“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.” ~ Billy Crystal
This is all the wisdom I have gleaned about partnerships, dating, sex, love and romance over the past 16 years.
How simultaneously empowering and pathetic: My entire love life can be summarized in mere paragraphs. All those dramatic, chemical, sticky, everlasting affairs boil down to a handful of fleeting sentences. But instead of rehashing my personal past, I offer six simple guidelines for joyful sexual relationships. Since I am a woman, these are written from a woman’s perspective. No offense, men.
1. Open communication is the essential foundation of every relationship.
Total honesty provides the necessary foundation for trust, love, respect and mutual growth. Like yoga (and tennis and any habit), total honesty takes practice. Act with integrity, and share your intentions for yourself and for the relationship with your partner.
When you meet someone new, maintain a beginner’s mind. Treat each experience as new and minimize judgment. Practice mindfulness in the relationship. Look him in the eyes. Listen fully. Be there. When sex enters the picture, it intensifies everything. A lot. Know that, and try to take it slow.
2. Cultivate friendship.
The best relationships are friendships. Friendship means things in common, compassion, mutual respect. Osho calls friendliness “the highest form of love,” because friendship transcends neediness and lust.
Friendships that evolve organically into romantic relationships are often the most successful. Though there always is that risk of screwing it all up and losing the friendship altogether. When bridging the gap between friendly love and romantic love, it’s best to define the relationship’s boundaries frequently. Tell each other what you want and need. Most men don’t like doing this. Because it makes some women feel clingy, they avoid initiating this type of conversation. Get over it! It will be worth it.
3. Destroy the pedestal.
Those silly boyfriends. They mattered so much at the time. I put them on such pedestals. What can I say? I like beginnings better than endings. Firsts are fun. Pregnant with possibilities. You meet someone and begin conjuring up concepts together. Fantasies. Action plans. Next steps. “Our future.” Beginnings of relationships serve us well. We open our hearts. We connect with hope, we trust the other person, we form a partnership. Not to mention the biochemical happiness that floods the brain and causes the euphoria of “falling in love.” Ahhhh. So lovely.
Accept reality. He is not perfect, he is far from ideal, he may or may not be “right” for you. Physical chemistry is a tricky thing. It cannot be created or destroyed. It can cause unhealthy projections, seemingly tricking us into falling for douchebags. The stronger the physical chemistry, the more addictive the sex, the higher the pedestal. Knock them down. I’m a champion daydreamer, but I’ve learned to be careful not to overindulge in ruminations, fantasies or unrealistic projections of any kind, especially in the early stages of infatuation.
4. There’s no such thing as casual sex.
If you’re sleeping with someone, whether you think it’s meaningful or not, you are creating a connection. If this emotional connection is only felt by the woman, turmoil is inevitable. (Most men, straight or gay, seem quite capable of unattached sex.) At the same time, sex outside of a committed relationship can be fun and helpful in its own weird way (e.g. “rebounding”), but it’s essential to keep it light and infrequent. Don’t allow yourself to confuse lust for love.
Whether in a relationship or not, solitude is a fact of life. We all know serial monogamists. But, at the end of the day, the truth is: we are alone, whether we are “single” or coupled. In reality, I have control over nothing and no one except my responses to the things that happen to me. Except my own personal goals and plans, or lack thereof.
The best thing to do when starting a new relationship is to let go of goals and plans. This holds true for all of life. Plans never work out; why make them? Goals make you feel bad when you fail to meet them. I used to write many personal resolutions. I would plan my life down to the hour. For the past year, I’ve been shifting away from planning and actively aiming to live in the present moment as much as possible. (To learn more about this lifestyle, check out zenhabits.)
If you’re in a long-term, serious relationship or marriage, you also have to detach. This is one of the most confusing tenets of Buddhism, for me at least. Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you won’t experience sadness and grieve when a loved one dies. It simply means you are not attached to their physical form only. You let go when the time comes to move on, whether it is death or divorce that drives you apart. You are grateful for the experience. You hold no grudge.
6. Nothing lasts forever.
Buddhism 101. Everything is impermanent. If we’re lucky, we find a relationship that promotes mutual growth and lasts beyond the first date. But if it deteriorates, comfort alone is not a good rationale to keep seeing someone. Are you guilty of this detrimental thought pattern? “Oh, I already know him… he’s seen me naked… it would be such a hassle to find someone new.” Just stop it! It’s better to be single than in a relationship perpetuated by mutual laze.
Listen to your intuition, because it is always right. Reading through my old journals, I am astonished at how often I called breakups before they happened. I didn’t listen to my gut and end the relationships, so usually the guy did. Intuition never lies. How many more times are we going to ignore its truth?
If all else fails…
Unless you connect sufficiently and authentically with your partner on all four levels of being: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual, a vibrator is a hell of a lot simpler and more effective! Trust that you will meet “Mr. Right Now” when you are ready and able.