“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E.E. Cummings
I have been making love with the same man for some 30 years, and although I can honestly say it has gotten amazingly and increasingly better over the decades, it is important to add that this improvement was in direct proportion to the work and willingness we brought to growing up sexually.
To be fair and honest, my earliest memories of sex hold as much frustration as they did passion. I longed for the romantic, sexual combustion that would not only fill me up, but also unite me with my partner. However, without any real skills to get there, much of our sexuality became an exercise in approach-avoidance.
Most of us don’t know much about sex when we first start doing it. If we are lucky we have correct names for body parts and, these days, have probably seen enough free porn online to have an idea about the fiction of sex, but the actual vulnerable exchange of our sexual selves remains shrouded in mystery, or worse still, shame and embarrassment. Even though we may still reminisce about youthful sexual exchanges that literally took our breath away, though we may long for the passion of ripping clothes away, and desire the carnal hunger that gave us no choice but to submit to the will of our sexual body, we forget how often the magic imploded.
We repress the memories of when someone came too quickly or someone else’s passion dried up with not enough lubrication and burning genital tissue. We did not know why it worked when it did or how to make it work again. Often times, just to approach our sexuality, we relied on substances to reduce our inhibition that also inhibited our ability to remember and learn. Our sexual immaturity made us pout, made us blame each other and wait angrily in another room for the other to apologize. Initiating sex and keeping score about who said “no” more often took us far from the connection we both longed for. Moving toward our sex life felt risky even with the random good orgasms we happened upon on this bumpy path.
We were green not only with each other, but even more within our own sexuality. Growing up sexually happened in my marriage as we stopped holding each other responsible for both generating and fulfilling our sexual desires. When I stopped expecting my mate to make me feel sexy and committed to finding the sexy place in myself, I stopped saying no when the conditions weren’t like the perfect ones I held in my imagination. As I became more willing to meet him in the mystery of what might happen, he became more willing to, as well.
Even more important, was when I began learning about the many ways that I didn’t know about my own sexuality. As I found the erotic spots that sang for me and what kinds of touch made me light up, I had a language to share how I wanted to be touched. As I took responsibility for the sexual discoveries that were mine to make, I had the epiphany about how much more successful penetration was after an external clitoral orgasm.
This practice also helped me get over the shame of touching myself in front of my partner. Getting over the fears about saying what I liked, asking for what I wanted inspired the same in him. A new freedom was breathed into the narrow routine of sexual behaviors that we limited ourselves to. Even though we were relying on sex positions and practices that worked, our inability to go beyond them made our sexual times predictable and rote. This is how people unwittingly get stuck in sexual ruts—they limit themselves to a few safe moves and avoid expanding their repertoire out of their comfort zone.
These immature ways of dealing with our sexuality and the various mythologies that pervade about passionate sex that overwhelmed us in our youth persists for many people late into adulthood. We continue to resist the idea that we have to take responsibility for tapping into our sexual desire and that someone else does not have the magic to make us feel sexy. We delude ourselves into thinking that real love is supposed to feel like falling in love all the time. Not only couldn’t we physically sustain the intense out-of-our minds euphoria of early biological attraction, but it distracts from the more mature forms of loving. Discovering our capacity of arousal and finding a safe haven to comfortably push our boundaries is how sex evolves into the amazing and transformative relationship glue that it is. It is also the path to finding out who we really are.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy, she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called “the essential guide for relationships.” The book is available on ebook, as well as in paperback online. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.