Intimacy: dialogue or monologue?
“As we see, in both the first and second cases, people exclude such an important layer as intimacy from sexual relations.”
There is such a contrast in the mass consciousness that the Christian ascetic tradition, so be it, allows spouses to have sexual relations, but generally treats sexual relations with suspicion. And psychotherapeutic practice, on the contrary, says that the more sexual relationships in a person’s life, the better. This is a pretty serious simplification.
On the one hand, indeed, in Christian literature, the idea that sexual relations between spouses can become spiritual practice – that is, not just permission, one of the implementations of the Sacrament of marriage – began to appear only in the twentieth century. This is a fairly young field of theology and asceticism. On the other hand, we say, looking at the psychotherapeutic logic, that not all sexual relationships lead a person to pleasure and joy. What situations when sexual relationships do not leave the best aftertaste, psychologists say?
One type of situation is when the couple is in a hurry and offers each other a sexual relationship before some kind of security is formed, and before a heart connection is formed. In this case, psychologists say, people are not very trained to stay with each other – they risk not noticing the other, they themselves do not really understand what it is. They move on to the action phase too quickly. The aftertaste in such situations, as a rule, is a feeling of shame. As a rule, the psyche says that we did something wrong. Too quickly I found myself vulnerable, noticed.
The second type of aftertaste is when sexual relations are also not used for their intended purpose. In this sense, psychologists are close to the concept of sin as a shot past the target. When a person uses sexual relations not as a context of conversation, not as a context of conversation with another person, but as a way of self-regulation. That is a way to reduce the anxiety that arose in him. And then his actions acquire a somewhat mechanical hue. Someone copes with anxiety in this way, someone restores self-esteem, someone thus feels himself to be the managing person. What is dissatisfaction here? The fact that sexual relations do not give detente, a person remains in a certain hunger, and his situation is comparable to the situation of a person who is in a state of hunger. Memories have survived that in besieged Leningrad people smoked tobacco in order to stifle hunger – one need was replaced by another. By analogy, the need for self-esteem is compensated by the activation of a sexual action, but it is actually saturated in a completely different way – through creativity, through heart contact with another person. That is why at the exit such a person has not satisfaction, not joy, but an unsatisfied aftertaste.
As we can see, in both the first and second cases, people exclude such an important layer as intimacy from sexual relations. Well-known therapists write about this, such as Alexander Lowen. He also writes that the heart not only fills with sexual contact, but even directly participates in the filling of the genitals with blood. In this sense, some texts of body-oriented therapists are Christian-romantic.
What could one think about in connection with the passion of fornication during Lent to people of faith and people who are completely non-religious? In general, look at your sex life, at a relationship with your partner. Is there something in these relationships that is not directly related to sex, for example, when, with the help of it, people try to keep their partner, fighting the fear of loneliness. For someone, as I said, sexual relations are not a dialogue, but a way to increase self-esteem, and then the question is – are there any other areas of life where I feel strong, managing the situation, realizing my creativity.
How cordial is our relationship with our partner? How much can I give up control and surrender to the process? To what extent do I have control? And is there anything I’m embarrassed to tell my partner about? Maybe this is the time when you can discuss in the correct form these wishes or reluctances that have accumulated in this area. However, in some couples embarrassment does not allow to talk about it.
Project: “Seven passionate thoughts: a psychologist's view”
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