Ask Steve – Sex

This is a specific example of a particular area of my life that I’m currently struggling with, as a continuation of this post from the “Ask Steve” series.

The third area that’s been a challenge for me is sex… specifically the role of sexuality in my life. Again, this comes down to a question of definition. I’m not really sure what I want.

Without getting graphic I’ll just say that Erin and I enjoy a very healthy sex life. I think we have some advantages because we both work from home, so we can basically drop for it whenever we want. 🙂 While there’s an obvious physical component to sex, I really enjoy the emotional bonding aspect of it. I notice that I tend to feel much closer to her in the hours after we make love.

That wasn’t always the case though. At the age of 17, Erin fell into an unhealthy 3-1/2 year relationship where she was sexually and emotionally abused. With the support of her sorority sisters, she eventually found the courage to leave the abuser. She had sporadic short-term relationships after that, but nothing too deep. She and I met when she was 24, and the early years of our relationship involved a lot of healing of those old wounds. Those were frustrating times for both of us, but we did eventually work through it all. In fact, a key benefit was that I learned to tune into my intuition, since logic was getting us nowhere.

Sex can be a wonderful vehicle for personal growth, especially in a long-term relationship. Sure it feels good too, but the long-term benefit is that sex can reveal emotional blocks you still need to work through. Your deepest emotional issues will surface during sex, including low self-esteem, fear of inadequacy, or a poor relationship with your body. How you view sex is indicative of your larger life as well. Empty and meaningless sex life? You probably don’t see much meaning in your life yet. Confusing or frustrating sex life? Confusing or frustrating life. Rewarding and fulfilling sex life? Your life is probably the same. Your recent sexual experiences, when examined consciously, can point you in the direction of breakthrough emotional growth.

So my question is, once you’ve worked through these emotional issues and are enjoying a rich and rewarding monogamous sex life, how do you continue to grow sexually? Once sex has helped you heal your emotional wounds, what role should it continue to play in your life?

Here are some of the possibilities I’ve been considering:

  • Go deeper. Stay monogamous and study something like tantra. Treat sex as an ongoing outlet for pleasure. I read a book on tantra earlier this year, but I haven’t really pursued it. Much of it seems to deal with deepening the physical pleasure, but that’s less important to me than deepening the emotional connection. Partly this is because my whole life has become so pleasurable that the pleasure of sex isn’t comparatively as big a contrast with my baseline emotional state. As one Tibetan monk said, “When you’re coming all the time, it [sex] doesn’t make any difference.” I’m not at that point yet, but I’m close enough to be able to relate to this statement.
  • Go wider. Does sexual monogamy limit the opportunities for personal growth? While I’ve no interest in being promiscuous, I do wonder what it would be like to share physical intimacy with others, especially those who see it as an emotional/spiritual connection rather than just a physical outlet. Erin feels much the same. We aren’t sexually possessive of each other, so we’re both open to this under the right conditions. Plus I imagine we’d be able to learn a lot from other people through direct experience. I’d love to hear from people who’ve gone down this path. Did it turn out to be a huge mistake? Or did it create a positive expansion of your existing relationship?
  • Rechannel it. I noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to more consciously channel my sexual energy into creative pursuits instead of being preoccupied with sex like I was during my 20s. I found it interesting that Napoleon Hill devotes a full chapter to this in Think and Grow Rich. He found that the wealthy people he studied were very highly sexed and had learned to rechannel their sex energy into their work.
  • Teach it. I could write about sex and how to enjoy a healthy sex life as well as how to enjoy a fulfilling relationship. This in turn might invite useful feedback, such as I’m likely to get from this post.
  • All of the above. Some creative combo of all of these.
  • Maintain status quo. Not really a serious option for me, but I figured I’d mention it.
  • Celibacy. You’re joking, right? While I’m sure this is a positive choice for some people, it doesn’t feel right for me personally.

Where do I go from here? What’s the best paradigm for defining the role of sex?

This entry is part of the “Ask Steve” series. See the original Ask Steve post for details, or view the Archives (July 2006) to peruse the entire series.