01/12/2015 06:09 pm ET Updated Mar 13, 2015

'We Rarely Make Love'

I cannot tell you how often couples complain to me that they rarely make love. These are generally people who love each other, who enjoy being together and often have fun with each other. Yet they don't have sex. Why does this happen so often?

Sexual arousal, especially for most women, comes from emotional intimacy and connection. While many men can have sex purely from physical desire, many women need emotional intimacy and connection to feel physical desire. While many men might love it if their wife would suddenly start to fondle their genitals, many women feel violated when their husband grabs their breasts, crotch or butt. I often hear from the women I work with, "I just feel groped and disgusted when my husband grabs my breasts. Why doesn't that turn me on? Is there something wrong with me?" Many women do not feel drawn to touch or be touched in a sexual way until the feeling of love is flowing between them and their partner. Yet women have been trained to believe that they should respond sexually in the same way men do, and often feel inadequate when they do not feel turned on by the things that turn on men.

Hazel and Daniel were struggling with this issue of lack of sexuality. Just before their counseling session with me, they had a fight because Daniel fondled Hazel's breasts while she was dressing in the morning, and then got angry when she didn't like it. Hazel has often expressed to Daniel that what turns her on is the deep kissing that results from emotional intimacy. Yet, even though Daniel said he wanted to make love, he would not intimately kiss Hazel.


As we explored the issue, it became apparent that neither Hazel nor Daniel had enough of a loving inner adult self to feel safe with intimacy. While they loved each other, their fears of rejection and engulfment made them feel unsafe with each other. When Hazel got critical, Daniel didn't have enough of an inner loving adult to not take it personally, and to set loving limits against being controlled by Hazel. He would get angry and withdrawn, which would trigger Hazel's fears of rejection. Both Hazel and Daniel were afraid that if they were emotionally intimate, they would give themselves up to avoid rejection. Keeping the emotional distance felt safer than risking losing themselves or losing the other if they did not give themselves up. Yet sexuality could not flow without the loving feelings that come from emotional intimacy.

The problem was that neither Hazel nor Daniel were conscious of their intent most of the time. In most of their interactions, both of them were unconsciously protecting themselves from rejection or engulfment, rather than consciously thinking about what would be loving to themselves. Because their intent was to protect themselves, they were often trying to control how the other felt about them while at the same time protecting against being controlled. Each would respond to the other's rejecting behavior with their own rejecting behavior -- anger, criticalness, blame, withdrawal, resistance. Each would attempt to control how the other felt about them by not telling their truth and by not taking loving care of themselves. Each were handing the responsibility for their feelings to the other and then getting upset when the other did not do what they wanted. Neither were showing up as loving adults to take care of their own feelings in loving ways.

While it may seem roundabout to deal with a lack of lovemaking by focusing on one's intent, this is exactly what needs to happen. Until both Hazel and Daniel become conscious of their intent and start to choose the intent to learn about loving themselves, instead unconsciously choosing the intent to protect, they will not create the inner safety necessary for intimacy.

You cannot have the joy of sharing love and passion while protecting against loss of self and loss of other. Love and passion do not flow when you are trying to control and not be controlled. As long as protecting against rejection and engulfment is more important than loving yourself, you will not create the inner safety necessary to create relationship safety. Relationship safety creates the arena for love and intimacy to flow, leading to the physical sharing of love that occurs when people are deeply connected.

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