Does your romantic interest know the real you?
Sextimacy is the effort to find emotional intimacy through sex. I use the term to facilitate communication in therapy because other generalizations– promiscuous, fast, wild, hooking-up–miss the complexity of the romantic lives of many modern young and adult women. At first Sextimacy can seem like a shortcut to happiness but when it is used habitually the woman is often left with frustration and disappointment. In my book “Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy–Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships” I present the stories of others to show how women may become trapped in unfulfilling relationships and how many have learned how to find a better life.
Here are five strategies that will help bring emotional intimacy to a romantic relationship.
1. Recognize your own emotional experiences with your partner. If you feel sad, disappointed, angry, label the emotions. Do not dismiss them. Find the words to describe what you are feeling. Is he receptive? Is he open to your experience even if he doesn’t agree with it? Does he make you feel better when you are upset or does he judge you and make you feel worse about your emotional self? Couples with emotional intimacy generally feel better after expressing their emotions with one another. Even if they do not agree there is a sense of comfort and validation.
2. In the context of Sextimacy and one-sided relationships the willingness to directly communicate your thoughts, needs and desires is essential. If you never say what you are thinking, how will you know if he can give you what you need? Likewise, how can the men in your life get to know the real you if you do not share your innermost thoughts? Work to directly express yourself. If you want to spend more time with your partner, say this. Don’t attempt to make him jealous by flirting with others, don’t angrily attack him. It is a good sign if he is willing to hear you out, express his point of view and negotiate with you. If he laughs you off, makes a joke, starts roughhousing, or makes you feel embarrassed and judged for talking in such an intimate manner— he may not be the prince charming you deserve.
3. Some women ignore when a man indirectly or even directly demonstrates that he is intimacy avoidant. Notice what he is communicating. Are certain topics are off limits with your partner? Are you careful and excessively thoughtful about his reactions before you bring up certain issues with him? Notice if you are talking with your friends more about your upsets than with your partner. Are you afraid or anxious about asking your partner what his level of commitment is in the relationship? These are all signs that there is little emotional intimacy present.
4. Work to accept where your partners are as opposed to working to change them into what you want them to be. Directly communicating where you are in the relationship is important but equally important is hearing and accepting where he is. If you tell your partner that you really like him and he looks away, changes topics, jokes or teases with you, he is letting you know that he is unable or unwilling to reciprocate your level of intimacy. Accept that he is not giving you what you want and move on.
5. It is also important to assess how you feel about your partner in a sexual context. Notice if you feel inhibited or overly concerned about your appearance when in the presence of your partner. Do you feel your partner values you, but only when it is convenient for him to do so or only in a sexual context? Do you fantasize about doing other nonsexual activities with your partner but, in actuality, spend little time together? Are you hoping that sex will eventually elicit a commitment from your partner or pull him closer to you? These are signs that the relationship is not developing in a balanced, sexually and emotionally intimate, manner. As your sexual relationship becomes more charged you should simultaneously notice your partner’s genuine curiosity and interest in knowing you.
Take all of your relationships seriously and notice if you are acting outwardly casual about someone with whom you are attaching to on a much deeper level. If you become aware that you do not have the emotional intimacy that you seek in order to feel secure and fully known, then communicate this to your partner. Be honest with yourself about what it is you really want. Let the men in your life know what you expect and need to be happy. Make a pact with yourself to directly talk about your wishes. As you become open about what you want, your relationships will grow in ways that you may have not yet experienced. Or, you will learn that a partner is not able to give you emotional intimacy, in which case you must end the relationship. It is a risk, but for your own emotional well-being one worth taking. (For help with breaking up, see my blog about ending relationships with chronically disappointing men.)