Monday, January 04, 2010

Lust and Love: Part One

I don't know if we'll ever get to Part Two, but there's a lot on the cutting floor.

On New Years Day, National Public Radio played a Best Interview of 2009 with famous sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman, who is an inspiration, seriously. But Laura had nothing of substance to say about the L-words, as far as I can remember, so somebody should. I understand her new book has pictures, by the way.

Is it possible we’ve never discussed this, lust and love?

Let's get right to it then, start with lust.

There’s a lot to be said in favor of lust, without being facetious. Twenty-five percent of all marriages dissolve due to sexual problems. So it stands to reason that lust might be factoring in there somewhere.

Maybe it's there, but not reciprocated or appreciated. Or the object of lustfulness is someone outside the dyad, a lady, a gent. And if lust is there for someone else, and it isn't there X2 in an ostensibly committed relationship, then that dyad (two-some) could be in trouble. Heaven forbid. But it happens.

Which is why I'm thinking it needs to be bi-directional, it really does. Both partners need some luster at the same time in the same place at least some of the time. And it totally gets a bad rap, lust, and maybe it shouldn't, which had to be said, because without it, without the arousal associated with lust, sexual relations can be a real pain, as in painful. And who needs that?

And there's the idea that although sexual intimacy is only one of the five intimacies,* it facilitates the others, is a metaphor of every process, every problem in the relationship. Thus it is high on the hierarchy of couple needs. Associate lust, as we've just done, with sexual intimacy, and working the lust matters. It's a good thing, not bad.

Have I lost any subscribers yet? Oh, give me time.

Sexual intimacy, which should include lustfulness, looftness, whatever it was Woody Allen used to say when he was expressing his love/lust in one of his neurotic films, feels good, and it's free. So it has to be good for marriage, can surely be the marital glue, way up there on the list of intimacies.

That said, if a couple is not married, is not legally or emotionally committed, then good sex can be glue for that couple too, making it harder to get out when intellectually, emotionally, rationally, you know it's not a good match.

Still, it's hard to say, I have to go now, when a vibrant part of you wants to stay.

Lusting for a bad boy/bad girl, just one of those things so many people lust for, or lusting for an ex, can be easier than living with one of these 'til death (or divorce) do you part. People cut bait, are capable of rational decisions, even when the lust refuses to relocate. We get out of dysfunctional or second-rate relationships and think back, sometimes years later, with a fondness and desire. You bet.

There are clergy-people who tell us to extinguish the flame. But the brain has a mind of its own. We can fight the process, crack a mental whip, control the wandering, but it's difficult. Just like any other obsessive, ego-dystonic (annoying) thoughts, these refuse to leave home.

Sex therapists suggest distraction, focus upon the body, the senses, not thoughts, if they make us feel bad or conflicted. We're supposed to get into our five senses and how they affect our internal arousal, search inward, deep into the self, beneath the skin, although skin is good, too, touching it. We focus on the body, find a wave of arousal,** and zero in on what makes the body happy, the source of stimulation that makes it so appealing, this reaching for higher heights.

Call it meditating with a purpose.

Then, once it is located, once that certain predictable, happy-centered neurological pathway is found, we coach the main squeeze. Instruct a partner accordingly.

So simple.

Except for the instructing a partner, and taking instruction part, difficult for some couples. Which is a problem, illustrates the salience of problem-solving intimacy, a topic for another day. For a partner who doesn't want to give instruction (too embarrassed) denies the other an opportunity to pleasure her (let's just say it's a her).

And a partner who doesn't want to take instruction (let's say it's a him) reduces the chance that his partner will feel pleasure.

It is like saying,
I want to give you a present, one that will make you really happy, but I don't want you to tell me what you want, how you want it delivered, or when.

I'm assuming that what I've got to give is what you want, because you couldn't possibly not want what I've got to give. Right? Please tell me that's so.
Without hints from the other, we're lost. This is all especially sticky for people-pleasers who go ahead and say, It's so. When it isn't.

Ah, but if there's no issue taking instruction, then once this is accomplished, the instruction, the humbled down student is very sexy indeed and will listen, follow, and soon add individual polish. Together the couple finds that variations on a theme are infinite.

And exceedingly intimate. More intimate, surely, than wandering where the brain prefers to go, along those short-cuts, the exes, the models, the movie stars. Of course, not everyone worries about the short-cuts. Indeed millions celebrate vibrant brain circuitry, grateful that it is being put to good use. We're not judging.

But for those with too much guilt to fantasize about the mail-person, the gardener, the babysitter or the boy next door, for those who wish that extra people in the psychological bed would just go away, working the lust the natural way is a prime directive.

And in this process, lust becomes a function of love. For what we've just described above is nothing, if it is not love. You can't tell just anyone what makes you happy sexually. You just can't. Some of us have to love someone to do that. It's so embarrassing. You're only going to tell someone you love, someone who is in it with you for the long haul, someone you know will move mountains so as not to disappoint, at least furniture. Working every one of the intimacies feels like moving mountains, you realize, over time. Sex is just one of those mountains.

What's all this got to do with the Pina Colada song?
I was tired of my lady
We'd been together too long
Like a worn-out recording
Of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleeping
I read the paper in bed
And in the personal columns
There was this letter I read

If you like pina coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you're not into yoga
It's his lady who answers the ad, if you remember, and she likes pina coladas, obviously, and getting caught in the rain, just like him. But he doesn't know it, not until he meets her a second time. He's tired of his lady, he doesn't even know her, and he's stepping out on her.

You gotta' wonder what it is they talked about.


*Sex is only one out of the five intimacies. Tweak them and other problems disappear. Tweaking well, unfortunately, isn't always easy.

In no particular order, The Five Intimacies:

(1) emotional intimacy
(2) sexual intimacy,
(3) problems solving intimacy,
(4) work intimacy, and
(5) recreational intimacy

No particular order.
That said, I'd place sex high on the list-- emotional intimacy higher.

**This wave of arousal is what the yogis call kundalini (correct me if I'm wrong), and worth the search, the game of hide and seek. You can play it alone or with your partner. Makes it more fun. Call it a joint marital responsibility.
"Am I getting warmer?"

"Yes, and a little to the left."
Domeena Renshaw, world-renowned sex therapist, a psychiatrist, tells us that sexual arousal is one's own responsibility, whatever that means. This may not sound very romantic, but is the case for developing one's own appetite. She also says that sexual arousal is tucked somewhere between the belly and the brain. It isn't necessary to limit your research, is the truth.


osc. said...
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osc. said...
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Syd said...

I watched a show on PBS last night called Emotional Life. I especially thought that the couple who had marital problems, largely related to lack of trust from the husband's infidelity, were interesting. Their problems with communication were huge.

Anyway, great post. I'm interested to read part two.

TechnoBabe said...

At first I felt like there was so much going on this post, just too much for me to comment on. But as I read it a couple more times I felt the flow of the writing that lead me from the sorta embarrassed stage to the "oh, I get it" stage. And I do get it that as you clearly explain the process, lust is a function of love. When I look deep inside my heart of hearts, I know that when hubby touches my arm it can be arousing. It is because it is HIS touch. Very good post and open minded as well.

blognut said...

I have found, with the right conversations taking place throughout the day, whether on the phone, in person, or via text messaging, that everything my husband says/does is a turn-on. I suppose this is lust, but I never really thought of it that way.

Either way, I like it.

Mark said...

This is a very important topic which addresses a wide spread problem. As much as I hate to say it, intimacy and sex are often viewed and felt differently by the genders. Thanks for writing this! Happy New Year!

lynette said...

i loved this post... so i am guessing that the fact that my husband and i have not been sexually intimate in ten years (and at this point, i know i don't wanna) is as big a problem as i think and feel it is?

interesting the bit about instructions... after our second child, i tried to talk to him multiple times about how i could use some help switching gears and getting in the mood. he became really angry that i was criticizing the "way he does things". i replied that i thought i was proposing solutions to get to a win-win.

never happened. toss a little physical abuse on there, and lust dies.

i care about him, but i never want him to touch me again.

but i sure would like to feel and act on lust and love during this one life i am living...

Lou said...

My friends and I who have been married for over 30 years (the ones who didn't get divorced anyway) all seem to refer to their spouse now as their "best friend." It's like we are saying lust isin't that important anymore. We want someone we can count on to push us around in a wheelchair if it comes to that!

Seriously, in intimacy vs lust, I think most long for intimacy. Good post!

lynette said...

lou, from my perspective, lust is not all about sex. what i lust for is intimacy -- love and kindness and affection and caring.

i think it depends on how one defines lust... and whether it applies only to the physical. i think therapydoc's post implied that it doesn't, since it is specific to that one person, and so that is love, no?

Anonymous said...

i think people are confusing lust and desire all the time- you desire your husband/wife and want to make him/her very happy--you lust after a job, a person, a car. etc to unhealthy ends. Sexual desire is good-the other is not!

Beth said...

Great post, and yes, please write Part 2! I've been married 30 years and think it's vital that both lust and love are acknowledged and explored as part of what makes intimacy work or not. (We seem to be on similar wavelengths today - I've been writing about sex too, and left plenty on the cutting room floor!)

Anonymous said...
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blognut said...

Now I'm confused. I thought I got it the first time I read it, but then I came back and read everyone else's comments, and then re-read the post, and I don't know if I got it at all.

porcini66 said...

Seems to me that you are spot on - as usual! Lust CAN go hand in hand with love - it cannot be the ONLY function (see the five), but it should be at least a part of the function of love some of the time - as you mention, at least some of the time, someplace, at ideally at the SAME time on occasion.

I know that for me, each of the five ebb and flow. Every so often, I get to enjoy more than one in the same sitting - emotional intimacy AND sexual intimacy. Work intimacy AND problem solving. But, I get more than two together? Just the thought of it makes me shudder. Doesn't happen so often that it is routine, but often enough to keep me very close to home. We each have our faults, but I am grateful for a loving (and LUSTFUL) relationship at the end of the day.

Thanks for posting - it made me think of all the reasons why I love my man and yep, lust is part of it. :)

Shattered said...

Very interesting. I'm going to have to read it more than once though because I'm completely backwards and dumb when it comes to sex and any sort of intimacy. I hope you will continue with part 2 when you are ready.

Anonymous said...

I have been with my hubby for 11 years now and I have to say that sex and even lust have peaks and valleys. But as a woman, there are no other times when I feel as emotionally intimate with him as when we have sexual intimacy with each with wild abandon. There is something about lusting and longing for your partner and having sex to fulfill that longing that brings people together. However, I have to say that this is only true when BOTH partners are involved. (i have to admit there have been times when I've had a million other things on my mind other than the sex at hand...dishes in the sink, work, bills, etc).

Anyway, great post. I agree. Lusting after your partner can be a beautiful and bonding thing!

April_optimist said...

Without trust, it seems to me, none of the intimacies happen. And that's a shame. Great post.

Ella said...

Pina Colada song, good grief that was a while ago!
Being able to remember that lusty feeling from the start of the relationship - the "clothes ripping" feeling you have for the object of your affection - has been a great gift for me. I'm glad someone told me that this memory would be what I'd need in my marriage to keep things going in the tough times. My parents have always fought - I never saw them loving each other. So, a family friend who had a loving relationship with her husband shared that wisdom with me when I was just out of college.
thanks TD

therapydoc said...

I write about sex, I get spammed.

Syd, I’ll get to Part 2, thanks.

TechnoBabe Love that HIS arm line.

Blognut, that’s awesome

Mark, always happy to hear from you!

Lynette, there are always good reasons when the sexual intimacy isn’t there. Sounds like a great marital therapy case. (They all are).

Lou, it’s so true. But that what you don’t use you lose thing . . . we hear about people in their 80’s, so .
. .
ANON, great point, so much is semantics.

Beth, could be the cold weather, don’ know.

Porcini, such a cool way to put it, how the five intimacies run in streaks.

Shattered, thanks. So much consensus, seems I have to!

Thanks ANON!

April, great point.

Ella, that is the best memory, that first one.

lynette said...

oh, therapydoc, two marital therapists over four and a half years of counseling (still ongoing). it's like a drug-resistant infection.

we have a great counselor now -- for over two years. my husband thinks it is enough to go there every other week. in between there is no change, or as far as i can tell, no motivation to change.

i've reached that point too. i don't feel that i should have to beg for intimacy, and four and a half years on top of the several years before that of crap.

i read the comments here, and i feel so sad that this has not been my experience of marriage. always downs, never ups.

Isle Dance said...

I love this topic.

Playfulness conquers just about anything uncomfy.

And is there a more precious gift than being loved and expressing daily, that intimate love with another?

I think not.

Life is too short to miss out on any of this.

I am so guilty of encouraging lots of intimacy...

Reas Kroicowl said...

TD, someone mentioned way up there about the PBS series "This Emotional Life"

Are you watching? You can go back and watch online. Fascinating stuff and methinks right up your blog posting alley.

therapydoc said...

I'll try to get to it, thanks. It's hard to find time for anything lately.

blogbehave said...

Not a text-er. Yet. But I do make the occasional call, and searching for a number in my address book is the equivalent of texting. I usually wait for a red light to do the looking up. But that isn't always an option so I take the risk.

Your thought will help me resist that urge.

therapydoc said...

Gotta' be referring to Dangerous Distractions, a later post.