It’s an important part of any fulfilling relationship or marriage, yet so many couples struggle in the sex department. I really love this blog from marriage counselors Carista Luminare, PhD. & Lion Goodman, who identify the emotional aspects it takes to connect on this level with your partner.
It’s a universal desire, driven by ancient brain circuits that drive procreation and our primitive needs to be held, seen, and loved. We want — and deserve — more pleasure and less stress. Sex can be enlivening, relaxing and fulfilling.
When you search for “sex advice” on the web, you’re offered 416 million websites to choose from. There is no shortage of people offering you help: thousands of experts offer trainings in how to jazz up your sex life. What’s missing, however, is something essential — the real foundation and fuel for the best sex: safety and security.
Most young people, full of hormones, feel the desire for sex often. Yet what they often lack is wisdom and discernment. They don’t always understand or grasp the deeper meaning of a sexual encounter, and aren’t yet skilled in choosing the best partners for a life of love. But as we mature into our thirties, forties, and beyond, physical and emotional safety become much more important to our sexuality. For women, especially, (and for many men), sexuality and a safe heart-connection are inseparable.
Most women have a difficult time sharing their bodies or minds with a person they don’t trust. But when they’re feeling safe, they can let down their guard.
Men are built differently, since they’re driven primarily by testosterone. Men can feel lustful without needing an emotional connection. Yet as they mature, and the testosterone drive slows down, they find the desire to be vulnerable too, and to open their hearts to deeper intimacy, seeking safety in their primary relationship.
Humans are born with the capacity to love — it’s built into our biological instincts and neurological wiring. Mammal mothers protect and nurture their newborns. Infants know what love feels like and what it doesn’t feel like. When babies feel secure and cared for, they can begin to trust others. A safe environment allows us to thrive. Our mind and nervous system open to the world. We become curious and playful. When others relate to us as the unique and precious treasures we are, our self-esteem soars. That’s the result of love at its best.
Anything that feels unsafe or threatens us produces fear and anxiety. Neuroscience has identified the brain’s response to high stress as fight or flight. Both reactions cause a tightening of the nervous system as it readies itself for defense or escape. When you feel anxious or insecure, it’s almost impossible to stay open to the source of your anxiety. The flow of passion and love gets turned off. The result? Sex is decidedly not satisfying.
If your behavior causes your partner to feel anxious or insecure, they can’t feel their love, passion or desire for you. How often do you make your partner feel insecure through criticism, threat, or withdrawal?
Everyone wants more passion and romance, but few understand that romantic love is tied intimately to the feelings of safety, security, and being cared for. Most of us are confused about love. Our relationships are fraught with conflicts, threats of abandonment, and even abusive behavior. That’s not healthy love. Healthy love is when you feel secure and peaceful in your relationship. You know instinctually that this is the way your relationship ought to feel. How often do you feel that way in your current relationship?
When your partner triggers you, your brain instantly reacts from your early childhood bonding pattern. Feeling unsafe causes a contraction. You put up a defensive barrier to protect yourself. This closes off your ability to receive and respond to your partner in a loving way. Sometimes you react to events from your past, or to your beliefs or expectations, rather than what’s actually happening. How you respond then impacts your partner, and they then react to how you’re reacting. This can initiate a downward cycle of upset, blame, and conflict.
But if your partner responds to you with kindness and love, you can relax into your loving presence. When you feel secure and nurtured, your heart can open back up to the wonders of your partner and the beauty of the world — both emotionally and sexually.
Secure love provides a safe container for two people to open up to each other in a vulnerable way. You share your scariest truths and feelings with each other, as well as your deepest passions and your magnificence. You can rest comfortably, trusting that you’ll be loved regardless of how you show up. This open-hearted acceptance is true intimacy. It’s the fuel for the safest and greatest sexual dance you can co-create in mutual love.
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This article originally appeared on YourTango.