How do we talk about Intimacy?
I often get calls from people in relationships who are looking for "more pleasure, more enjoyable sex, more intimacy...just something more". Sometimes they think they have a problem that's all their fault, and has nothing to do with their partner: "I'm not relaxed enough." "I don't feel very sexual". "I can't perform well." I don't feel comfortable with my body".
My first question to them is usually "Have you and your partner talked about how you are feeling?" The answer is usually, "No, we don't talk about intimacy or sex."
In my experience, an intimacy issue in a relationship never belongs to only one person. It belongs to both - it's a dynamic you create together and it's foundational to your love and connection.
As an example, I have recently been working with a man, Simon, in his early 40's. He and his first love from school, Nora, (not their real names) got married at twenty. They were each other's first sexual partners. Nora & Simon were both brought up similarly. In their families, sex was a totally taboo subject and there was no physical intimacy or outward evidence of love between their parents.
Simon & Nora are acting out in their marriage the same scenarios they experienced when growing up. They never talk about intimate feelings, have little physical contact and don't cuddle. When they do have sex, which is rare, the lights are out, there is no foreplay or loving verbal communication, and it is over very quickly.
When Simon began counselling, he was desperate. He felt completely starved of physical closeness and loving connection. He was clear that he loves Nora, but he knew something important was missing from their relationship. He didn't know what it was and had no idea of how to find it.
Simon is finally starting to discover and define what he wants and desires, and - most important - he is starting to communicate his needs to Nora. It's a slow, sometimes even scary, journey for them both. But Simon is courageously leading the way and managing to create closeness and loving communication with Nora, without blaming her or scaring her off. The relief he is feeling, as he connects more deeply with the woman he loves, is clearly evident.
So what did I recommend to help them? Here's some simple first steps:
First: TALK and really listen to each other.
Own the feelings as your own and share them with your partner. "I feel sad that we aren't making love often these days," or "I feel worried that I'm not enjoying our sex as much as I'd like."
Speak about the difficulties and disappointments. Emphasize that you're not blaming, nor are you taking the blame. "I'd love to see what we can do about this together."
Second: KEEP ON TALKING and "own" the feelings that come up. And keep on loving each other honestly. Stay away from blaming and keep a sense of loving appreciation for your partner's honesty and vulnerability.
LET THE LOVE FLOW. Slow down together, rest and absorb the new things you're discovering about each other. Look into each other's eyes and let it all unfold. The way forward is gentle and together. You owe it to yourself and your relationship.
Do these things and you will have made a great start!
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