Discovering Sexual Intimacy: Deepen Your Understanding of Yourself and Your Long-Term Partner

So far in this series, we have covered desire, arousal, and orgasm from Dr. Jenni Skyler’s adapted version of applying Masters and Johnson’s human sexual response cycle to long-term relationships. Everything in this piece again draws directly from Dr. Skyler’s Glue Talk.

Resolution, just as the name implies, happens at the end of the sexual experience and can also be thought of as reflection. Having never fully experienced this step myself, I would guess most of us either ignore it, or share a few words about how “great” the sex was without the level of detail that is required to grow and improve our sex lives. According to Dr. Skyler, this step is just as important as any of the other steps. Paying attention to the entire cycle can act as a mental checklist to ensure full communication and connection to your partner, as well as continued learning so that each sexual experience builds on the next. Not every encounter is going to blow the doors off of the last, but the goal is, in general, to tend over time to greater levels of satisfaction in sex and deeper connection.

Resolution is the act of communicating with your partner about your experience in an effort to give them a roadmap and remove the guessing game for the next time.

Be honest, how many of you have secretly wished that your partner would do things a bit differently–erhaps have them stay in a certain spot, slow down, speed up, or say certain things? I know I am guilty of these quiet thoughts, but my fear is that I will sound critical, when, in fact, most people want to hear and appreciate the feedback. I am personally interested in increasing my partner’s pleasure, and it helps if they tell me how. As with the previous steps, this step increases and prolongs intimacy because it allows us to continue to learn about each other’s bodies and preferences.

The roots of intimacy

Here’s how it looks: at the end of love making, while cuddling and laying there in bed (or wherever you are), reflect on your experience by saying something like, “You know honey, I really loved how you invited me to make love, how you walked up behind me and nibbled on my ear, and slowly unbuttoned my buttons and gently guided me to the bed and undressed me. I would love to spend more time doing that. My orgasm was amazing. I loved how you held my eye contact. I loved being with you.” Your partner gets to take all this in with the attitude that this is about learning. They can say to themselves, “OK, next time I know to do a similar invitation and seduction, but spend a bit more time there, then attend to the senses the way my partner liked.” Hopefully, you’re getting the point. Use whatever language feels natural, just make sure to accurately and descriptively share your experience, both what you liked and wanted more of, and if there was anything you didn’t like.

Intimacy comes with understanding. Image from Flickr CC User Ben van den Bussche
Intimacy comes with understanding. Image from Flickr CC User Ben van den Bussche

The magic really starts to happen once all of these pieces come together consistently–desire (knowing what turns on your partner), arousal (physically turning your partner on), orgasm (the ability to let go and be in the moment), and resolution (cuddling and talking about your experience).  You won’t get to every step every time. However, the more these pieces come into play, the more our brains register the incentive to repeat the process, and repeating the process means a more active and more satisfying sex life. If these steps are happening that means communication and connection are also happening, not just sex.

Training our brains to want to repeat this process is necessary, given that all of the empty space at the bottom half of the circle are all of the things that need to be fought through in order to access the rest of the cycle again. Think of that empty space as a minefield you have to navigate to get back into arousal. If our brains don’t register wanting to get back to the arousal, we might choose not to walk the minefield at all. The minefield is where all the baggage lives that potentially blocks us from having sex. Anything that detracts us from our desire and sexuality is in that space–illness, children, in-laws, work, stress, house chores, trauma, body image issues, trust issues, self-esteem issues, and the list goes on. That is why it’s so important to be able to tap back into the positive part of the cycle, as all of these things in the minefield have the ability to sabotage us.

Touch and understanding

Bring your attention back to one word in the description of the resolution phase: cuddling. If sex isn’t happening and you aren’t able to get back to desire or to physical arousal, come to this step. Cuddling is a vital part of intimacy. The cuddling that occurs after love making is where the oxytocin is produced. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone, and we want to create as much of it as possible, which is why cuddling is arguably as important as the lovemaking itself. Irrelevant to actually having sex, cuddling is an essential piece and available to you whether you have sex or not. Naked cuddling has the best bang for the buck as far as oxytocin production is concerned, but naked or not, sex or not, cuddle.

Taking you through these stages is not about removing the magic from lovemaking, or creating a strict set of perfectionist rules to live by, nor am I implying that this is a static concept.  The hope is that by creating awareness around the different facets of our sexual response, that we can evolve and deepen our intimacy by understanding all the layers and stages that play into what we call “sex.” Our bodies and our minds and our preferences are constantly changing. What we liked yesterday may not be what we like tomorrow. However, if we remember to return to this cycle and use the stages as a general guide to increase communication, we may find a path towards a more satisfying love life and deeper intimacy.

Stay tuned as I continue to review all of the amazing wisdom shared at our recent Glue Talks, as well as some powerful lessons and insights from a workshop on Daoist sexuality.

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