There is a topic on the minds of people at large. Namely, intimacy.
I see it on countless blog posts and threads. Ted talks and best sellers.
It’s alluring and appealing to look upon the word, intimacy. But it is also so elusive. Like finding the Holy Grail or the gold at the end of the rainbow. It seems like it should be there. People talk about it. Lots of people long for it. But it’s kind of hard to find and possibly not there at all.
Unfortunately, intimacy is not obtained easily. And, I am so sorry to say this, but the road to it can be terribly difficult and full of many metaphorical thorns, projections, resentments, fears, and historical family issues.
Because there are so many aspects of intimacy to write and talk about- more than this little blog could do justice to- I am going to focus on one small bit of sexual intimacy that I hope will be of service to you, my reader.
I’ve worked with several couples that have problems with sexual intimacy. One such couple, is Mel and Cam. They are a couple that presented to me for desire discrepancy.
(These names are false, of course, as is the fact that this was just one couple. This is a common theme I often work with. Mel and Cam are my fictitious representatives).
The sex they had was terrible. Mel wanted Cam to initiate. Cam wanted Mel to initiate. When one did initiate, the other felt no desire to have sex. Eventually, they both avoided having sex and when the sexual energy grew in their respective intensities, they would end up having a fight about how they couldn’t have sex.
In my assessment with Mel and Cam I learned that both were very sexual people. They each enjoyed masturbation, they could respectively become aroused at thoughts or images, they had satisfying orgasms, no pain with sex and they both desired to have sexual lives.
But they had given up this desire because they couldn’t make sex work for them.
Mel and Cam felt like they were broken and stuck. Emotions of frustration, anger, despair, resentment, and even panic were common in their home and in their bed.
So, we started at a base level that I think most people have not been exposed to. And I asked the questions:
- What brings you pleasure?
- What turns you on?
- Do you have vivid dreams and fantasies?
- Do you connect to spirit or your essence through sex?
- Do you need a warm up to become aroused or is it automatic?
- Do you feel desire for sex, or does sex create desire?
These are just a sample of some of my curiosities.
Have you ever been asked these questions? Have you ever asked your partner these types of questions?
Mel and Cam and I explored these curiosities together. I provided the space and container to talk about these questions and also the acceptance and validation to learn more and be curious with each other. Mel and Cam started putting names and words to their particular flavors of sexual arousal.
Dr. Gina Ogden was a doctor of psychology that developed the “4-D Wheel of Sexual Experience”. From her work, I have added and modified it to fit my own understanding of sexual variety and used this to assist Mel and Cam to verbally conceptualize and communicate their sexual selves.
The 4 (General) Sexual Types I presented are the following. As you read through them take a moment to think about yourself and your sexual arousal. If a description doesn’t make sense, it probably means that it’s not your sexual “type”. You will know what is your “type(s)” because you’ll feel it in your body and understand the arousal component. Remember, these are really general description that I have present here…as in, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
- The physical/sexual:
- Arousal is in the body. You are aroused easily and can have sex almost anywhere and probably with anyone. The physical/sexual loves hot sex and wet smelly sweat and doesn’t need much to get it on and have a good time.
- This sexual type can sometimes come across as insensitive or not attuned to their partners needs.
- The emotional/sexual:
- Craves attunement and emotional connection. You are turned on when your partner looks deeply into your eyes, holds you, and is present. You love romance and music, tastes and silk sheets.
- This sexual type can sometimes have difficulty becoming aroused with their partner if they feel there is emotional conflict or a difference in sexual needs and desires.
- The mental/sexual:
- Loves stories, fantasies, intellect, and play. You want a challenge and are turned on by puzzles from your lover(s), obstacles, and the naughty. Even just thinking about that hot night of spanking can ignite arousal.
- This sexual type can sometimes feel disconnected from their partner if life ordinary comes into the relationship and variety is lost.
- The spiritual/sexual:
- Connects the body and spirit. For you, sex is a time of connection with the essence of self and your understanding of a higher power. You are turned on by deep connections and openness with your lover and crave transcendence achieved through orgasm and heart connection.
- This sexual type can sometimes discredit the assets in other sexual types and is in danger of depression and isolation if there isn’t access to deep connection and spiritual sex with others.
Mel and Cam identified themselves as physical/sexual (Mel) and emotional/sexual (Cam). Mel had a high sexual excitation response and felt rejected, anxious and confused when Cam would not want to have sex. Cam couldn’t feel sexually aroused when Mel was upset or when the house was a mess or there was stress at work.
In our treatment together, we began to communicate these differences as strengths rather than deficits or problems of the other person.
Mel began to check in with Cam about how things were and level of stress. Their intimacy of opening up and learning about each other’s worlds was broadened.
Cam began to understand that Mel had good intentions of wanting to just have sex any time and in any way. And Cam started noticing and telling Mel the good things that Mel was doing and the effort that was being invested in their love together.
Mel and Cam still don’t get 100% hot, exciting and attuned sex every time. But they do get it 90% and the rest of the time they talk about what might be wrong and find creative solutions. Mel and Cam now enjoy a deeper sexual intimacy because of their hard work, insight to their selves, and acceptance of the other.
Couples work for me has been ever evolving, as I believe it is with most couples counselors/therapists. As a younger therapist I might have listened to Mel and Cam and sympathized with their sex life being difficult. I might have even directed or advised them to have more date nights, buy a fantasy box, or schedule sex. But, I would have been missing the true depth of their identities and I would have missed my true work as a therapist in assisting them to understand themselves, accept their natures, and communicate better their needs and desires.
A sex therapist has training and knowledge to assist people in conceptualizing, understanding and putting words to the most intimate and often misunderstood parts of their whole self. Sex therapy isn’t about how to improve your technique (although that is great too!). Sex therapy is about your whole relationship integrated with your whole self.
For more information on my work, give a call at (408) 442-1551 or email me at email@example.com.