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A Lifetime of Sexual Relationships

Currents of sexual attraction and passion crisscross our lives and pull us into new relationships, deepen the ones we're in, and teach us about ourselves. We may act on them with a look, smile, touch, or kiss, or we may not want to act on them at all. When we make love with someone familiar or new, woman or man, we are often at our most open, most vulnerable, and also our most powerful. Sex can be dramatic, dull, comforting, scary, friendly, funny, passionate, frustrating, satisfying.

Sex doesn't take place in a vacuum. We take struggles about other things--power, money, mutuality, competition--into bed with us. Sex in relationships can vary in meaning and intensity, and change over our lifetimes.

Sometimes I make love to get care and cuddling. Sometimes I am so absorbed in the sensations of touch and taste and smell and sight and sound that I feel I've returned to that childhood time when feeling good was all that mattered. Sometimes we tumble and tease. Sometimes sex is spiritual--High Mass could not be more sacred. Sometimes I make love to get away from the tightness and seriousness in myself. Sometimes I want to come and feel the ripples of orgasm through my body. Sometimes tears mix with juices mix with sweat, and I am one with another. Sometimes through sex I unite with the stream of love that flows among us. Sex can be almost anything and everything for me. How good that feels!

Opening myself up to people sexually has always been hard. It was often easier to be sexual with people that I didn't know or with people who didn't treat me very well. I was too vulnerable if I actually cared about the person I was with and knew that they cared about me. Now, I'm in a committed relationship with someone I love very much. And I know that he loves me deeply and that makes sex with him difficult at times. There are times when a word he says or a way he touches me sets off a memory, and then I have to either call a halt to what we are doing or silently remind myself who I am with by saying his name over and over and over. I get frustrated and tired and angry that it has to be this way--that I can't just relax and let go of the fear even with a person I love and trust.

Just in the last two years--after 14 years of marriage--we've been able to talk to each other about sex. We experience a deep kind of uncrazy passion. When you are in love it's crazy passion--you want to swallow each other up and be swallowed. This, in contrast, is a relaxed openness. Anything goes, no hurry, free of guilt. We are more sexually connected than we've ever been in our lives and able just to be with each other.

After 20 years of being married I find myself thinking a lot about a sexual relationship with a woman.

My divorce (at 45) has me feeling like a teenager all over again. I go on dates; get crushes; wonder whether to sleep with someone for the first time, wait passionately for the phone to ring, hoping it's my current lover.

When I had my first daughter, my sexual energy entered a new path, a softer, more fluid flow. But because of our economic situation, I did the strong black woman thing and went back to work when all I wanted to do was be in that world of new sensual arousal and intuition.

Having a baby to take care of makes us both too tired to have sex much. Yet, nursing my daughter, touching her soft skin, feeling her sleeping body on mine--these are very sensual for me.

We've been married 32 years. I have no doubt that we'll be together until one of us dies. Yet, for the past ten years our libidos have been much lower than they used to be. It's possibly the effect of medications we are taking, my husband for a heart condition and I for high blood pressure. The ten years before that were my peak sexual years, and I don't think you suddenly go from a peak to a low. I don't mean we don't have sex; it just comes in spurts.

Sally and I have been together 17 years. Originally we had a sexual relationship. Then we broke up for five years, and when we got back together it never became sexual again. I'm really glad because I can't conceive of a happier relationship. We cuddle and kiss; we hold hands on the bus; we are affectionate all the time. But we don't have sex, and I don't miss it.

I've gotten so angry at him in fights we've had--little fights, big ones--that I could easier kill him than sleep with him. At first these feelings scared me. Now I know they pass and change and I feel loving again.

Deborah's and my lovemaking has been strong, deep, and varied since the first night we slept together. I've felt so sure of my sexuality with her, and increasingly trusting of the rhythms of our desire. Yet, last year when I went to live with her in her city away from my friends, work, women's group, my own turf, I suddenly became frighteningly dependent on whether she wanted to make love with me or not. When she did, it was wonderful because I was in touch with such deep places of need and sexual vulnerability in myself that our lovemaking was profoundly moving. But when she didn't--when she wanted to go to sleep or get up and do some work or go for a run or make some calls--I felt awful. I'd lie there feeling that I wanted sex ``too much,'' afraid to tell her, angry, hurt, worried that she'd feel guilty. I finally dared to say something to her, only because our trust was deep enough for me to risk it. I cried as though a dam had broken. I began to see that when I'm away from my own world, the power in our relationship gets out of balance. Feeling out of touch with my own sources of strength and identity, I needed her to want me, as though her desire for me would actually make me exist. Sex and orgasm weren't the issue; identity was. We pulled out of this difficult time with a new respect for the power dynamics in our sexual loving.

Written by: Our Bodies Ourselves
Last revised: January 2005

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