“The true function of sex is to bring more love into the world.”
- Diana Richardson
As I reflect upon the years as a Sex Counselor and consider the root of the problems couples have with their sexuality, it seems to boil down to passionless sex. While that seems like an obvious statement, I’d like to share the depth of what I mean by that statement. While there are many causes and conditions that merge together creating sexual dissatisfaction from couple to couple, what I have witnessed over the years may be distilled down to that simple statement, passion burnout.
We can turn to the current state of affairs in the typical American bedroom. The average time a couple spends on foreplay is 10-19 minutes and intercourse is about 7 minutes. Yet for woman, igniting the female arousal system takes about 40 minutes to fully engage. While some woman may have an orgasm quickly, this does not indicate full arousal. If the goal is to have an orgasm, the genitals are wired to get you there. If the goal is deeper intimacy, meaning more intentional heart-centered approach, then having an orgasm is only an aspect of the encounter, but not the goal.
When we first encounter a love relationship, that passionate spark makes us feel alive and that we’ve met the one and only (rationalizing all the other one’s that seem to have fit the bill). Our neurobiological system in on full throttle giving us the primal body sensations to have sex. These physical sensations are quite intense and have a sense of urgency to them for after all it’s “the one.” At some point, maybe even the first date, we have sex and then we just don’t seem to stop. But eventually, the pleasure center tops off and the descent begins.
The descent begins with seeing the shadow of the other and who they are with their annoyances, idiosyncrasies, personality quirks, immaturity, emotional unavailability, anger, shutting down, etc. As this emerges, sexual encounters begin to wane and lack that initial charge and power. And another power rears up: the power struggles. One wants it more, the other less. It becomes a chore, either to pursue or oppose the pursuit. Lovemaking went from playful fun and excitement with orgasm being the norm, to a bantering about “doing it” or not “doing it.” And commonly, the woman begins to not have interest in her own orgasm and he stops attempting to please. The passion seems to have run dry and lovers soon become roommates, housemates, and business partners of their household.
The question becomes how might we come together to shift these dynamics to re-ignite the passion and create sustainable passion. It is suggested in wisdom traditions through transformation (hence, inner work to do!) of passionlessness, we step into the arms of a sustainable passion. Cultivating a passion that can withstand the ups and downs of the myriad aspects of modernity, requires a process that we each commit to by arousing our heart-centered compassionate nature. The genital-centricity with which is often the primary focus in romantic relationships burns us out. A heart-centered awareness brings the sexual energy up, allowing for connection of the minds. The genitals are quiet proficient at their function so put your focus in a higher realm.
To begin, consider not treating your sex life like a McDonald’s drive thru. Begin to slow down the process. If your average time with a sexual encounter is 15 minutes, double the time and don’t rush the process. Engage all the senses, but keep it simple. Turn off all the distractions, phones, computers, TV, chores, etc., and turn toward each other as if that person really matters to you. As Nelson Mandela says, “there is no passion to be found playing small.” When we rush through the most intimate human connection available in our lives, we play small, which suggests that love hasn’t fully emerged. When we take our time and take our sexual encounters slowly, we will begin to notice all the nuances being offered in each moment. As we allow the sensations to be felt slowly and not rushing or forcing it’s intensity, our minds come to the process. When the mind finally settles in this sweet space, love shows itself. So slow down, pay attention as if it your life depends upon it.
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Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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