I had the pleasure to talk with Irene Fehr about differences in desire within the relationship, about staying present during sex and about connecting with the partner. It was a very interesting fireside chat; I now know about bodyfulness. Keep reading to know about it!
Irene Fehr is an advocate, adventurer, coach and healer in the realms of love, sex and relationships, Irene is on a mission to help people have more love into their sex life and more sex into their love life. She is a certified coach specialised in rekindling sexual desire and intimacy in long-term relationships. You can find more about her, here. You can also read articles of her on The Huffington Post.
With Irene we talked about:
What does “stay present during sex” mean and how to do it?
What to do when you see differences on desire between you and your partner?
What can couples do to rekindle sexual desire and to reconnect with their partner?
What does “stay present during sex” mean?
Irene: It means being there with yourself and with your partner. Let me say what it’s not. It’s not >> in your head planning something else, like that dress you want to buy or what should you do for dinner. It’s not wishing that it was different. It’s not wishing that your partner was doing something else. So when you remove all of that, it’s really about focusing on what you are experiencing, the sensations, the pleasure, focusing in your partner, really feeling your partner, looking into their eyes, feeling that you are touching them. How does it feel, I’m feeling smoothness or electricity and being there fully in that moment. As if you were meditating, really being present.
Staying present is also asking for what you want and need so that you can experience your experience fully and pleasurably. When we hold in our desires and stop ourselves from asking for what we want, we go into our heads with mind chatter or inner complaining, disconnecting from the experience and our partners.
How can you stop that thought (like what should I do for dinner) from coming across your mind? How do you take your mind back?
Irene: It happens to everyone. There is two thing to focus on. One is focusing on your own sensations and being very very descriptive, really the way an artist would look at a flower. The flower is red, the shape is round, there is shadow here, there is texture here and using that for your own body and feeling like Okay, I feel electricity in my spine, I feel warmth in my legs. Being very descriptive, but not judgmental. Judgmental comes from your head and takes you out of the experience and the connection with your partner. But if you focus on sensations you stay in your body.
Number two is tuning into your own emotions (they’re connected to sensations). Could be, I feel heaviness in my chest and I feel sadness. It’s also important feeling that in your partner’s body, feeling the electricity in your partner when touching them. When you do that, when you direct your attention to your sensations and to your emotions, your head takes a break, stops spinning, because you redirect your attention to something else: your sensations and your emotions.
I call what I described: bodyfulness. So we have mindfulness about the head, but this is bodyfulness is about focusing on the body instead of the mind or even trying to stop the mind. When you focus on the body, the mind naturally relaxes.
And third, and most important, is asking for what you want. When your mind is chattering, tune in to what’s happening and what you want — and ask for it.
When you see differences on desire between you and your partner, what can you do?
Irene: Differences on desire are completely normal. It’s unusual to be on the same level in terms of desire because things are constantly changing in our lives. One person can have a good day and feel great, the other a bad one and feel turned off and crappy. Some people’s libido goes up with age; others’ goes down. And there are different drivers for libido for people: some are turned on from energetic connection, others from sensual touch, and others through play. Sometimes levels change throughout the relationship. For example, some women have more desire when they are pregnant and less desire after pregnancy and it could also be vice versa. Men and women get turned on differently and have different arousal patterns. It also shifts with menopause, age, so differences on desire are completely normal. It’s what we do with that. Differences in desire create conflict and most couples don’t like conflict, they don’t know how to work through conflict. We are not taught to work through conflict, specially sexual conflict and that creates situations like: “I want more, I don’t want more”. Too often, one partner starts dominating the other, demanding what they want, and the other partner withdrawing to protect themselves from the demands, creating distance and lack of emotional safety. We see conflict as bad, but conflict is very good, it’s an opportunity to learn about each other and come closer.
The way to rekindle sexual intimacy when there is that difference in desire and there is conflict is to get really vulnerable with each other about what’s really going on rather of pushing the other partner away or pulling away yourself. This is kind of where it gets complicated because it’s about learning how to grow through conflict, learning how to understand each other, and getting really real about what’s happening. As I said, learning how not to push or pull away, but to come closer. It’s very difficult, but there are tools and this is one of the things that I do: taking couples through this process of learning, how to cultivate that energy that comes out in conflict and convert it to sexual energy. There is a lot of passion in conflict, there is a lot of energy, we get worked up. So it’s important learning how to channel that to come closer and to convert that into sexual energy.
Can you say a couple of things that couples can do to rekindle sexual desire and to reconnect with your partner?
Irene: The first thing is to ask questions to your partner to learn more about them and their take on sex, desire, and what turns them on. Like for example, asking basic things that most couples don’t do when they meet, like for example:
“What does sex mean to you?”
“What is important to you about sex?”
“What scares you about sex?”
“What turns you on?”
“What were your sexual experiences in the past that shaped how you are sexually?”
Often there is a disconnection on desire and sex because there is no common understanding of what sex means. Sex for one person can mean something different for another person. For someone, for one partner, sex might mean feeling loved and for the other person sex is about play, excitement and fun. Without understanding these differences, they will not feel that they are meeting each other but they will not know why. They might think it is a sexual problem, but the real thing is that they don’t understand what for the other person sex means. We assume that what the other person things about sex is the same that what we think about it. Often times, it’s similar but people have different histories, different meanings. So it’s very important to ask questions.
Number two is, once you have done the first one – asking questions -, start experimenting, start playing with each other, through touch exercises or through the games that you have on the app (learning about each other through the dares). Start discovering each other through touch, through play, through romantic situations, and frame all of these as an experiment, like I am learning and discovering things about you. Because sex can be a heavy topic and when we think about it like that, we stop playing; but so much of sex is about letting go and playing. When you frame this as games or experiments, you can take it less seriously, it can be more fun.
The third one – is connected to the first question of what it is to stay present during sex and that is staying connected to what’s true for you. A lot of people in sex often do what feels good to their partner but it doesn’t feel good to them. And if it doesn’t feel good to you, you are not going to want more of it. So be very mindful to what feels right to you, it could be slowing it down, because your body needs it, it could be needing more connection, needing more foreplay and touch/stimulation. When we betray what is really true for us, we can’t really be there for our partner, because we are not happy, we are angry inside.
I work with couples where one partner is losing their desire and does not want more sex and when we look back at what happened. 100% of the time the partner lost the desire doing things that did not feel good. Like saying “yes” when you meant “no”, when they do things to please their partner but they didn’t feel pleasure. Desire starts winding down when you don’t do what feels good to you.
It can also happen that you say “yes” to your partner on something that you like, but this same thing in another moment might be a “no” for you. It’s a difficult conversation to have with your partner to explain this, right?
Irene: Those conversations are very difficult, there is a lot of fear of hurting your partner, fear of rejection and judgment. Those conversations are important, because when you don’t talk about that it becomes “the elephant in the room”. Which is this thing no one is talking about, but there is this huge elephant sitting around, and everyone is like “no, there is no elephant”. When it’s not talked about, it affects the relationship, the intimacy, the closeness. We disconnect in that avoidance and silence, and no longer know how to find our way back to each other. Intimacy is a huge part of sexual desire for another person, being real with someone, and showing yourself honestly and what’s true for you.
Thanks Irene!! That’s was a very interesting chat!
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