Her phone call startled me. The distraught woman on the other end spoke in rapid-fire sentences, most of them half-finished. Every word was confused, jumbled. But after some time, it became clear that her husband of 30 years was leaving the marriage. He wanted to live alone. In a way, he had already gone; they hadn't had sex in a year, and the times she made the first move, he couldn't perform. So they were living like roommates, their children's rooms, now empty, echoing the silence. She asked if I knew a good sex therapist. I didn't and suggested she find a generic therapist, because the root of marital problems is rarely sexual.
From all I know, a couple's sex life is simply the vehicle through which difficulties are expressed. (Sex therapy comes into its own when a loving couple is having difficulty with the biological facet of their beddings — positions, etc.). But in 99% of relationships, it's the breakdown of the intimacy involved in sexual relations that sends a frantic SOS for wise counsel from a relationship professional, with ongoing input from the couple themselves.
It seems to this columnist that sex is a direct result — horizontal payback — of the relationship/actions in the upright hours of togetherness. (Ask yourself whether you agree.) With sex being such a clear barometer of a relationship, let's make an exploration of its more positive side to learn what we can from it: sex as a signal of appreciation, as an expression of gratitude.
Doesn't it make perfect sense that the clearest expression of positive feeling is through the vehicle of our flesh, our body, our smallest pores? It's our totality, our very being, that gives expression to our warmest feelings and deepest appreciation. (Bet you never thought of it that way, eh?) As it runs out, then, our flesh is the receptor of the slightest nuance of affection, respect, kindness and inclusiveness as it registers on/through our being.
The bedroom has the potential to be our cocoon, our safe haven in a world not always kind. Soft caresses — given and/or received — have the power to subdue and minimize life's hurts, real or imagined, intentional or purely accidental. Giving pleasure — physical and emotional — to our partner is one of the most gratifying acts of love imaginable. And only coupled beloveds can know the warmth of its rush.
The next time you're faced with the possibility of sex play that brings with it a somewhat low amount of mutual regard, go home alone. Far better to do without than be part of junk sex. The joining of bodies can be all it's meant to be: spiritual communion. Oh, how I wish it for you.
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