Intimacy, the lack of it and the maintenance of it is very common issue for couples who contact us. One of the first questions to ask, indeed even prior to a session to get both parties to look at is not what is going on between the couple, but what does intimacy actually mean or entail for both individuals. What does it mean for them to be fully intimate? What does it feel to have a lack of intimacy in the relationship?
Consider these lines from a poem by Rumi:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
These indicate where our first explorations should begin. When we have an idea of what intimacy means to both involved, we then have an idea where there are areas of overlap and areas of disconnection. This raising of awareness and effective communication can often begin the process of bringing people together in mutual understanding.
There are however, many factors which can affect intimacy and sexual desire: The way we think about ourselves and our world view are major psychological factors. A lack of trust, anger, experiencing fear around sex, surrendering, or letting go or fear of being hurt can effectively shut us down and reduce our ability to be fully intimate or even simple familiarity and boredom. The effects of stress, money or job worries, living conditions, lack of privacy can all impact on our ability to be intimate, a new baby, a shift of focus in the relationship. There may be physical factors to consider as well erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, pain on penetration; anxiety following childbirth, anxieties about how we look our physical appearance can all impact negatively on our sexual intimacy. Performance anxiety, goal orientation and again negative self-image manifest as withdrawal and holding back, previous experiences: parental abandonment or control, previous abusive relationships or previous relationships where intimacy and affection was lacking form a large barrier to being truly intimate at any level when we bring our negative past experiences into our current relationship. Finally Society creates huge pressures from guilt, shame, generating feelings that somehow we are lacking physically or sexually as we are bombarded with media images. That there is the ideal way to behave, to have sex, to do what is expected within the norm that is imposed on us. Repressing and burying our needs or desires because of our inability to express those adequately for fear of being judged.
Ask yourself then, how much of that stems from our mind? Quite a lot right? Even physical issues can be overcome by reframing how you view sex and intimacy. It is again our own individual world view that is influencing our ability to be intimate. The keys for ourselves are awareness, self-perception and acceptance; when the mind stuff is brought to the surface of our consciousness, it can be dealt with by whatever means we feel will work for us.
Trust and communication are two keys to rebuilding intimacy between couples: trust that with this new found self-knowledge that our partner is there to support us rather than judge us, that in facing what is holding us back we can adequately express our fears, wants, needs and desires. In my experience, when this process begins it tends to generate more openness and enables the other partner to open and express their fears: very much like a snowball gathering momentum and mass it becomes self-motivating and organic. Of course the converse is true, when we shut down and close off, that can induce the same response in our partner and the accumulation can be devastating for the relationship.
OK we get it, it’s the way our mind works that acts as a barrier, but how can we begin to enhance intimacy between us? How can we stop this process of gradual separation? How can we begin the process of rebuilding or establishing trust? Exploring what we are frightened of and what turns us on? What can we do to begin this process?
In Tantra we describe the construction of what is called a Sacred Space. The space is as complex or as simple as you both wish it to be. Candles, food and drink, floor coverings whatever you desire. It is about setting an intention: using your will to both remove negative stuff like fear and anger from that space (complete with using arm gestures to “throw” such negative emotions out) and then bringing in what you desire from the session: Lust, conversation, openness, whatever you want that is positive in your life (again using arm gestures to bring such attributes into the space). That space is safe, secure and sacred; you have created a zone where you can both connect, talk, play, make love, and play games, touch, and massage, whatever you wish to do at any given time. Even if there is disharmony, by setting such intentions they are left outside that space giving you the freedom to explore the resolution of the conflict in an open and honest atmosphere. It goes without saying then that there should be no distractions for the duration of the space and that the creation of the space, even if for a short while should be the priority at that moment, regardless of schedules: That in itself can begin the process of enhancing intimacy, it gives the message that not only is the other person is important but that you yourself and the relationship is important.
Those simple processes can have profound effects, so make that date and create the space for both you and your partner!