Does Intimacy Enhance Sexuality or Destroy it?

By Arlene Kahn Therapy • December 25th, 2009

Esther Perel writes in her new book Mating in Captivity that there is a paradox of intimacy and sexuality in relationships. For many people, the paradox is that the more intimate, close and secure we feel, the less erotic desire is present in long-term committed relationships. It raises the question, “What is the meaning of love and sexuality in long term relationships?”

Paradoxically, erotic desire often flourishes when there is separateness,  a sense of danger, when it is forbidden. It begs the question, why is the forbiddencouple_yab_yum.intimacy so erotic? Why is the man or woman we’re not married to the one where the most powerful attractions can be felt?  Many of the answers can be found in cultural mandates, our individual childhood messages and the changing demands we make of marriage today.  There are fewer arranged marriages, political alliances in marriage and more being asked of the marital union.  We want our marriage to be sexual, loving, committed, monogamous, romantic, secure, stable, prosperous, adventurous and exciting.  All of this with one person.  It’s a tall order.  And the infidelity rates show how difficult it is.

Instead of exploring the facts of sexual techniques when sex isn’t working, Perel suggests the importance of asking ourselves questions about our sexuality and our  eroticism.  For instance, following are a few sample questions from her question list to clarify your thoughts and feelings about the role of sex in your life:

*  What is the role of sex in your life?

*   Think of your most intense (best) sexual experience.  Has it happened or is it still to come?

*   What turns you off?  What turns you on?

*   When do you feel most beautiful?

*   What is your relation to your body?

*   What do you like to experience in sex:   Tenderness?  Aggression? Surrender?       Dominance?

*   Among the five senses, which one is the most sexual for you:    Seeing?  Smelling?  Hearing?  Touching?  Tasting?

*   How do you think differently about sex and about love?

Answering these questions for yourself and sharing them with your partner can be a start to better understand the meaning of love and sexuality in your relationship.    What are often referred to as “intimacy issues” may simply indicate a need for more “breathing room”  between you and your partner.  It is the task of every couple to negotiate the need for security, closeness and dependability with the need for autonomy, adventure and spontaneity.   This delicate balance often has a strong effect on  couples’ sexual desires.

For additional information, you may be interested in reading Esther Perel’s book “Mating in Captivity.


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