Q. I am in my 30’s, married and divorced twice and one serious two year relationship that recently ended. Since it is obvious I am doing something wrong I decided to start therapy and figure it out. Here is the problem – SEX. And here is what I learned.
A. I’m sure most people can relate to my story. There is no magic in what I am learning; I have been very misguided with where I placed value. I never made real friendship a priority before having sex. Sure I knew the guy but did I think of him as a friend the way I do my female friendships that have taken time and nurturing to grow, no I didn’t.
Females develop friendships by talking. We spend hours talking and sharing our lives together. We learn about each other; likes, dislikes, dreams, goals. We laugh together and occasionally cry. We might get angry with each other but because we value the friendship we fix the problem and life goes on.
But I have never done this with a man. Here is where the sex gets tricky. I have usually had sex because that is exactly what I wanted to do or he wanted to sooner than I did, so I gave in. It usually happened in the first few dates. In my first marriage we had very little emotional intimacy, I chalked that up to our youth. We didn’t know what we were doing.
In my second marriage, while in marriage counseling, I realized there were many things about my husband that I did not know. The therapist would ask him questions and I would stare in amazement. I told him, “You never shared that with me.” To which he replied, “You never asked.”
Sex is the easy part of being in a relationship. Emotional intimacy, which should come first, is much harder unless you make it a priority. The intimacy of learning about each other is the true building of the relationship. Spending hours talking, sharing stories, asking questions and being connected grows intimacy. It gives substance to the relationship.
If you have sex without emotional intimacy, as I have learned, you don’t have that substance. So when life throws you a curve ball it is much harder to survive it. Sex does not solve life problems.
I have been dating a guy for almost four months and we have not had sex. This is a first for both of us. I have also never invested this much time in really getting to know someone. I don’t want the therapist to ever know more about him that I do.
This actually feels very good. My feelings for him are growing. I am happy to learn a new way to relate in a relationship, taking it one day at a time and one conversation at a time.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
If you would like to send a question to Vicki, email us at [email protected]