Not a Prescription Nor a Cure, Just a Perspective: What does it take for two people to always feel mutually stimulated and sated in a long-term relationship? Probably magic. As a therapist what strikes me as most ironic and piercingly problematic is that the bedroom, specifically and most likely, the bed, often evolves into being the least secure and intimate place in the shared home. Instead that very same bedroom becomes the lightening rod for a self-consciousness that annihilates intimacy, the very water to its oil, they just don’t mix.
Objectifying Love: Whoever invented long-term commitment with its accompanying legal trappings, real estate and progeny probably wasn’t thinking about reality TV, butt and boob tucks, video cams, or the centuries of artistic, cinematic and animated depictions of lovemaking, including the Kama Sutra and PORN PORN PORN available 24/7 on a handheld device (no pun intended) or a desktop. What those of us coming into adulthood in the nineteen sixties and seventies referred to as “making love,” sexual intercourse with naked bodies pressed together, seems to have less and less to do with affectionate lust and more to do with athletic achievement, mirrors on the ceiling and worries about keeping up with cultural expectations. In plain speech, folks may spend more time scrutinizing than screwing.
Imperfectionate Satisfaction: Yes, I know it is not word, but I like it. What is the goal behind a couples’ mating once they have moved past producing progeny? (If they even care to produce progeny.) I think this is where some re-framing might be indicated. Two people who have passed the initial threshold of the discovery of a powerful attraction and lustful love, may be left with differing levels of desire, pressure and craving for that hot intimacy. Millions of words have been written about negotiating these drive levels, millions of dollars are going into research on drugs for women to increase their desire, for men to keep their instrument operative, yet through all the spillage of words and charts on screens and paper, little is mentioned about sexual intimacy being an opportunity to express affection through body proximity, getting naked and laughing together, touching with tenderness, and ending up in the bathtub or shower washing each other off.
Perhaps these words sound simple and ridiculous because this whole operation is so complicated by emotions, schedules, children’s needs, communication issues, work pressures, family histories, aging, body changes. Yet there can be something useful about re-framing the act of lovemaking in a long-term relationship that introduces the awareness of the uniqueness of the pact agreed upon years earlier. A pact that by definition states: hey we are allowed to get naked together, touch each other’s body and do whatever we want, and no one is hurt, this is the gift of fidelity, of caring, of belonging to each other.
The Poison Sex Dart: Of course, we have to contend with distinct sexual appetites, imaginations and fantasies and lovemaking with your best friend/legal partner may not match up to every appetite or fantasy or even come close to the coupling models available outside the bedroom door; the porn, the reality TV hotties, the sexually skilled stranger available at a massage parlor or from escort services. Lovemaking in a long-term relationship would imply that love between two people should have star billing. But often it is perhaps a supporting role or not in the credits at all. This is the objectification of love that occurs when intimacy is out, and performance is in. Either you or your partner is an unsuitable “object” or target of the lovemaking. Too many associations of what should be felt, achieved or look like interfere with the personal. A conviction that this can be achieved out there, outsourced or everyone is having that, why not me. Then lovemaking isn’t a feeling, it is an objective and your partner is the object with whom you can achieve this objective.
One wonders if hundreds of years ago, with fewer models around to view, were couples less self-conscious or distracted by what should be? Of course, they had other problems, big problems but still, one wonders. Is there a third eye watching you making love with your partner, a third ear listening to hear the applause? Is there a stage? Are you being cheated out of something that others are getting? That is the poison sex dart.
What’s The Other Option? If hot sexual and mutual ecstasy is not available 24/7 what exactly is available? The freedom to play, to be truly free with each other as you cannot be with anyone else. That is a goal worthy of attending to, to chit chat about anything, to ask to be touched in any way, to admit to a feeling, a mood, a desire. To be known. The goal of sexual intimacy in a long-term relationship is to arrive at a place where you can be as sexually and emotionally unself-conscious in the presence of another as humanly possible. And what each of you chooses to do with that freedom is part of the fun and the collaboration. Remember, that bond/pact that you agreed to when you “committed” to the shared life, implies a weaving together of your lives with ever increasing threads of intimacy, being known, and the freedom that brings with it.
Long Term Intimacy is by definition, the act of being known and knowing the other. That’s hot too.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2013
Walter Donway says
This is such an eloquently written and insightful post. Confession: my wife sent it to me, and asked me to read it. You make a valid point about so much idealized sex, idealized sense, and excessive sex being easy for us to see–and covet. I do have one thought, or, properly, reaction, which is this: Could it be women who are most focused on “objectifying sex”–on looking around them and asking why they are not enjoying more foreplay, intimacy, partners at the peak of fitness? Why do I ask this? To shift the blame to women? I don’t think so. Like most men, I have had a certain number of relationships–I would guess less than most men–and the trajectory of my passion in a relationship has become painfully evident because it is so simple. I am most excited when I am seducing the woman, making my conquest, experiencing the sense of “taking her.” As she becomes complaisant, accepting, and I become accustomed to my “right,” my level of interest plunges. In my experience, at least, it isn’t a more glamorous woman, a younger woman; it is simply ANOTHER woman. I am aware that I could invoke evolutionary psychology, here, arguing from the drive to disseminate my seed–and, for all I know, that is what is going on. But, as I experience it, it is simply the unrepeatable excitement of conquest, being accepted by a woman, affirming myself as a man. What I don’t know, is the answer to this: Is my pattern attributable to my psychology or attributable to masculine self-doubt, lack of self-esteem, which drives me to attempt to prove over and over again that I am acceptable as a man. Personally, I always have assumed it was the latter. Well, this is a mere footnote to your excellent article and I thank you for the stimulus to think.
Jill Edelman M.S.W., L.C.S.W says
Your honest self-inquiry and sharing, scores lots of points with me.