While finding my desire and turn on can be a challenge in itself (see related post), there is another, equally challenging piece to the puzzle: staying present.
Although I was (blissfully) unaware that I was doing it, for years, I would check out during sex. Yes, my body was physically there, but my mind was elsewhere. I was going through the motions, but I was not truly engaged or connected to my partner. It wasn’t until I read Madeleine Castellanos’ book, Wanting to Want, that I became conscious of my tendency to wander, recognizing that I would literally zone out as if my mind and body were completely disconnected from one another.
As I read Madeleine’s book late one night while Viktor was out of town on a business trip, I was suddenly struck by an intense sadness and began to sob loudly and uncontrollably. At first I didn’t know why I was so overcome with emotion, but I gradually understood that I was mourning the loss of my sex life. Although I hadn’t ever forgotten all of the various sexual misadventures that I had experienced early in life, it wasn’t until that moment that I started to piece it all together; I finally saw the thread that connected all of those incidents to one another.
In reflecting on those past experiences, I realized that I had been repeating the same dysfunctional behavior that had dramatically impacted the way I felt and responded in (current) sexual situations. From the time I was a teen, I had been giving myself (or, more correctly, my body) away to men in search of love and attention. In doing so, I mistook their interest in me for affection when it was really just lust, so instead, I was left feeling used, abandoned, ashamed and dirty for putting myself into these situations.
As I continued to think through my past, I also felt intense anger at myself for not finding my voice to truly say what I did or didn’t want in each particular situation (and consequently allowing things to happen that I wasn’t ready for or simply didn’t want). And, even when I thought I was being a sexually empowered woman in college, I had continued to give away my power in not asking for what I wanted/needed, putting the men’s pleasure ahead (or often even instead) of mine. I perpetuated this pattern for years, oblivious that there even was a pattern, until I got married, but likely somewhere along the way I shut down in an effort to protect myself.
Now that I am conscious of my reaction, I am trying really hard to truly be present. I am being clear with myself as to whether I really WANT to be having sex in a given moment and will no longer permit myself to just go through the motions with Viktor (or anyone else). Moreover, if I conclude that I don’t want to continue having sex, then I have promised myself that I will stop. No excuses, no explanations; I will simply honor my NO.
Of course, if, instead, I decide that I do wish to continue having sex, then I need to focus on being in the moment – taking an active role and staying engaged with myself and with my partner(s).
This is difficult for me as I unlearn ingrained habits and overcome the negative experiences that forced/ caused me to adopt them in the first place. I know that I gave myself sexually to men in the past for the wrong reasons. I am not going to find myself wrong for making those decisions (I’ve done enough of that already), but I do want to recognize the toll those choices have taken on my sex life and identify ways to improve it now. I am healing, albeit slowly, learning to forgive myself and acknowledging that I now know how to protect myself from, and (I hope) prevent, these kinds of negative situations.
The hardest part for me is in my ability to get out of my head and into my body. This disconnection has been such a natural, learned behavior that it is very difficult for me to change it, but I think that some of the solution lies in appealing to my sensual blueprint (as per Jaiya). Along these lines, I have found that a gentle, sensual massage can do wonders to relax me and put me more in the mood.
Additionally, I have experimented with edibles because marijuana doesn’t interfere with your ability to orgasm the way alcohol does, but it does help quiet my mind and keeps me from being able to narrate the current situation. And, more recently, in working with a sex coach, I have begun to use breathwork to drop into my body more easily and to feel the sexual energy flow throughout my body (and particularly to my genitals).
Moreover, I am trying to check in with myself – where are my thoughts? What am I thinking/ feeling/ doing during sex, bringing me back to myself and to my partner. In time, this should come more naturally, but for now I am rebuilding my neuropathways and creating more positive sexual experiences that will, I hope, turn me on instead of pushing me to tune out.
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