“The heart’s pure longing to connect is what underlies our passion.” John Welwood, “Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships.”
“The intensity of the longing does all the work.” Kabir
We humans are highly driven by the need for connection. Connection is about belonging, being included, feeling accepted—being a part of other people’s lives. Connection also includes a sense of loving and belonging to ourselves. One lovely way we meet our connection needs is through sensual and sexual expression with others.
When we are wounded sexually, however, maintaining a healthy connection with another—even a beloved life partner—can be difficult. For even non-sexual touch can feel threatening, driving us to push our beloved away, to side-step amorous advances, to retreat into what may feel like a safe place. This feeling of safety is pure illusion: being closed sexually exacts a high price—in order to protect ourselves from sexual touch, we distance the very person with whom we most want and need to connect. Such was the situation in my long-term marriage to my wonderful husband Ed. In 2007, after 17 years of marriage, I was becoming increasingly shut down sexually, the effects of unhealed sexual wounding becoming more powerful over time.
By that time, I was well aware of three important dynamics: Ed was feeling very hurt from being shut out sexually, I was increasingly cognizant that being closed down sexually didn’t feel right for me, and by pushing Ed away, I was damaging our relationship. Being connected deeply has always been important to both Ed and I—when we feel disconnected, it never lasts very long. This sexual distancing was altogether different: it was a growing wound between us that called out for attention and healing.
Ed invited me to attend a workshop on love, sexuality and intimacy in the fall of 2007. Armed with the awareness that I needed to heal myself and that our relationship needed healing, I agreed. When we are willing to heal, miracles can happen: I experienced a pivotal moment in my sexual healing at that first workshop. During an exercise, Ed was able to share with me how my being closed to him had hurt him deeply. And I could hear him. For the first time in our relationship I really got it that for him, sex with me was deeply connective and vital to his wellbeing—and it hurt when I turned him away. I realized in this moment that Ed’s need for sexual connection with me was not about using my body to “get off”—rather, his need was based in a deeper need for physical and spiritual communion and connection. I still get chills when I think about how we both showed up in that exercise, and the radical shift that resulted.
When we clear our sexual wounds, we become available to experience sex in a whole new way: as energy, vitality, a source of pleasure, well-being, passion—and deep, soul-satisfying connection. Reclaiming our sexual expression and deep connectivity makes it worth the journey.