Three recent conversations with clients inspired me to write about pleasurable touch, and why most people can dish it out, but they can’t take it. There is so much more to touch than laying our hands on another person’s body. There’s context, intention, expectation, desire, sensation, communication. Touch is a language not just between you and your partner’s body, but it’s also a communication between your hands and your brain.
Shame doesn’t change behavior or eliminate the desire that is motivating our actions. It drives our desires into secrecy, and secrecy coupled with shame undermines the trust and intimacy of a relationship.
Play is a reset button for our over-stressed, news-saturated, time-pressured adult minds. Most couples I work with will readily admit that play is not something they experience on a regular basis. Life has gotten too busy. There’s barely enough time to be alone to talk, much less play.
I was helping a friend celebrate his birthday this week. The 4 of us who attended this little outdoor soiree were diligently wearing our masks and keeping our distance. When someone held up a camera to take a pic of the birthday boy, I jumped up and, without thinking went over to wrap my arm around him and snuggled up close for the camera. In that split second I completely forgot that touching was a risk to both of us. I lurched back, apologizing profusely for my momentary lapse. “When was the last time someone touched you?” I asked him…
I love my couples. They reach out for sex coaching, wanting to create a fulfilling sexual and intimate life. The number one obstacle to achieving their goals is sometimes an unhealthy relationship dynamic. For most of us, opening ourselves to sexuality with our partners requires trust, connection and a sense of emotional safety. If our relationships are being impacted by unhealthy dynamics that leave us triggered and harboring conscious or unconscious resentment, sexuality will be impacted or, at worst no longer exist.
Sex is probably one of the hardest things to talk about with a partner. It’s easy to take things personally because sex is deeply personal. Confessing our desires and asking for what we want takes courage and trust that your partner is going to hold your feelings with care. If sex is difficult for you to talk about the best thing to do is to start talking, but do it in a way that keeps you both feeling heard and understood.
“This is not what I signed up for, when we got together five years ago.” These words from a past client, ring in my head now and then, when I think about couples who are dissatisfied with their sex lives. You can feel in this sentiment, the utter frustration he felt when it came to his unmet expectations. Over those five years, something changed, or more than likely, was ignored in the excitement of a new relationship.
Sex can invite us to be light and playful, and it can be intense and psychological. Sex can open our hearts to romance, or unite us in spirit. Sex can heal us of our pain, and introduce us to new-found pleasures. Sex can lead us into the deeper and more shadowy feelings that lie under the surface, waiting to be revealed.
You can’t argue someone into loving you, yet in effect that’s the conflict that many no-sex or low-sex couples find themselves in on a daily basis. Chronic anger around a couple’s sexuality poisons a relationship and stresses their emotional bond. Although these pressure tactics can work in the world outside of the bedroom, power struggles in the bedroom only end in frustration and conflict.
Sexual desire discrepancy in long-term relationships isn’t an anomaly, it’s built-in to the lifestyle of cohabitation, and is pretty much guaranteed to develop at some point within the first 1-3 years of a new relationship. Desire discrepancy is normal, it’s to be expected, yet it remains one of the most painful and destabilizing challenges a couple has to face.