How many people would like to have a better sexual life?
Sexuality is one of those topics that everyone wants to talk about, but rarely do we know how to talk about it. And yet it is central to a couple-relationship – it can be the source of pleasure, of tenderness and appreciation. And it also can be the source of tension, anxiety and fear.
Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence tells us sexual problems are not always a symptom of problems in the relationship. Instead, the sexual aspect of our relationship tells a parallel narrative – it tells its own story about connection to pleasure, to receiving, giving, taking and asking. What she suggests, and I think this is so important, is that our sexuality is a story about our senses, about how we experience pleasure and closeness through touch, through smell and taste, through sound and sight. It is our shared imagination granting deep connection, answering a longing to ask, to receive, to give, and to be taken to a place of play and spontaneity.
When we explore sexuality in couple therapy we are taking sexuality out of the genitals and expanding our view of sexuality to include love, desire, and also conflict. You have to include body image and the concept of presence and embodiment. We approach this exploration with a sense of curiosity and allowance for mystery. When we approach from curiosity we tend to not take things so personally, but rather view our sex life like an anthropologist on a field trip to Self. We want to look at states of desire and arousal through three portals: the mind, the body and through our willingness. How willing are you to see with fresh eyes? How willing are you to cross over boundaries that are initially scary, or exciting, or taboo. And how willing are you to say, “Yes, come here now!” or, “Stop, for now!” – both authentic and necessary expressions of the present moment.
The conversation we are encouraging in therapy is one that moves out of the realm of demand and entitlement into one of exploration and negotiation. What often excites us and also frightens us is when we tap into experiences of dependency and merging, and also into impulses to let go, to experience autonomy.
Hopefully, over time, the love “garden” cultivated between lovers include all aspects of the psyche, and the individuals inside the couple feel free to be, just that, free to be themselves.