"This may sound strange, but at times I wish my partner were less available. More of a jerk, even. Not so willing to and ready to connect all the time. I guess I wish he would let me come to him sometimes," a client shares.
"I feel like we've seen too much to be sexual with each other, like we're more like family now. It's almost like we're too close to have sex, having seen and heard everything about each other. Is that strange?" another client shares.
None of this is strange at all. In fact, these sentiments are reflected quite often in my practice and program forums. They come from the fact that most people in this culture are wired to equate love with longing, so when there's no longing the person misses the intensity of feeling, passion, and certainty that normally accompanies being the one in the pursuer position of the common pursuer-distancer dynamic. To rectify the problem, my client, as expressed in the first quote above, is hoping that her partner will withdraw or act like a jerk in the hopes that this will activate those "in-love" feelings that she's missing. While this tactic may work for an hour or a day, it's obviously not a long-term solution to what my client is perceiving as a problem.
Her idea is reflected in a popular theory that is making the Internet rounds via a TED talk. In this talk, the author poses that we need space or air in relationships to fan the fire of desire. It's a fascinating video and will help you feel less alone if you're struggling with the "too close for sex" issue. But while I agree with this to a point, meaning that when each person values their separateness and spends their alone time filling their inner well of self, so they can bring this passion to the relationship -- I don't agree that it's realistic to infuse mystery and forced longing into an established, committed relationship. Great in theory, but I haven't figured out how to execute that in practice. (To be fair, I haven't read her book, so it's quite likely that what she's proposing is entirely feasible in practice. If anyone has read it, please comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts!)
But the truth is that I'm not particularly interested in trying to create more distance or mystery. I'm interested in helping people feel turned on by the closeness. I'm passionate about helping them rewire their conditioning that says "longing equals love and passion" and instead teach them to equate presence, availability and kindness with love and passion. It's never easy to rewire beliefs and patterns of behavior, but if we're going to create a new template for relationships where people are actively seeking closeness instead of dynamics that replicate old models that are dependent on separateness and even drama, we have to teach the principles that will result in the new, healthy wiring.
So if creating more distance isn't the solution, what is? This is an excerpt of my response on one of my program forums when this topic emerged:
You wrote in your initial question that the closeness feels overwhelming and scary and that's why you don't have sex. If he pulls away or shuts down, you feel safe again. I understand this completely, and again, it's really what this program is about: It's the classic pursuer-distancer dynamic, and when you identify and work with your fear walls, you'll be able to feel them but not let them control your behavior. In other words, you can feel the fear and do it anyway (great book with that title, by the way). And in fact, it's through having sex that the fear walls start to melt. Making love from a heart-centered, non-goal oriented place can be such a powerful way of dissolving fear walls as you see through action and evidence that it creates safety and additional closeness, not danger. But you have to work through those first signs of fear that arise when you start to have sex, and they will almost always be there.
So your walls are not caused by the familial-like closeness you feel with your partner but rather your fear of loss, as you shared in your initial question. You can't force your partner to play "hard to get" or pretend to be a jerk, right? For me it's about learning how to create real sexual desire between two people who are fully available, and that occurs when both partners are connected to their own fire individually. Her theory rests on the assumption that it's your partner's 'job' to turn you on, and I don't agree. It's your job to connect to your sexuality and aliveness, and from there you bring that energy to your partner. If your partner is willing to meet you there, you'll nurture a creative, alive, exciting, evolving sexual relationship together.
This is echoed in a wonderful book called The Intimate Couple, by Jack Rosenberg and Beverly Kitaen-Morse, where the authors write:
Many people look toward others, rather than within themselves, for the source of their sexual excitement. 'You just don't turn me on anymore,' is an implied demand. The notion that sexual charge should be generated by somebody else is a fib we love to believe. We can, of course, be stimulated by others at time. But if we come to believe that our excitement must come from our partner, we are left without the empowering sense of self necessary for heightened sexuality. In long-term relationships we each must learn how to keep love and sexuality alive within us... (p. 9)
This. This is it. This is where we find true power in ourselves and in our intimate relationships. Through practicing loving actions you can learn to connect the dots and begin the process of rewiring the faulty conditioning that says, "Love equals longing." You can learn to love the one you're with and create a sex life and feeling of love based on closeness instead of distance and mystery. Despite what the popular culture says, it's entirely possible! And entirely wonderful.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, "Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes", visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com.
If you want to learn the Love Laws and Loving Actions that will help you love the one you're with and create a sex life and feeling of love based on closeness, join me for my next round of
Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner, which begins February 8, 2014.