Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Sex is a great thing. It helps us feel closer to others and makes us feel great about ourselves. I once had a client say that when his wife was willing to have sex with him, he knew in that moment he was acceptable to her. That's how much it means to a lot of people. "Acceptability" may mean a sense of emotional closeness and safety or physical attractiveness. But in order to get someone we are in a relationship with to have sex with us, we have to communicate, which helps them feel close.
Sexual arousal is a complicated series of mechanisms in our body. Our brain is our primary sex organ. Sexual arousal begins with our brain signaling to the rest of the body that it is okay to feel pleasure. To feel maximum pleasure we can't feel like we're under threat. This mechanism developed as a way to protect us from predators. Running with an erection isn't easy, and it doesn't make us faster. Today, we mostly perceive emotional threats that get in the way of sexual arousal. In high conflict relationships, there may be an actual physical threat. To our nervous systems, however, there is little difference between the two...a threat is a threat. If we are afraid, or feel unsafe, our body assigns a higher priority to our safety than our sexual arousal. And this is where being present and in touch with our feeling state comes in real handy...that is, if you like getting laid.
Some people need to feel close to have sex and some have sex to feel close. Our partners feel closest to us when we are known to them...when we are communicating well, and seem happy. To be known, we must first recognize what is going on with ourselves and be able to be transparent about it. Transparency and authenticity are ingredients in the sexual dynamic of healthy couples. So, for example, you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. You are irritable and a little angry. You recognize it early in the day, but fail to be curious about it's origins. Your partner sees the change in your body language, eye contact and tone of voice and asks you about it. This example is (so far) made up of good news and bad news. Can you recognize which is which? The bad news is NOT the fact that you are irritable and a little angry. The bad news is that you are feeling this way and didn't address it. The good news is that your partner has not filled the blank you left them with worst case scenario, like, "Oh...he's pissed that we haven't had sex in 48 hours, and now he is pouting," or "I bet he is having an affair!" No...your partner read what you were not saying, and rather than personalizing it, internalizing it and jumping to conclusions, they recognized they didn't know and it may not be about them...so they asked you. This is great! (and pretty rare). Now comes the part where a lot of men get tripped up. Your choice is to: A) Avoid expressing the existence of the feelings or, B) Acknowledge they exist and admit they are a mystery to us. If you said, "A" read on. The correct answer is B. When we are able to turn toward our partner and fill in the blank for them, they can understand it and give us space to figure out why we are feeling that way and what we can do to change it.
Emotional curiosity requires us to really think. "What is it that I'm feeling and why am I feeling it?" It may be that we are feeling overwhelmed or disconnected from those around us. Recognizing what we are feeling and why should be shared with our partner with ownership. The word "I" is essential. "I am feeling disconnected from you. We have both been working a lot lately and haven't been prioritizing our relationship. I would like to set some time aside to hang out." When we communicate our authentic feelings with ownership, we give our partners the chance to join us in open dialogue. Rather than dealing with a fictional shit-show of made up fears, we are talking about our truth.
The TRUTH...will get you laid.