Teri and John (we’ll call them) came to see me a few months ago. They described their 15 year relationship as compatible and loving, except when it came to sex and intimacy, neither of which they were able to figure out how to change for the better.
They reached a point where they could see three roads ahead of them.
The 1st road was continuing to live like they were, which felt dry, and full of conflict and disappointment.
The 2nd road was divorce, and all of the pain that choice brings with it.
The 3rd road was seeking help, and totally investing themselves in learning to grow in their intimacy and sexual connection.
Road #3 was still in the shadows. They didn’t know what lay ahead on that road, but they knew road 1 and 2 were unacceptable to them.
Choosing the 3rd road meant they had to invest in their relationship, in the same way they invested in their careers, health, and family.
And that’s when they found me.
Teri and John completed two 6-week programs and have now come to a place in their relationship where they feel emotionally and sexually reconnected.
In my Sex and Intimacy Fulfillment Wheel I divide 16 primary challenges into 4 quadrants:
Shame and trauma
Issues from all four quadrants are present in almost all of the couples I work with, because sex and intimacy are complex threads that weave throughout every part of who we are.
Teri and John were no exception.
Their relationship issues were reflected in their sex life.
Both their trauma and past wounding was reflected in their relationship.
Their loss of trust and lack of connection was reflected in their sex.
Each issue was a broken spoke in their sex and intimacy wheel.
When I led Teri and John through the Sex and Intimacy Wheel exercise they got clear on how interwoven their challenges were and how those challenges spanned all 4 quadrants.
Quadrant: Shame and Trauma
Broken Spoke: Social messaging and upbringing
Teri was raised with an alcoholic father, leaving her feeling mistrustful of men and ready to go to battle to have her beliefs heard. She was easily triggered into anger if John didn’t live up to her standards of trustable behavior. Her beliefs about men in general made it hard for her to open up and be vulnerable, and John felt like he couldn’t do anything right.
John, was raised in a family who didn’t express emotion or pay much attention to him. John learned to avoid conflict by retreating into his own world. In his relationships he tended to not speak up for himself and became silent in the face of Teri’s anger and disappointment.
One of the first steps in our coaching together was Teri and John’s seeing how their early life trauma was the driver behind Teri’s moments of feeling abandoned and John’s avoidance of conflict. They were able to see what their younger selves were needing, and learned to meet those needs with more compassion and patience.
Quadrant: Sexual Self-Knowledge
Broken Spoke: Sexual styles
Teri’s sexual style was sensual. She liked to go slow and be warmed up gradually through touch and connection. She longed to be deeply seen and appreciated.
John’s sexual style was passionate, spontaneous, and light. He preferred to not talk a lot and wanted sex to just be fun, quick and often.
Teri and John sexual styles weren’t the same. They didn’t know how to bridge the gap.
We introduced some daily practices into their lives that fed Laura’s need for intimacy. Once Laura started to feel fed by John, she relaxed and became more generous in meeting his needs as well.
Different sexual styles don’t have to create conflict, but they do have to be talked about with honesty and compassion. Once we understand the feelings our partners seek in their sexuality, we better understand how to support their sexual fulfillment.
Differences in sexual styles sometimes require us to examine who we are sexually and where we can grow and expand in our own sexual expression. Growth happens outside of our comfort zone, and it all starts with sexual self-knowledge and communication.
Quadrant: Relationship Needs
Broken Spoke: Communication
Teri often wished that John would not only initiate sex, but he’d also have everything prepared to seduce her. She had an idea in her mind of what that should look like in order for his seduction to open her up to being sexual.
Believing he could never change, Teri didn’t want to share her desires and hopes with John, so every time he failed to meet her expectations she was hurt and disappointed, and he felt like a failure again.
Being able to talk to our partner about sex and intimacy requires communication skills. I’ll often hear someone say, “but if they really loved me, they’d know what to do (or say, or be). This is a myth that causes needless conflict between partners.
Neither you nor your partner are mind readers. Learning the skill to communicate your needs, to listen to your partner’s needs, to work through misunderstanding, to be vulnerable, to share your feelings are fundamental to a successful relationship. If we didn’t learn these skills growing up, we can learn them now as adults.
Quadrant: Physical Challenges
Broken Spoke: Orgasms and Erections
Teri had a hard time getting to orgasm with John. She needed more warm up time to get out of her head and into her pleasure. She wanted John to slow down and relax with her more.
John’s more spontaneous and lighter approach to sex didn’t meet her deeper need for connection, and left her unable to relax enough to let herself reach orgasm. She didn’t believe the situation could change, so she gave up trying and began to lose interest in sex.
When John felt Teri’s loss of interest, he questioned whether she still desired him and found him attractive. This impacted his sexual self-confidence and his erections became less dependable.
You can see how all these issues were interwoven, making sex frustrating and hard to talk about. They both felt misunderstood and frustrated.
After a few sessions Teri and John became comfortable talking about sex. They started to open up and get vulnerable about their needs and desires.
Teri learned to communicate her desire for John to initiate and seduce her in the way she was hoping for. When John understood exactly what Teri wanted, he felt confident in being able to make her happy and bring her pleasure.
John’s new found confidence helped Teri relax and let go, trusting that John was going to adjust his pace so she could relax into her body. When she was able to connect to her pleasure, John’s erection issues vanished.
John and Teri learned about extended orgasm practice and incorporated it into their weekly sex life. This gave John the sexual frequency he wanted, and it gave Teri the time and attention she was craving.
When Teri started to feel the benefits of their extended orgasm practice, she was more turned on to him and they both were able to feel the passion and spontaneity that worked for John.
They learned that by getting their own needs met, they could more easily meet the needs of the other.
Teri and John’s broken spokes were repaired and finally in alignment with each other, creating a smooth ride on their chosen road back to love, sex and desire.
Click the link below to download your copy of my Sex and Intimacy Fulfillment Wheel:
You may not identify with having sexual shame. You may be quite liberal when it comes to the sex you see on screen and in advertising. You may support honest and truthful sex education, and have a tolerant, accepting attitude toward less conventional sexual expressions. The shame I’m talking about is found less in spoken opinions and more in unspoken feelings and beliefs. Not wanting to talk about sex in our relationships is how we carry forth our ancestor’s sexual doctrine, and I see it in many of my clients.
Teri and John (we’ll call them) came to see me a few months ago. They described their 15 year relationship as compatible and loving, except when it came to sex and intimacy, neither of which they were able to figure out how to change for the better. They reached a point where they could see three roads ahead of them...
You may think that having a threesome would be exciting, but the truth is, you’re already in a threesome. There’s you, your partner, and your relationship.
When we begin to view our relationship as the 3rd in our threesome, it’s easier to see how we are either feeding it with attention and nurturing care, or we’re literally ignoring it to death.
Savoring is more than mindfulness. Mindfulness brings us to a razor’s edge of awareness that has qualities of neutrality and acceptance. Mindfulness teaches us to
be with what ‘is’.
Savoring brings an additional layer of experience with it. It brings a depth of noticing that is filled with feelings of gratitude and appreciation, and even a sense of preciousness.