deliberately or negligently, physically or emotionally. This involves a level of awareness, confidence and willing vulnerability far beyond anything possible in a relationship with a wide focus, or one in which there is the possibility of being cut with words that can’t be unsaid (including as “teasing”), or one that is dealing with elementary issues of trust and worth, such as being devalued by porn and strip clubs, and so on.
As someone on this site wrote:
In a sexual relationship, you can choose to concentrate your focus on one person, magnifying your attraction to that person and attuning yourself sexually ever more to that particular person, or you can focus your attention and arousal more widely, actively looking at, thinking about and fantasising about others. For most people, when you do the latter, sexual exclusivity is more likely to feel like a suffocating prison, and when you do the former, you get more and more sexually-connected with your spouse.
Noticing is different from actively and intentionally seeking arousal. It is quite unusual to become actually aroused by admiring a nice body on the street. It is a fleeting thing, it is not intentional and you do not engage with it actively to any significant degree. But when you deliberately watch a porn film or go to a strip club, you are intentionally setting out to arouse yourself with someone other than your partner.
And, in many cases, the man is doing this despite the fact that he knows that his woman can’t handle it. He does it anyway, and the woman’s distress is discounted as control and little empathy is forthcoming. But wouldn’t a good man care that his actions are actually causing distress, instead of engaging in debates about why his activities shouldn’t be causing anguish? And doesn’t this highlight his priorities and what he values most?
And which would be more of a sexual connection between a man and his woman: thinking about someone else while having sex with her body, or thinking about her while masturbating alone?
Positive fantasies about your partner increase your attachment to your partner, and you can indeed “connect” through a fantasy because it is model in your mind of what you find appealing or at least would like to explore. And fantasizing about your partner in an optimistic way can improve your connection, because you are reinforcing favorable attitudes, and mentally experimenting and rehearsing various possibilities as templates for real life. In a similar way, actively and intentionally fantasizing about someone else (but not just having a fleeting thought or image “pop into your head”) can diminish your attachment to your partner.
Another common opinion was that Rose must still need to “grow up,” since she got so disgusted that she didn’t even want him to touch her. One reply even instructed her to go to the strip club with her boyfriend, in a sexual way, because he would move WAY up in the standings with the guys, which is great for the ego.
And yet, as Ayn Rand said:
Physically, sex is merely a capacity. But how a man will exercise this capacity and whom he will find attractive depends on his standard of value. … [emphasis mine]
Sex is an expression of a man’s self-esteem, of his own self-value. But the man who does not value himself tries to reverse this process. He tries to derive his self-esteem from his sexual conquests, which cannot be done.
Rose is the mature and sophisticated one in her relationship, and she became disgusted because she correctly inferred his values (at least as they are now), and realized that, in a way, she was equivalent to his lowest common denominator.
And “co-dependency” seems to be a favorite default criticism, such as the following comment to Rose, by those looking for a way to evade naming what they are and what they do.
For any person to go around modifying their thoughts, words or actions out of fear over someone else’s “feelings” … is by definition co-dependent.
In the thread Is co-dependency a bad thing in a relationship?, 'the boss' wrote:
The co-dependence idea seems to get out of hand at times, with some being so fearful of being in a co-dependent relationship that they go to enormous lengths to assert their independence and end up never actually having a deep relationship. It seems to me more interesting to risk a little of what some might exaggeratedly call co-dependence, or at least, to be in a fully engaged relationship rather than maintaining all your barriers and defences and ensuring that you remain rigidly separate.
To me, it seems as though those who feel such a need to retain this sort of so-called independence are actually the individuals whose psychological autonomy is fragile. Some of those who can risk a bit of what is pejoratively called co-dependence can be paradoxically more deeply independent and autonomous.
However, this is not always the case. There are plenty of unhealthily co-dependent individuals living miserable lives with no self respect and highly dysfunctional psychologies and behaviours. This is definitely not what a Taken In Hand relationship should be. These individuals are not happy by any stretch of the imagination, and I can quite understand why some Taken In Hand folk make a point of avoiding any hint of co-dependence.
“Co-dependency” is a technical term with relatively narrow applicability, which is explained quite nicely by a professional psychologist, Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., in How the Co-dependency Movement Is Ruining Marriages.
But, outside its legitimate use, it is often used incorrectly to disparage healthy interdependence, which is frequently a hallmark of Taken In Hand relationships. And people who take these smears at face value can be scared into avoiding any hint of co-dependence.
In healthy interdependence, self-destructive behaviors (such as substance abuse) are not being enabled or facilitated, and both partners are actively taking care of each other (so one isn’t being emotionally starved by the indifferent other who is claiming “suffocation”).
Beneficial interdependence is life-affirming, and its prerequisites are the strength to take responsibility for understanding and caring for the needs of your partner (you certainly can’t sleep through this type of a relationship!), and the strength to allow yourself to be ever more vulnerable to your partner without protecting yourself by “having one eye on the end of the relationship.”
As someone on this site wrote:
I met a woman who had never gone anywhere without her husband the other day. She was 76 years old … As she talked about her late husband, her eyes shone. They had been married 58 years. She had been exceptionally happy with her husband and it showed in her face. Who would give up a gloriously happy marriage in the name of acting as though it will one day end?
In a relationship between soul-mates, taking care of your partner’s needs is the opposite of a burden, and there is no self-sacrifice involved when both individuals in a relationship are putting each other first. They both end up being the center of attention, and are able to relax and fully enjoy “love-based service” without guilt. And they both get more than they would have as self-centered individuals, because energy given is energy multiplied (and even chocolate tastes better when it is a gift from your love).
A common negative rationale is that “it is impossible to get everything that you need from just one person.” And “everything that you need” is intended to conjure images of an unending list with minutiae that nobody could possibly match. But, in reality, people have relatively few needs, which can be satisfied in many ways. You could easily write down all of my needs on the palm of your hand. What about yours?
I think that two people, if they are true equals or have unlimited potential (which amounts to the same thing), and have the desire, can indeed and absolutely grow into being able to satisfy all of each other’s emotional, mental and physical needs. This wouldn’t happen overnight but, for me, the point of the journey would also be the journey itself. Experiencing the love in her struggles would give me more pleasure, and release more energy that would be dedicated to her, than if she didn’t have to strive and learn, and could do everything perfectly from the start.
And it is natural and healthy for two people who invest in each other, and especially those who are willing to put all of their energy into satisfying each other and being available only for each other, to be protective and possessive. “In fact, who in the hell would want a relationship in which there were no possibility that either party would ever feel jealous? To be so blasÃ© about everything … What kind of relationship would that be? It is time to stop pathologising perfectly natural and healthy jealousy.”
In this type of intimate relationship, both of the people involved progressively diminish the occurrence of jealousy in the other, not only by being faithful and loyal, but also by consistently and actively focusing all of their personal attention, interest and energy only on each other. They actively and enthusiastically look for ways to create and deepen their connections; simply “being in sync” isn’t even close to being enough.
I am not saying that this type of relationship is the “one true way” or that it is appropriate for everyone. But, when it is appropriate, it tends to be essential, and it has absolute prerequisites and unavoidable tradeoffs.
And I rather suspect that many women who are derisively called “clingy and needy,” or even “suffocating and obsessive,” are actually just trying to create this level of intimate relationship, but with an unsuitable or inadequate man.
I like a clingy and needy woman because having her around reduces my stress and releases my energy. And I think that women have been conned, sometimes to the point of damaging their relationships, into thinking that there is actually something wrong with being “needy.”
I try to tell him how I feel but as I get ready I can’t get the words out ... I chicken out and email him things only because I can’t say them without having this needy feeling about me ... I guess I don’t want him to see me as a needy person ... [from beb222]
Masculine men, especially those of the Taken In Hand variety, need to be needed, and they like to protect and take care of their women. And when a woman who has such a man deliberately hides her needs, she is unfairly and unnecessarily depriving both of them of part of a fulfilling life together.
Many of the most intelligent and capable people I have known were women who were quite needy in their personal relationships. It always seemed to be that the women with the greatest wisdom, resilience and strength of spirit were the ones who were brave enough to reveal the full extent of their need to their men.
And a Taken In Hand woman chooses to have her man make decisions for her because this gives her peace and security, but only after he has earned her trust and demonstrated wisdom in judgment, and has shown her that she would not only be his “possession” but also his only treasure.
But Rose was even told to go to the strip club with her boyfriend because that was the way to “stake a little territory over [her] man with the strippers,” and that:
Yes you are supposed to submit. That is the agreement you have made in a Taken in Hand relationship. He is supposed to “factor in” how his actions directly affect you and thus your feelings. [But] he probably won’t factor them in to the degree that you want because our own feelings are always WAY more powerful feeling to us then they are to anyone else.
In a Taken In Hand relationship, it is the woman who is taken and protected. She is definitely not expected to fight for possession of a wayward man, or to have her needs met by accident. Taken In Hand is a relationship, unequal in power, between mutually dependent partners who consider each other equal in value and with an equal right to dignity, respect and self-fulfillment.
Narcissists and bullies always seem to remember that, in a Taken In Hand relationship, it is not the woman’s place to dictate to her man, but somehow conveniently forget that it is the man’s place, and his highest responsibility, to protect his woman’s emotional and physical well-being.
The basis of Taken In Hand is male leadership, and not merely the thrills of control and sexual conquest. A good leader will be dominant and in control, but not domineering or controlling. He will realize that he isn’t omniscient and will seek his woman’s input and wisdom, and only then make the decision that he feels would be best for their relationship. And a good man will value her needs and desires, and especially her happiness and quality of life, at least as much as his own.
Isn’t taking care of each other and enjoying each other’s happiness the point of a life-affirming relationship?
A loving relationship never seemed to me like something that could be just another part of life, just another variation stapled onto the rear end of a collection of other equally important stuff. Instead, it always felt like it should be the difference between existence and life.
A woman becomes vulnerable by opening her heart, by no longer pretending or pushing away in order to protect herself, by saying, in a sense, “this is all that I am,” and trusting that she will be essential and that she will be enough.
If you give away something of value, then you value the reaction or the recipient more than the treasure itself.
And I think that being with your love is being alive, and everything else is everything else.
So, no, I don’t think that love can share.