Emotional and Sexual Intimacy: Nurturing the Emotional Components of Sex

sexual intimacy emotional intimacy

Sex is physical, and obviously your body takes center stage during sexual activity. Sex is inherently a multidimensional sensory experience, with all the senses stimulated and alive at different times during the sexual experience:

  • Touch and a wide range of physical sensations;
  • The scent and smell of your lover;
  • Taste through kissing, licking and oral stimulation;
  • The different sounds of pleasuring each other, as well as any direct verbalization of your experience and needs;
  • And, of course, visual experience.

But sex isn’t just an activity of the body (or, at least, it can be so much more than that if you want it to—it’s all about how you approach sex, your mindset).

Physical and sexual sensations quickly get filtered and shaped by who you are: Your conscious and unconscious attitudes and beliefs, as well as your feelings and any emotional conflicts that may exist about sex, all powerfully shape your experiences of sex. For instance, based upon one’s sexual history, what might be experienced as sexual abandon and freedom by one person may create anxiety and feel out-of-control for another.

So while it can be said that sex is inherently pleasurable (or, at least, it has the potential to be), it is our psychological uniqueness, as well as the particular dynamics of our relationship, that elevates sex above its purely physical, reproductive qualities.

Nurturing Emotional Intimacy through Sexual Intimacy

Whenever my husband and I have sex, I feel much closer to him emotionally. Sex for me is a very emotional event. And when we go long periods where we aren’t having sex, I feel a distance building between us.”  ~ Laura, married almost a decade

As I’ve described above, sexual activity is imbued with layers of meaning based upon our individual psychological makeup. And one particular meaning is the experience of emotional closeness that arises through sexual intimacy. When this occurs, the sexual and emotional blend; sexual fulfillment and emotional fulfillment are indistinguishable. But even for couples in love, this isn’t always a given.

In order to feed emotional intimacy through sex, you must allow yourself to become emotionally vulnerable during the sexual act (yes, it’s possible to remain shut-off emotionally even while giving yourself sexually to another). This requires your full emotional presence during sex—an awareness and openness of how mutual sexual pleasure is creating a gateway to emotional closeness.

During sex, through the giving and receiving of intense pleasure, couples must make a conscious choice for emotional openness—a choice that will allow the full gifts of sexual intimacy. For some of us, emotional intimacy is automatically enhanced whenever we have sex with our spouse/partner. Yet, for many, this simply isn’t the case. And to address this issue, we must give deliberate attention to our feelings that arise within us during sex. Take note of the mutual, erotic impact that is occurring during sex. This can help shift the sexual experience into the realm of a deeply connecting experience.

When we are emotionally present in this way, we become increasingly aware of our partner and his/her reactions to the giving and receiving of sexual pleasure—this also allows for an increased awareness of the shared love that is flowing through the sexual activity.

Sensing and feeling each other’s presence is what is key here.

This doesn’t have to occur throughout the entire sexual act, and it’s important to note that for some couples, losing oneself during sex (achieving sexual abandon) involves becoming less aware of oneself and even less aware of the other person during sex. During these moments, it’s as if the sexual experience itself carries and directs you, without any apparent conscious decision-making. But there is no reason why you cannot try to have both experiences:

a) Greater awareness of each other and the shared emotional connection that sex allows;

and

b) Moments of sexual abandon (which may involve a shift away from a more deliberate focus toward a more free-floating openness to what is spontaneously unfolding between you and your spouse/partner).

How to Spice Up Your Relationship/Marriage Action Step:

In today’s blog post, the focus is on creating a shift in your sexual mindset, a shift that will allow you and your partner/spouse to become increasing aware and open to the emotional gifts of sexual and physical intimacy.

Next time you and your partner are having sex, take a moment to focus your attention on the emotions that are arising within you during the experience of sexual pleasure. Note the particular feelings of emotional closeness and the emotional connection that are part of the sexual contact.

When you bring this experience more fully into the light of consciousness, the potential for emotional intimacy is exponentially enhanced.

Featured (top) image credit: “Lovel(ly) Moment” by Filipa Machado under CC BY 2.0