Does sex ever leave you feeling lonely? Is ‘intimacy’ and ‘sex’ really the same thing? Understanding why you feel lonely after sex and knowing the difference between ‘sex’ and intimacy’ can up your game in the bedroom. Gaining sexual intelligence takes time, patience, courage, and often has obstacles. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We can start with the basics.
In our most recent podcast episode, we interviewed Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. Dr. Finlayson-Fife is a sexuality educator and coach as well as a Clinical Professional Counselor with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Boston College. She teaches courses for couples and individuals on how to strengthen their relationships, overcome relational and sexual roadblocks, and how to increase their capacity for intimacy, love, and sexual expression. Dr. Finlayson-Fife explained how increasing your sexual intelligence can result in a rich love life.
What is Sexual Intelligence?
Dr. Marty Klein, an American sex therapist, and author said this of sexual intelligence “Ultimately, the Sexual Intelligence approach results in you owning sex, rather than serving it; you end up being free to create (and enjoy) sex, rather than being enslaved by the need to fulfill a cultural model of sexual adequacy. And that’s better than any orgasm could possibly be”.
Dr. Klein teaches the readers of his book Sexual Intelligence to focus on who you are and not what you do. Because we live in a world where we focus so much on sex and not on intimacy it can be confusing to even know what Dr. Klein means. Sex is often a recreational activity and not an intimate sexual experience filled with emotional depth. If we really want to increase our sexual intelligence, we need to let go of the cultural “normal” of what sex is and look a little deeper.
Intimacy and Sex: What’s the difference?
Intimacy and sex are very different things, but often people use the word “intimacy” as a euphemism for sex. Using the word “Intimacy” when you mean sex may make it nice-sounding, and a softer word people use to describe sex or sexual encounters, but sex isn’t intimacy, and it’s possible to have intimacy without sex.
Intimacy is “…being close to someone in a manner that isn’t about what they bring or what they do. It’s not about their cooking, how handsome or beautiful they are, or their funny jokes. Deep intimacy is being with someone in their “their-ness” as couple therapist Matt Lundquist says.
Sex, on the other hand, is a sexual activity typically including penetrative intercourse. Sex can be intimate or un-intimate. When sex is only about “getting the job done” (reaching orgasm and moving on) it really limits or eliminates intimacy. Sex, at its best, is intimate.
Focusing on intimacy during sexual encounters really intensifies and increases meaning within relationships. It allows you to be known and to know your spouse as a whole person. When intimacy isn’t present during sex it can leave one or both partners feeling lonely, unknown, not understood, or even hurt. Sex can be beautiful or destructive. Dr. Finlayson-Fife mentioned in the podcast that you can know how well a couple is operating by how intimate or not intimate they are.
How to Talk to Your Spouse about Intimacy Concerns
How do you develop deeper intimacy for better sex? Couples with the best intimate relationships learn how to share their intimate feelings openly with their spouse. However, talking to your spouse about your intimacy concerns can be intimidating. Many people would rather be unhappy in their sex life than talk about its downfalls. Talking about sexual and intimate needs exposes your heart, desires, and limitations. You may not even know what those needs are yet, you just know you’re unhappy. Dr. Finlayson-Fife said “…a lot of times people have a feeling of a hunger for something deeper and richer, but they don’t really know how to get there. Sometimes they’re afraid that even in the process of trying to get somewhere they might ruin what they already have.” It takes courage, confidence, and desire to better your sexual relationships.
Maybe you’re reading this thinking “I’ve already tried talking about it with my spouse and it went terrible”. Sexual or intimate needs are a sensitive topic for both husbands and wives. It is easy to approach your spouse with frustration because they are “doing something wrong”. Dr. Finlayson-Fife says “most people approach these conversations from a place of complaint and on some levels, it’s justified because they do see something that needs help and they are calling attention to it. However, this is not always the most productive way to address your concerns.” Your spouse is likely to counter with the problems they see and the things “you do wrong” that are contributing to the problem. To avoid more frustration, heartache, or even contentions try talking to your spouse about what you observe about yourself in the bedroom and what you wish were different. Sex is a team sport so be willing to listen and collaborate ideas of how to better your sexual experience. Where do you both want it to be? What is getting in the way? Be honest with yourself. If you’re reading this unsure of where you are or where to begin, hopefully, this next section will help.
Couples are all in different stages of sexual relationships. Some couples have a very mature sexual relationship, which we would call stage three, and others are just beginning to unravel their sexual capabilities in stage one. The idea that there are stages of intimate relationships comes from David Deida’s book Intimate Communion. Deida is an international author and teacher who focuses on sexual and spiritual growth for men and women. He believes that there are three stages of intimate relationships. Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife took the idea and applied it to sexually intimate relationships.
What are the Three Stages of Sexually Intimate Relationships?
As Deida teaches, there are three stages of intimate relationships: dependent, 50/50, and intimate communion. Couples fall in all of these stages in their intimate relationship but also in their sexually intimate relationships. Couples can and often do bounce between the three stages as they have setbacks, grow, and learn.
Finlayson-Fife used an example of a musician to explain the three stages. As a musician, in stage one, you get the basics of playing your instrument down. In stage two, the musician learns the technical aspect of playing the instrument. In stage three, the musician is able to put his heart into his music. You know when a musician plays from the heart because you can feel it! Stage three is what you want! You want your sexual relationship to be from your heart, to have the intimacy you feel before and during sex to last longer than a few minutes afterward.
Stage One – Dependent Relationship
Many if not most sexual relationships start here in stage one. It’s the basics, the beginning of discovering yourself within a sexual relationship. Sex is viewed as something you want and then your spouse fulfills those urges. In this stage you’re asking yourself the question “How can we have sex tonight and what do I have to do to get my wife/husband on board?”. Please make a note, desiring to have sex with your spouse is not a bad thing! Often times your spouse is willing to freely give of themselves sexually and the sex might be good! This type of dependence is just considered stage one and you have room to grow. Sex can be so much more than just the act of intercourse.
Stage Two – 50/50
This is the stage where you really nail down your spouse’s sexual love language and become a skillful lover. Sexual relationships in stage two are mutual. You view your spouse as your equal partner in bed and outside of the bed. This stage usually slows things down and sex may not happen as frequently. As sexual partners, you work on intimacy outside of the bedroom, foreplay, and build up each other’s arousal equally. It’s no longer a one-sided desire seeking to be fulfilled.
Stage Three – Intimate Communion
Once you reach stage three you are invested in each other. It’s the stage of ravishing, erotic, and eros energy. You feel alive, energized, joyful, and in love. Dr. Finlayson-Fife describes stage three as finding your yin and yang. The yang position where you are able to really give and cherish your spouse and the yin position where you are able to really receive someone and surrender to the pleasure being given without losing your sense of self and strength.
Together you have a continual expression of love, cherishing, and admiration. You visibly cherish your spouse through your sexuality and sensuality. Sexual interactions begin to be more than “just sex” it’s the way your shoulders are touched, how your hair is played with, or how they hold your face in their hands.
You’re able to communicate your embodied desire and receive it willingly, not pushing it away. You understand your self-worth and that you are worthy of being cherished. Your spouse becomes an important source of strength that blesses your life.
Level Up Your Sex Life
Sexual relationships are always evolving. Give yourself some grace as you navigate the water of sexual fulfillment. Growth within marriage and sexual relationships takes courage for both parties and doesn’t happen overnight. But one thing we do know is that as your sexual relationship starts to expand and grow you will become happier.
If you liked this blog post, check out our app – Intimately Us at https://intimately.us
To find out more about Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, check out https://finlayson-fife.com.
“A Review on Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex and How to Get It.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10720162.2012.685046?scroll=top.
“Deeply in Love Again 3 Stages of Intimate Relationships.” Deeply In Love Again, 22 June 2016, deeplyinloveagain.com/daviddeida-3stages_blog/.
Matt Lundquist A Columbia University-trained psychotherapist with more than a decade of clinical experience, et al. “Intimacy And Sex Aren’t The Same Thing.” Tribeca Therapy, 14 June 2017, tribecatherapy.com/4780/sex-intimacy-couples-therapy/.