Facing your fears is downright sexy.
Hollywood sells a pretty picture of falling in love and living happily ever after. What Hollywood doesn't tell you anything about though is feeling inadequate in bed, or how awkward it feels when you think your partner is doing something wrong.
Instead, we're taught that when two people fall in love and connect sexually, they merge! Two become one and all your fears and insecurities just magically evaporate.
But the truth is — fears don't magically disappear. You don't actually merge with your partner. And, in addition to the wonderful qualities you fell in love with, your partner still has plenty of inadequacies and insecurities (and, so do you).
True sexual freedom only occurs when you face your fears with a partner.
Why is exposing your fears so challenging? Because the tendency when afraid is to pull back from where you're exposed. But, the more you pull back and hide, the harder it is to own up to your fears. A false sense of safety develops when you hide because your partner doesn't see your buried fears. But then you create a bigger mess for yourself as feelings of resentment or inadequacy build. The only release from fear comes from sharing it out in the open.
Get ahold of what scares you and bring it into the light of investigation. Knowledge of one another’s doubts, worries, and insecurities allows new passion to grow between you. And sex can serve as a powerful pathway to exploring areas where you feel vulnerable. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise — sexual vulnerability is a great strength! The bigger the fear, the more courageous you'll feel when you move beyond it.
So, what are the "normal" fears most people feel about sex and intimacy? I've found that these are the top 5:
1) The fear of abandonment AND of losing your independence
We all have deep-felt, animal fears of being alone. This fear battles against another major fear of being engulfed. We don't want to feel abandoned, but we also don't want to feel smothered. These conflicting feelings can come up often during sex. If you speak up, your partner might ignore or reject you (then you're alone!). Or, your partner may treat you like you're immature and need their guidance (then you feel engulfed or dominated).
There is no way around this internal conflict. You must prove to yourself and your partner that it's safe to risk sharing these push-pull feelings. As you and your partner speak openly and compassionately with one another about this conflict, you can find a happy medium that serves you both, freeing you to experience the joys of the moment.
2) Worrying that your desires will freak your partner out.
It's normal to feel some fear when your wants and sexual desires differ from your partner's. It's easy to think they're wrong or weird, or that you're inadequate. Unpacking those fears takes time and is best accomplished in a deeply committed relationship. As you slowly reveal your true desires (wanting to explore new sexual arenas), you're hoping to experience that exquisite feeling of being seen for the first time at a depth only a long-term partner can witness.
In the best of sexual circumstances sexual discovery is like peeling into the heart of an onion. Each layer reveals more primitive, powerful fears underneath. And you address each layer slowly, together, rather than rushing either partner too quickly.
Remember, two people do not merge. Your sexual desires and your unique fears may not perfectly align. Remaining two ‘separate people’ can actually enhance sex more than anything else. The secret is holding onto your individuality and boundaries while also embracing your partner’s difference and desires. This is when a truly spicy sex life exists.
3) The fear of not satisfying your partner
Shame and feeling inadequate in bed pulls you out of the ‘present moment’ and distracts you with performance anxiety. This blocks a lot of the incredible richness of intimate fun. Except in moments of utter bliss, your mind is lost rating your performance and your partner's against some ideal benchmark in your mind. To move past this fear and anxiety, you must practice silencing the chatter of your self-defensive thinking and embrace the experience and thrill of the moment.
4) The fear passion fading away
Long-term sexual satisfaction is very different than initial infatuation. Infatuation lets us ignore our deep-seated fears for about six months into a new relationship. We're also somewhat blind to our partner's shortcomings. Being passionately in love this way is now a documented brain state: Our worry, fear-alert and critical thinking systems turn way down, while love circuits dial up. It's a lot of fun, however, it leaves you unaware of how brave you can be together without excess dopamine, estrogen, oxytocin and testosterone running around inside you.
The initial infatuation will definitely wane after time, but that doesn't mean passionate, deeply connected sex isn't still possible. You just have to work at it in a new way.
How to share your sexual fears without it going horribly wrong.
Sharing your fears with your partner won't feel easy or comfortable right away. And that's OK. But, I'll tell you this — the fastest way for the conversation to go terribly wrong is to turn it into a complaint session about your partner.
Instead, use language that contains 'I statements', not 'you statements.' Let your partner know these are your fears, he or she does not cause them. A wise approach to this conversation is to spread it out across different encounters. Don't share your fears that get stirred up when your partner shares his or her fears first. Wait until the next time you make love to use "I statements" about your own fears. Or, wait a few times so you can savior the closeness developing by staying attuned to your partner's fears.
Remember, you're not trying to solve something or "fix" your partner, you're aim is getting your sexual dance back on track. Slowly increasing knowledge of each other's fears moves you closer to your raw, passionate core.
Bill Maier, LCSW writes about softening shame on his website: BillMaierMSW.com. Contact him for further information about Attachment, Neuroscience and Applied Psychoanalytic approaches to change.