We started Conscious Girlfriend (www.ConsciousGirlfriend.com) to help lesbians and queer women find the path to happy, healthy intimate relationships. That's why we love our advice column—it helps us find out exactly where our readers are struggling, and gives us a chance to point the way. We've been there, in all those hard places our readers describe—and we found our way out. That's why we want to help you, too!
A recent letter writer lamented, "Most women think sex is love—I want a deeper spiritual connection." Here's the rest of her letter, below:
As I read the letter about the heat dying out after 3 months, it actually reminded me of my last relationship but in reverse. My girlfriend wanted sex and multiple orgasms whenever we had free time over the course of years! She got angry when I told her it exhausted me. I had already "been there done that" and wanted a deeper spiritual connection. Evidently that was not reciprocal and I didn't feel heard or understood. Eventually our relationship ended because the drama was too much for me. Now it has been a year since the break up and I am really not ready to start something new because I find that most women think sex is love—at least, the women I’ve met.
- J.S., California
Ouch. That's a hard one. Most of us have been on one side or the other—either wanting more sex than our partner does, or wanting less. Both sides are so painful! But even more painful is the feeling J.S. described of not feeling heard or understood (Who among us hasn't been there, too?!)
So here's what we advised:
I'm sad to read that you feel soured on relationships for now. I actually believe there are many other women out there who are longing for a deeper spiritual connection—because we've heard from a lot of them!—but many of us don't know exactly how to create and maintain it.
As I read your letter, it makes me think about several different issues:
1) Of course women do have genuine differences in our sex drives, and that—like all other differences—is something to work out in an atmosphere of love and compassion, both for our partner and for ourselves.
2) It's also true that some of us find it hard to feel connected or close, except through sex—whereas others of us need to feel connected and close in order to want to have sex! Again, this is the kind of difference that can definitely be worked with, when each partner is able and willing to SCORE. (If you haven't already heard about the SCORE Process, you can learn more about it at www.consciousgirlfriend.com/video1, or in our YourTango article in our Video 1, or read more about it here: http://www.yourtango.com/experts/consciousgf/take-your-finger-trigger-and-stop-fighting
3) Sex and a deeper spiritual connection are not mutually exclusive. There are some paths, like Tantra, that specifically aim to help women use sex as a way to become more spiritually connected.
4) And of course it’s true that many of us find that our sexual needs and desires – and our relationship priorities – change over time. And again, this can be a difference to navigate, since each woman is on her own trajectory.
Apart from all of that, though, what your letter really makes me think about is what intimacy really IS, and how to get to it – because that seems to have been what was really lacking with your ex. We all know what intimacy ISN’T – it’s what you describe when you say you didn’t feel heard or understood. So, it seems to me that what intimacy IS, is the opposite: it’s feeling seen, heard and understood (and ideally accepted and appreciated, too) – and, of course, also providing that same quality of seeing, hearing, understanding, accepting and appreciating to our partners.
Often in partnerships we get polarized around one issue or another – and usually, no matter what form the issue takes on the surface, the real issue is a lack of connection. So whether we find ourselves fighting about sex, or time together, or cleanliness, or money, or other personal habits, the sad thing is that our fights are actually pushing us further away from what we actually want.
So, how DO we build real intimacy? Well, the SCORE Process is very important for helping us work with the triggers that get in the way. But of course there is much more to intimacy building, beyond that. We are fond of acronyms here at Conscious Girlfriend, so we’ve created another one – an intimacy-building process we call CLASP. That stands for:
C: Connection, compassion, communication
A: Acceptance, appreciation
P: Presence, permission
Of course, it goes without saying that both people have to WANT to build intimacy. If they don’t, some work to repair previous damage might be necessary first. But when both people are on board, there are lots of ways to use the CLASP Process to do so. We’re going to be publishing an article about that soon! But here are a couple of quick steps to take:
- No one wants “drama.” It emerges when we feel our needs aren’t met. So a good place to start is by giving each person space to name her needs, desires, hopes and dreams for the relationship. If there has already been a lot of conflict, both people may need to SCORE, or do other centering processes, or even have a counselor present to help them have the neutrality to have this conversation.
- Remember that love is not a power struggle in which each person tries to wrest what she needs from the other. Rather, love is about each person wanting the other person to have her needs met! (and also, of course, wanting her own needs to be met – but not at the other’s expense.)
- With that as a foundation, listening, acceptance and appreciation can help a lot. Sometimes our partners are different from how we might have wished them to be. Part of the challenge of intimacy is reminding ourselves that relationships are not about being with “the perfect person,” but with another human being who, like us, is imperfect – and imperfect for us – and yet choosing to love her, and allow her to love us, anyway.
- That means we also need to give lots of space. Space for our own feelings to come up. Space for her feelings, too. Space for her to be whoever she is. Even space for us to conceivably realize that we’re not compatible as partners. (But the more space we allow each other, the easier it is for us to be together, even when there are significant differences.)
- “Presence” means we bring our full selves to the conversation. We’re not thinking about who we’d rather be with, or emotionally exiting. We’re staying there, even when it’s scary or painful. And “permission” means we give ourselves – and our girlfriends – to be who and as we are.
These are some of the major building-blocks to real intimacy. I hope you’ll find someone to engage with you in this amazing, demanding but incredibly fulfilling process. Maybe it’ll even happen at one of our free Conscious Girlfriend workshops! Remember, if you haven't yet signed up on our mailing list, you can do so at www.consciousgirlfriend.com.