“You be pragmatic, I’ll be sensual.”
I’ve identified 12 Elements of Power – 6 yin/yang pairs – that describe how human power works, diagnose where it goes funky, and guide us to gentle self-correcting mechanisms to get our power flowing smoothly and sustainably again. In this post, we'll talk about just one pair...
How We Set Priorities: The Power of Sensuality and the Power of Pragmatism
Sensuality and Pragmatism are a potent pair of Elements of Power in relationships precisely because we tend to get out of balance with them. Partners tend to “hire” one another, when we begin a relationship, to bring the complementary Element to the relationship: “You be the sensual, and I’ll be the pragmatic” we might tacitly agree. But over time, that unspoken contract begins to chafe: we wish our partner were more like us… and they feel the same way! The truth, for your relationship, is that you’ll do best when you both have access to approaches that include both Elements. You can each be pragmatic, when called for, and sensual, when that’s the right tool for the job.
The Power of Sensuality
Sensuality is our capacity for pleasure, our ability to be present to experiences and to the process of creating a result. Sensuality asks,
- “How do we create a beautiful environment?”
- “How does it feel?”
- “What’s the experience like?”
...and it activates all our senses.
The Power of Pragmatism
Pragmatism is our ability to make choices and set priorities according to function. It’s our ability to be straight-forward, level-headed, and practical. It asks,
- “How much does it cost?”
- “Does it work?”
- “Is it on schedule?”
- "What's the outcome?"
Both these Elements of Power are good things – especially when they’re active and integrated with the other. When we’re both sensual and pragmatic and include both these focal points in our priorities, we’re able to feel and benefit from both these truths:
1. Beauty, process, experience, and environment matter… they shape our every experience
2. Pragmatic realities like time, space, budget, and outcome matter… they determine resources available and results we can expect
The fantastic things in life can all be traced back to the application of one or more of the 12 Elements of Power. And the messed up things we do to ourselves and each other can be viewed as distortions of one or more of the Elements, as well. The good news is that power is self-correcting: All we have to do when something goes wonky is activate the complement of the Element of Power we’ve been overusing.
Your relationship would benefit from your activating more of the Power of Sensuality when:
- You and/or your partner wish(es) you had more sex
- You’re feeling anxious about “performing” sexually rather than tapping into your own desires and sensations
- Your partner tells you you’re not as much fun lately, or that you’re too serious, or that you’re working too hard
- You feel like you need to relax more, let your hair down, and be present
- You’ve been thinking your partner is frivolous or not taking things seriously enough
- You’ve been stressed about budgets, schedules, or to-do lists, in ways that make you and your partner feel less close
- You’re trying to make everything fit in a neat little box, and it’s not working
Your relationship would benefit from your activating more of the Power of Pragmatism when:
- You’ve been so focused on doing what you wanted that you have neglected practicalities in some area or in several, in a way that’s disruptive for you and/or your partner (forgot to buy toilet paper? overdrew the checking account?)
- You realize you’ve been overindulging in spending, eating, drinking, or other sensual pleasures, in ways that take you out of the moment or are causing you and/or your partner stress
- You’re feeling irritable about the number of pragmatic things breaking down in your world (like dead cell phones, vehicles out of fuel, missing buttons on your coat, dull knives, etc.)
- Your partner complains that you don’t attend enough to pragmatic details of your life together
- Your fights tend to be about your over-spending (whether it’s spending money or time or energy or attention on something outside the relationship – you may not be in the wrong, but it’s worth looking at).
How else do you see the Power of Sensuality and the Power of Pragmatism showing up in your relationship – in either clean or distorted ways?