The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

January 2013: Intimacy

Posted on Jan 15, 2013

So, I’ve decided to start this year’s blogging with an entry about intimacy—of which, a vital part is sex. Not sure what I want to say, but the idea sprouted from a phrase I found myself repeating in sessions last year and from some of the reading I have done recently, and not so recently.

In one of those broad over-generalizations, it could be said that women need emotional connection for sex, and men need sex for emotional connection. This can create quite a disappointing and disruptive circle. Men feeling personally rejected when turned down for sex are not so inclined to connect emotionally with their partners. For many men, the lack of sex breaks the connection. And women, not getting the emotional connection, are less interested in sex and at a loss how to reconnect. One of those conundrums of life. So how does a couple break this pattern?

For starters, a conversation is in order. For some reason, in this Western culture, men and women do not talk about having sex with each other. Which may also be the case in same-sex couples. There is a cultural assumption that sex will ‘just happen.’ That each partner will ‘just know’ what the other wants or needs. The other term for this is ‘mind reading.’ I have yet to meet a couple who are adept at this. They are also often surprised when I suggest they have a conversation about sex (at home, in private—not necessarily in my office).

There are several factors to consider when it comes to sex. A critical one is difference in libido levels. Having a conversation about this can go a long way in negotiating mutually satisfying sexual encounters.
The partner with the lower sex drive needs to consider what sex means to their higher libido partner. And the partner with the higher sex drives needs to hear what the lower libido partner needs in order to ‘get in the mood.’ If it means help with the dishes, then help with the dishes. What a better way to flirt with each other than over a sudsy sink of dirty dishes! This one-on-one time can also enhance emotional connection as it provides an opportunity to check in with each other—give each other a few moments of undivided attention—provided the kids and/or pets don’t interrupt a thousand times.

Doing a chore together can also be an opportunity to have a conversation about what makes your partner feel loved. You might be surprised by what you hear. The simplest things in life can make the biggest impact. The key to this conversation is being specific. A generic statement such as ‘when you’re nice to me’ doesn’t give your partner much to work with. And if you cannot answer that question, be willing to experiment! Come up with a game plan to try different ways to say “I love you. You are important to me,” and see what works and what falls flat. You might find that just having these conversations are enough to kick start the emotional connection that is so central to intimacy.

In this culture, we often get confused by what it means to treasure the ones we love. Connection is the treasure. Not the other person. Although something can be said for being/ feeling treasured, that isn’t going to come about in healthy ways without connection. If the focus is on being treated as a treasure, then we cease to be human beings and become objects. In the process of treasuring the connection, both partners will feel treasured. Feeling treasured comes about by protecting and nurturing the shared connection. Now that’s a circle that can be fulfilling and sustaining.

Author, Kelly McDaniel, makes a great statement in her book Ready to Heal: “Sex, like food, is meant to be sustaining and nourishing. Eating and making love are also both designed for pleasure” (2012, p. 89). Sometimes in the demands of the daily grind, we forget (or we never learned) that we are multifaceted creatures—including sexuality. In therapeutic terms, we are bio-psycho-social-spiritual-sexual beings. Having a sexual awareness of ourselves is critical to being able to ask for what we need from our partners. Or what that means when we are without a partner.

Of course, a lot more can be said about sex and sexuality. This is just an introduction to some ideas. As you continue on your journey, may you become aware and accepting of who you are in all the intricate ways of being human.

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