Sexual Intimacy & Self-Consciousness in Marriage

sexual intimacy and self-consciousness

Awareness during sex is key to sexual fulfillment—awareness of the shared mutual sexual pleasure you and your spouse are giving to each other. But sometimes awareness goes awry and turns into self-consciousness.

When we speak of being aware of something, of being mindful, typically we speak of taking a relatively unbiased view of what is being experienced (as much as this is possible). For instance, self-awareness implies knowing something about yourself: How you react in certain situations; what your emotional strengths and weaknesses are; the ability to be attuned to the different feelings that arise in you, etc.

Transferring awareness to the bedroom, sexual-awareness involves being fully conscious of your own sexual needs, your partner’s sexual needs, what turns you both on, as well as understanding each other’s turn-offs. In order to fully receive and experience pleasure (without rejecting it or feeling conflicted or guilty about it), you must be fully aware and open to the sensations and experience of pleasure.

Self-Consciousness and Sexual Intimacy: A Match NOT Made in Heaven

Too often, however, self-awareness and sexual-awareness become skewed and turn into a hyper-focus on oneself to the detriment of sexual enjoyment. In these instances, self-consciousness impedes the sexual freedom that is needed in order to experience the mutual pleasures of sex.

During self-conscious sex, it’s as if you inhabit the roles of both performer and critic, judge and judged. A level of self-monitoring takes over that pulls you out of the present moment, and as a result the potential for sexual abandon (letting yourself get caught up in the moment-to-moment experiences of pleasure) is lost.

Is self-consciousness something you struggle with during sex?

Are you able to lose yourself while having sex with your partner?

Ideally, the sexual experience would involve you vacillating between self/other-awareness and, at times, losing your sense of yourself in the heat of the moment.

There are several reasons why you may struggle with sexual self-consciousness:

  • Fears of sexual inadequacy;
  • Inner conflicts over experiencing and/or giving sexual pleasure;
  • Performance anxieties (concerns about satisfying your spouse/partner);
  • Not feeling emotionally safe with your partner during sex (anticipating/experiencing judgment or criticism);
  • Emotional and/or physical discomfort with certain sexual acts;
  • Struggles with body image.

While the above list isn’t exhaustive, if you do find yourself struggling with self-consciousness during sex, it’s important to identify the reasons why this may be occurring. Does the above list capture one or more of your struggles, or is something else going on?

Sometimes this understanding is enough to loosen the grip of self-consciousness. But at other times, sharing any concerns or struggles with your partner can be helpful in freeing you from the burden of self-consciousness (assuming your partner is supportive). And remember, if you are going to monitor your self-consciousness in order to tame it, try not to become self-conscious about being self-conscious!

Featured (top) image credit: “Venus” by Carlos 90 under CC BY-SA 2.0