Do we have to choose between emotional connection and hot intercourse?
As a couple’s therapist I have had the honor of treating scores of couples who have reconnected, found emotional safety and secure attachment through the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) model, created by Sue Johnson, Ph D. EFT is based on attachment theory; that our emotional bonds are as important to our survival as food and water.
EFT is a researched based couples therapy model that is transformative, bringing long term satisfaction to couples around the globe.
We are learning that the emotional component is key to connection. When we feel safe to be our whole self in our partnership, we feel supported, loved and important. We perform better in the outside world; we are courageous, strong and productive when our home life or home base with our partner is comforting. With our new way of treating couples using (EFT), we create a safe space of mutual vulnerability, where couples heal and report greater closeness and connection.
Without secure emotional bonds from cradle to grave, we struggle, looking for security and attachment in our closest relationships.
Once my couples understand their behaviors are linked to their need for connection, they learn to reach for the other in healthier ways.
As my couples feel closer and safer with one another, I found that that did not necessarily lead to connection in the bedroom, frustrating both the couple and the therapist. With increased emotional safety, we would hope that was enough to support a reconnected sex life. Yet, lusty intercourse adds complexity to shared emotional vulnerability.
So why doesn’t secure connection lead naturally to hot sex?
This is where things get interesting. Ester Perel, a TED Talk phenom, author of Mating in Captivity, and therapist, theorizes that lust comes from a different place within us. Where secure bonds are based in safe emotional bonds, our desire for intercourse stems from a desire for danger, and newness. “Eroticism requires separateness. In other words, eroticism thrives in the space between the self and the other. In order to commune with the one we love, we must be able to tolerate this void and its pall of uncertainties.” ¹
How do we integrate emotionally shared vulnerability and great lovemaking then? Encourage our clients to create mystery between one another to heat up the bedroom?
Perel suggests allowing for the “shadow of the other”, or seeing your partner from another’s eyes to spark desire. I support these suggestions yet feel there is more to add on the emotional connection piece.
As an EFT therapist, I can’t help but challenge the assumption that eroticism and emotional closeness are separate. In fact, my feeling is that the closer and more open we are with one another, sharing our most vulnerable selves: our buried desires, the closer and more physically fulfilling our lives will be.
Recently I have become acquainted with the writings of Suzanne Iansenza, Ph.D., she encourages us to expand our frameworks of sexuality, gender and culture to help our clients create a multidimensional framework to talk about and experience lovemaking. If our clients can become uninhibited around their own changing and fluid desires and experiences, sharing with their partner in greater detail, their physical connection heats up, re-igniting the erotic.
As a clinician, this challenges me to be more fluent in the lovemaking therapy models, more comfortable with talking about all aspects of intimacy and relating more comfortably in the room with clients. How can you expand, integrate and share your most intimate self with your partner?
¹Excerpt From: Esther Perel. “Mating in Captivity.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/T0MFv.l