“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu
There are more breakups associated with the Valentine’s Holiday than any other—mostly due to all of our perceived slights and disappointments that happen every day are on full display on that day. Like children waiting for Santa, we hold high hopes that the gifts, flowers, and cards will redeem all of the many ways that our relationship disappoints or fails to recognize our efforts… if only. A great deal of our collective sexual dysfunction is tied up in this as well. We so often hold off on our physical intimacy making it dependent on whether our emotional needs are met. So, here are a few ways to rethink your love and sex drive for this Valentine’s Day and if it works, for the rest of the year.
- Ask for what you want
I have suffered through many a Valentine’s Day, not to mention birthdays and Christmases with the stubborn idea that if my husband really loved me, he would know what I wanted. Year after year, I would stubbornly refuse to speak my longings, childishly believing, that the asking somehow diminishes the offering. The fantasy that our partner should or would know what would make us happy keeps us from happiness. And yet, we remain dedicated to this common form of relationship suicide, rather than taking the responsibility of naming what we want. This is as true, or maybe more true about our sexual life too. It begins early by getting stuck in comparing our current sex life to what it was like in the early falling in love phase. It isn’t that an equal dose of passion is not available deeper into the relationship, it is that the work between you generates the sparks, rather than having them emerge from the biochemical drive to reproduce. Asking for the kind of intimacy that will turn you on is courageous and sexy. And, it gives your partner permission to be sexy in a whole new way. The best book I ever read about this is by my friend Tammy Nelson, called Getting the Sex you Want. So, if you are still searching for a perfect gift, start there and actually practice the exercises once a week. It will gift you over and over. Likewise, learning how to articulate your emotional needs is equally transformative. The relationship grows exponentially because people aren’t parenting each other and expecting the other to fix something. Learning to say what feels like love to you is the most evolved way of loving yourself and gives your relationship the room to become better than you could have hoped for.
- Switch up the order: Sex before dinner
For Valentine’s Day and maybe for the whole next year, see what happens when you create the space to put your sexual intimacy first. Not only do you not risk the usual too tired, drank too much, or other excuses that cut our date nights short, but you also alleviate the psychic strains and emotional walls that often keep us from feeling intimately connected. This will be a harder shift for many females, I know. We often link our arousal mechanism to feeling emotionally connected and appreciated. Sadly, a large disconnect occurs when men get to those feelings through the process of being touched and loved physically. One critical piece is giving up the old comparisons of how we felt when we fell in love, when the on switch seemed to always be on automatic. It is easy to see how we malign the long term work of physically loving someone after the sexual euphoria of falling in love. The heightened mysterious wonderland induced by biochemically balanced hormonal attractions seem like the love we have waited for—the real thing. It is a drug unlike any other—the immediacy and profound connection of perfectly matched lovers in their early discovery of each other. But as most of us know, this is a fleeting part of any love affair. As this space fades to the reality of learning to love we are confused, forlorn that we have to continuously wrestle with the other aspects of accepting all of who someone is, and we can’t remember how that arousal worked flawlessly. You won’t be able to find the new deeper connection so long as you keep comparing it to what it was. That’s why I say make love first, commit yourself to better understand what makes you feel sexy and keep your own sexual drive well-tuned. Knowing your own erogenous zones and having access to your own fantasies is the literal rocket fuel to keep long term relationships even sexier than when you started. No one can really make you feel sexy like this—you have to want it. Wanting and enjoying sex opens up the pathway to easier communication about most everything else.
- Good Enough Love
Once we can give up the idea that we get the love that we want, the way we want it, when we want it, we become available to the love that is coming at us this very moment. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that our fantasy of how we think love should feel is wrong, it’s that ultimately it doesn’t matter. Whether we walk down the aisle or sign a lease with someone, we are often without our own recognition agreeing to love those people as they are, and fundamentally that means we accept the ways that they can love us back. One way that I cure myself of getting over my fantasy perfect love, (even now after more than thirty years together) is to realize that is always solely my perspective that makes my relationship worthy or not. To make myself remember all the ways that my marriage is good enough, here are two no fail techniques that work for me every time:
- Imagine in full detail how my life would be without my partner… the horrid call—that life with them has suddenly ended due to some unthinkable accident. Experience the broken heartedness of them suddenly gone and then ask yourself, really how bad is it?
- Practice holding what I love most about my partner in one hand, beside what is most challenging in the other. In that space I can find a more true balance of how our love is more than good enough.
Love is the hardest work we do in a lifetime and rarely does it ever hit the perfect mark. But it does offer us the most gentle teaching and deepest evolution we can hope for of becoming our best self and living a life with meaning. Here’s to your imperfectly, perfect love this Valentine’s Day.