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“Have you tried giving him blowjobs instead? Many women find blowjobs to be less intimate.”
This advice from a therapist represents so much of what is wrong in modern relationship advice.
In one of the chapters of her book Untamed, Glennon Doyle describes her exchange with a therapist, whom they have consulted after her husband admitted sleeping with other women.
The woman therapist dismissed Glennon’s feelings as unreal when she admitted being in love with a woman, cautioning her that nothing good can come out of it. When Glennon described how she disassociated during sex with her husband—which had become intolerable—the therapist advised her to give him blowjobs instead.
Having sex without desire is what women have done for centuries, providing sex as a way to secure their shelter and survival. The attachment to the patriarchal idea that longevity is the single measure of a relationship’s success further enforces the need to ignore our feelings and needs within one.
Disconnected from our bodies for generations, we continue treating ourselves and each other as if we have no feelings, opinions, preferences, desires of our own.
Telling anyone that their feelings do not matter is a violation. This is actually what is at the source of trauma: any experience that has made us feel unsafe—physically or emotionally.
Contrary to popular belief, the harm of trauma is not the actual traumatic event. The damage is the resulting disconnect from our own bodies, the disruption of our sense of sovereignty, of knowing our bodies as sacred and safe. This is what must be repaired if we are to heal, post-trauma: the broken connection between ourselves and our bodies, with respect to its feelings, senses, protests, desires.
Couples therapy that advises us to have more sex without seeking to understand the underlying causes of disconnect or repulsion within the couple inadvertently perpetuates our trauma and promotes further disconnect from ourselves.
This habitual dismissal of our wishes, the automatic override of our body’s signals is also what prevents us from pursuing lives where we can become fulfilled and happy. Instead, many of us create lives that keep us in survival mode. Staying small and mute, we become collapsed—without agency.
Our relationship with our bodies is disrupted early in life when we learn to shame, deny, and control our desires for rest, food, sleep, sex, self-expression.
By the time we are adults, the disconnect from our bodies and our feelings is complete.
When we are not present to our own feelings, we will be unable to attune to the feelings of another, unable to create the deep connection we all long for in relationships.
Fearful of being judged or ridiculed, many of us have taken refuge in rigid beliefs and habits. Anything outside of the very narrow constraints sanctioned by society as allowed is deemed as abnormal, cultivating our continued stifling of our true nature.
We are just now starting to accept that our sexuality is varied, fluid, and multi-dimensional.
But we have a long way to go toward recognizing and integrating that fluidity within our own relationships.
The majority of us still find it appalling and take it personally when we learn of an infidelity, ignoring the fact that human proclivity for “transgression” has existed persistently for as long as relationships have.
We demand and expect naked truth and complete transparency from our partners, and judge them harshly when they stray. What we refuse to acknowledge, however, is that our relationships rarely provide the kind of safe space where free exploration and expression of our inner self is possible.
We also do not realize to what extent our decisions and choices in the erotic realm are driven by our unconscious. Our unconscious material—the repressed feelings and urges—is trapped in our bodies, in our nervous systems. Since most of us are disconnected from our bodies and desires, often we do not even understand our own urges and are ashamed of them when we do.
When our childhood training has made us uneasy about our own sexuality, and no one has modeled to us difficult conversations about taboo subjects, conflict resolution, and non-violent communication, all we know is shame and self-repression.
Hiding the truth of who we are—even from ourselves—becomes an act of primitive self-preservation.
So, in this atmosphere of an absence of safety to be ourselves, wilted, bitter, and unaroused women in relationships with stressed out, impotent, and emotionally repressed men are told by marital advice experts to have more sex.
Telling two people who have lost connection to themselves and to each other to have more sex seems to me not only cruel but completely out of touch with the complexity of what awakens erotic pull.
Passion and fulfillment are intricately linked. And yet we deny ourselves fulfillment by keeping ourselves small, and we mistrust passion fearing that it’ll take us outside of the straight and narrow narrative of what is normal under patriarchy.
Abraham Maslow studied peak experiences—moments of ecstasy such as being enraptured by a piece of music or a painting, a communion with nature, the joy from bodily movement in dance or sport. In these moments, we are fully present, unselfconsciously expressing our truest selves with ease and grace, in gratitude to be alive. Peaks offer us glimpses of our most authentic, healthiest selves and can serve us as guides to growth.
Maslow saw peak experiences as crucial sources of “clean and uncontaminated data” about who we are and might become.
Jack Morin, in his book The Erotic Mind, brings Maslow’s theory into sex therapy.
Morin uses peak turn-ons to help clarify conditions for satisfying sex. He discovered that access to this information is an extremely important ingredient for successful sex therapy. Morin’s biggest obstacle in this work was his clients’ refusal to reveal details of their own fantasies, being mostly just interested in fixing “the problem.”
The study of our erotic peaks reveals secrets of our idiosyncrasies, conflicts, and unresolved emotional wounds. The challenges of early life, faced by us all, become the cornerstones of eroticism. To use Morin’s words, our erotic mind has an amazing ability to transform life’s inevitable difficulties and emotional wounds into sources of excitation.
Unfortunately, more often than not people are afraid to share what excites them in fear to be revealed as abnormal.
Contrary to what patriarchy sold us as the definition of happiness, there is no single formula for what makes us happy in partnerships and in our lives. Each of us is unique and messy and human— each with our own stories and familial dysfunction.
When we run around disconnected from our desire, unfulfilled, in a cloud of stress and fear of criticism, there’s no space for cultivating connection and no energy for eliciting a spark.
This has become an epidemic and it is one of the biggest problems in our relationships—bad for both men and women.
Discomfort with our sexuality took generations to build and will not be changed overnight.
However, growing self-awareness can guide us toward more joy, satisfaction, and agency in all areas of our lives.
Self-awareness and safety to own who we are is a prerequisite for developing deep connection in all relationships, and is an important key in deepening intimacy and sustaining passion long-term. Feeling safe to go on an erotic adventure is how sexually healthy couples cultivate skills to keep the spark alive between them as their relationships grow.
That requires deep work to feel safe to be ourselves, to reconnect to our bodies, to rebuild our sense of sovereignty, and to learn to articulate our feelings without fear of shaming or retaliation from an emotionally triggered partner.
To heal is to expand our capacity to process emotions, most of which live in our subconscious, in our bodies, in our nervous systems. Every time we can unlock, face, and process the repressed parts of ourselves we return to our wholeness.
The coming together of two sovereign, self-confident, emotionally mature people, heightened by a sense of being safe, seen, and understood is what actually activates desire within a couple. Intimacy, connection, and sex follow.
Learn how to reclaim the fullness and safety of who you are. Contact me for a free introductory conversation.