Okay in the last post, I ended on a cliff hanger. I had written my 1000 words for the post and only covered what I believe passionate sex in a committed relationship has the capacity to be, and how the process of sexual development can not only be fun and exciting, but emotionally develop us in ways that we could never imagine.
So now I want to provide how I believe you can begin this exciting, beautiful journey! I want to again emphasize that I am not a sex counselor (but a scientist) and so much of my experience comes from 58 years of living and studying the teachings of experts such as Dr. David Schnarch and his landmark books The Passionate Marriage and Intimacy and Desire. I also want to start by giving you a homework assignment. Find the movie Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones before or during this process. It will make you laugh and give you great hope.
So let’s begin with two critical questions:
- Are you ready to go on an intimate and sexual journey with your partner in life?
- Can you enter into an alliance with your partner in which you both want to expand your intimacy and sexual variety and at the same time commit to honor and trust each other? Again, this type of alliance is for couples who love each other and not individuals in physically or emotionally abusive relationships.
If you answer yes to these two questions, I believe you have taken the first step to an exploration of desire that can truly lead to emotional and even spiritual growth.
For those of you who have committed to a willing and loving fellow adventurer who desires to climb this mountain with you, communication (in ways that you may not be accustomed) will be the single most important factor in determining the success of this journey.
Begin stoking the fires of intimacy by gaining a better understanding of what makes your partner who they are (their hopes, dreams, fears, wants). Take some alone time to talk with each other, but not about children and mundane conversations about paying bills, taking out the garbage, or little Johnny’s soccer schedule. Set a time on a weekly basis if your lives are really busy. Either over a single conversation or a period of talks, steer the conversation toward issues of sex and intimacy (desires, fantasies, what hinders you).
It’s important to do this without judging the other…this is a judge-free zone. For this to work, we must feel free to express our Self. Don’t worry, you don’t have to agree with your partner and you are not yet committing to anything but to respectfully listen.
Hold hands during this process to initiate an environment of love and safety. Once this happens over a period of time and each person has felt the security of the other’s embrace, sexual desire will begin to naturally arise.
Next, you and your partner must be open to suggestions, new ideas, requests and even offerings. Here is your chance to explore! Couples can move bit by bit through a whole spectrum of sexual activities ranging from simply touching to tender love making to hot erotic sex and back again. Remember to take this journey one step at a time. You may need to take it slow at first. If you are a year or even more into a sexual dry spell in your marriage, give your Self and your partner much grace. You are not expected to light fires under your sheets this afternoon. This will take time and patience. But it will come if you work for it together.
It is important to emphasize that because you both bring baggage (“leftovers”) to the process, you will reach difficult impasses.
This is a completely natural and necessary part of the journey and in fact this is the part of the journey that is helping you develop emotionally. You may be in the mood to share a fantasy and feel rejected when your partner is not excited to hear about it. Or, you may have certain expectations of exploring a new sexual desire that falls short when it actually happens. Oftentimes, moving past sexual boredom requires the creation of sexual novelty.
Someone has to initiate the conversation, which takes great courage. Being this open may frighten you. I understand. “What if my husband (wife) thinks I’m weird or a pervert.” It is true that the new proposal may not receive instant validation and may fall outside of the others’ comfort zone because by definition it sits separate from “the leftover” zone. Remember from the last post, “the leftovers” are the repertoire of acceptable sexual practices that each partner bring from the past that each are willing to do according to their own sexual development. It is easy to see how this kind of intimacy and vulnerability is a high risk/high reward activity but can lead to tremendous emotional growth.
When gridlock occurs, maintain a stable and flexible Self. Don’t let setbacks discourage you. Respectfully work through issues together, whether on your own as a couple or guided by resources like a counselor, books, or workshops. It’s important to keep the momentum alive!
One of the most important tools to develop is the ability to stay calm and Self-soothe one’s own hurts and desires instead of lashing out at your partner. Stay cool, don’t overreact, and at the same time don’t punish your other by running away or creating distance that damages the relationship. Simply communicate and move on to another opportunity for exploration.
Rewiring your mind in the areas of intimacy and sex will likely be the hardest, most frightening and at the same time most exciting journey you will share with another in life. How you and your partner move through the journey will likely have great ramifications for your relationship and emotional growth. Through this process, you and your partner can find love, connection, intimacy, and sexual desire in unimaginable ways.