How Couples Can Restore Intimacy And Grow Their Love
(Part 2 of the Sex Argument)
Problems in relationship are most often viewed as the barrier to love, the obstruction that prevents us from communicating effectively and reaching our partner’s heart, as well as our own. But what if the problems were not the real problem, but rather the path – or the process — to grow closer to each other? What if the problems couples face were actually the opportunity to grow their love and their respect for each?
The real problem in long-standing relationships — including issues involving sex – is not the issue that presents itself, but the way we approach the issue. Many believe that relationship is really about satisfying each other’s immediate needs. For those who believe such a thing, conflict is interpreted as the failure of one partner to satisfy the other. Therefore, it is the basis for separation, which explains why the divorce rate has hit 50 percent.
The truth is that below every disagreement lie parts of your life that are desperate to be expressed, understood, and loved by you. Those parts of you, when reintegrated, can add something essential to who you are, and thus change your life for the better.
We enter relationship and fall in love to be with someone who can help us bring love and understanding to the parts of our inner lives that are most wounded. Name any important aspect of partnership – sex, money, food and diet, religion, child-rearing, how to treat parents, and parents-in-law — and you have a menu of places where people have been abused, humiliated, and made to feel incompetent. These are exactly the areas that emerge in relationship and yearn to be seen, understood, loved, and healed.
What did we expect? That these areas of pain and internal conflict were not going to be exposed in our committed relationships?
For couples who are prepared to approach issues as a call to explore themselves, and share deeper aspects of their inner lives, such times of conflict become the basis for growth, greater trust, and deeper love.
In last month’s newsletter, we saw how the personal inner struggles of Will and Bernadette were affecting their sex life. Their conflict emerged in the bedroom, but its source had very little to do with sex. Will’s struggle is about his ability to call upon his power and his own self image. He wants to define who he is at his work, and in the world. He wants to act and see himself as striving to be his best. Will, at his best, is still capable of realizing his dreams. Unfortunately, he currently feels his fate is in the hands of his employer, which means his boss gets to define who he is, and what he is capable of achieving. As long as his boss defines who he is – and gets to demean him – Will is less than what he wants to be. And that, he understands on some level, is the death of his masculinity and indeed of his soul.
Bernadette is embroiled in a similar struggle, especially her understanding of her power and freedom to make her own choices. She wants to be made to feel that her needs are important, indeed essential, to the health of the relationship. Raised to please others, she now feels that she must be understood and respected for what she wants and how she wants to be treated. Like Will, she wants to own her own life.
Naturally, these issues affect love-making – how could they not? However, techniques for better sex are not going to address the real sources of their conflict. I am not saying that they should avoid discussions around sex, or refuse to learn more about their sex lives. But deeper mysteries are emerging and want to be understood. And avoidance of those will have life-altering repercussions.
Indeed, what started out as a sex argument can lead to emotional and spiritual healing.
The question is: How do we get to the real issues we face, and then how can such issues be healed.
Sharing Your Inner World – From The Heart
Here are a handful of suggestions for knowing your truth and communicating it from your heart.
- Spend time alone and get in touch with your deeper feelings and thoughts. Walk in nature, spend time in a church, synagogue, or temple when there is no service taking place. Pray, meditate, and feel what is in your heart. Don’t censor yourself. Don’t analyze what you feel. Rather, allow your inner truth to rise to the surface in as complete a form as possible.
You can coax your truth forth simply by allowing yourself to feel without judging or thinking too much about what you feel. Also, refrain from carrying on an imaginary dialogue with your partner. This is not the time to make an argument. It’s the time to get to know yourself better.
- When the time comes to speak to your partner, be sure to create an atmosphere that is soft, expansive, and quiet, one in which the two of you will not be interrupted. Atmosphere matters. The more yin and open it is, the more you are likely to relax, express yourself effectively, and listen without feeling a need to defend yourself. Don’t expect to be understood if you’re revealing some deep personal truth while your partner is doing the dishes or feeding the dog.
- Both of you should commit in advance to allowing each other to speak your respective truths completely. Commit as well to listening to the other, and even helping each other get to what you truly feel.
- Don’t try to fix each other. The healing comes from speaking your complete truth and being listened to. It does not come from any advice one might give the other.
- When you speak about sex, don’t shame the other or make him or her feel inadequate. Tell your truth, express your needs, meanwhile, hold your partner in dignity and understanding. Sex is tender and vulnerable ground, as I have tried to show. Conflicts around sex are rarely just about sex. Rather, they include wounded areas of the heart, shame and humiliation, and aspects of self that long to be understood and reintegrated into our lives again.
- Know your intention and commit to reconciling and restoring the love between you and your partner. Whatever the facts of the conflict are, they are usually less important and less powerful than is your intention to love. However, realize that your intention – whatever it may be — will determine which direction the conversation goes. Your intention will determine how you use the facts and express your truth, whether or not you listen, and where you lead to discussion. Either it will go toward greater hurt and separation, or deeper understanding, compassion, and love.
- Take responsibility for any mistakes you may have made and commit to engaging in your own healing in order to keep from making those mistakes again. We all must be engaged in our own healing path, irrespective of the challenges in our relationship. Commit to doing your work. It’s going to lead you to self-knowledge, self-love, and fulfillment in life. It will also change the way you behave in relationship for the better.
- Have compassion for yourself and speak with compassion. Telling your truth, listening to your partner’s truth, and accepting responsibility for the mistakes you may have made is a loving and heroic act. It is one of the most admirable things you can do in relationship.
- Don’t be afraid to get help from professional healers or counselors if you need it.