50 Shades Freed

Since the final installment of the 50 Shades trilogy has been released, 50 Shades Freed, I thought that I would share some of my personal and professional views about the trilogy.  I understand that the release of the books and movies provided many people with a new desire for passion within their relationship.  Many people discovered that they were very turned on by the idea of having a dominating sexual partner and/or interested in trying out different kinky behavior.  Being a very sex positive person, I think this was a great aspect of the resulting frenzy created by 50 Shades.  It does, however, concern me that Christian and Anna have become household names to represent a BDSM relationship.  Especially, since most with any amount of knowledge of the kink community would deem Christian and Anna’s relationship as abusive rather than dominate/submissive (I could write an entire other blog on this subject).  There are many other aspects of the books and film that can be troubling though, especially specific characteristics of Christian Grey’s character.  When reading the books or watching the movies, one can easily become swept away in the lavish lifestyle of Christian Grey and his romanticized behavior. When in reality, if Christian’s character was not as wealthy and have such a lavish lifestyle this series would read more like a First 48 Hours episode and his behavior deemed VERY creepy.  

As a certified sex therapist candidate, one of the most concerning aspects of the entire 50 Shades trilogy is this idea that Anna and Christian’s love is an all-encompassing romance – one where Anna has no room to still be herself while in a relationship with Christian. In the latest film, 50 Shades Freed, Christian even states, “I wanted your [Anna] world to end and begin with me.”  Whenever I hear couples or individuals discuss this type of love, I immediately begin to think of David Schnarch’s research on differentiation.  Schnarch defines differentiation is the ability “to hold on to yourself” while still being in a relationship - “the process by which we become more uniquely ourselves by maintaining ourselves in a relationship with those we love.”  His research has shown that couples who have a high level of differentiation have highly successful relationships and marriages.  The reasoning behind this finding is that a couple is more successful when individuality and togetherness are balanced in a healthy manner that so that emotional fusion does not form.  Each partner is able to see and find a sense of purpose for themselves, rather than finding purpose and identity in their partner. (I highly recommend reading more about Schnarch’s ideas regarding differentiation in his book, Passionate Marriage – it is a great, easy read). Christian and Anna’s relationship is a great example of emotional fusion for the majority of this trilogy; the pair are highly enmeshed with Christian attempting to control Anna’s every move.

Romantic books like 50 Shades have the potential to greatly influence the type of partner and relationship we desire for ourselves. Seriously, if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, I would love to have a man like Christian Grey, I would be as wealthy as his character.  I hope that people enjoy reading the books and watching the movies, yet remain able to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality.  I hope that people realize that a relationship can include a passionate relationship, a desirous sex life, and differing individual personalities.  Loving another person and having a successful relationship/marriage does not have to cost your individuality or free will.  Instead, your relationship can be more successful and stable because of you and your partner’s ability “to hold on to yourself” within your relationship.

Email me your thoughts on differentiation at katiemitchell@heightsfamilycounseling.com.  Let me know if this is an aspect of your successful relationship, or if you think you and your partner could use some help incorporating differentiation into your relationship.

Written by Katie Mitchell, M.A., CST-Candidate

Katie Mitchell is a counselor and Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate at Heights Family Counseling. She believes in using a solution-focused therapeutic approach to therapy, in order to empower clients to discover more effective solutions to their problems.  Katie aims to foster a non-judgmental, accepting environment that helps clients to feel comfortable sharing their deepest thoughts and self-reflections. Katie enjoys working with a variety of clientele, such as individuals, couples, and families.  She also enjoys working with both individual and relational sexual concerns.  She understands that an active sex life is incredibly important for most individuals, especially those in a relationship. Learn more about Katie by visiting, https://heightsfamilycounseling.com/amy-rollo/, or learn more about our services at, https://heightsfamilycounseling.com/services/

Schnarch, D. M. (2009). Passionate marriage: Love, sex and intimacy in emotionally committed relationships. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. – I receive no financial benefit in mentioning Dr. Schnarch’s research or book.