Part 3 of my ANATOMY OF INTIMACY Blog Series
For most of my life, I was in the dark about "this," a foreign concept by all measures growing up and all through my adulthood. I had no role models doing "this," and I acted no different.
And eventually I learned truth: until we experience "this," we can't have the sex life we really crave.
Until we do "this," the fire between can't burn as bright.
Until we own "this," satisfaction will always be elusive.
It is this big. Yet few know about "it" and its power.
I see "it" missing with the couples that I work with. Take Lana and Zack (fictitious names).
This couple is never short of words when it comes to describing what's going wrong in their sex life. Lana clearly pronounces each word as she lays out exactly what's not happening and how bad things are.
"We're not passionate with each other. When we do have sex, I do it out of obligation to please him and then I hate myself. It's never exciting and I don't feel like it's worth it."
Zack chimes in with more of the same. There is not enough time. There is little passion. The constant rejection makes him angry.
I let them go on for a while, then I interject.
"What do you want?"
They continue without missing a beat. Her jaw noticeably tightens with frustration. His face flushes red with annoyance. They inch away from each other energetically, without moving a limb.
I interject again: "What do you want? You have told me everything that you don't want and all that's not working. What DO you want? What do you want to happen instead?"
This time, there's a long pause. You can feel this question is pushing them to think differently.
A few more minutes go by. Then something shifts in the air. Lana's face softens as she musters the courage to begin:
"I loved how you used be so excited when I got into bed at night. You'd put your book down, welcome me with open arms, and hold me tight as we talked about our day. I felt so important to you, and it turned me on. I want that kind of attention from you, when you are so excited to see me, because I want to feel important to you again. Just thinking about it makes me feel warmer all over and closer to you."
A pink glow flushes across Zack's face. His eyes sparkle as he looks deeply at Lana.
"I had no idea how important that was for you. I know our little habit went by the wayside as we got busier with kids, and as I pulled away from resentment around our lack of passion, but I'd love to do that with you again. You are important to me, and that time of connection was great foreplay."
This "it" is desire — the strongest and most potent force for connection in intimate and sexual relationships.
Desire is the flame that ignites sexual connection.
Desire is the fuel that keeps the fire going.
Desire is the cornerstone of an erotic sexual relationship.
When we express desire, we let another bear witness to our innermost truth; we let them see us in our nakedness — the vulnerable, the needy, nothing held back. We let them feel us.
Asking for what you want is both terrifying and erotically thrilling.
And without it, eroticism has no chance.
How can this question be so simple yet harbor so much shame and guilt?
How can it be the corner-stone of sexual connection, yet be the least spoken question in relationships?
Eroticism rests on the notion that two people want each other for themselves. Eroticism is selfish at the core. And that desire must come equally from both sides for the dynamic to continue.
Without desire of their own, eroticism falters, leaving couples in ashes of obligation, shame and guilt.
What has us lose our own desire?
We hold desire back for fear that asking for what we want will kill connection or make our partners turn away. And it may. Not everyone is ready to see your soul — or meet it.
Which is why most people resort to complaining, desire's toxic mimic.
Complaining separates us, disconnecting us from not only the truth of our erotic nature but also from each other, dimming the fire.
There is a way out, and it's through desire. Feeling it, sharing it, expressing it.
This question, "what do you want?", is one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves and each other.
For, behind every complaint is a desire.
Behind every attempt to disown our truth, is the truth itself. And it holds salvation for our connection.
Complaining is a cop-out for the sharing of your truth.
Expressing desire comes from a vulnerable place of owning it.
Complaining makes someone/something else responsible — whether it's people, circumstances or fortune.
Expressing desire is rooted in your power : "I want / I desire ..."
When done from the most vulnerable, expressing desire connects (even if your partner might not be able to meet you in your desire).
Complaining leaves you feeling bitter and unsatisfied.
Expressing desire leaves you feeling in integrity with self.
Whenever you find yourself complaining, pause and tune in. Ask yourself "what do I want?" and listen carefully to the answer. Then try it: instead of complaining, ask for it. Get vulnerable.
"I find myself wanting to complain about how things are, because it's the way I've learned to communicate. And I am noticing a deeper desire within: I have a desire to be closer to you at the end of day, to touch skin to skin in bed, and feel like we are one against the world. I want to fall asleep in your arms tonight."
When you can truly ask for what you want from a vulnerable place, you create a container for deeper love, connection, closeness and sexual heat by allowing the other person to see you at your most erotic.
Leave your insights and takeaways in the comments below.