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By Sophia Duvall, Apr 20 2017 02:31PM

Recently a topic came up in conversation with someone who is very important to me, and I wanted to share my thoughts in response to their question because I thought that others in the demimonde might toil with it sometimes, too. (NB: many thanks to the person who posed the question and subsequently gave me permission to post my response.)

Q: How do you manage any increasing emotional feelings you may have toward someone, knowing that the reciprocal will never happen? How should we as clients learn to not overstep that emotional boundary while still engaging in intimacy?

A: I can never decide whether I am a "romantic" or not. I say that because I love easily, strongly, and often - I always have, and I only become more inclined that way as I grow older. I experience and express many types of love on a daily, often hourly basis. In that way I am a diehard romantic, and have been since childhood. But I know that love is not enough to make a particular kind of relationship (or the pursuit thereof) work-able, or even a good idea. That being said, my recognition of certain limited applications of love does not mean I am any less likely to love.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having feelings for one another as client and companion. Indeed, depending on the nature of the situation, exploring those connections can make this adventure more fun and more fulfilling and, depending on our chemistry, can feel natural and effortless. To me, the management of those feelings boils down to specific expectations. Society teaches us that if we feel a certain way about someone, then that is (or should be) automatically coupled with the pursuit of a specific kind of relationship with them. If we feel infatuated, or in love, or drunk on oxytocin - then we are expected to take the relationship escalator with them, which ultimately deposits us on the ‘top floor’ of relationships, so to speak. That is, we wind up in the most idealised version of a normative relationship with them, which includes: monogamy, co-habitation, marriage, and probably reproduction/children.

From my perspective, I try to remember the myriad beautiful relationships and connections we can have when we accept that most of them don’t and never will fit into that particular mould. I have had several relatively long-term romantic relationships so far in my life, given my age. Some of those relationships have tended toward the Escalator model but many haven’t. However, ultimately the presence of the Escalator had nothing to do with how meaningful those relationships were to me, how much they influenced me and my worldview, or how formative they were. I have also had the incredible privilege to have extremely significant, loving relationships that were neither romantic nor sexual in nature.

Most clients would not consider asking for something akin to a marital/normative relationship with a companion, particularly since many of them are already married anyway (and often - though certainly not always - happily so). However, given that many of the images of "romance" that we are inundated with seem to only envisage one type of relationship - the Escalator Relationship - it can be so easy for our thoughts to turn wistfully in that direction in a moment of powerful and seemingly perfect connection.

I am extraordinarily fond of some of my clients, sometimes overwhelmingly so. I manage those emotions by recognising that the situation in which we find ourselves is very likely the one in which we can best experience that wonderful connection. It is incredibly unlikely that we would have met in another way, much less have the liberty and safe space in which we would be free to explore this type of chemistry. In my opinion and my own experience, the distinctiveness of those connections typically (though not always) disappears when people attempt to turn them into more formal, normative relationships. Thus, I try to remember that what we have is truly remarkable and unique to a specific, bounded situation. I would recommend a similar approach for clients.

That is certainly not to say that clients and companions should not ever choose to explore their connection as intimate partners in the sphere of their personal lives. Sometimes they get married and have children - they take the Escalator together - and that is indeed what makes them happiest. However, the circumstances in which that is desirable, much less possible, are typically extremely few and far between.

I want more recognition that love and intimacy can develop, grow, and thrive in this world. I believe that keeping such feelings safely bounded within a deeply and mutually reverential client-companion relationship doesn’t diminish but rather ameliorates them, and indeed, us.