Monday, December 19, 2005

The Tricky Relationship of Sex and Love

For most of us, making sense of how sex and love fit together is a lifelong challenge – sex originating from some animal urge and love coming from our hearts. Sustaining a relationship requires a sometimes precarious balance of the two, with too much -- or too little -- of either sounding a death knell.

When I was quite a bit younger, I remember the feeling that would often come over me as I lusted after someone – almost like a horse champing at the bit to be released from the gate. Sometimes it materialized in a sexual connection (I think it’s called hooking up today, according to my daughter), but many times it was just a feeling that never came to fruition. Those instances of sex, as exciting as they might have been, resulted in a vast feeling of emptiness after it was over.

I can remember a lot of relationships that ended because sex and love were just not in sync. I rejected one person because he emitted a strange unpleasant odor when we were making out. There was another person who just got too carried away and forceful when kissing. There was a guy who rejected me because he just wasn’t ready for anything to do with love. He was the same one who gave me a copy of the Magus with the inscription “I hope this opens some doors that may not have been opened yet.” And in contrast there was a guy who drove all the way from VMI to FSU to confess his undying love for me when we were seniors. As hard as it was to send him back north with a “No thanks”, I was simply not in love with him.

At one point, I began to doubt that I would ever find anyone who excited me sexually and honestly loved me – or should I say, where the feeling for both of us was mutual. My relationship with my one and only husband started in the most ordinary way. We worked together for two years. One day at lunch he suggested that we go to a baseball game with two other people. Was it a date? I didn’t even know. I brought money to pay just in case. I slept on his couch because he lived closer to Baltimore than I did. This was repeated a time or two and then suddenly I found myself in his bedroom. I mean, really, sleeping with your co-worker. That sounds akin to incest. I can’t say that love was there before sex. But we had always liked each other. And I could tell that love was growing.

Here we are 32 years later. We have probably made love in excess of 2,000 times. I must confess that there were times, especially when our children were younger and were more demanding, that it was just sex because I was too tired to think about love. There were times when I faked orgasm, as I am sure everyone has done. There were times when I was thinking about other things while we were having sex. But there were so many times when we both emitted animal noises of pleasure and embraced long after all orgasms were over. It’s those times when you realize just how good it can be when sex and love are in balance.

Some of you are probably saying, “About the last thing in the world I want is to have sex with the same person 2,000 times. That sounds really BORING.” The funny thing is that we are still discovering things about each other while making love – a variation, a dislike (like the incense that made him allergic), something that feels really good. It’s a challenge, but it’s one that’s fun to take on.

The ironic thing about sex and love is their relationship when a couple is attempting pregnancy. First of all, it’s such a 180 degree shift from most of the rest of our active sex life where we are trying to avoid pregnancy. You would think that this would be the absolutely ultimate experience. But if there is any indication of infertility, you become tense and sex becomes a means to an end, with love getting short shrift. I was one of those people who had a lot of difficulty conceiving, with one miscarriage initially. I had virtually given up, ordered the fertility drugs, and was heading out of the country to South Africa the next day on a business trip. I sang in a beautiful concert of chamber music the night before I left, leaving me with such a good feeling of the music swirling around in my head. We came home and made passionate love and then said goodbye and I boarded a plane for a grueling 36-hour trip to Lesotho. This was not even at a time when I should have been fertile, but just as I was about to start taking the fertility drugs, I realized that I was pregnant. Was it the music? Was it the resignation that we had tried and failed? How did this happen? I will never know, but I have a strapping 25-year-old son to prove it.

When I hear of couples who no longer make love, who no longer even sleep in the same bed, I cringe because to me that is the sign of really getting old. I would feel really cheated if my husband were no longer interested in having sex. But there are people who stay together in this situation. I can only think that if they are human, they must both be having affairs on the side.

Oddly enough, one change that has happened for us is that it used to more often than not be my husband who initiated making love. There were many times when I would say, “Let’s do it in the morning. I’m just too tired.” As if sex was an item to be checked off a To Do list. But within the last couple of years, I am often the one suggesting that we just slip between the sheets. And he never says no!

It will be interesting to see what happens as we do grow older. So far, there’s no need for Viagra. One funny story – Over a year ago, I was sure that I was having a lot more difficulty coming to orgasm and I really do like it. So I went to my very cool GYN (who is my age, has a pony tail, and wears clogs). Instead of laughing at me, he very seriously did some blood tests to check my hormone levels and when those turned out just fine, sent me to the Pleasure Chest in Georgetown to buy peppermint oil (although he said that having my husband suck on a Altoid first would do the same thing). Sure enough, soon thereafter my orgasm was back, better than ever. I later learned something that I had never known – an orgasm is not physical, it’s in your head!

So for the moment, love and sex are still both important to me (and I think to my husband). I hope we can continue to find that necessary balance as we move into old age. The connectedness of being one body, one heart, one mind is unequaled in any other part of our lives.


Blogger Asian Mistress said...

Hmm a refreshing and interesting look at sex and leaves me something to look forward to! :)

12:13 AM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Wow! This was incredibly revealing! Good for you for writing this. I can barely allude to sex in my blog.

1:08 PM  
Blogger DC Cookie said...

Namaste said something similar in this post. Basic proof that the worst relationship sex is better than best random sex any day of the year.

10:56 PM  

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