Appreciation and Sexuality
Appreciation of those you love, whether a lover, a parent, a child or a friend, is one of the cornerstones of living a spiritual life. Verbally pointing out beauty and strength in someone you love is a way of bringing more depth to a solid relationship, healing to a wounded relationship, or renewal to a tired or stifled relationship.
Whenever Barry and I give a talk or workshop, we often begin with an appreciation exercise. We understand people may feel appreciation for one another. Still, we like to give them more opportunity to show it. For a relationship to work, there needs to be much more appreciation than criticism, perhaps even ten to one. If the balance is more on the side of criticism, the relationship will go steadily downhill, leading to resentment, anger and distance. Appreciation is a fuel that continually feeds the flame of love.
So how do we appreciate another? True appreciation comes from seeing and acknowledging the inner being rather than the outer personality of the one we want to appreciate. We can easily become fixed on a person’s seemingly harmful or unconscious actions and respond by shutting our heart. Yet, if we look a little deeper, behind the actions, we will see another child of God just like ourselves reflected in the light of our partner’s eyes. We will see a beautiful soul sharing with us the same journey to the light. As we seek to uncover the divinity within ourselves and others, the quality of our relationships will rise to limitless heights.
Daily appreciation can work miracles for a relationship in trouble. Taking time to be positive with your partner can change a destructive energy pattern into a constructive one.
Of all the aspects of relationship, sexuality is perhaps the one that most needs appreciation. We cringe whenever we hear someone running down his or her partner’s sexual performance with these kind of statements:
“He doesn’t know how to touch me in a satisfying way.”
“She’s like an iceberg in bed.”
“My other lovers never had this problem.”
Comments such as these, even when not said in the presence of a partner, can be extremely harmful. Sexuality is an especially sensitive area of relationship. If a partner is judged negatively or compared unsatisfactorily to a previous lover, it can cause a deep wound and serious problems to the couple.
A better way to approach sexuality, especially when there are problems, is through the healing power of appreciation. Each partner needs to feel their efforts to please and satisfy the other are noticed and appreciated. If you feel your partner needs to make changes in a certain area, you help them most by appreciating what they are doing right — and saying this often. Then, with great sensitivity to proper timing, communicate what you need to be different. The middle of an argument, or late at night when you are exhausted, is usually not the best time to do this.
If your partner attempts to make changes, appreciate their every effort. Sex is an act of love, not a performance. If you keep your heart tuned to the love your partner is expressing rather than the performance, and appreciate the uniqueness of that expression of love, you both will more fully enjoy the experience.
During a workshop, we once asked a woman who was obviously enthusiastic about her husband even after forty years of marriage, to tell us her secret. Without hesitation she said, “Every day, I tell my husband how much his lips turn me on. And every day, he responds with a broad smile and passionate kiss.”
Besides making us all laugh, this woman’s advice was very good. Our partner wants to know we are attracted to them. Every partner longs to feel that they are a good lover. It is our appreciation that cultivates this feeling. When our lover feels appreciated, it helps them feel more confident. And more confidence helps them try all the more to give love and affection. Appreciation, therefore, will always be a “win-win” situation.
Make genuine appreciation a priority in your life, and then watch your relationships blossom like a lovingly fertilized garden.
(Excerpted from The Heart’s Wisdom by Joyce & Barry Vissell, ©1999 Conari Press)