This week on our podcast we got to talk to Alexandra Stockwell about her upcoming book, titled Uncompromising Intimacy. Here, we are going to learn how to discover our own desires and connect to our sexual selves.
Alexandra said, “Competent couples who love one another often find it very uncomfortable admitting their sex life is unfulfilling or needs an upgrade.” This uncomfortable truth rears its head in many marriages; they have the mechanics down, and feel alright about it, but it’s “not the kind of sex the poets write about.” Even if a person secretly wants to improve their sex life, they often have a hard time overcoming obstacles and so stay in their rut. But here’s a secret, wanting deeper and more meaningful intimacy is normal and healthy, and choosing to learn and act on those desires will lead to improvements in so many areas of your life!
So why do so many couples compromise their intimacy and settle for an underwhelming sexual relationship? Here are a few obstacles that can hold us back.
- We Stop Growing (or at least think we do): As teenagers and young adults, we expect our life to be full of new experiences and learning opportunities. Our relationships, schooling, jobs, social lives, everything is about exploring and self-discovery. However, once we get more settled in life, we think the growth stops. We relegate discovery to our past and decide that we already know what we want and what we are about. We stop looking for growth and newness in our lives. Intimacy is all about growth and discovery. It’s about continuously getting to know your spouse and yourself on a deeper level. Therefore, if we turn off the part of us that is willing to learn and grow, we limit our potential for intimacy.
- We are Afraid to Ask: Being intimate is vulnerable. Asking for more intimacy can feel even more so because we want to avoid being rejected. At the same time we also want to avoid coming off as critical and offending our spouse. Alexandra described having an irrational fear that if she brought up the topic, it would start their relationship on a path of dissatisfaction and divorce. Those fears are valid, but in most cases unfounded! We will discuss later on how to overcome this fear and ask for what you want in a way that serves you both.
- Life Gets in the Way: Life can get very busy. Before you know it, all of your time is taken up by family, work, hobbies, and endless to-do lists. When we find ourselves in this busy place, we often lose sight of what we want. Our true desires, passions, emotions, and goals get lost somewhere along the way under our roles of spouse, parent, employee, entrepreneur etc.
- We Don’t Explore our Desires: Too often we stop, or never start, to explore what we desire. I’m not just talking about sexual desires (even though those are very important), but this includes everything that gives us pleasure. Alexandra shared that once she finally took a pause and made herself slow down, she realized she didn’t know what to do with herself. She didn’t know what sensations she valued or what lit her spark. As children, we do lots of things because we want to. We explore, play, imagine, twirl, and enjoy the world. Some people get conditioned that they shouldn’t explore desires; that there are things they should and shouldn’t do and that’s it. Others explore when they are young, but as life goes on, they lose that instinct as they chase what they need or are expected to do.
So how do we open ourselves up to deeper and better intimacy? The process needs to start with a choice. Choose to open yourself up and have the courage to truly explore and examine yourself. Once you’ve made this choice, you can move through these three steps to help you discover your desires, accept, and act on them.
First Step: Discover your Desires
Take the time to discover your desires. This means being more aware of your senses and sensations throughout the day. Start with a list of things you like. For example, one woman could only come up with one thing she liked: coffee. To discover her desire, she started her day off by noticing the smell of the coffee filling her kitchen. She specifically picked out her favorite mug and noticed the warmth and weight as she held it. She took slow sips and tried to notice every sensation. You can try to discover your desire by noticing the sun shining, the taste of cookie dough, the good pull of stretching your muscles after a workout, or picking out your favorite sheets to surround you as you sleep. It also looks like trying new things and doing things just for the sake of doing it. You don’t have to be the best artist or dancer or performer to try the experience. See what things bring out emotion in you.
Second Step: Accept and Action
You may/will find desires you don’t approve of. You may think that they cost too much money, it’s embarrassing to ask for, or you’re just not worth it. Some desires may fall outside your value structure. And that’s ok.You can’t always control your desires but you can choose your actions. Accept your desires for what they are, then sort through them and determine what is holding you back from exploring them. If a desire lies outside your value structure, then choose not to act on it and tuck it away. If you are worried about the cost, learn what is truly of worth. Although we can’t spend money on every passing want, things that we truly desire are worth sacrificing for. And you are most definitely worth sacrificing for. If you don’t believe that, please take the time to work with yourself and discover your worth. Sign up for coaching, read some books, do what it takes to recognize how truly valuable you and your pleasure are.
Third Step: Learn How to Ask
A lot of people (women especially), once they discover what they want feel that their spouse should’ve been giving it to them already. It feels vulnerable to ask for what we want, and so a lot of us try to protect ourselves by going to a place of irritation and resentment. We think, “well if he(she) would just notice me, he(she) would know what I want.” Expressing desires with this mindset will push a spouse further away from giving you what you desire because it creates a scenario in which changing to give you what you want feels like a duty, or like admitting fault Instead, learn how to ask so it’s lovely to give you what you want. This looks like, “Hey, I’ve recently discovered I love [blank]. Could you help me explore that desire?” If you need more help in this area, check out Alexandra’s website and resources!
Learning about our desires (and those of our spouse) will lead us to deeper, truer, and uncompromising intimacy within our marriages.