Before we get started… Can you truly honor someone else if you do not honor yourself first? Keep in mind that if you are not right with you, your sex life will not be nearly as fun. If you are struggling with it, maybe check out my last blogging on intimacy with yourself.
I cannot be the only person who thinks about the Salt-N-Pepa song, “Let’s Talk About Sex” when the topic comes up! The opening lyrics are perfect:
TALK ABOUT IT!!! I’m always blown away by how much we joke about it, talk about it with our friends and imply it in the media but seem to freeze like dear in headlights when it’s time to discuss sex with our partners or potential partners.
I don’t want to minimize how awkward or difficult it can be to both open up and be vulnerable and to hear what the other person has to say without getting hurt/upset. Sadly, in the absence of information, we make assumptions and those assumptions are not typically flattering. It has been my experience that (with some notable exceptions) getting it out and talking about it usually makes it worse. Even in the ‘notable exceptions’ things may really hurt in the short run but got better over time.
When I was looking around for research and interesting things to include today, I found a lot of 'kiss more' and 'look your partner in the eye' and 'don't forget the foreplay.' All of that is good, constructive and true but it's also only part of the equation. Those are the things you can see and time, what about all the things you can't see like trust, stress, self esteem? All of that impacts your sex life too.
Think back to the last time you had one of those days where absolutely nothing went right. You woke up grumpy, got a flat tire, the jerk at work was in rare form and you couldn't get anything done then you sat in traffic for an extra 30 minutes because someone was texting instead of paying attention to what they were doing on the road. Are you all hot and bothered? My guess is you aren't and when you got home that day, you probably didn't look at your partner, whisper something sweet and sexy in his/her ear then give them a passionate kiss.
John Gottman, PhD made a really good point in a training that I attended when he was talking about conflict and I think it bares true for amorous feelings too.... To paraphrase, he said that statistically speaking that you and your partner are probably both ready to have a difficult/tense conversation about 8 percent of the time. His point was partially that there will be times that you are ready but your partner is not and vise versa so there is a small window when those times perfectly overlap. It would make sense that you are horny and ready to go at time when your partner is not and the opposite is true too.
If my partner and I are not talking about trust, stress and all the other things that can be barriers to all the hot, steamy, sexy time we want to have in our relationship, it's easy to assume that it is me or our relationship.
So here is a formula for working through the stuff you can't see/measure:
I love words because they are so powerful and when use properly can make us feel so understood and cherished and when used to hurt can stay with us forever like wounds that will never heal. Sitting down today and thinking about intimacy and what it means, I wanted to start out with its definition and Webster let me down!!! It gave me: “the state of being intimate, something personal or private in nature.” So I went to dictionary.com to get a better one:
Now that is a full definition!
For me, the word intimacy evokes a concept of layers like the word boundaries. There are a lot of different kinds of intimacy; knowledge and understanding, touch, familiarity, care, warmth, etc.
I often run into people working really hard in different kinds of relationships and they feel like they are working really hard and still failing. In the definition from dictionary.com (by the way, I really enjoy their words of the day) I hear a softness, almost tenderness in the definition. Which leads me to believe that the people we have close to us should perhaps be treated with softness and tenderness and who is closer than YOU?
So often the people I work with that are struggling with their relationships with others are also tormenting themselves. Who on Earth could you be more intimate than with yourself? Read the definition again; you can choose to be affectionate and loving to yourself, you can have a detailed history even if you don't fully understand its meaning, there can be amorous comfort and warmth, etc. But I a lot of us aren't kind to ourselves, a lot of us do not treat ourselves with softness and tenderness.
I'm planning to talk more about the other forms of intimacy in future posts but for now let's ponder this question. If you are not kind, tender, caring of yourself can you really give that to others? My guess is that you could only give a limited amount and once you have used that all up, no one get's what they want.
I heard my grandfather once say, "there is more than one way to skin a cat." (I got us lost and was trying to wing directions before maps were on smart phones.) So there are a lot of different ways to get to know yourself and improve your self-compasion but here are some evidence based approaches that I really like:
The list goes on and on and you may be doing one or more of these. But just like going to the gym to meet your fitness goals, you can't go once per month and expect to look for feel differently. The more often and in-depth you do these things, the more likely you are to feel the results.
(I know this is really silly but it made me laugh!!!!)