What makes good sex…I mean really good sex? You may think it is all about physical attraction, boundless energy, fancy moves and positions… Sure, these play into the totality of the experience, but what if I told you that emotional intimacy not only enhances these things but actually takes the experience over the top for the best sex you will ever have? I sometimes remark that God’s cruel joke on us is that for women to want to have sex, they need to feel respected, loved and cared for, while men need to have sex to feel respected, loved and cared for. The corollary to this is that when both parties feel those feelings and are emotionally intimate, the sex is the best you will ever have!
So, ok, you say, “I’ll have some of that. But what the heck is emotional intimacy and how do I get it?” Emotional intimacy is a knowing of another person, and an accepting of that person, faults and all. It is loving another human being for who she is, trusting her and caring for her best interests. Emotional intimacy doesn’t happen overnight… it takes time and effort to build, and it is an ongoing process. It takes two for this phenomenon to occur… and sometimes it is ourselves who get in the way of it developing.
It is true that in regard to our intimate lives, the bedroom can be a treacherous place. While we crave the penultimate experience of absolute love, trust and emotional intimacy combined with physical intimacy, few of us consistently achieve it because of the psychological bastions we have constructed meant to protect us from unresolved emotional pain. The barriers we constructed may have been adaptive, necessary and essential, in our early years, as a matter of protection. However, those defenses are now maladaptive and no longer necessary and, in fact, they now get in the way of establishing true intimacy. It is virtually impossible to truly love another person if you do not or cannot first love and value yourself.
I often talk to my patients about their “self-talk.” Self-talk is a handful of statements that we say unconsciously to ourselves over and over. These statements generally reflect negative beliefs about ourselves, our appearance, our talents, our faults, our failures, and our self-worth. We tell ourselves that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not good-looking enough, somehow unworthy of love and admiration or respect. I encourage my patients to tune in to, to really listen to themselves to discover what those statements and subsequent beliefs are, and to question their truth and rationality.
Our self-talk is generally a result of messages we heard during our early formative years. The messages may have been verbal or perhaps more subtle, a function of how we were treated by important persons in our lives. Together, those messages, our self-talk, become representations of how we think about ourselves and the world, and as such, color our entire life experience. Yes, our entire life experience is informed by these messages – even, or especially, in our intimate relationships.
When we think of our (erroneous and negative) perceptions of ourselves, it becomes easy to see that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to having intimacy with another person. Look, the desire for authentic intimacy is hard-wired into us even though we may think and behave such that having it is a virtual impossibility. Think about your relationship with your significant other. Perhaps you long for intimacy with that person and yet you find yourself terrified of it at the same time.
The merging of emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy requires us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, which can be a daunting task, particularly in light of our negative self-belief system. “Why would this person want me?” “He is lying when he says that I am beautiful.” “He/She cannot possibly love me just the way that I am.” “This person will surely hurt me in some way.” Old issues, memories, and internalized negative messages come to the fore during our intimate encounters, and in order to have a successful and satisfying experience, we have to be willing to experience and face whatever may arise. The goal is to achieve sexuality, intimate emotional contact, with solid honest communication in your most intimate relationships. The presence of a solid and abiding friendship, respect, affection and love is a great foundation on which to build a satisfying intimate relationship; a relationship able to accept and respect the other’s fears and the trust and ability to process them in a loving way.
So, you can see that when an emotionally intimate relationship exists between two people, each person can allow themselves to be vulnerable and fully present during a sexual encounter. This allows honest communication regarding what you want and don’t want, an absence of fear to fully feel and to try new things, heightened sensitivity, and the ability to fully enjoy the hottest sex you’ve ever known!