Sexual Intimacy 101
Integrated Couple Intimacy: The Bond that Sets Us Free
True Couple Intimacy Requires:
Safe Haven: Loving & Being Loved
Secure Base: Desiring & Being Desired
It emerges when partners' sexual interaction is an emotional & physical expression of partners' attachment needs & sexual desires. When partners are simultaneously meeting each other's emotional needs and also getting their emotional needs met through the exploration of their sexual desires couple intimacy is being achieved.
Attachment Needs Include:
Emotional Need for Safety: Loving & Being Loved
Partners co-creating for each other through attunement to and expression of their own emotional needs & sexual desires and reassuring responsiveness to each other's needs
Emotional Need to Be Sexually Desired: Desiring & Being Desired
Partners enjoying mutual exploration & expression of their own and each other's sexual desires as well as attuned responsiveness, culminating in mutual sexual & emotional enjoyment and release
The result is feeling simultaneously safe & free. Sexual intimacy is the physical expression of the couple serving as each other's safe haven and secure base.
SUSTAINING PASSION & LOVE
Couples don't become sexually stagnant because they are "too safe."
They lose their passion because:
They STOP exploring and sharing the deeper, more intimate parts of themselves with each other, the more frightening or shameful parts.
They reach a certain level of intimacy that feels good enough and comfortable and then STOP THERE.
They stagnate there.
Couples stop at a certain level of intimacy do so because:
A. They don't know that anything better exists. They are happy with where they are. It may be better than they have ever experienced or hoped for. Why fix what isn't broken.
B. They don't know how. They are unaware of anything else they can do and have tried everything they know to have the best relationship possible
C. They are afraid of hurting their relationship by continuing exploring & sharing the deeper parts of themselves
D. Their partner either:
doesn't know anything better exists
doesn't know how
is afraid of exploring & sharing deeper parts of themselves and may believe it will damage what they already have
E. A combination of A,B,C,D
Often lack of knowledge stems from some version of these MYTHS ABOUT PASSION:
A. It is impossible to sustain a committed long-term relationship
B. It is "only lust" and isn't important or appropriate in committed, romantic love relationships
C. It dies when couples KNOW EACH OTHER TOO WELL &/or FEEL TOO SAFE with each other
Some argue that because our brains are wired to crave variety couples inevitably become bored with each other once they become too familiar with each other. They argue that safety kills passion.
In my work as a couples counselor and sex therapist I have found the opposite to be true. It is not safety that kills passion. What kills passion is the lack of sufficient safety to continue to explore the deepest parts of ourselves and to take the risk of sharing those parts with each other. When couples reach a certain level of intimacy but are too afraid of, or don't know how, to learn more about themselves and each other and share more with each other, stagnation sets in. Passion dies. In an attempt to avoid "rocking the boat" or "messing with a good thing" they stay on the surface, content with the level of intimacy they have reached because they don't want to risk losing what they have.
In an attempt to stay at the level of intimacy they have developed, couples often stop sharing the deeper parts of themselves. They often lose connection with what they are wanting or needing in their relationship and in life. They often feel that doing so is a necessary part of "growing up" and being able to earn a living, run a household and/or raise a family. The passion for life and for each other that is generated out of curious exploration and dynamic growth is replaced with a focus on accomplishing tasks. Spending time with each other and pursuing fun is replaced with mistakenly believing that "being responsible" requires completely disconnecting from pursuing pleasure and seeking joy.
Formula for Intimacy: Risk, Reach, Respond, Repeat
Intimacy is not a destination. It is a state of being in a relationship. Intimacy is dynamic and organic. It results when couples take the risk to reveal the most vulnerable parts of themselves with each other. Revealing vulnerability is only part of the equation.
For intimacy to continue to evolve, deepen and expand partners must also respond to one another's vulnerability with compassion, authentic empathy, reassurance and validation. The formula of couples reciprocally and repeatedly engaging in risking, reaching and responding in this manner results in creating and continuing to enhance their intimate connection over time.
Couples who are:
genuinely curious about themselves and each other
have the courage to reach to one another for comfort and support,
respond to one another with authentic empathy, validation and support...
Enjoy greater emotional and sexual fulfillment.
Love is the bond that sets us free. Couples can come to understand that their love is the bond that sets them free. They serve as one another's safe haven and secure base. They are a safe haven for each other to which they turn for comfort and support when things are rough. They are also each other's secure base from which they draw the courage to explore and take risks. Because they have a safe place to land if their risk ends badly they are able to explore places and take risks that they would not otherwise dare.
Contrary to popular belief, couples who are emotionally interdependent are not weak, dependent human beings. They are the most courageous...the ones who feel safe enough to take risks others do not dare. This includes their ability to explore and take risks emotionally and sexually.
The result? Authentic, sustainable passion. They take the risks of honestly exploring parts of themselves with which they are either unfamiliar, or uncomfortable, or that they believe others may not understand. They take the risks of sharing those parts of themselves with their partners.
Their partners respond with sincere desire to understand them and provide authentic support and reassurance. They engage in this process for and with each other. It is a dynamic process. They are connected to themselves, each other and the things in life that are meaningful to them. They have a passion for exploring and growing and a passion for supporting each other's exploration and growth. This translates into a passion for life and living life passionately.
Sexual passion is directly related to each partner's ability to fully engage in and experience themselves and each other. Passionate couples have the security to explore the most intimate parts of themselves: the parts that they do not share with others. These parts are the parts they may be too afraid to share with others for fear of being rejected or mocked. They may be parts that they are ashamed of or parts that they value so much that they share them only with people who they love and trust most. These partners share those parts of themselves with each other even when it feels dangerous to do so. Their trust in each other to be their secure base gives them the courage to face their fears. The responsiveness, validation and reassurance of each other strengthens them and gives them that much more courage to explore even further.
Sexual Insecurity: Great for Selling Products, Terrible for Couples' Relationships...
Our society is filled with messages about sex. However, most of these messages are grossly inaccurate and focus on sexual performance. They say sex sells. In reality, making people feel sexually inadequate and convincing them that they need the product your selling in order to become sexually desirable...THAT is what sells. That message is meant to sell products, NOT to help couples create intimate sexual relationships. In fact, it interferes with couples' ability to create and sustain the safety necessary for emotional and sexual intimacy and passion.