The Mirror of Sex

The sexual relationship can be a mirror of the whole relationship. What happens during love-making can offer a reflection of the condition of the rest of the relationship. There is no such thing as having a poor relationship but great sex. “Great” sex may mean that both partners have an orgasm but, if there is no fulfillment in the rest of the relationship, there can be no real fulfillment in sex either. A physical orgasm can never satisfy a spiritual hunger.

Likewise, there are couples who seek help for a “sexual” problem but feel the rest of their relationship is fine. A “fine” relationship to some may mean the absence of conflict, but this is usually due to fear and lack of safety between the two partners. Conflict is the unavoidable in an intimate relationship, but partners need to feel safe enough with each other before they will risk saying something that may oppose the other partner. Absence of conflict can never be equated with harmony, just like the lack of war between nations does not necessarily mean peace.

If we desire to grow in our awareness of love, we must accept that sex can be a mirror of the relationship in general and be open to what this mirror has to teach us. It doesn’t serve us to compartmentalize our relationship, and not look at our relationship from a higher perspective-which shows the interrelationship of every part.

In a therapy session, a couple presented an example of how sex can be a mirror for the relationship. During love-making, Serena would become upset whenever she sensed Loren drift away from his heart and into his bodily sensations. She felt abandoned by him at these times. Loren, however, was emphatic about his love for Serena, and reassured her that his preoccupation with his own sensations did not have anything to do with a lack of commitment to the relationship.

During the session, we asked Serena if she felt the same sense of abandonment at other times in their relationship, hinting that what happened during sex could be in some way a mirror for the whole relationship. She started to say no, then realized she often felt Loren “leave,” but not quite as vividly as during sex. During a conversation, for example, she often experienced Loren’s mind drifting away. And yes, it did annoy her, but not as much as during sex, where her feeling of abandonment was more pronounced because of her deeper vulnerability. Serena’s feelings of abandonment, therefore, became most noticeable in her sexual relationship with Loren, but were nevertheless present, though less obvious, in the whole relationship.

Since Serena held herself in somewhat of a “victim” position, implying that Loren had the problem, we needed to delve deeper into her responsibility in the relationship. Was it possible that she was in some way abandoning herself? After some careful questioning, it became clear that the times Serena felt the most abandoned by Loren were the times when she gave up on herself and looked to Loren as the one with the power to help her. It was precisely this giving away of her power to her partner that was a from of self-abandonment. When a conversation was entered from this place of powerlessness and hoping to be rescued, Loren would unconsciously feel pressured to “be there” for Serena. Most of the time he wanted to be present for her, but his unconscious response to pressure was to mentally and emotionally run away.

The same was true during love-making. If Serena was giving her power away, and hoping to be rescued by Loren, he wouldn’t be as present as he would be when Serena stayed in her own power and sense of worth. In other words, the times she abandoned herself were usually the times she felt abandoned by Loren.

Of course, Loren had to take responsibility for his part of both the sexual and the general relationship. During the session, he realized his need to communicate his feelings-in this case, especially when he felt pressured by Serena to be for her what she wasn’t being for herself. He was afraid of sharing his feelings of discomfort, especially during love-making-that this would hurt her. He now realized his not sharing was hurting her more. If Serena was abandoning herself by giving her power to Loren, he was abandoning himself by running away from his feelings. And just as with Serena, Loren’s “leaving” was more obvious to him as well during sex. Because of this magnification of the feelings during love-making, this can be the best area where they both can practice healthy communication-and bring depth and fulfillment to all parts of their relationship.

If your love-making is just what it says-a true mobilizing of loving energy-a nurturing spiritual as well as physical experience, then you can know that this is an accurate reflection of the rest of your relationship. If you desire with all your heart to give pleasure to your partner just as much as you are willing to receive pleasure, and not get totally absorbed in your own sexual arousal, the rest of your relationship will mirror this same honoring and respect. If you are gentle with each other during sex, you are very likely gentle with each other at other times. Making love sexually implies making love at other times.

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