Sex: Connecting, Not Performing

Like most human interactions, sex is complex. We tend to assign a great deal of meaning to it, and may face an array of sexual dysfunctions, not to mention differences in libido. At the same time, we often think it should be natural and easy, and here we get into trouble.

In particular, we get into trouble when we put too much emphasis on performing and not enough on connecting.

As humans, sex is linked to our identity. For males, we learn that we are supposed to be able to perform (get an erection) every time, while avoiding premature ejaculation. To fall victim to such “dysfunctions” means that we are not vibrant and manly. So males need to be excited but not too excited. Such a bind, along with the performance pressure it creates, leaves connecting far down on the list of sexual priorities.

It seems females are taught to be sexual but not too sexual, as that could imply they’ve had a lot of sex – which from an older perspective is unbecoming. At the same time, females are supposed to be sexual enough to be properly lubricated and to help their male partner get an erection. If these don’t happen, does that mean the female is insufficient? Here’s the chance for latent confidence and body-image issues to emerge – the opposite of an aphrodisiac. Both of these common male and female struggles are based on the overemphasis on performing.

If the first goal was connecting, these performance issues would fade.

It is far easier, and I would argue more intimate, to connect through fully-clothed eye-gazing than it is through eyes-closed, turn-off-the-lights sex. Being in each other’s eyes is natural and intimate, and it’s one of the first things we do when we are born – our mother gazes into our eyes and “finds us.” This is how she first conveys her love.

Although eyes-closed sex may be physically more pleasurable than eye-gazing, having it doesn’t mean we have connected more. David Schnarch, author of Secrets of a Passionate Marriage says some partners lose interest in sex because of this lack of connection – that is, one or both partners feel like a vessel for their partner’s orgasm. His prescription is eyes-open, lights-on sex.

Finding and connecting with each other through the eyes during sex may be one of the most intimate things we can do.

Taking this to the pinnacle of intimacy, Schnarch suggests that partners work toward and learn to have an orgasm while being in each other’s eyes.

Blogger and marriage counselor Kyle Benson writes of his experience with eye-open sex:

“Eyes-Open Sex is the type of sex that alters your life. It gives you new ways of experiencing life and your sexual nature. It’s intense and scary. It’s downright powerful.”

If you can have eye-open sex, your intimacy has reached a new level.

However, you don’t need to have sex to connect on a deep level.

eye gazing and couple therapyAll you need to do is take a moment to find each other through your eyes. Not only will you have the experience of being seen, you will have the experience of both being stimulated while being soothed. Eye-gazing is a sure-fire way to rekindle intimacy and you can do it fully clothed, without the pressure of sexual performance.

For more information on my approach to counseling with couples click here.

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