Mindful Intimacy: Opening our Hearts through Touch
"The way towards each other is through our bodies. Words are the longest distance you can travel so complex and hazardous you lose your direction." Jeni Couzyn, Cries of The Spirit
Last week, I introduced the concept of sensate focus, encouraging you to develop a regular practice of intimate touch with your beloved, so that when the heat of early relationship cools, you have the basis for ongoing physical and emotional intimacy. When couples intentionally cultivate physical intimacy separate from sexual intimacy, they are more likely to create and retain mutually satisfying sexual intimacy.
I promised to delve more fully into Level 2 sensate focus practices this week. However, I’ve decided to punt that topic to next week because I believe that developing physical intimacy intentionally warrants more attention.
Developing physical intimacy outside the parameters of sex with Ed was not easy for me. I came to our relationship with the belief at some level that all touch was about sex and that if Ed was touching me, it meant he wanted sex. As the effects of unhealed sex abuse took greater hold within me, I increasingly pushed Ed away—to the point where there was very little non-sexual physical affection between us. Through the grace of Ed’s vulnerability, patience and persistence and my willingness to do the hard work of sexual healing, we have gradually—over the last 10 years—developed a warm and affectionate relationship that has also enabled us to reconnect sexually.
I offer this only to acknowledge to you that I understand that for so many reasons, establishing or re-establishing intimacy can be hard! Unhealed sex abuse, infidelity, intentional withholding/passive-aggressive behavior, lack of experience, a culture that does not value touch, fear of rejection—so much can prevent us from reaching out to the person with whom we most want connection! And from what I learned: lack of connection hurts deeply and it is worth the effort to figure out how to reconnect with your beloved and others.
Reconnection takes willingness to be vulnerable, to risk being rejected, to step up and say, “I want to have a closer relationship with you. I want us to touch more, to hug and kiss more. This isn’t about having sex. It is about us being close, affectionate and tender with one another.” It also takes a commitment to allow intimate touch to unfold non-sexually. Regardless of who initiates this conversation, nothing will blow your credibility more than allowing touch that is intended to be non-sexual touch to become sexual touch. I am not saying sexual touch is bad or to be avoided. Just be aware that when you are intentionally reconnecting with non-sexual touch, it is important not to blur the lines. Once you reestablish intimacy, you are likely to find that your desire for sexual connectivity increases.
I invite you to approach your Sweetie this week. Practice what you’ll say if you feel the need. Explore your vulnerability—know what are you most afraid of—then dive in. Make a point of touching your Sweetie throughout the day—gently stroke his or her neck and shoulders, cuddle close while watching a movie, hold hands while walking, stop for a hug when passing by one another. It may feel awkward at first—but know this: the more you touch, the more you’ll welcome the connection, and the more you’ll feel the intimacy grow between you.