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Self Esteem Is Critical To A Healthy Sexual Relationship

After my nine year marriage ended in 1992, I was determined to find out what I had done wrong. Why did my marriage fail? I read every book about relationships that there was. I went to a counselor. I talked to hundreds of recently divorced women. I dated a number of them. Some of them I got along with wonderfully, some not so. And then I dated a woman who I got along with incredibly well. With her I had everything I didn't have in my marriage. I had an intellectual connection. I had a deep emotional connection. And she was more than happy to do all sorts of wild kinky things with me. It was great.

But I was too recently divorced to be capable of a long term relationship. So I went through sort of an early mid-life crisis where I dated nothing but 21 year old women. Some of them I got along with wonderfully, some not so.

Then I started to see a pattern begin to emerge. The women that I had gotten along very well with, who I connected with, who did wild kinky things with me, were women who had a very high self esteem. And the higher the self esteem, the better the relationship, and the sex.

I began to understand what I needed to have, and why my marriage failed. There was nobody to blame. I assumed full responsibility. I had chosen wrong. I had chosen her simply because she was smoking hot, with no regard to her character. She had a low self esteem. Believe it or not, she could only see the faults in herself, while men would stare at her everywhere she went.

What I had learned on my own was not in any of the books I had read. Over the next many years, I refined my understanding of why self esteem is so critically important to the health of a sexual relationship.

The most comprehensive discussion on self-esteem I have seen is by Nathaniel Branden at nathanielbranden.net. He articulated it well when he wrote: "Self-esteem is an experience. It is a particular way of experiencing the self. It is to move toward life rather than away from it; to move toward consciousness rather than away from it; to treat facts with respect rather than denial; and to operate self-responsibly rather than the opposite."

He defined self-esteem as "being competent to cope with the challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment, and happiness are right and natural for us. It is a consciousness to trust our self. It strives for rationality, coherence, clarity, and truth."

He defined six practices of a healthy self-esteem:

1) Living consciously: Respect for facts, open to new knowledge and feedback, and seeking to understand the world and ourselves.

2) Self-acceptance: Realism applied to self. The willingness to own, experience, and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions, without evasion, denial, or disowning.

3) Self-responsibility: Realizing that we are the author of our choices and actions; that each one of us is responsible for life and well being and for the attainment of our goals.

4) Self-assertiveness: Being authentic in our dealings with others; treating our values and persons with decent respect in social contexts; refusing to fake the reality of who we are or what we esteem in order to avoid disapproval; the willingness to stand up for ourselves and our ideas in appropriate ways in appropriate contexts.

5) Living purposefully: Identifying our short-term and long-term goals or purposes and the actions needed to attain them.

6) Integrity: Living with congruence between what we know, what we profess, and what we do; telling the truth, honoring our commitments, exemplifying in action the values we profess to admire.

"What all these have in common is respect for reality."

What we call high self-esteem and low self-esteem, Nathaniel Branden calls self-esteem and pseudo self-esteem. He defined pseudo self-esteem as: "trying to compensate for deficiencies; a pretense at a self-confidence and self-respect; the effort to protect self-esteem with denial and evasion, which only results in a further deterioration of self-esteem."

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