He said, "She never wants to have sex. She's always complaining she's too tired. It's frustrating being turned down all the time."
She said, "All he wants is sex. I'm exhausted after work and taking care of the kids. He never pitches in enough and when we do it's all about what he wants."
As couples therapists, we hear that a lot. Sex is often the source of deep frustrations because our earliest injuries are often sexual and shaming. Creating a connection that is mutually satisfying is two-pronged: eliminate the negative and enhance the positive. Less pain, more pleasure. A simple truth most couples find difficult to practice. As a married couple, as well as therapists, we believe we have found a winning combination of methods for doing just that. The combined processes of Imago Relationship Therapy and Tantra not only bridge the intimacy gap, but can take a great romance to the next level.
Imago Relationship Therapy was developed by partners Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, authors of Getting the Love You Want and the just-released Making Marriage Simple.
Tantra is an ancient spiritual practice that proclaimed the equality of women and embraced sexuality as an additional path to enlightenment.
Both Imago and Tantra recognize the vital importance of romantic relationship in growth and healing, and both have rich, complementary tools for deepening intimacy and awakening passion. Both practices teach that good sex can only happen if you communicate well, and that starts with the brain.
Your brain is not what you think
When we enter an intimate relationship, our brain is no longer our own. It gets co-opted by a evolutionary mandate that makes us cling or avoid, fight or freeze. These reactions are rooted below the cerebral cortex and are faster and stronger than our thoughts or our will. The only way to get the brain back under control is to soothe these hard-wired attachment fears. It's a lot like trying to calm down a scared dog or cat. Learning to bypass your own emotional triggers is probably one of the most important relationship skills you can acquire.
When you talk with your partner about an important issue, such as sex, one person has to be on duty at all times. This means that the person listening must really listen, that is, not think about their own point of view. The speaking partner needs to be validated and empathized with before their brain will allow them to switch roles and listen.
Say what you want, not what you don't want
Criticism is the fastest way to shut down your partner's ability to cooperate. If you want what you want (and most of us do), do yourself a favor and focus on what you desire, not what frustrates you. The brain responds to imagery, and creating an image of what we don't want is a powerful way to get just that -- what we don't want. Describe your desire. Be specific and soft.
The old brain, or mammal brain, needs regular reminders that you are friend, not foe. There's even a mathematical ratio for this: 5 to 1. We need five positive experiences to counter every negative word. A great way to stack the odds is to provide a daily dose of three appreciations each. Again, be specific.
Synchronize your breath
Breathing together, with either foreheads touching or eye gazing, creates what is called limbic resonance. Inhale together and exhale together. Three minutes of this will align your sexual energies and put you in tune with one another. Try it, you'll like it.
Pelvic thrusts, chest thrusts, and spinal grinds are all designed to energize the desire to connect with our partner. Turn up the music and move those hips. Face to face, inhale back, exhale forward. Breath loud. When the old brain feels safe it naturally wants to play and get frisky.
Ritualize romance with a weekly indoor date
Get over it. Spontaneity requires planning. If you want it, schedule it. Most guys get frustrated because they don't know how long they have to wait for the next opportunity. Just knowing he's got a date is going to make him a lot more civilized. And while you're at it, plan on making it a full body experience. Stimulate all five senses with soft light, lingerie, music, incense, oils. Don't forget taste. Once you get the lower regions of your partners brain on board there is no end to the fun and excitement you can share together. But first that means making sure your own brain belongs to you. If you're relaxed, it does.
You can make the connective space between you and your partner an ecstatic zone by following these simple tips. Week after week, we find that even the most disconnected couples can rebuild intimacy with this combination of tantric and imago principles.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.
For more by Thea and Duane Harvey, click here.