Most of us agree that sex is good. It certainly continues the species, and may be pleasurable.
After that, I think agreement is hard to come by. No puns intended, (but duly noted).
One would think that a natural biological function wouldn’t be so tricky to navigate. In fact, I know many couples that can’t openly discuss their sexual needs and proclivities, and sadly, I was once part of one. What is that about?
Somehow, sex is tied up with self-judgment, and often includes shame. We are ashamed that we are having sex, ashamed that we are not; Ashamed of our bodies or that we have needs and desires. We may be ashamed or afraid to ask for what we want, or perhaps afraid we are not good enough. And certainly, we may be deeply wounded if someone else uses our body to meet their needs without considering what we want or need.
Yes, it is complex. Despite the many newsstand magazines that promise 10 Tips for “GREAT SEX” I believe it is something beyond tips that gets us to a place of joyfulness when it comes to getting naked and intimate with someone else.
For me, it’s trust.
While trusting our partner(s) is super important, the real question is, can I trust myself? Will I take care of myself? Can I accept and respect what I want and speak up for myself? And how do I do that?
I suggest that it starts by taking responsibility for how we feel.
When we say things like “YOU MAKE ME FEEL…” We give away our power to others. Is it true that if and when you don’t feel worthy or beautiful, that someone else can MAKE you feel that way? Been there, and found it had to come from changing beliefs inside of myself. I had to transform my inner dialogue from judgment to acceptance and understanding.
If I say to you, “Tell me about feathers,” my guess is that each one of us would have a different internal experience of that question. What came up for you? Were yours feathers in a pillow? Tickling you? Short, long? Did the question evoke a particular experience?
Typically, we receive sensory input from other people’s words and actions. Then we filter them through our own experience, (including our personal trauma history) to arrive at an interpretation. So, while another person can stoke your internal fire with positive or negative stimulus by what they say or do, my experience is that how you see it and feel it, is an inside job.
How do we clear the filter to really see what is going on outside of us, versus the translation that is occurring inside of us?
How about “unpacking” the words you use (both those you think and those you say)? For example, if I were to say to my partner, “You make me feel unimportant,” what am I communicating? How might he hear that feedback and what did he do or say that triggered that response in me?
“Unimportant “ is a concept with lots of possible meanings. How would he know what to do if I just leave it at that? Let’s unpack that word to see what I am really experiencing, starting with an observation of what happened, how it made me feel and what I wished for instead. Let’s say in this case, “unimportant” translates into that I feel hurt because my partner didn’t ask my opinion before he made his weekend plans.
Imagine the two different discussions that would result based on what I might say, either:
”You make me feel unimportant. You don’t care about how I feel,” versus
“When you made the weekend plans and didn’t ask me first, I felt hurt because I really want to have some input over how we spend our time together. Can you tell me how you hear that? “
What different conversations might result from those two statements?
In short, the habitual ways we use language often leads us to label, blame, and shame others and ourselves. Our language is loaded with cloaked judgments that don’t provide much information for solving problems. When we don’t take the time to mindfully unpack what is really going on for us, we can go down some pretty dark, winding roads that lead us to confusion, miscommunication, hurt and suffering.
On the other hand, if I can name, acknowledge, appreciate and accept what is going on inside of me with clarity, I can at least feel begin to feel safe with myself. When I know who I am and what I want then I have a hope of communicating with specificity about myself in a way that someone else can respond. Given that, maybe I can get to agreement with a partner rather than rumbling around in a blameful conflict.
When I know how I feel and what I need, I have more choice – and so does my partner about what to do next. I also find a whole new way of asking for what I want that is much more actionable and less scary, especially when it comes to sex.
If I can dialogue about what I need without judging, and the other person truly can consider my needs as important as his, then, we have the beginning of trust and collaboration. He may not be able to meet all my needs, and maybe I can’t meet all of his, but at least we can talk about it and decide what to do next. Just that helps me to feel seen and understood by him, and by me! Isn’t that how we begin to step into trust?
Perhaps from there, we can get spiritually and emotionally naked with each other. And, if that seems right, I’m wondering if a joyful, physical manifestation of that connection might naturally appear?
Maybe then, not only can we talk about great sex, we can actually have it.