Keeping the fire burning is part of the work of relationships, and this is what we are going to look at in this lesson. What makes people happy and excited at the beginning of a love connection is unlikely to remain the same over the decades. After many years you may not need sex to prove your love or to explore intimacy. This may not have been part of your mutual agreement in being together in the first place.
There are some relationships that are based on functionality. Two people come together as a team, a mutual agreement to support each other, bring children into the world, etc., and these marriages can work too. These are relationships not following the Hollywood ideal of fall in love, make beautiful children together, and walk into the sunset.
But for the most part, long-term relationships nowadays begin with love, and whether sex plays a significant role or not, being playful, feeling joy and creativity, sensuality and pleasure can happen in many different ways. Research shows that playfulness, romance, fun, and affection are very significant for success in marriage. And that that feeling of intense love, the fire, can come from many reasons, not just sexual attraction.
Remember Mindfulness, as mentioned earlier, is also very valuable in the moments of intimacy. It allows you to go deeper into your feelings and sensations as your mind is focused on the now and not on what might or did happen.
When you look at your partner, are you on fire? Is this from physical attraction, your personal passion, deep love, respect, or intellectual appreciation? That fire is the fuel to relationships, and it is to be nurtured. This can be a shared look when you hold your child, a feeling of upliftment and excitement as you enter your church together, standing in front of a mutually appreciated beautiful landscape, or coming home from work with a success story. There are many judgements about what intimacy should be, and it is not always about sex.
Having said that, we do know that sex itself is very important in a relationship, not just for procreation. This is particularly so when either partner has the belief that sex = love, sex = youthfulness, sex = success or power. And in general, it is a stress reliever, improves your mood, releases built-up tensions, frustrations, irritability, and is sometimes the glue that helps hold the relationship together and allow for the ups and downs that occur.
It is really useful to ask yourself what sex means to you going into a relationship and to discuss this in the early days. This is one of those dynamite areas where relationships can go very wrong, and mostly it is if there is no mutual understanding, compromise, or compassion. Typically but of course not always, women are looking for an emotional experience, and men are looking for a physical experience. Men need to feel desired, and women need to feel loved. Research into Human erotic behaviour does show that male and female brains are different, and their responses to sexuality follow. However, it also shows that this is not clear cut and depends on the individual and the context.
But the key or the secret: another easy fix if we bear this fact in mind…relationships need excitement. In conjunction with feeling empowered and self-fulfillment, being in your own personal power in the midst of a new adventure, the thrill of extending your human experience while feeling good about yourself is about as erotic as getting. This is perhaps why Fifty Shades of Grey was so successful. It is all about power and reaching towards new territory. But using pain works for a small number of the population but there are so many more ways to make love-making, loving more alive.
Sex is not an island outside of a relationship. An experience that is unrelated to the rest of your life. This mistake is a common practice and creates loneliness, a sense of isolation, feelings of neglect. It is a lose/lose situation. There may be temporary physical relief but at the detriment to the relationship itself. Sex is part of intimacy, intimacy is part of the relationship, the clue is in the word "relate." If you are relating with each other, you will know that sex on its own is like scratching an itch and is not relating about your bodies, your love, your intention to support and care.
Not everyone likes to use words to communicate intimacy, and as we discussed earlier, there are different styles of relating. And this is ok. The spectrum of language reaches far beyond words, with gestures, facial expression, body movement, etc. You can speak volumes to your partner without words letting them know throughout the day that you are on fire with them, that the heat of your love is unique and special and valued. Take this forward into your lovemaking. Make love continually, not just in bed.
Stay in love by releasing your expectations, your formulas, and your negative self-beliefs. I know this sounds easier than it is but with hard work, commitment, and sometimes outside help, we can overcome our childhood restraints by voicing, communicating, and becoming aware of our limitations.
Explore yourself before you look for a partner and keep this alive, let go of expectations, of formulas, of judgements, accept that no relationship is perfect. You are taking on a mixed bag of positive and negative attributes in every relationship, and that isn't a bad thing. Through love, you can learn so much about yourself. A union is the university of the heart. Be a committed and open student, and you will find happiness and long-lasting love.
In summary, the most important words to hold as close to your heart as possible in a relationship are:
Courage, compassion, expression, attention, time, romance, playfulness, commitment, acceptance, intimacy, willingness, openness, spontaneity, perseverance.
In the next lesson, I will be addressing the soul element of relationships. For some people, this is not of interest, and that is fine, but for those of you that feel that destiny and the intangible, immeasurable mysteries play a part in your life, then the next lesson is for you.