As a gent of certain age, with three marriages and numerous relationships to my credit, I thought I was relatively experienced and sophisticated in my knowledge of love, lust, sex and the pleasures thereof. But after reading Dr. Stella Resnick's earth-shattering new book, The Heart of Desire, I suddenly realized that my knowledge of the inner mechanisms behind those subjects was limited and incomplete. Better late than never, I rationalized to myself as I read and made notes... which I am happy to pass along to my Huffington Post readership. But first, a word about Dr. Resnick, whom I interviewed after I finished her book. She is a clinical psychologist, and a licensed sex therapist. I am told she has appeared on many TV shows such as Oprah, CNN Live, and The O'Reilly Factor. She is a practitioner of the Gestalt school of therapy, which seems to involve practicing a form of psychotherapy that is present-centered and focused on observing body experience. She describes it as an elegant psychotherapy method for self-discovery and personal growth (something which I feel I've already experienced). Her chapter on "The Love-Lust Dilemma" details how 'intimates' communicate primarily through body language, not words, whether or not they know it...Gestalt therapy in action. I was even more intrigued by a section entitled, "The ABCs of Primal Intimacy," which illustrates how empathic touch, eye contact, and kissing (yes!) generate deeply loving, sexual connection. And she has a section on "The Principle of Relaxed Excitement," which she considers to be the "secret to success in everything," especially loving sex, about how relaxing intensifies excitement and intimate pleasures, something all of us can attest to. There is no question that sex is still on everyone's mind, for I need only note the enormous attention given to the new novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which she believes has had a positive effect on its readers by enlarging their "erotic repertoire." Dr. Resnick's book reveals she has been researching and exploring the subject for some 20 years, and she has a lot to say about the place sex plays in relationships in today's world, and why. What she explores in the book is such topics as how pleasure and playfulness are keys to a loving sexual relationship; how to keep intimacy flourishing in a long-term relationship, and why romantic playfulness has such an important role in sexual desire.
"The most prevalent problem I have encountered is, surprisingly, that it is women today who are complaining that their mates have lost their interest for sex, probably for a variety of different reasons but at least partially a result of the pressures of business, money, and family." I was shocked, since I naturally assumed the main problem was the reverse... that men would be complaining of their mates' disinterest in sex. "No, women do have strong sexual feelings which many feel have been suppressed for most of their lives by society and their parents." Wow.
I must admit that the first major statement in her opening chapter caught my attention, when she stated, "Feelings of love can kill libido." She then went on that early programming as a child can inhibit sexual desire when lovers become committed partners and begin to treat each other less like lovers and more like family, something I may have experienced but never fully realized. At our luncheon, she suggested that commitment itself may cut off sexual desire and she posed the question to me "Why do you suppose so many people overestimate the value of talking about problems and underestimate the role of pleasure in deepening the bond in a relationship?" something I had not previously explored intellectually. She then went on: "New brain research has shown that what's essential for enhancing new learning is to keep the brain engaged and attentive and that playfulness is one of the best ways to do that. This book shows how to deepen a relationship through cultivating good feelings and it offers a ten-step loving sex program to do that." Yes, this is a very candid and, at times, a sexually explicit text about how pleasure nurtures us as individuals and helps us thrive in life, in this case sexually. Admittedly this is a subject that is not often explored frankly in this inhibited society in which we live.
The last chapter of her book is "A Lust for Life," and it opens with the question of whether it is possible to sustain sexual interest in one person forever... to which she replies that "it is not only possible, it's essential. But that one person is you!" She continues with the revelation that mature sex can be better than young sex, when people have learned from their experiences. Again, I concur completely. I recommend that you go to Amazon or wherever you order books and get a copy of Dr. Stella Resnick's The Heart of Desire: Keys to the Pleasures of Love. It is an astonishing work.
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