When I think of summer, I have this picture of long lazy days by the water, listening for the distant voices of my children while I wander off into a great book, quietly stepping into some new ways of thinking or sharing in the stories of life that change us just by hearing them. Ana Freud said “Sex is something we do, sexuality is who we are.” What better time than the brief interludes of warm sunny days to ponder the mystery of intimacy, with fresh insights and revelations to bring increased clarity to how we live our sexuality as well as fun and passion to what we do with the people we love most.
Understanding ourselves as sexual beings and building a language to explore who we are in these mysterious places is a large task. For some people, the taboo of adding language to sexual acts keeps them silent and unfulfilled. Even for me, the loveologist that sells love products and can say the words “oral sex” to perfect strangers, I can often find myself silent with my husband, lacking the know how and the courage to describe my fantasies or describe the kind of touch that most moves me.
When I received my copy of “Getting the Sex You Want” by my friend Tammy Nelson, the director of the Center for Healing and Recovery and Passionate Partnerships I was both curious and a little skeptical. Based on the couples therapy work she has been doing at her office in Connecticut, Tammy offers up some well known techniques and strategies for building the communication skills to connect with your partner. The communications method, which is based on the work of Harville Hendrix’s work “Getting the Love You Want” felt a bit contrived at first, but she quickly demonstrates how basic communication skills applied to our intimate lives has the power to revolutionize what you are doing in the bedroom and quickly spills over into the rest of your relationship.
One example she shared of a husband who had so much shame about masturbation (and don’t we all share a bit of that…) experienced such a huge relief when he was finally able to talk about his needs of sharing the experience in their sex life together. The book was full of examples and exercises to try by yourself or with your partner that demonstrated how a shared and agreed upon method of communicating about sex could easily turn into inspiring new found abilities to express sexual needs and desires. I was so impressed with the book that I tried the technique myself later that week. Things that I had never thought of saying to my husband suddenly seemed possible.
The first question that anyone going to a sex therapist asks is “Am I normal?” This question and the fear of what it might mean if we deviate from normal in our sexuality can control our lives and our relationships. Another book that has recently come across my desk , Tantra for Erotic Empowerment (by Michaels and Johnson) is an active workbook of sexual self discovery. The books premise that giving and extending permission to experience ourselves as sexual beings without fear of shame or rejection is truly the ground work for profound change and acceptance in the entire relationship.
While I don’t have that much personal experience with Tantra practices, I would say that anyone who is learning to love their partner in a long term relationship is bound to encounter where the physical and spiritual worlds meet in lovemaking. Understanding our sexuality in the context of our human nature normalizes as well as sanctify this most mysterious form of human communication. Unlike many books written about tantric practices, which can get really esoteric, this one provides a clear map for the beginner as well as deeper insights for the tantric practitioner. Even if all the content is not for you, there are enough thought provoking exercises to keep the book interesting long after the sun sets.
If you haven’t already read a review about Bonk by Mary Roach, let me say that there is nothing quite like actual sex history to wake you up to the wide and and amazing world of human sexuality. She is a meticulous researcher and has a genuine sense of humor that alleviates any embarrassment you might be feeling about reading about the extremely checkered history that our discomfort with our sexuality has created through the centuries. It will probably help you feel better about the places you are still stuck, and if you ever wondered where some of the far out porn fantasies came from- read sex history. Even if you don’t want to own this book, reserve it at your local library. Some fun fact from the book will spur some exciting discussion at your next barbecue.
Here’s to a summer memorable for how we all learn to love more and show it in ways that will keep you connected long into winter.