A couple’s difficulties can arise from dealing with the challenges of actuating the sexual self in the intensity of an emotionally significant relationship. The anxiety of balancing being an individual with having specific, individual sexual needs and expressing them in the context of an emotional attachment, is also underpinned by evolutionary psychological adaptations. These adaptations are said to be specialized for the environment in which an organism evolved, i.e., the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, or EEA. These evolutionary adaptations and patterns of emotional functioning are not pathological, but can impact the relationship in various situations:
- Extra-relational sexual experiences (“affairs, infidelity, betrayal”)
- Breaches of trust
- Discrepant sexual desires
- Difficulty maintaining sexual agreements
- Sex and substance use
- Legal issues with third party involvement in the relationship (DCFS, Superior Court)
- Differentiation of the self and existing as an individual in the relationship
The main modality of clinical activity involves the therapist drawing out and exposing the emotional process that invites each partner to reassess their issues and helps to reduce roles of villains or victims. Emotionally charged issues are quickly exposed and each partner is encouraged to describe intense feelings in the room, rather than enacting them. This helps self-regulation and integrating emotional reactions with rational, cognitive solutions.
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