How do we go about growing sexually? If one wanted to develop their spirituality, one may decide to read religious books, listen to music that invites spiritual thoughts, meet with and speak to others about spiritual development, and so on.
Growing sexually follows the same premise. You can read more about sex (from good, helpful sources), listen to music that puts you in the mood, and talk with others about it in a healthy context.
There’s a Spectrum
There’s a spectrum of where we are in our sexual development. Some people need to work to cultivate their sexuality more. Others on the opposite end of the spectrum may need to work to bridle their sexuality more.
For those others, growing sexually includes bridling. A bridle is used for horses to keep them on course and allows the driver to control the horse (rather than the horse controlling the driver). Only a gentle amount of pressure is needed to direct a good horse in the direction he or she needs to go. When we bridle our sexuality, we’re putting our sexual drives, desires, and power in control, not letting them control us. Self control is really sexy. I promise!
It’s unfortunate that some individuals in marriages don’t confront themselves, face their fears, and put in the work needed to develop their own sexuality. They lose out on deeper connection and pleasure in their marriages. Facing our own fears, weaknesses, biases, mindsets, attitudes, and habits that are keeping us from stepping up into a better sexual self is hard work. It may also take time. But when we’re serious about it, the results are better than expected. Loving spouses can help their partner by being accepting, encouraging, and patient—never demanding.
Learning to Love Yourself
A crucial aspect to really good sex is to be at peace with yourself. The best sex happens when two people come together to share and connect at a very deep level. One needs to be willing to be known by their spouse and eager to know their spouse. This comes back to the concept that intimacy, as in “into-me-see,” is really about being known at that deep level.
For most of us, it takes quite a bit of courage to let ourselves be known fully, warts and all. If you’re not at peace with yourself or haven’t cultivated a strong sense of self, allowing others to know you is near impossible. It’s hard to have really good sex if you’re not comfortable letting your whole self—your body, your mind, your soul—be united with your husband or wife.
So the first step to growing sexually is to learn to love yourself. Be your own #1 fan! Learn to like your body the way it is. Learn to like your own personality. Learn to embrace your past and be excited about your own future. Find in yourself all the goodness you bring into the world and develop a strong sense of self.
If you can’t learn to love being who you are individually, you won’t be willing to take the risks or sacrifice needed to invest in your relationship. It’s hard to love your spouse (especially when it’s inconvenient) if you struggle with loving yourself.
You Need Choice to Have Passion
To have passion in a marriage, there has to be choice or agency. You can’t force your spouse to be more passionate, sexy, or have unbounded enthusiasm for getting naked with you. Passion can’t be demanded or forced. A person needs to choose for themselves that they want to engage more deeply in their marriage. If the spouse were to go along with your desires without wanting to, it will only lead to empty, passionless, duty sex. And nobody likes duty sex.
This concept is illustrated well in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t until the Beast let Belle go (and no longer imprisoned her) that Belle could freely choose to return to the Beast. It was only at that point that true love and passion could exist in their relationship.
Initiating is an Emotional Call
An “emotional call” is an attempt to connect with your spouse. It could be as small as seeking eye contact or giving a nudge. You and your partner send each other dozens of emotional calls every day. Research shows that in healthy marriages, couples respond to about 87% of their partner’s emotional calls. In unhealthy marriages, that percentage is in the low 30s..
Initiating sex is a special type of emotional call. It’s one spouse reaching out to the other to see if he or she is there for them, if connection is possible. Once couples understand that initiating sex is fundamentally an emotional call to check that their spouse is truly there for them, one can handle responding to initiation with more grace.
Dealing with Mixed Desire Levels
Every marriage has the issue where desire levels are not equal, and it’s not only about sex. It’s common for one spouse to be the higher desire spouse, and the other to be the lower desire spouse. In healthy marriages, this gives the lower desire spouse the opportunity to grow and develop more desire and the higher desire spouse to grow and develop more bridling and patience. In either case, having open and trusting dialog about this topic can help couples build a happier and healthier sex life together.
If you want to learn more about how to handle being the higher desire spouse, listen to our podcast episode on the topic. As a couple, try listening to our workshop on Navigating Differences in Sexual Desire. If desire differences are seriously hurting your relationship, consider contacting a professional that deals with this type of problem. There’s nothing wrong with getting outside help, and many, many couples have resolved their problems in this way.
Growing sexually takes a lot of work. It can be hard to turn inward, examine yourself uncritically, and then revel your intimate self to your spouse. However, the rewards are far worth the effort.
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