It is Valentine Day- our sanctioned holiday of love. Loaded with memories-both good and bad of longing and romance that make our lives what they are. It’s a good time to visit the Pain/Pleasure principle that informs sexual desire and romance as well.

There is an indescribable, yet palpable reality of sexual intimacy wherein the ecstatic release of deep pleasure balances and ignites an equal experience of pain. Every time I have sex, I try to understand the relationship between these forces that seem to live at my very center. The experience is so profound, it feels at the time, almost life changing and yet, even with my partner of over twenty years I struggle to find a language to describe the sensations without feeling like I am crossing a line into pornographic exposition.

We have in fact discussed how challenging it is to find language to explore our intimate relationship and how awkward and inadequate much of the language feels. Part of the problem is that so much of the language has been used and abused by the pornographic industry that it is hard for us to feel safe in the same milieu. Still, once over the discomfort of sharing the limited vocabulary, the discussion about the lines between pain and pleasure are worth exploring.

On a biological level, the anatomy of a woman’s pelvis includes not only organs but musculature and spinal connections that enervate around the organs. I have long been prone to low back issues and having had four babies, I believe that there are neurological messages between the muscle release of the area and uterine contractions. This explains some part of the physical pain/ pleasure experience of sex, but doesn’t really illuminate how the physical experience is mirrored in an even deeper way in the emotions and soul of the relationship.

This is my hypothesis. Loving someone emotionally creates the same pain/pleasure experience as making love to them does. The moments of deep connection and intimacy, sharing the vulnerability and utter nakedness of who one is with a loved one opens the door to what seems the opposite experience of feeling deeply hurt by your lover- either because of what was said or just as often, not said.

In fact though this experience is no different than the simultaneous pain/pleasure of sexuality. Although the timing may be more distant, the act of loving in whatever form requires a willingness to experience both sides. This is the piece of sustaining loving relationships that most of us miss, and tragically the place where we walk away from the heart of what we want most.

Wishing you a valentines day with as much pleasure/pain your heart can hold.

Wendy