Introducing intimacy into your sex life.
While it may seem counterintuitive to some, sex does not equate to intimacy, and far too often, we have plenty of the one but very little of the other. A word often misunderstood and misused, intimacy – defined as a “close familiarity or friendship” – actually has nothing to do with sex. And it certainly enhances it.
If you’re looking to level up your physical connection, first, you need to focus on your emotional connection.
A healthy and satisfying sexual relationship needs a foundation of emotional intimacy and closeness.
And, no matter what your sex life looks like, incorporating communication and mindfulness into it can create a closeness that is incredibly gratifying.
Here are a few ways you can get mindful and increase intimacy in your sexual interactions.
Let’s talk about sex, Baby.
Though it may initially feel uncomfortable, talking about sex with your partner – or partners, as the case may be – can be incredibly freeing and cathartic.
Talk about it before, during, and after your encounters – but do be sure to get your timing right.
An optimal moment to talk about sex is always before you start warming up for some sexy time. When you’re not in the midst of mental, emotional, or physical foreplay, there is little risk of disrupting the mood. You and your partner may feel more at ease and less pressured when you’re not in the middle of trying to get down.
“You are much more vulnerable talking about sex than doing it,” says Justin Lehmiller, an academic specializing in sex, love, and relationships and author of the blog Sex and Psychology.
While just before or after sex might seem like a natural time to approach the subject, most of us feel less vulnerable with our clothes on and a bit of distance from the act. Take some time to talk when you’re away from the love nest to start a conversation about what you want and need.
After sex is also a good time, depending on what you feel like sharing.
Don’t undermine your partner’s confidence by letting them know how unsatisfied you are during that post-coital moment.
Do tell your partner what worked for you, what made you feel good, what turned you on, and perhaps even what you’d like to do next time.
Of course, just before or even during sex can be the perfect time to bring up fantasies and ask for what you want.
Be kind to your friend and lover.
“Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.” – Bernard Meltzer.
If you’re tempted to say, “you never want to have sex” or “you always put your own needs first,” ask yourself – is that true?
Don’t be tempted to hyperbole.
Words like “always” and “never” are rarely factual.
Remove “always” and “never” from your sexual relationship vocabulary. Actually, it’s best to remove them from your relationship vocabulary altogether. Instead, try “frequently” or “often” and keep the focus on the present situation.
Be mindful of what you’re trying to say and how you’re saying it. The subject of sex can be a delicate one, and you want to handle your feelings and those of your partner with care.
Be nice. Approach the subject from an “I” and “me” perspective, rather than a “you” perspective, which can sound accusatory and blaming.
For example, say “I love it when …” rather than “stop doing that.”
It’s all just a fantasy.
Talking about your sexual fantasies with your partner can feel scary. In his book, Tell Me What You Want, Lehmiller shared that of the 4000 people he surveyed, only half had shared their fantasies with their partners. And, doing so can increase your sexual satisfaction considerably.
According to Lehmiller’s findings, “People who discuss their fantasies report the happiest sexual relationships.”
In his research, Lehmiller found that 97% of fantasies fit into the same broad categories:
- Novelty or adventure play
- Gender fluidity
- Mulitpartner sex
- Rough sex
Says Lehmiller, “We’re more normal than we think we are.”
Discussing your sexual fantasies with your partner is a beautiful way to spark some freshness into your relationship, regardless of whether or not you act on them. And, as a bonus, just talking about them could be exciting enough.
Get present with your partner.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, escaping mentally during sex was always a safety mechanism for me. I coped by separating myself from my body and my experience.
It wasn’t until I was an adult in recovery that I began even to notice what I was doing, let alone understand it, or take measures to heal.
There are many reasons why some of us “check out” during sex – and there are just as many ways.
Reasons range from being a survivor to being at odds with one’s sexuality or gender identity, being in an unhealthy or disconnected relationship, being physically uncomfortable or even in pain, or struggling with societal or familial constructs that make us feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Whether through fantasy or mentally reviewing the day’s to-do list, the bottom line is the same: We are not present in the moment, which creates a disconnect between our partner and ourselves.
Even the healthiest of us can improve our sexual satisfaction by practicing mindfulness during sex.
Start by talking to your partner about your penchant for checking out. Share the why and how of it. Ask them to help you stay present by gently bringing you back if they notice you seem to be disappearing or gone.
Practice being present and mindful outside the bedroom. A daily meditation practice that helps with focus can support your mindfulness in all aspects of your life, including your sexual encounters.
Try looking into your partner’s eyes during sex and talking to them, as well. That doesn’t mean you need to “talk dirty” -– unless that feels fun for you both – or that you need to change your voice or use words you usually wouldn’t use. It just means communicate during sex both visually and verbally. Let them know what feels good, how you’re feeling in the moment, and what you’d like them to do.
Have you also struggled with sex and intimacy? If you feel comfortable sharing, I’d love your help creating a space of solidarity – and solution – in the comments below.
Lynette Garet is a bilingual freelance writer. A U.S. ex-pat living in Costa Rica with her wife Silvia, when not busy with writing projects, she can be found hanging with her favorite “stinky boys” (the Grand-Littles), tending to her garden, cooking, reading, enjoying good wine, and dancing in the kitchen to music from a limitless list of genres.