The hardest thing for many of my clients to talk about is sex.
They dance around it, use “code words”, stammer, blush, and generally are so uncomfortable it’s tempting for me to just gloss over it and move on. But I don’t.
Because sex is such an integral part of any committed relationship, and maybe the most important aspect of a non-committed relationship, that it becomes the elephant in the room. Maybe we should start to check out the elephant, whaddya think?
Let’s get to know sex, in all its awkward glory.
When did pleasure become so taboo? I mean, I know when, but why? Well, I also know why, but why are we not doing more about that nonsense?
I’m on a mission to help people get more comfortable and more articulate talking about sex, to help them have more sexy fun, to feel better naked with their partner, and to feel better naked alone.
So, sex. Where to begin? Let’s start with a pretty common dilemma these days: keeping sex alive and interesting in a relationship.
This takes on added impact since COVID-19, when we’re probably with our partner 24-7. Some of us see sex as a great way to ease tension, reconnect with our partner, and manage anxiety. Some need to be relaxed, feel connected, and be anxiety-free to even think about sex.
You can imagine what happens when someone who uses sex to chill out and someone who needs to be chill to have sex are quarantined together during a pandemic! In fact, you might be living it, not just imagining it.
So how to think about this? How should we navigate it? How do we have a healthy sex life in the midst of a pandemic quarantine?
To quote the noted therapist Esther Perel:
“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exists without the other. With too much distance, there can be no connection.
But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is no thing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter.
There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a recondition for connection: this is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex”
So, how can we keep erotic mystery alive in a time when the space between us is smaller and tighter than ever? How do we find the person we’re living right on top of, whose every breath and chew and move is happening just an arm’s length away, sexy and desirable? And how do we feel that way ourselves?
Intention, energy and boundaries.
Living right on top of each other, day in and day out, blurs all the usual boundaries we have in our lives. We’re not going to work any more, or the gym, and our children are home from school but not as free to roam as they are in the summers.
If we want to keep our relationship hot, we have to make more of an effort than ever before.
First, set your intention. Make a healthy satisfying sex life a priority, maybe for the first time in a long time. Talk with each other about what you each want and need right now to feel sexually connected, then make it a point to do those things.
If one of you needs time alone in order to want to be together, find ways to carve out space. If one needs more focused time together, talking and snuggling, then cuddle up.
Shining some light on how your lives have changed and what that means for sex right now, giving it intentional attention, can make a big difference in how you both feel.
It’s going to take more now to get and stay in the mood for love.
There’s more togetherness and more time, but probably less energy going toward your relationship. Try to amp that up. Put more focused energy into flirting, being playful, looking and smelling good.
Wear the silky thing, light a candle, trade massages, share a bath or shower. Good, connected sex may not come naturally right now, but it’s so important. Treat it like the priority it is, give it energy, and see if you don’t walk around with a spring in your step!
Paradoxically, as Esther Perel pointed out, closeness and togetherness require separation. You can’t have light without darkness; everything has its necessary opposite.
You each need to find some solitude and space in your quarantine-imposed togetherness, whether that’s taking a solo walk or run, or having your own room, office, yoga studio, she-shed or man cave.
Maybe it’s putting on headphones, your favorite music, and reading a book in the same room as your partner, but checked-out. Maybe it’s a hot bath and a glass of wine. Maybe it’s hours of yard work while your partner wrangles the kids.
However you need it, find time for solitude, to be alone with yourselves, so that coming back together feels like the gift it is.