What is this life?!

My guest today in the Love and Making It: Holiday Edition series is my one-and-only sister, Robin Chancer. She might be taller than me (I mean, who isn’t?!) but she will always be my little sister. 

You can trust Robin to look at life with both practical and deeply emotional insights.  Her post reminds me of one of my favorite Tyler Knott Gregson’s Typerwriter Series poems (as if I could have a favorite in that series!!)

 

Tyler Knott Typerwriter 72

I want my kisses to be without question marks. I want our passion to make all the questions into exclamations. Really, what I want is to feel those questions straighten up and stand at attention. I want to feel the assurance literally FILL the space between us as we meet each other new each time.  

Keep reading. This post from Robin is a big, beautiful dare to be real and present in your body so that the intimacy between you and your spouse can become an exclamation.  

This is how you make more love.  This is intimacy. 

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I work as psychotherapist, and recently I was meeting with a couple having a common struggle. He caught her sexting with someone else. She felt awful and wanted to fix the marriage. We were trudging through a classic conversation: he wants more sex, she wants less pressure. Well, shoot, I thought. This conversation is definitely not sexy.

David Schnarch in his book Passionate Marriage makes the point that classic marital therapy: active listening, I statements, and so forth is just not that sexy. That’s not what maintains passion, he would say. What maintains passion is a strong sense of self—standing on your own two feet so that you can be authentically intimate with your partner.

It’s the connection, not the technique, that matters.

But intimacy is hard. We all think we want more intimacy. Most couples say that in our first session together. But we forget that being intimate with our partners is scary. It means being radically honest, letting our partner in, seeing and being seen. It means saying things to our partner, and even to ourselves, that we might not want to hear. That’s dangerous. Because the longer we’re with our partners, the more important they are to us. If we allow ourselves to take the leap and be vulnerable, and our partner hurts or rejects us, we have a lot to lose.

So most of us start playing it safe. We keep some cards close. We start working to please our partner, maintain the status quo, be nice, avoid risks. Sex becomes predictable. Or, we retreat into our heads during sex. We focus on our sensations, or our fantasies, or what we know our partner likes. For this woman, I could tell she saw it as one more obligation on her long list of chores.

So I decided to try something. Instead of talking about connecting, I thought, let’s actually connect. Right now.

“This might sound crazy,” I asked her, “but could you take a second to tune in to how you feel right now?”

She thought for a second. “Tired,” she answered.

“Where do you feel that in your body?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” I could tell she was not used to tuning in to her body.

“How do you know that you’re tired?”

“I don’t know. I’m just tired. All over.” Getting into her body was really tough for her.

I gave her some silence so she could try harder. “My chest and shoulders,” she finally answered. “They feel heavy. Like everything is weighing on my shoulders.”

“Good!” I cheered her on. “Could you say that to your husband? If we want to connect , we have to be willing to let our partner see us for who we are right now. Tell him what’s going on inside you right now.”

For the first time in our session, she looked at his face. She told him how tired she was, and he just listened.

“Could you take his hand for a second?” I asked. “Tell me what you feel in his hand.”

They giggled like teenagers.

“Um, I don’t know.” She thought. Tuning into his body was tough for her, too. “It’s hot. And firm. And strong.”

“Good! What do you see in his face?”

She thought for a second. He had a wonderful look of love on his face.

“He really loves me,” she finally responded, like she was just realizing it. They both got tears in their eyes.

“How can you tell?”

“The gleam in his eyes. And the smirk on his face.”

“Good!!” I saw them relax. They kept looking at each other without my prompting now. We paused, enjoying the moment.

“You do it now!” She shouted, squirming to be on-the-spot for so long. We all laughed again at how awkward it felt to really connect.

He verbalized how tired she looked. He talked about how frustrated he felt and how good it felt to hold her soft, sweaty hand, how much he wanted that physical connection with her.

This is intimacy,” I said. “Right here. Right now. Connecting on who you are this moment. What you really think and feel. If we can be transparent like that, sex will be different every time. You might have a different mood every day. You might be angry one day, serene the next. What matters is coming out of the cloud of our heads and really seeing each other.”

Schnarch suggests trying to keep our eyes open during sex. Most people shudder when I mention that. Why is that so hard? With our eyes closed, we can pretend sex is what we want it to be. We can go somewhere else. Maybe we’re afraid of what we’ll see on our partners’ faces. We might see that they aren’t truly present either, or truly having fun, or maybe that they ARE. With our eyes open, we’ll have to really be there. We’ll have to face our nakedness, to see our partner seeing us.

In this session, I saw her start to do that emotionally. She had let another man start to see pieces of her that she kept from her husband: she shared fantasies with him, told him her deepest feelings, complained and vented to him, confessed her ambivalence about her marriage. Now that she was starting to open those doors to her husband, I could feel the heat building between them. We had no idea what would happen next. It was uncomfortable. Even painful. And scary. And squirmy. And exciting. And hot.

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Robin bio

Robin Chancer is a clinical social worker in North Carolina. She revels in being a sister, daughter, wife, and new mother of a sweet, spunky nine-month-old. She loves singing, pupusas, hugs, and laughter. She clings fiercely to this awesome, crazy thing called life.  She blogs at www.roboinguate.blogspot.com.