| ||Healthy Relationships: The Three Kinds of Sex||
Sex often draws us into a relationship and then helps keep it alive. But what is "good" sex?
If you look at the images that bombard us every day from magazines and
movies, good sex is instantaneous, totally mutual, cataclysmic, and is
best at the very beginning of a relationship.
In fact, surveys tell us that in real life, folks in long term
relationships who can talk openly about their sex life have more and
better sex than new or more reticent couples. What really determines
what kind of sex you are going to have isn't the novel positions you
find in the sex manual or the new tips in the latest magazine. It's how
safely attached you are to your partner. Emotional presence and trust
are the biggest aphrodisiacs of all.
The new science of attachment tells us that there are really 3 kinds of sex.
This is all about reducing sexual tension, achieving the big O and
feeling good about your sexual prowess. The name of the game is
sensation, the more the better and performance, or the "God I am hot"
quotient. The relationship with the other person is secondary. For a
one night stand this is maybe okay. In a long term relationship this is
bad news. Men seem to be more able to practice this kind of sex. They
are wired to move quickly from arousal to orgasm. Women take longer to
become aroused and needs more co-ordination happening with a partner to
really enjoy sex.
Sealed off Sex works fine for one night stands. It is one-dimensional
so continual novelty is mandatory. This kind of sex can be mutually
satisfying occasionally in long term relationships, but if it is the
norm, the relationship is in trouble. This kind of impersonal sex has
the effect of making a partner feel used and emotionally alone.
Regular physical contact actually tunes the brain into the need to feel
emotionally close. When this is missing, partners are swamped with a
sense of isolation and deprivation. "When we make love, I feel
like I could be anyone," Kerrie tells me. "It just reinforces for me
the sense that I don’t really matter to him." Bill, her partner,
tells her, "Well, we haven’t been getting along, so I try to get
close by coming onto you. But I guess I don't feel sure enough, safe
enough to slow down and really get into it. So I just go with the
sensation. In the end, I don’t really enjoy it that much either."
Lack of emotional connection shuts off real eroticism.
When this sex is the norm in a relationship, it's time to pay attention
to the lack of safe emotional connection outside the
This occurs when we are not quite sure that our partner is
really there for us, when we need lots of reassurance. If we are
anxious about whether we can depend on our partner, we get caught up in
pleasing our lover to win his or her approval. We concentrate on
cuddling and affection rather than abandoning ourselves in love-making.
Comforting tender touch is part of good sex, but when we get
preoccupied with gaining reassurance, eroticism suffers.
With Solace Sex, we are highly sensitive to signs of rejection. So when
our lover says, "I just don’t feel like it tonight", we can't
manage to respond, "Oh, that is disappointing. I was looking forward to
making love. But we can make it another time or just chat for a
while." Instead, we free fall into catastrophic thinking,
doubting that we are really loved. As a result, we often wind up
pressuring our partner to have sex or getting into arguments about
exactly why they are not feeling sexy.
When this kind of sex is the norm, it's time to talk to your partner
about your anxieties. The safe you feel the more you will be able to
let go and enjoy your sexuality.
This is when emotional openness and responsiveness, tender touch
and erotic exploration all come together. This is the sex that
fulfills, satisfies and connects. The key prerequisite here is not
wild sexual techniques but a safe emotional bond. The safer we feel
emotionally, the more we can communicate, express our needs, play and
explore our responses and relax into sexual feelings. We can literally
tune into each other and co-ordinate our sexual dance, sensing each
others inner state and responding to how arousal shifts and peaks.
Emotional safety shapes physical synchrony and physical synchrony
shapes emotional safety.
Synchrony Sex that deepens our bond with our lover, feeds our own sense
of ourselves as attractive desirable sexual beings, and makes
lovemaking a reliable source of eroticism and joy. Research tells us
that those who can count on their partner to be there for them
emotionally, who say that they have a secure bond, have sex more often
and enjoy sex more.
When people feel safe with each other they can also deal with the
sexual differences and problems that inevitably come up in a long term
love relationship. What I tell the couples who come to see me to
improve their relationship is that "Practice and emotional presence
make perfect in the bedroom". The thrill in this kind of sex is like
the 'safe adventure' of dancing tango with a trusted partner. You are
totally engaged in the dance and let the emotional and physical music
take you over. The dance is then constant improvisation and play.
Emotional presence and trust is the biggest aphrodisiac of all and the
thrill can last a lifetime.
When you can have this kind of sex, rejoice and hold your lover tight. This is the way sex was supposed to be.
|Sue Johnson is Director of the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy and Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California as well as Professor of Clinical......more