You might be looking forward to the New Year as a time for more exciting sex with your partner. Like many, you might think a fun New Year’s Eve would create the atmosphere for some good — maybe even great — sex and be a great beginning to the year ahead. But like many, you’ll feel disappointed when that doesn’t happen. And you’ll wonder why.
I’m often asked that question by men and women who feel puzzled about why things don’t go so well, just when the situation seems ideal. It’s ironic, they think, because they’ve absorbed the flood of advice and prescriptions out there for having super sex. The magazine covers touting “10 new techniques to drive him/her wild”; the online e-zines like Your Tango or Libido for Life. Some of the advice is pretty sound, like that from the respected sociologist of sexual relations, Pepper Schwartz, or the advice on sexual matters that’s useful for people of all sexualities from Dan Savage. But there’s so much more that’s not so good. It touts juvenile-sounding, superficial advice.
In fact, the majority of the advice, strategies and techniques overlook the core of a sustaining, mutually energized sexual connection: an integrated relationship,one that combines transparency in your communications, true mutuality in decision-making, and physical/sexual encounters that heighten erotic energy. If you’re not working at all three parts in unison as a couple, your sexual connection will flatline over time, no matter how ideal the setting and environment.
Let’s look at what fuels the possibility for an integrated relationship to begin with. It’s essentially a thriving spiritual connection between the two partners connecting over your values and outlook about life and your desires and fears in your shared journey through life. That includes your sense of meaning and purpose in the world. As Tolstoy wrote in “Anna Karenina”: “Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is meaningless.”
Your spiritual core is reflected in the extent to which all of the above are in sync, shared and expressed between yourself and your partner — or aren’t. As a woman said to me about her 11-year marriage, “It’s worse than seeing things differently; we see different things!”
The spiritual core of your relationship includes your life and family goals as a couple and how your values and ideals may change and evolve over the years, as separate individuals and as a couple. If this spiritual core grows over time, it fuels the three parts of an integrated, intimate relationship — the kind of romance that couples desire, as research shows. I call them Radical Transparency, Sharing The Stage, and Good Vibrations. Think of the result as building and sustaining “whole person sex.”
Radical Transparency — This means communicating truthfully and completely to your partner. Yes, that means exposing your vulnerabilities and fears as well as desires and points of view about everything. It can be hard, especially given the hiding out, concealment, secret manipulation or outright lies that couples often engage in with each other. Most people don’t really want to hide the truth or be deceptive, but family issues and our larger culture condition us to relate to each other that way in love relationships — what I called our “adolescent model of love” in a previous post.
Radical Transparency means being fully open to hearing your partner’s feelings, wishes, desires, and differences and revealing your own to your partner without inhibition or defensiveness. Amy Elias, a yoga teacher and personal growth consultant, described this in The Huffington Post recently, writing that,
Or, as a 42-year-old man recently blurted out in frustration – about himself — to his wife, “No more lies!”
Sharing The Stage – This is behaving with equality and mutuality in the large or small matters of daily life. It means being neither dominating nor submissive in your decisions around areas of conflict. For one person, it might mean working consciously to let go of your tendency to control or dominate your partner. For another, it might be containing your tendency to submit and comply with what your partner wants, subordinating your own “voice” in the process. Shared power is what defines mutuality between partners.
The opportunities for Sharing The Stage exist throughout daily life. Decision-making is one example, especially when there are differences or conflicts between yourself and your partner.
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