Are You Having Grown-Up Sex?


I've just begun to read Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, and in the introduction he talks about a couple who come to him for counseling. Schnarch is a pioneer in merging marriage therapy with sex therapy, and I'm excited to get deeper into the book.

The couple was learning how to connect deeply with each other during sex, and the woman confessed to fantasizing during most of their previous love-making sessions. I flashed back to a workshop I attended last May with David Deida, author of a number of books about conscious relationships.Deida commented that American men have been conditioned since the age of 11 or 12 to engage in an immature type of sex. In his words, the model has been "fantasize, stimulate, and ejaculate." Most women have also learned this model for sex.

What is grown-up sex? Grown-up sex is sex that increases your sense of connection to your partner. Grown-up sex is a wild, erotic, and ecstatic adventure. It requires us to be present to our partner and to our own bodies. It requires that we ask for what we need, and give feedback on what we receive. It requires a certain amount of vulnerability; a willingness to open yourself to another and expose your heart's desires.

Grown-up sex isn't limited to the bedroom. In fact, it’s often initiated elsewhere. It starts with consciously connecting with your partner. There's a great practice you can try: sit facing your partner, close but not touching, and breathe together. After a few breaths, the man can begin to regulate his breathing to match his woman. If you're a same sex couple, the more masculine or dominant of you would take this role. Matching your breath as closely as possible, maintain eye contact and smile. Breathe in this way, maintaining eye contact and not taking yourselves too seriously, for about five minutes.

Grown-up sex is both selfless and selfish. It's selfless because you are devoted to making your partner feel as amazing as possible. And it's selfish because you are also devoted to making sure that YOU feel as amazing as possible. The former tends to be more challenging for men, and the latter more challenging for women.

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It's a lot of work in the beginning because it’s counterintuitive to how most of us have learned sex. For most people, sex was learned in a self-referential way: "fantasize, stimulate, and ejaculate." Grown-up sex requires us to be in relationship with our partner and to focus both on our partner and our own pleasure at the same time. Like most things that are a lot of work, the more you practice, the easier it gets. The key is not to take yourself too seriously; even grown-up sex is supposed to be fun.