This is the third in a series of invitations to use the sex (or lack thereof) in your committed partnership as a pathway to awakening.
Hold Your Shape:
Sex has a way of tempting us to lose ourselves; that very temptation can help us evolve.
Getting very close, asking for what we want, and responding to our partners’ requests are all stations of temptation…
The temptation is to lose ourselves, to assume some unnatural shape, to get contorted into what we think we’re supposed to do, what a “nice wife” or a “good husband” would want, what our partner wants us to say, do, or desire.
David Schnarch’s clinical book was part of my sex-therapist education when I was working on my MA in Psychology. His book for general audiences, “Passionate Marriage” is one of my favorite recommendations for couples seeking to experience more intimacy and wake up in the process. He doesn’t use spiritual terms to describe the potential of “holding your shape” but those words are his and he describes married sex as a people-building crucible. I adore him, both because he’s brilliant and also because his name is just fun to say. Try it: Schnarch! Schnarch! Schnarch! (Yes, I’m juvenile. But if you think that’s not fun to say, it’s because you didn’t really try it out loud just now.)
Let’s do a quick assessment of how you hold your shape in sex:
What do you let yourself desire? What don’t you? Where do you draw lines or build walls? During my pregnancy, I’ve noticed myself fantasizing about being with another pregnant woman (I’ve read that pregnant bodies are one of the biggest fetishes for others, too!). At first, I judged these thoughts as wacky and tried to push them down. But as I stayed with myself and got curious, I opened up to Kurt about my desires. I thought and talked and wrote more about them. I came to see the desire underneath the ideas: I yearned to worship my own lush form, to have it appreciated deeply and tenderly, and to be handled very softly and sweetly. I – ahem – have received all that, since I let myself want it, and in the process deepened the intimacy in which our marriage (and our unborn daughter) is steeped.
What do you desire from your partner? See, in my example above, I didn’t ask my husband, “let me find a pregnant lady to sleep with” – I looked at the deeper nature of my desire and then made requests of him as my only lover. I have no judgments about what works well for other people, and I can appreciate polyamory as a viable path. For us, however, and in my work, and in this series of blog posts, the path of focus is to explore how much depth, juice, growth, and passion are possible within a committed, communicative monogamous relationship. Given that, we are going to make requests of our partners that push our envelope and that we can predict will push theirs. Our intent is to stay in the relationship, to stay faithful, and to pursue our turn-on, desires, and ultimate pleasure within that context (rather than pursuing novel partners either with or without our partner’s consent or ending the relationship to gain “freedom”). So we make requests. I asked Kurt to touch, talk to, and be with me in ways that met those desires I’d noticed coming up. That was new for both of us. It required us to hold our shape. Every meaningful request does. What do you want to ask for? What’s stimulating about that request?
Responding to requests:
Is there something you know your partner wants that you don’t want, do want, don’t let yourself want, or haven’t considered? What is the unfolding path, in your situation? To say a clear “no?” To sail into uncharted waters and really experience whether you enjoy it (rather than “deciding” intellectually whether you will or not)? Or to make a counter-offer? It’s easy to lose our shape in either direction: to flatly deny requests without exploring the nature of our own willingness or unwillingness, or to acquiesce without fully surrendering to the adventure, bringing our full selves forward within that surrender.
If you were in a dark alley or a seedy motel with a complete stranger, it might be all right to yell obscenities, but maybe you wouldn’t wind up there in the first place, and here… with your life’s mate… Your instinct to say those things might be quashed by the thought, “what will s/he think?” What do you say? What don’t you let yourself say?
Energies and Impulses:
Our culture has placed so many meanings on sex and gender roles, desires and actions, it’s no wonder we kind of hold our breath through sex sometimes. But when you let yourself hold your shape, show up fully in the moment, and take each experience as it comes, you find you have much greater range, both sexually and emotionally. Your partner can take a dominant stance in one encounter, and you can surrender to a submissive or at-effect energy within that context, knowing you’re free, once your pants are back on, to resume “regularly scheduled programming.” Or you might follow an urge to be more playful, boisterous, flirtatious, sassy, or withholding than usual. You have room to explore your range, when you let yourself take on whatever shape you notice within yourself in the moment. Paradoxically, holding your shape often means shape-shifting in response to what’s there, both in your partner and within you.
You got in a fight this afternoon. But tonight you’re feeling randy. What does holding your shape look like now? I submit for your consideration that separating the two is fruitful and authentic. Let yourself come back later to any still-meaningful issues you need to work out. But don’t over-prune the tree of your relationship by taking the possibility of sex or sensual play off the table just because “I’m still mad at you.” That’s cognitive. It’s conceptual. It’s not following your body’s knowing (Remember? We already established that your body said it wanted the sex), and it’s not the path to a juicy life. Holding your shape seldom means holding a grudge.
What else does holding your shape mean?
What questions do you have? Please tell me below – or via private email using the contact page – where it’s easy and where it’s hard to hold your shape in your monogamous relationship?