Passionate Sex: Creating a Sexual Playground Together

Not all sex is alike…

…There’s intimate sex, anonymous sex, gentle and sensitive sex, rough and aggressive sex, sex that expresses love, sex that’s purely physical, sex that is emotionally connecting, sex that is isolating, raw sex, spiritual sex, naughty sex, sterile sex, boring sex, passionate sex, spontaneous sex, planned sex, playful/experimental sex, routinized/scripted sex, selfish sex, selfless sex, self-conscious sex, freeing-abandoning sex…

All these (and others) can play a part in the makeup of one’s sexual-self—self potentials that exist and seek recognition and expression.

As a psychologist and couples/marriage counselor, I frequently work with couples who feel stuck in their relationship, and often this relationship rut permeates the couple’s sex life. A common couples refrain is, “We’re just so busy, we haven’t had time for sex.” And while the “too little time” explanation is a reality, it’s only part of the sexual landscape that can become problematic for married couples (and couples in a long-term relationship).

What is the other part of the sexual dilemma many couples struggle with?

The Sexual Dilemma in Long-Term Love

“Sometimes I want to just get laid by my husband. He was shocked when I told him to save the sweet talk for another time…We ended up having really hot sex that night.”  ~ Holly, married eight years, discussing her sexual fantasies

In the above quote it’s obvious that Holly isn’t afraid to take sexual risks with her husband, in this case her sexual-self was expressing its more primitive, “naughty” side. But Holly is more of the exception  than the rule when it comes to sex and long-term love. Let’s see why this might be the case.

As compassion, caring and love grows and deepens, spouses/partners in long-term relationships are faced with a quandary, a sexual dilemma (one that often remains unconscious): How to express your sexual-self when certain sexual desires and longings feel contrary to the landscape of a loving, respectful and equitable marriage/relationship.   

Sexual expressiveness at this level is risky business for couples who have grown emotionally intertwined and dependent on one another.  Exposing oneself sexually involves taking some of the greatest emotional risks couples face—shame, rejection, humiliation, guilt, and self-reproach are some of the potential dangers involved in the sexual dilemma. “Anonymous” sex rarely has such emotional perils—the longed-for experience of sexual abandon and affirmation without risk is always sought, pressing to be realized in the confines of a loving relationship.

The sexual dilemma is encapsulated by the following quote from Diane, a housewife and mother of two teenagers:

“I’d never cheat on my husband, I’m totally committed and adore him. But there are times that I wish I could feel the same sexual freedom with him as I would if I had sex with someone I didn’t really care about emotionally.” 

Diane went on to describe that she would feel “devastated” if her husband rejected her, and it’s that fear that always exists at some level when she wants to fully express her sexual needs and longings with him.

How One Husband Took a Sexual Risk – With Terrible Results

Meet Jerry:  A dedicated and loving husband, a caring and patient father and a responsible businessman and community leader.

Like the rest of us, Jerry is a complex and multi-layered sexual being.

His sexual-self consists of different levels of need and desire (he can be a kind and compassionate lover, emotionally expressive and caring, selfless and highly attuned to his wife’s sexual desires, and Jerry also likes to push the sexual envelope from time to time).

One of the layers of Jerry’s sexual-self includes a desire to be provocative, to be mildly aggressive during sex (not abusive) and to experience a feeling of sexual abandon—all experiences that he and his wife, Laura, shared for the first four years of their relationship. Their early sexual experiences typically involved role-playing, and rough and tumble sex that included biting, restraints, hair-pulling, mutual forcefulness and provocation.

Each had the desire to use and be used by the other, to take control at times and give up control at other times – experiences they both found exciting and highly erotic.  

Fast-forward seven years later: Not unlike many married couples, their sex life has cooled off considerably, and while they both enjoy sex, they realize that the sexual spark that was prevalent early on has dimmed. They both desire more sexual contact but competing priorities often get in the way.

Missing “the good old days,” one night Jerry hoped to reclaim the sexual passion that he and Laura used to share. Unfortunately, the sexual experience didn’t turn out well (major understatement), and Jerry hasn’t initiated sex since.

As he described it, “Ten years ago, our sex life used to be so intense, I really miss that. We’d really push the envelope together. I realize things are different now [the couple has a two-year-old child and they both work long hours] but it doesn’t mean sex has to be mechanical and boring, does it?” 

In an effort to reclaim the sexual passion of their earlier sex life, Jerry tried “talking dirty” to his wife  one evening while he tried to seduce her.  He shared, “We used to provoke each other sexually, she’d bite me…I’d pull her hair. It all added to the sexual intensity…I was trying to capture that. It wasn’t like we never did this before…”

The Eye-Roll That Shook A Marriage 

Upon hearing Jerry’s sex-talk, Laura rolled her eyes, an unintentional reaction which ended up feeling like an emotional dagger in Jerry’s heart. “I felt like such a jerk, like a pervert. I was hoping to push the envelope again but honestly, I just gave up at that point. I ended up feeling bad about myself and angry with Laura for a long time. Later Laura apologized and explained what was going on for her [she wasn’t feeling well and had had a difficult day at work] and that did help me, but…” 

Jerry’s solution has been to quarantine this adventurous part of his sexual-self out of fear of further rejection and humiliation.  This has been a significant loss for him.

Sex and Marriage: Building a Sexual Playground Together

What did Jerry really want from his wife that evening?

On that occasion, Jerry needed to have sex with Laura, not make love to her—but he also needed something much more profound—something that most couples don’t recognize.

Jerry yearned to be a different person, different from his typical self—the self that occupies center stage of his waking life.  He needed to temporarily break free of the roles that consume so much of him: responsible husband, dedicated and loving father, reliable and friendly co-worker, law-abiding citizen, steadfast believer and church-goer, etc.

He wanted to be momentarily transformed with and by Laura; he was seeking a forbidden invitation from her to enter an exciting world they used to share together.  For Jerry to experience the transformation he desired, he needed Laura to be transformed too, he needed her to be less recognizable to him—at some level, this would give him permission to get lost in the experience of sexual-abandon. But he couldn’t do this without Laura—from Jerry’s perspective, she had all the power to make this happen.

In order to achieve this transformation (a sexual experience that is self-liberating), Jerry couldn’t experience Laura as the responsible, over-worked wife, loving mother, caring friend—the person she was most of the time—this would only serve to remind Jerry of who he was most of the time.  He needed to take an adventure with his wife so that they could create a sexual playground, an atmosphere and experience where they could both get lost together, where they could temporarily exist and be in ways that felt different, exciting and liberating.

Sexual Abandon in a Loving Relationship

The power of this type of sexual experience is that it occurs within a loving, committed relationship. Jerry wasn’t needing or asking his wife to be another woman—he didn’t want to be with someone anonymous whom he could take greater risks with. Jerry needed to take this journey with the woman he loves and he needed to ultimately return to his day-to-day life with her.  

Jerry took comfort in the assumption that when they were finished romping in their sexual playground, he and Laura would return to their shared life and their individual roles that were temporarily abandoned, each with a renewed sense of rejuvenation and wholeness and a deeper knowledge of the other. And just as important is knowing that he and Laura can return to their sexual playground whenever they wanted, whenever they needed.

How will you and your spouse/partner create a judgment-free sexual playground together?

Passionate Marriage/Relationship Resource

As you know, a fulfilling, passionate sex life is an important part of a long-term, loving relationship. 

For more information on how you can create a passionate relationship, check out my Sex, Passion and Intimacy workbook.

Wishing you and your partner a passionate relationship!

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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