Acting Your Age Between the Sheets

[ 0 ] December 6, 2012 |

For a natural act, sex can be surprisingly challenging. One might think that, since all mammals do it, it would somehow be a rather simple undertaking. But it’s not. I guess that’s good for me, since as a sex therapist and clinical psychologist, it keeps me in business.

But the truth is, making love is much more complex for humans than other mammals because we have evolved brains (even though we don’t always act like it), which complicates our sexual experience just as much as it enhances it. So, for example, our profound ability to love can magnify feelings of desire and sexual satisfaction. However, our equally powerful ability to feel hurt and rejection clearly interferes with love-making, at least on occasion.

Related: Tips to Deepen Your Lovemaking Experience 

I have no doubt that you all agree.

Let’s consider one example of how easy it is for a love-making session to degenerate into something less than pleasant.

Here’s the problem: It is surprisingly easy for us to feel threatened, hurt, rejected, or self-conscious when in such a vulnerable-making situation as love-making. And that just makes sense, because it is during love-making that we are most exposed – we are even without clothing. This opens the door for toxic emotions to seep in, such as those mentioned above. And when we feel these ways, it’s easy to revert back to a less evolved emotional state. That’s a kind way of saying we get immature, and we stop acting our age. So instead of behaving as the mature adult we like to think we are, we somehow find ourselves acting quite adolescent – yet feeling completely justified in doing so. And when one person expresses their “inner juvenile,” the other is usually quick to follow. So now we have two adolescents trying to make love – not usually a smooth experience, particularly when their biological age is several decades older.

So, for example, assuming a heterosexual couple, he comes on to her and she’s not interested. She agrees anyway, trying to be a good sport. But her heart isn’t into it, and she tells him to skip foreplay. This is not a good idea because now her body will not get the warm-up time necessary for her to open and really connect with him. And so he feels this rejection, which makes him feel small and ashamed – like he’s 16 again, being sexually rejected for the first time. He shuts down emotionally so as to not feel that discomfort, closes his eyes, and becomes robotic in his movements. His stiffness makes her feel used and unloved – and now, in a nanosecond, it is her turn to revert back to an emotional age of 14. And so it goes, as each partner feeds off the discomfort of the other. And unfortunately, now there is no adult in the room to turn things around.

Related: 50 Shades of Confusion – Why the Sex We Want Isn’t Happening 

These kinds of scenarios are not uncommon. But with a little effort, you don’t have to participate in this melodramatic sex drama. I suggest that at the first feeling of discomfort, check in with yourself. How old do you feel? You’ll be surprised that you can actually identify it pretty clearly – the stubborn adolescent, the hurt child – these aspects live on in all of us, and they tend to show up at inopportune times – such as the bedroom. And when these parts of our personalities come to the party, it typically doesn’t end well. What could have been a sweet opportunity for connection and comfort becomes a Petri dish for hostility and hurt.

However, the good news is that if you get in the habit of checking in with yourself, you can drastically improve the dynamic between you and your partner. So, in the example above, either one of those folks could have intervened as an adult and turned the situation around. Rather than shut down, he could have maturely said, “I really appreciate your trying, but I can tell you aren’t into this. How can we make this better for you?”

Related: How to Nag Your Partner Effectively

Likewise, she could have said: “I feel so distracted right now. But I do want to connect. Can we make love tomorrow night instead?” Or, “Honey can you open your eyes? You feel so far away.”

Dr. Marianne Brandon

In fact, there are endless ways to maturely respond to the above scenario. The key lies in acting your biological age when doing so.

So remember, it’s easy to regress when making love because it’s such a vulnerable experience. But as soon as you let yourself respond from an immature place, the situation is likely to degenerate. So do yourself and your lover a favor, and do your part to make things run smoothly. Take a deep breath, ask yourself how old you feel, and then find the more mature part of your psyche to take charge. If all you can access is immaturity at the moment, then ask for a minute to gather your thoughts. The more you do it, the easier this will become.

Now, that being said, please keep in mind that you can NEVER use this advice as a substitute for therapy or medical attention. This article is intended for folks who are not struggling with significant intimacy issues. If you have any questions or concerns, consult an appropriate medical or psychological professional in person. Generalized advice such as this can never take the place of a professional assessment and treatment.

Follow Dr. Marianne Brandon on Twitter @DrBrandon and Facebook to learn more, or comment, and she will continue this very important conversation. Until then, happy reading!

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Category: Intimacy, Relationships

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About Dr. Marianne Brandon: Dr. Marianne Brandon is a clinical psychologist and Diplomat in sex therapy through AASECT. Dr. Brandon is Director of Wellminds Wellbodies LLC in Annapolis, Maryland. She is author of Monogamy: The Untold Story and co-author [...]
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