15 Jun 2007 12:33 pm

SEX AND INTIMACY

In societies all over the world an important component of intimate relationships with one’s life partner includes an exclusive sexual relationship. This is why sex amongst even animals is referred to as mating and their life partner is called a mate. Even in polygamous societies each sexual partner has a privileged role of intimacy with their spouse.

The sexual privilege of an intimate relationship usually carries many responsibilities and obligations, including economic provisions, parenting, as well as expectations of behavior with each other’s family of origin (in-laws, parents, siblings, etc.). Marriage, the most common form of commitment around the world, is the announcement to the community-at-large of a couple’s intention to be legally and spiritually bound for life.

Many historians and feminists point out how marriage traditionally was a legal contract in which a woman became the property of the man she married. This ownership demanded the woman be a loyal slave to her husband while leaving him free to treat her any way he sought fit. An unmarried woman often had no rights and was open game to the sexual desires of married and single men alike. Marriage in such a savage society was the only means for a woman to legally protect herself from being raped by anyone other than her husband.

Marriages in modern society require both partners to be sexually faithful. Is this just a carry over of a man’s need to exclusively own a woman? If so, why is it so important for a man to have exclusive sexual rights to a specific woman, and why is it important for a woman to demand her husband to remain faithful?

I will not deny that there are many lower level and even primitive reasons why marriage continues to be an exclusive legal contract between two people. There are certainly plenty of economic, religious and political reasons for the contract of marriage to continue. There are also a number of power and control issues fueled from fear and insecurity which inspire the need for a legal contract from both the male and female camp.

The institution of marriage is safe in our society no matter how frequent divorce becomes or what enormous percentage of adults have affairs. Yes, insecurities and power fuel our society’s commitment to the institution of marriage but marriage is also an ideal, an ideal of intimate relationships.

Modern marriage is not so much about ownership as it is about teamwork, support and love. A wife no longer is demanded to honor or obey an abusive or self-centered husband, but is protected by law to be treated and respected as an individual with her own needs and desires.

Marriage continues to exist because it represents the ideal of two people living together who mutually support, share and love each other. A marriage is no longer just a matter of ownership or safety, but a vehicle for intimacy.

The high divorce rate has not lowered our expectations of marriage. Men and woman both expect marriage to be more than mere cohabitation, they expect it to be a rewarding partnership. When, for whatever reason, at least one member loses confidence in the relationship or is disillusioned by the shortcomings of the relationship, a divorce results.

Years ago, many men and women stayed in bad relationships for a number of external reasons including the children, economic dependency or because of religious or social pressure. The increase in the number of women having economic independence has given many women the courage and means to leave a relationship.

There is still a religious and social stigma regarding the “failure” of divorce. The negative impact of divorce on children is even more widely documented. Yet, our current expectation and desire for intimacy in a marriage propels many to seek a divorce regardless of the immediate social and personal setbacks.

In modern society people want quality in every aspect of their life. Though it may be difficult to juggle a career, family and an intimate relationship with their mate, that is exactly what most people want.

In an intimate relationship you share with a person your innermost thoughts, dreams and desires. You want to be as close to your mate as possible, and you want them to respect, understand and appreciate you to their fullest. The closer you are to a person the more they know your most private thoughts and feelings. In fact, an intimate relationship is often based on a shared private world, where the bond between a couple is cemented by their knowledge of each others’ private world.

The most private possession a person has is their body. Mutual consent is an imperative whenever two people kiss, fondle, or have sex. The greatest violation of privacy is when a person forces themselves on another, or harasses them sexually.

Sex remains inextricably linked to intimate relationships and marriage because of what sex is and represents. The expectation of exclusiveness of sex in marriage is not so much a matter of ownership, as a matter of privacy and intimacy. Sex is not a nuptial right, it is an act of mutual consent meant to express our deepest love and desire for another.

Any person can be guilty of sexual harassment. A husband who forces himself on his wife can be convicted of rape. Even a prostitute has rights and is protected by the laws of mutual consent. In modern society sex is a most private and intimate affair. Anyone who steps outside the realm of mutual consent is legally and morally viewed as a dangerous and punishable abuser.

Why is sex considered to be such a private act? Why is it viewed as being such an important aspect of intimacy? If everything from rats to fungus have sex, then why has man made it into such a lofty ideal? If sex is such a great thing, then why are we so anxious to legally and morally restrict it to one partner?

Our lives are a combination of thoughts, events, words and experiences. The importance we place upon things directly correlates to how much impact they have on our life. When we speak and act, we generally place a lot of importance on how we are interpreted by others. The reactions of others cause us to feel many things including pride, embarrassment, excitement or frustration. Yet, as past words and actions slip into history we are less tied to them, and the distance of time greatly reduces their importance.

If I make a stupid mistake in front of a stranger it does not carry the same potential of emotional devastation as if I did the same mistake in front of a person whom I respect and admire. When we feel close to a person we look for ways to express our unity. Successfully sharing thoughts and feelings only increases our desire to share even more intimately with a person. The closer we feel, the more we look to share. Physical affection is the point at which we share our most treasured object, ourselves, with another.

Our bodies are the closest thing to us, because in them is the origination of all our experience. All we feel, think, and perceive takes place in our minds and through our skin and senses. Sharing our bodies with another is sharing our experience at the exact moment it happens. How can one be any closer to our experience than when touching our bodies? How can anyone be more influential in determining what we feel and think than by arousing and stimulating our bodies?

Sex is not just a symbolic way of demonstrating how open we are to another, it is letting someone into our most private world and letting them have an impact on our every sensation. Sex is this, and much more. Sex is the home of such intense states as ecstasy and rapture which unfold new realms of intimacy while having us feel so close as to almost be inside another’s skin.

Our bodies, being the locus of all experience, are our means of creating and sensing our world. Every ideal and dream of man is structured in his experience, and every experience is structured in his body. Every human ideal, even if not limited to the body, still finds it’s origination in the body. Our bodies harbor our individuality and there is no more intimate thing to share with another than what makes us unique.

Our bodies are not private because we clothe and hide them. We clothe, protect and value our bodies because they are both what separates us from the world and what draws us towards union with all it contains. Our bodies are private because they are what makes us unique, what stands between us and nothingness. Through our bodies we find and create a world of love, meaning and accomplishment.

Sex is the way we unveil to another that which lies behind and motivates all our words and actions. In terms of sensuality and emotion there is no more intense an experience than sex. It is the unmatched potential of sexual contact to enthrall us and have us feel emotionally and spiritually bound to another which makes it such a central focus of intimacy and intimate relationships.

The incredible potential of sex is also why a sexual encounter can be so emotionally disappointing, empty or even painful. When something as powerful as sex is misused or trivialized it is easy for it to become an emotionally devastating experience.

The potential of sex gives us high expectations which are evident in the fact that we refer to the act as “making love”. Making love is not only a discreet term for fornication, it concisely articulates the ideal. When we make love to someone, we are creating all the unity and emotional security which goes into our concept of love.

When we engage in sex as a strictly animalistic act it is almost certain the experience will be less than gratifying. Our sex drive (being an adjunct to our natural drive to be close to things) often has us seek unions in places where none exist. When we make love to someone we really are not close to, the experience falls short of the ideal even if our bodies are aroused and our sex drive is appeased. Even if sensually exciting, a sexual encounter devoid of true feelings of intimacy will leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Making love is not just stimulating our bodies, it is activating and fulfilling our drive towards intimacy. The more intimate the experience, the more gratifying. The more removed the experience, the less we feel complete and fulfilled. When sex is felt to be making love, pleasure often turns to gratitude. At such times feeling incredibly close to our lover, we can become overwhelmed by our union and feel lucky and privileged to have this person in our lives.

One empty sexual experience is enough to prove to a person that sex does not create intimacy, but rather intimacy which makes for fulfilling sex. Sex, when experienced as making love, can highlight or intensify the experience of intimacy we have with another. Yet, sex devoid of an immediate sense of intimacy can leave one feeling alone and disconnected.

A rapturous moment of intimacy with our lover is no promise that our next sexual encounter with them will be rewarding. Each sexual interlude is an individual experience capable of missing or unfolding intimacy. Boring or unfulfilling sex is not born of repetition, but of distantly going through the motions without any real investment or feelings of union.

Maintaining a rewarding and fulfilling sexual relationship is dependent on a couple’s ability to stay intimate with each other. The more distance and tension inside of a relationship the less of an opportunity there is for the sexual component of the relationship to be both physically and emotionally rewarding.

Some may challenge the above role of intimacy in sexual enjoyment by pointing out how many people gravitate towards and enjoy promiscuous sexual lifestyles, pornography and prostitution. If intimacy is so vital to sexual enjoyment then why are so many people involved in sexual relationships and activities which thrive on anonymity and variety?

In response to this objection let me point out that sexuality is a combination of many different drives and not just an ideal. Though intimacy is the most rewarding aspect of our desire for sex, it is not the only motivating factor. When the goal of sex is to feel and be close to someone, then its relationship to intimacy is undeniable. Yet, when sex is looked at as a release of our animal urges, or as strictly a playground of physical pleasure, its relationship to intimacy is less obvious.

All we have to do is to remember the difference between the inferior and superior man to see why sex, like any human activity and interest, can be cultivated in a variety of ways. Desiring to engage in sex as a pleasurable way to get to know the human form in all it’s varieties is a form of intimacy.

Instead of desiring to get close to a specific person, the goal of promiscuity is often to find the perfect body or the ultimate sensual experience. Though such superlatives may not exist, a person may get pleasure from comparing and contrasting all the different people with whom they have had sex. They may be fascinated by their preference for certain body types, or thrill at the challenge of finding ways to physically stimulate everyone they know.

A promiscuous lifestyle may be a person’s way of chasing after the ideal of beauty, or of expressing their delight and appreciation of the human form. Now these goals are not those of intimate relationships, but they are a form of intimacy. A desire to become closer and more knowledgeable of physical pleasure or of beauty can power one’s desire to live a promiscuous lifestyle, or refuse to limit oneself to one partner.

Prostitution, too, can be an activity of someone whose goal is to experience the human body in all it’s diversity. A female prostitute may enjoy the challenge of pleasing every man who walks through the door and may derive a certain amount of pride in their ability to unleash passion in others. Some prostitutes may even enjoy the challenge of getting a man to become a regular, deriving a sense of accomplishment from having them form an attachment or sexual preference for them.

The above accounts of prostitution and promiscuity are not meant to glorify these interests, but only to point out the forms

of intimacy each offers. Yet, there is no denying many people engage in prostitution and promiscuity for reasons other than intimacy. Some become prostitutes just to make money. Others are promiscuous because they have a low self-esteem and do not feel capable or deserving of a truly intimate relationship. Still others being victims of rape and sexual abuse are now locked into a world of sexual victims and perpetrators which hinders their ability to experience intimacy or be involved in intimate relationships.

Though man’s view of sex has changed greatly through the years we should not forget man’s primal history. The initial purpose of sex was not intimacy, but the preservation of the species. In order to induce us to make babies, our bodies were filled with a whole battery of hormones whose sole purpose was to create a desire to mate. Certain smells, sights and experiences triggered our need and enhanced our desire to have sex. The biological imperative of sex has not gone away.

Sexual tensions and desires grow until a proper outlet or release has been attained. The ideals of love and intimacy have not replaced the biological imperative of sex, but only stimulate and broaden the drive from emotional and intellectual sources.

Prostitution, promiscuity and pornography are all outlets for the biological imperative of sex. Though they often may be unrewarding, crude and even cruel and abusive ways to temporarily release the sex drive, it would be foolish to discount their existence. Many times our quick dismissal of the primal sex drive through anger or embarrassment causes us to misunderstand and complicate the problems it can pose for intimate relationships.

An example of this is in our modern attitude towards sexual abuse and rape. Our standard reaction to such behavior is to be appalled, shocked and disgusted by it. Of course any violation of another human being, especially one of something as private as our body, should not be tolerated. Yet, to be shocked or appalled by such behavior is terribly unrealistic.

Sexual Abuse, Rape and Intimacy

Though I would never resort to raping or even harassing a woman into having sex, I surely can understand the feelings and events which could lead one to sexually abuse or rape another person. A person suffering many years of physical rejection and being denied a normal sexual outlet will have difficulty containing their sex drive. In a moment of extreme resentment, anger, frustration or loneliness, rape is not a totally inconceivable solution.

I’m not saying all rapists are tortured souls and social victims deserving of our compassion, but only that rape can be an understandable reaction to need. People rape for as many reasons as they steal or kill, and viewing rape as a totally incomprehensible act will not help us prevent or cure a single rapist. Not all rapists can be reduced to an egocentric insensitive man with an erection, or a sociopath with no social conscience.

If we do not close our eyes in anger and disgust, we find the seeds of intimacy in even the darkest realms of sexual abuse and rape. This demonstrates that no matter how diluted or warped our desire for intimacy may become, it still pervades every level of our existence.

It is not difficult for us to recognize that someone who sexually harasses another person may be legitimately attracted to them. Though they may be responding to their biological imperative, they also may desire to truly be intimate with the person they are flirting with or pressuring into a date.

After each successive rejection they may feel an increased sense of urgency or anger making them more determined to acquire their love object. In their heart, they may think that all they need is an opportunity to show the person how good they can make them feel. Once alone, they would see how nice and enjoyable they were, and the attraction would become mutual. Many of us are very familiar with such fantasies of self-esteem attempting to recover from rejection.

Continued rejections often result in frantic attempts by a person to deal with their failure. A rejected person most likely will increase their belief in the need for the other person to see the real them. Since sex is the most intimate and powerful aspect of individual influence and attraction, it is only natural for the fantasies to become more sexual. One starts to believe that if only you could hold them, kiss them, show them how much you care, and how much pleasure you could provide, they would be attracted to the real you. All you need (you tell yourself) is just one intimate moment and they would melt lovingly in your arms.

Such rejection fantasies show the relationship between harassment, sexual desire and intimacy. The seductive nature of the fantasy is that sometimes it actually works. Often a person’s courting and persistence pays off. Wooing and courting have been a part of dating and marriage since before there was dating and marriage. It is not unusual for one person to be more invested in exploring the potential of a relationship than the other. In fact, it is far more unusual for two people to be equally invested in exploring a relationship at the same time.

The belief that we are deserving of someone’s recognition and love is not necessarily a bad quality, but it can be abused and taken to an ugly extreme. Never being able to accept rejection is a sign of a sick, not healthy self-image. When we never take no for an answer we are not showing any respect for the ability of the other person to acknowledge and identify their own needs and desires. If a person were truly that ignorant of their own needs and desires what hope of an intimate relationship do we really have with them?

Yet, even though most of us know when to give up, we still should be able to empathize with those who take it to the extreme. Rape, too, can often be a tragic distortion of one’s desire for intimacy and need to preserve self-esteem.

A heavy dosage of anger and sexual frustration can motivate sexual fantasies into the surrealistic. It is not unfathomable a person could decide that even when forcing themselves on another they will finally be appreciated. Hoping their passion and devotion would be able to cut through the barriers and masks hiding their true beauty, a person may decide to force themselves on another.

Some may protest rape is an act of violence, not love, and anger, not care, is behind all sexual abuse. I would agree that rape is an act of violence and anger, but that does not mean an original desire for intimacy now distorted and warped, never existed.

It is not unusual for a married couple to end their fights in the bedroom. In fact, many couples state their most passionate and intimate sexual moments are routinely preceded by angry arguments.

A possible explanation for this uneasy mixture of sex and anger is in the desires and goals of the participants. Some may contend passion is passion, and passionate anger can lead into passionate love making in the blink of an eye. Personally I do not believe anger turns into the fires of sexual passion as easy as all that. Instead, I think the common element is the desire for union, and not just desire itself.

If I truly do not like a person, no amount of anger is going to get me to want to have sex with them. Yet, if I do desire union with a person, conflictual anger can lead into sexual desire. The distance caused by the argument could easily be seen as being overcome by sexual union.

While arguing with someone my desire for union with them can either be totally extinguished or heightened. During the conflict a person may begin to feel rejected or misunderstood by their partner. As their frustration grows they may seek for a way to get beyond the petty words, or forcefully overcome the distance between them. If both or even one member of the conflict desire union, sexual energies may be seen as the only way to bridge their current distance.

An argument which culminates in sex often demonstrates to a couple that even though they have their differences, they are still in love. The intense passion of these sexual reconciliations is often spawned by the increased need for each person to feel understood and appreciated. Rather than just going through the motions of having sex, a battling couple may completely empty themselves in love making in an attempt to show their mate that they are right, or at least deserving of their love and respect.

When a couple successfully converts conflictual energy into sexual intensity, they may begin to ritualize this method of successfully removing the distance their arguments generate. This would be especially true of a couple uncomfortable or embarrassed by showing sexual passion during calm times, or whose sexual encounters have lost their novelty and luster through the years.

Love and hate (anger) are anything but opposites when they both share the common goal of union. Anger in relationships is often caused when our desire for union is denied, and the feeling of love is attained when our desire for intimacy and union is successful.

Rape exists and occurs in our culture for many reasons, and I do not mean to trivialize it by presenting arguments which might be construed as being overly sympathetic to sexual abuse. Personally, I find it difficult to even tolerate the thought that many marriages use anger as an aphrodisiac. Ideally, it would be nice if all unions were motivated by the deepest feelings of kindness and appreciation, and not contaminated by anger and fear. Yet, the truth is many people misuse and abuse their desire for intimacy, especially in a sexual context.

Since sex is both a private and powerful storehouse for potential and actual intimacy, it is only natural for people to misuse and abuse its influence. Whether one rapes due to mounting frustration, a warped union fantasy, or out of a hateful desire to violate and destroy another’s integrity, the pervasive need for intimacy is still present.

Sex, though by no means the beginning and end of all discussion on intimacy, has a prominent place in the construction and maintenance of intimate relationships. The role of sex in an intimate relationship, therefore, should never be taken for granted, or ignored.

Sex and Ideal\Real Love

What does one look for when searching for an ideal partner? One with whom they can spend a fulfilling life together. How does one know when their search is over and they are not just settling for less? When it comes to love and intimacy can one be too idealistic?

Earlier, we discussed how infatuation and even compatibility were not sufficient reasons to establish a life long partnership. We saw how infatuation was a lot like ecstasy, a great experience, but not necessarily enduring. Infatuation may inspire one to form an intimate relationship, but without an enduring commitment to intimacy it can quickly fade or become empty. Compatibility, too, was found lacking when not accompanied by a strong desire for increased intimacy.

A desire for and commitment to day-to-day intimacy was seen as the only true way of insuring that a life partnership stays fresh and fulfilling. People grow and people change and unless both members of a relationship express their needs and take an interest in their partners evolving needs any union can weaken or stagnate. A happy and fulfilled past is no guarantee of a fulfilling future. A rewarding past with a person may make me more tolerant of some slight transgressions, but sooner or later the present needs to validate my staying in the relationship. Intimate relationships only remain fulfilling as long as they are a constant source of intimate moments and unity. An intimate relationship optimistically progresses towards the future swiftly adapting and enjoying life’s changes as they arise.

The responsibility of finding a life partner is ours, not a matter of fate. Finding and choosing an ideal mate is not an exact science, because, as we have previously discovered, there is not just one person out there for us. Adopting such a view of intimate relationships forces us to make some hard decisions. Instead of just following our heart or marrying the first person we fall in love with, we are asked to not only recognize but form and maintain intimate relationships.

If fate does not determine who our life partner should be, and sexual attraction and infatuation are not sufficient guiding signs, how do we in fact determine who to form a life partnership with? Should we just give up on such an ideal and take each day as it comes? Is a life partnership just an ideal, a fantasy, undeserving of becoming a realistic personal goal?

One can have intimate relationships in their life without living with a person or committing oneself to a life partnership. One should indeed take life as it comes and make the most out of each moment. Yet, desiring to be in a life partnership does not necessarily mean one forces such a relationship to happen.

Life partnerships should be the natural result of an intimate relationship. One should not live with someone because they desire a life partnership, but rather form a life partnership because each day they desire to be closer to and share their life with the person they love.

An intimate relationship does not have to become a life partnership just as everyone we love does not have to become a lover. If we want to make an intimate relationship the center, or at least a primary aspect of our life, then it is only natural that we live with our lover as life partners.

We can indeed make a life partnership into an unrealistic ideal or fantasy, as well as demeaning its integrity through having minimal expectations of a life long relationship. If we expect a person to naturally satisfy all our needs by being there for us at every moment, then we will never be satisfied in a relationship. On the other hand, if we do not even attempt to share with our partner or try to become close to them through cultivating intimate moments, our relationship will have difficulty surviving and never offer fulfillment.

Intimacy and love are not inherent qualities in a life long relationship, they need to be nurtured, created and stimulated. If we expect too much from our partner, or expect love to magically form on its own without any creative investment on our part, our view of relationships is definitely too idealistic.

If our lives are not enriched or energized by our partner, and our relationship is more a source of security than fulfillment, then marrying such a person would definitely be a sign of our expectations of a life partner being too low. Our life partner needs to add to our life, not just preserve a status quo.

At some moments security is our most important need, and a stale life partner might be quite fulfilling. Yet, even the most unsure person has periods in their life when they yearn for more than just safety. At such times a person desires to fill the voids in their life. They want meaning, a sense of accomplishment, and to truly feel connected to something in this life.

An intimate relationship does not fulfill every void in a person’s life, but it does present the opportunity for fulfillment. Sharing thoughts and feelings lets one be aware of needs and provides an individual with the means by which these needs can be fulfilled.

Intimacy is a skill developed and refined like any other, through practice and constant evaluation. An intimate relationship exercises the skills of sharing and getting closer every single day. The more one intimately shares with a life partner, the easier and more natural it becomes for them to be intimate with other levels of their lives.

Intimate relationships are only one aspect of leading a fulfilling life, but it is hard to imagine living a fulfilling life without making one’s life partnership more than one of convenience or security. Spending much of your time with someone you are only partially connected to has to have an eroding effect on one’s sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

We should not enter a life partnership unless that is what the person is, a life partner. This means a person not only is currently a source of joy and fulfillment, but show every sign of being able to continue to enrich our lives for the many years to come.

Without intimate expression and open communication we are entering into a life partnership blind and ungrounded, basing an entire life long commitment on the belief and hope that the love and joy of today will last forever. No matter how strong and warming a fire might be, it still needs fuel to be counted on in the future. Intimacy is the fuel which powers the fires of union, allowing passion and love to feed off the present while providing new forests to be harvested tomorrow.

When seeking a life partner one should be looking for a person they feel comfortable sharing their life with, and whose presence and input has them find intimacy on many levels of their life. A life partner should be a source of encouragement, whose criticisms and suggestions are meant to motivate not stunt growth and expansion.

Life partners should function as a team, giving support and providing strength. Their union should not be us against the world, (for that would prohibit the possibility of many areas of intimacy outside the relationship) but rather a union excited by life’s challenges.

If one is in an intimate relationship with a person how can they be assured that they won’t find a better one tomorrow? Can one ever truly find their ideal life partner?

These same questions seem to be asked again and again during our exploration of intimacy and intimate relationships. When we questioned the validity of the idea that there is just one person out there for each of us, we reached the conclusion that there are probably many people we could fall in love with, and even marry. A life partner, therefore, is a matter of selection and not pre-ordained from the heavens. The success of an intimate relationship depends on the amount and way we invest ourselves into the relationship, and not on whether we violated some universal law by marrying the wrong partner.

When we discussed how established intimate relationships can survive the challenges of newer more novel relationships, we saw the importance of having a history together and found that a life partnership maintains a privileged position as long as it remains intimate. Only after a life long partnership turns sterile does the meaning and fulfillment of it’s historical value lose it’s ability to ward off the seduction of a new relationship.

We now should once again answer the question of choosing the proper life partner from the perspective of sexual pleasure and intimacy. In review, our bodies are our most private possession. Sharing our body with another, therefore, is letting a person into our most private world. While making love we allow another to not only be at the doorstep of all our experience, but actually create, influence and dominate our entire sensual and perceptual experience. The experience of sexual ecstasy creates a sense of union difficult to match by any other means.

Since sex and intimacy are so closely related it is easy to see why making love is such a valued and important aspect of intimate relationships. Yet, passion, ecstasy and infatuation can evaporate out of a relationship as quickly as it can surface. If sex is so vital to intimacy how can we prevent its elusive nature from destroying an intimate relationship? How can we sustain passion in a relationship or at least prevent new infatuations from replacing old love? Can a life partner ever remain the most attractive and sexually stimulating person to us for our entire life?

Finding a person physically attractive is a fairly mystical quality. In an effort to understand the attraction we often highlight a physical characteristic, such as their eyes or legs, which captivated our attention. Other times we may attribute our being drawn to them to a personality trait or how they carry themselves. Sometimes we claim our attraction is more global, stating it’s just body chemistry or their life spirit to which we are drawn.

Some sexual relationships begin as friendships in which neither person recognizes a physical attraction, but through time one develops. The sensual attraction in these relationships grows out of what a person actually provides, rather than just the potential pleasure underlying an initial infatuation.

No matter what the original source of sexual attraction, its continued presence in an intimate relationship is often very important. If one feels alienated or distant from their life partner in the bedroom, it is hard for them to feel connected to them or view them as the center of their life in the rest of their life. This is not necessarily because we as a society place too much of an emphasis on sex, but rather due to the powerful feelings of intimacy unleashed through sexual union.

Passion creates feelings of unity, and feelings of unity foster passion. The quality and quantity of sharing inherent in an intimate relationship will create passion. The more people share and listen to each other, the closer they become and, therefore, the more passion their intimacy elicits.

There are many emotional and physical elements to sexual satisfaction. The intimate sharing inherent in a healthy life partnership makes both partners aware of each other’s diverse needs. No matter how caring and kind a person is, they may leave their mate unfulfilled if they do not know what their partner desires on a purely physical level. On the other hand, no matter how gifted a person is in physically satisfying their mate the passion may end as quickly as the orgasm if the emotional closeness of intimacy is not cultivated.

The desire for intimacy, though important, needs practical ways to be unfolded. One achieves intimacy through developing and refining skills promoting intimacy. Likewise, satisfying a desire for sexual intimacy or to sexually fulfill your mate requires practical skills. Fulfilling our mate sexually entails an awareness of all their physical and emotional needs. Tending to our lover’s physical needs is often more important than meeting their emotional needs when the goal is sexual fulfillment.

A successful intimate sexual relationship does not necessarily require us to fulfill every physical request or fantasy of our mate. Yet, an intimate relationship does require us to be mutually aware of all sexual needs and desires.

Some sexual requests and demands are born from negative sources such as fear, insecurity and a need to dominate. These sexual needs are false needs and often hamper the overall ability of the person to receive, give and experience intimacy. The only way this could be determined is if the sexual desire is first expressed and then examined and reflected upon by both partners.

Intimacy, containing the whole theater of human desire, is a very complex realm. Any sexual difference between two people can be distorted from either end of the intimacy continuum. A person may be uncomfortable with their lover’s request for a specific sex act due to a long standing inhibition or misconception, or the person making the sexual request (demand) could be making the request due to some unrealistic need fostered by a warped priority.

Unfolding intimacy often demands us to clarify or redefine our needs, to compensate for inhibitions and misconceptions barring us from increased union and fulfillment. Human sexuality being so close to all we physically and emotionally feel is both a prime ground for intimacy and a storehouse for many of our most resistive inhibitions. This is only one more reason why sex is such a valuable and vital aspect of intimate relationships and intimacy in general.

The primal role sex plays in intimacy makes it a high priority in most intimate relationships. A life partnership aware and sensitive to the power of affection and sexual fulfillment is much more likely to flourish throughout the years than one which ignores or takes sex for granted. In an intimate relationship where both partners share and express their needs, sexual satisfaction is not a mystery haunting the relationship. Instead, sex becomes a vital practical outlet for all their desires and a means for them to express their lifelong bond.

An intimate relationship endures because it is a major source of intimacy and fulfillment in one’s life. When a life partnership does not stagnate but continues to build on the intimacy it has forged through the years it is almost unthinkable for any possible new relationship to replace it. Why would anyone exchange an intimate relationship with a rewarding history of mutual exploration of life for a new relationship full of joy and promise? After years of sharing one’s fears, and unleashing one’s deepest pleasures, why would any one discard this for a new relationship no matter how intense or passionate? How could any new relationship match the passion and depth of an intimate relationship built on years of exploration and accomplishment? The answer to the above questions is simple, no possible new relationship can compete with an intimate relationship with history, unless the current level of intimacy in the long term relationship has declined or been injured.

The trick of sustaining a lifelong relationship is not based on unrealistic goals such as marrying the most attractive or compatible person you will ever meet, but rather finding a partner with whom you can be intimate for the rest of your life. This, of course, takes great commitment, but enduring intimacy always does.

In an intimate relationship, one’s compatibility with and sexual attraction to their partner grows through time. Each inhibition conquered or need fulfilled only cements the bond and heightens one’s appreciation. The more my life partner learns about me, the easier it is for her to satisfy all my needs, including sexual ones.

Whatever surface beauty the years may erode away from my spouse is more than compensated for by the totality of our union. Our closeness and familiarity which only time can bring, draws me closer to her each day. The more we learn about our partners, the more completely we can please and fulfill them. Through time their bodies become synonymous with sexual fulfillment and physical intimacy. Another body, no matter how beautiful or exotic, would still be a stranger groping in the darkness of unfamiliarity to meet my needs.

Sexual relationships become stale when they lack a forward movement, or have stopped being a source of increased intimacy. If I no longer find a body attractive, it is usually because I no longer find the person attractive. The loss of attraction is often as much a matter of intimacy as a physical decline.

If I no longer find my spouse visually appealing there is much more involved than extra weight or wrinkles. Beauty is only skin deep to a relationship devoid of intimacy. In a relationship built on intimacy attractiveness involves every aspect of a person’s personality and character. Their body is no longer just a visual object but a vehicle for joy and intimacy. The body in an intimate relationship is something to be felt and experienced by every sense and sensation. It’s appeal goes far beyond objective visual beauty, for it becomes the living incarnation of human intimacy for a life partner.

When a partner begins to lose their physical appeal to us it is a sign of something much more significant. Signaling that we no longer view our partner as the living embodiment of sensual intimacy it demonstrates that there has been a spiritual break. Maybe their flabby body is just an indication of the lack of care they are showing themselves of late, or a reminder of how little effort they have invested into pleasing us lately. Maybe we find their body less appealing because in it we see alienation where we used to find union. Maybe it’s difficult for us to be aroused by our partner because they have lost confidence in themselves as a sexual being. Whatever the reason for our partner’s loss of appeal, it is through intimacy that it must be restored.

No matter how beautiful, physically endowed, or sexy a woman is, she can be boring in bed. Likewise no matter how sexy, stylish, handsome or romantic a man is, he can be a disappointing sexual partner. On the other hand even the most plain and nondescript person can be a sexual powerhouse, and through their ability to please and be pleased become a very attractive person to their partner.

Sexual confidence is probably the most important quality for an enduring lover to possess. A person who thrives on sexual intimacy is bound to be attractive to their partner, for such a person yearns to please and be pleased by their partner. The only exception to this truism is if the sexually confident person lacks intimacy on other levels of the relationship. Yet, if one’s concern is in how to remain attractive to their spouse, sexual confidence and intimacy is the solution to their concerns.

By intimately sharing ourselves with our partners and letting them know what we enjoy, we are grooming and unleashing their sexual confidence. A sexually confident person knowing our needs and what pleases us will have a difficult time ever losing their attractiveness for us.

Though sex has a privileged role in intimacy and intimate relationships, it is not equally important to all couples. Some couples place sexual fulfillment as a very high priority in their lives while others place sexual intimacy far below many other shared interests and activities.

Even in the physical realm itself there are many major differences in preferences and priorities. Some couples find minor affection and close proximity such as cuddling a more necessary intimate need than sexual intercourse. Other couples place sexual ecstasy and rapture far above any other form of physical proximity. All couples need to find their own individual mix of sex and affection which fulfill their needs. Just as every person has their own individual needs so does each couple have their individual sensual and sexual needs.

No matter what aspect of a relationship we consider whether it be physical attraction, sexual and emotional fulfillment, or general compatibility we find intimacy as the common denominator. The success and satisfaction of everything in a relationship from simple daily conversation to life decisions depends on the amount and quality of intimacy in the relationship. Therefore, it is only logical that we look to intimacy when deciding if a relationship could be a life partnership.

Since perfection is beyond human experience, there can be no perfect relationship. Seeking a perfect relationship only prevents one from fully appreciating the people they love and adds to the amount of discontent in a relationship. A perfect relationship would require a perfect union and, therefore, could not involve any additional intimacy. When looking for the perfect union any need is seen as being a weakness in the relationship, rather than a vehicle for increased intimacy.

Instead of seeking a perfect relationship, we should seek one that will fill our lives with joy and meaning. The more intimate the relationship the more potential for joy and fulfillment it contains. Finding a life partner is the same thing as finding a person we can be intimate with on all levels of our lives. Not a relationship without conflicts, but one with the ability to work through conflict. One in which sharing and respect are the cornerstones of the practical union of the relationship.

When you consider how much is at stake when we share our bodies and the incredible potential for intense pleasure and intimacy physical contact contains, it is not surprising we expect sexual fidelity in an intimate relationship. Sexual exclusivity in a life partner is not just an act of control, it is a respect for and protection of deepest intimacy. Though some can and do enjoy sex for sex sake, more often than not sex involves the closest levels of human union. Having sex with some one other than your life partner signifies a desire to share the most private levels of your being with someone else.

Since sexual needs are an important part of every life partnership and everyone’s needs are unique, we now need to determine how differences in sexuality between a couple are to be rectified. Probably the most difficult and ignored problem in life partnerships is the sexual differences of a couple. Even when a life partnership is not sexually exclusive, differences in sexual preferences and appetites are a significant issue. No matter how open the relationship, these differences still make your partner seem somewhat foreign to you, or a source of frustration and self-doubt.

Committing oneself to a life partnership without knowing your partner’s sexual preferences is dangerous indeed. First of all, deciding on a person you want to share the rest of your life with while not knowing such a vital part of them as their sexuality is quite ludicrous. How can one profess to intimately know someone if they do not even know something as basic to their sense of pleasure and joy as their sexual needs and preferences?

Only through physical exploration and intimate discussion can one ascertain the sexual differences of a couple and how they impact their view of love and intimacy. Once we establish the differences there is only one realistic way to overcome them, that is through intimate discussion and compromise.

We stated earlier that one is not required to respond to every sexual request of their partner, but that they should always be open to discussing on whose side the inhibition or resistance lies. When no underlying inhibition or fear is found we then move onto the point of compromise. If your mate desires a specific act with a frequency one is uncomfortable with, then there is no other solution other than sensitive negotiation.

Knowing your mate’s sexuality before marriage is very important, for even though many sexual preferences can be negotiated or a mutually satisfying compromise found, major differences in sexual appetites are almost impossible to overcome. If you like to make love every day and your spouse desires to make love only once a week, it will be difficult for this gap to be bridged while leaving both people sexually content and emotionally united.

No matter what the solution it will be difficult for the one with the stronger sex drive to feel loved by their partner. Since sex is not as important for their partner it will be hard for them not to feel that their spouse is sometimes just going through the motions with them while making love. Even if they thoroughly enjoy making love, the partner with the lesser sex drive will most likely make their partner feel rejected by not initiating sex often enough. The partner with the heightened sex drive often equates sexual desire with intimacy and love and, therefore, routinely feels unloved by their partner.

The partner with the lower sex drive will occasionally feel harassed, pestered and even suffocated by their spouses enormous sex drive. They, in turn, would feel less loved by their partner’s perceived preoccupation with sex regardless of their needs and desires. The differences in sexual appetites are just as important in the realm of affection where a high imbalance is bound to make one partner feel pestered while leaving the other one feeling unloved or neglected.

The differences in sexual appetites like any other sexual differences can often be rectified through discussion. Sometimes the differences in sexual appetites are bridged when the couple reveals and expresses what sex means to them. Often the greater understanding and appreciation gained by such a discussion is enough to get the couple’s appetites more in line with each other.

Other times an intimate discussion can identify misaligned priorities, or unnecessary time constraints in each others lives which are causing the huge divergence in sex drives. Many couples find that they need to make discussions designed to balance their sexual desire with outside responsibilities a monthly, or even weekly tradition.

Yet, when all is said and done it is best for a couple to be aware of, and take into strong consideration, differences in sexual appetite long before they make a life time commitment to each other. Sex, having such a pivotal role in most people’s experience of intimacy, is not something to be ignored to taken for granted when founding a relationship.

Sexual Intimacy, Fantasy and Romance

Each time we make love we have an opportunity to push the boundaries of physical pleasure and sensual unity a step farther. The amount of care and attention we can give to every sensation and feeling is amplified during love making. Our imagination can be used to assist us in feeling and expressing the intensity of the moment. We can create moods, accent body stimulations, and transform the most simple sensation into a spiritual moment through our imagination.

Creating moods can be done without any props, but often the addition of music, calming fragrances and candle light can add to the sensual delight of love making. Oil massages and silky clothing are also common ways people tend to heighten the sensual playground offered through sexual intimacy.

The devices mentioned are just a few of the ways in which a couple can accent the sensual pleasure of love making. Such props and techniques do not replace, but only add to the joy of love making, much like flavorful spices can accent the taste of a fine meal.

Our imagination is a key participant in intimate love making. Through our imagination we arouse our emotions and desires by acknowledging the importance our partner plays in our life. Our imagination makes it possible for us to empathize and even anticipate what our partner is feeling allowing us an opportunity to maximize the intensity of their pleasure. During love making we are free to feel the moment in all its intensity. We can use our imagination to play and dance with the rhythms of intimacy, choosing when to sooth, quietly embrace, or race towards the next climax.

The healthy parts of fantasy and romance feed off this aspect of imagination, in which our appreciation of our partner is highlighted by our thoughts and inner visions. Fantasy and romance can enrich the intensity of sensual experience and have us feel closer and more intimate with our partner.

Fantasy is a beneficial love making tool when it assists in immersing one into the moment, into the very fiber of a partner. Romance is a vital tool of intimacy when it induces a person to reflect on the beauty of both their partner and the experiences they share.

The problem with both fantasy and romance is that they are often used in ways which are injurious to intimacy, replacing or taking a person away from the moment at hand. Fantasy often distances one by fabricating rather than accenting an intimate experience, while romance often restricts intimacy by looking for mystery or adventure.

Today it is becoming more and more popular to defend fantasy in the spirit of sexual freedom. Couples are often encouraged to share and act out their fantasies with each other to help overcome their inhibitions while increasing their sexual fulfillment. Any fantasy, say many professionals, is fine as long as it takes place between two consenting adults.

My objection to many aspects of fantasy is not from any moral outrage or prudent disgust, but strictly from the realm of intimacy. I’m not saying fantasies are bad or evil, just that they can often remove a person from the intimacy of the moment or from an intimate relationship in general.

If a person’s sexual fulfillment depends on an element of fantasy, then the fantasy has not enhanced but replaced intimacy. What intimacy is shared when a person imagines their partner to be someone else, or if the only way they can climax is if their partner dresses a certain way, or acts a rehearsed part? What does it say about a relationship when a partner’s sexual fulfillment depends on props and internal images rather than on the real event taking place?

There is a huge difference between imagining how your partner looked when you first met, or a part of their body hidden from you view, and imagining you are in bed with some movie star. There is also a significant difference between using candle light or mirrors to stimulate or titillate, and treating your mate in a humiliating slave-like fashion in order to be aroused.

One can use their imagination during love making to enhance or create a mood whose goal is increased pleasure and intimacy, or one can use their imagination to deceive, alter and even replace the event taking place. A dependency on fantasy is usually a sign of significant inhibitions, and a general problem with intimacy in general.

Many people find fantasy necessary for they are afraid and intimidated by the vulnerability and honesty of sexual intimacy. Not willing to share, but still trying to satiate their sex drive, they find as indirect and impersonal an outlet as possible. Expressing unhealthy fantasy seldom resolves the underlying fears fostering it, making it highly unlikely the fantasies will become healthier and more intimate over time. Just as people who use alcohol or mood and mind altering drugs to overcome their inhibitions seldom ever get to the point of enjoying sex without first getting high.

The difference between the types of fantasy being compared here is essentially the difference between imagination and hallucination. In healthy fantasy something is being created to enhance one’s appreciation of the moment. In unhealthy fantasy the imagined is mistaken for or replaces the real, making intimacy with one’s partner impossible.

Romance too can be abused and used in ways which can deceive a person into a false sense of intimacy, or remove intimacy from the experience altogether. When romance is used as a heartfelt recognition or expression of love it can be a most eloquent tool of intimacy. Yet, romance is often steeped in the unhealthier aspects of fantasy. Many popular romantic visions are easy prey for abuse, or actually prohibit real intimacy from being experienced.

The most typical example of a non-intimate romantic ideal is the strong silent suitor. This classical romantic hero often sweeps a woman out of a bland existence by unexpectantly and powerfully unleashing her passions. In this fantasy the woman often resists her romantic suitor’s advances resulting in his needing to break through her resistance and inhibition by force. These rape fantasies are quite popular in our culture and are a standard story line is our so called modern romance novels.

Often the tall dark stranger of the classic romance is not a rapist, but only a haunting mystery. A man who through his quiet strength attracts the heroine to him. Through time and circumstance they find themselves drawn together until one rapturous moment when all the lurking passions seize the moment transforming mundane life into ecstasy.

The similarity between both of these heroes is their quiet strength and silence. Even at the moment when their relationship culminates in sexual passion nothing other than their bodies is shared. The romantic man was and remains a man of mystery, who transforms life through stirring physical passions. Most of our view of intimacy is sorely lacking in the romantic man. His need to be mysterious prevents any union from taking place, except a sexual one. His silence is never broken and, therefore, any verbal sharing is impossible.

In fact, sharing of any type is vacant in the romantic hero. The pristine and pure crystal world of the heroine is left intact, she need not change, or grow, or ever truly live and share a world with a man. She is spared the tragic life of the real and allowed to live in the unrealistic world of romance.

Many girls I grew up with were intrigued by the strong silent type. Boys like me, who loved to talk and share, were relegated to the role of best friends barred from their sexual live. They routinely and without exception found themselves drawn to a mystery man who they had sex with suddenly and dramatically. After a couple of weeks of sex and no conversation, they became disillusioned and bored by their silent lover.

Though the girls I grew up with enjoyed talking and sharing with boys like myself, we were too real to fit into their romantic ideal. I recall a few times when a girl came right out and told me that she knew me too well to have sex with me or become my girlfriend. She went on to explain how she would feel awkward and uncomfortable “being with me” because of how much I knew about her. One girl, ironically, said she would feel “too naked” to begin a sexual relationship with me.

I know we were all young and insecure and the prospect of truly sharing with another human being was pretty scary to all of us, but things have never changed for many of the woman I know. Often I hear women complain about the lack of verbal sharing and intimacy in their husband or lover. Yet, even after a divorce they gravitate towards and fall in love with another silent mystery man only to once again be left disillusioned and unfulfilled by the quality of intimacy offered by the relationship.

Stating one’s love for a person or buying gifts as a demonstration of one’s love is another common element of modern romance which can be abused. There is nothing inherently wrong with demonstrating one’s love through the buying of gifts. Yet, the romantic view often overly dictates the type of gift available to express one’s love. Instead of the gift showing real and practical ways of caring for an individual one may be forced to buy frivolous gifts to fit a romantic ideal.

Romantic gifts are often extremely unnecessary and a waste of money. What makes flowers, perfume, and jewelry such ideal romantic gifts? These things are beautiful and appealing to the senses and, therefore, bear some resemblance to sexual intimacy and pleasure. I guess the flowers, perfume and even jewelry we buy could be used as a visual and fragrant aid for a love making session. Is this what makes them romantic? Or is it the fact they are expensive, pretty and frivolous which constitutes their romantic value?

Yet, whatever the reason, anyone can buy such a romantic gift. These unimaginative gifts are not necessarily an expression of love, but just a acceptance of the need to buy a romantic gift. One could buy these standard romantic trinkets to purposely deceive their spouse, get them off their back, or to slacken their guilt for having an affair.

Such gifts do not express the individual beauty and intimacy of the relationship. One needs no special or privileged knowledge of their partner to buy the standard romantic gift.

Spending money on unnecessary beautiful things seems to be the ultimate romantic gesture. The romance is being created by placing the expression of love (via the gift) above any practical concerns. Somehow the idea of spending a lot of money on some romantic luxury such as a fur coat, diamond bracelet or romantic cruise seems inconsistent with the spirit and goal of intimacy.

If I’m wealthy, then spending money frivolously is no sign of any great sign of love, just opulence. If I cannot afford the gift, then to compensate for this extravagance we will probably have to do without some other things to survive. If my goal is to share with you and make our lives as fulfilling as possible why would I restrict the quality of our life in order to buy a frivolous gift?

Aren’t frivolous and intimate behavior opposites? If I care for you why would I demonstrate my love to you in a way which was frivolous, rather than intimate?

As I’m writing this I can feel the idealistic muscles of many woman tightening up, looking for a way to defend such romantic behavior. I’m sure many people are crying out right now that a romantic gift does not have to be frivolous or adversely effect the quality of life. That is absolutely true, and I’m not saying all romantic gifts are evil and detrimental to love and intimacy. What I’m simply pointing out is that such gifts can be used in a very unintimate fashion, and the romantic ideal can actually be in opposition to unfolding intimacy in one’s life.

In many people’s eyes a romantic gift or gesture is the direct opposite of a practical one, to me that is a shame. A gesture of intimacy is always practical because it is structured in the prioritized and, therefore, real needs of the person.

Intimacy should not have to conform to romance, but romance should conform to intimacy. A romantic notion not tethered to intimacy can become harmful and delusionary. The unreal, fantasy and dreamlike qualities of romance can both deceive and remove one further from actual intimacy.

The truth and practical closeness of intimacy, though beautiful, is often too real for the romantic ideal. A hopeless romantic will often view the real as gross and seek to take refuge in fantasy. Instead of intimacy such a person will only cultivate distance and weave dreams of escape instead of finding joy in drawing closer to life. A sure sign of danger is when intimacy becomes too real for romance, it is at this point that a person needs to re-evaluate the goals and pay offs of their romantic vision.

The very tools which we use to generate intimacy and have us appreciate life are also the very tools we use to avoid and destroy intimacy. I can use my imagination to create and find new ways to draw me closer to all I love. Or, I can use my imagination to come up with lies and distortions, hurting and distancing me from others. Anyone can be romantic or say I love you, even if such words and gestures are empty or meant to create rather than express love.

Romantic gestures are no substitute for real intimacy, nor can they create a bond which does not already exist. Anyone can be romantic or say they love someone, but true intimacy (being validated each moment in the practical world) is not something which can be feigned as easily. Intimacy, being a rigorous and never ending process, not only fulfills our lives but prevents tools such as romance and fantasy from being abused.

In Summary

Sexual intimacy can be a very powerful component of a life long relationship, capable of producing both intense pleasure and a sense of union difficult to attain through any alternative method. Since our bodies are our most private and personal possession it is understandable that we place such an emphasis on mutual consent in sexual relationships. The body’s primal role in all experience is what makes sex such an intense and personal experience.

During sexual intimacy we allow another person to directly effect and influence our every sensations, creating our experience as profoundly as our own thought process. Not only is a lover directly arousing our sensual experience, but they are there sharing that experience the very moment it forms. A feeling of intimacy is inevitable to any couple aware and sensitive to the very dynamics and process of sexual intimacy.

The incredible potential of sexual intercourse can be wasted or ignored like any other human interest. Sex can be reduced to an animalistic act intended purely as a release of the hormonal imperative to mate. Sex can also be a functional act engaged in solely to continue the species, or spawn a family. Sex can be used in anger, or even as a means to violate and destroy another human being.

Sexual tools and devices such as romance and fantasy can also be used to enhance the feelings of proximity and warmth. Our imagination, in particular, can be used to create moods which can heighten both our sexual pleasure and sense of union with our partner.

The use of romance and fantasy can also be used in a fashion which distances us from our partner and from the experience of intimacy itself. In every situation involving emotional and physical union we need to be on the look out for possible inhibitions and insecurities which either have us demand too much from our partner or adopt an unrealistic view of love and intimacy.

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