Have you ever felt the stress of life made it harder for you to feel connected to yourself and your partners?
As a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples and sex therapy and owner of Relational & Sexual Health Initiative, one of the primary concerns I hear from couples is about diminished intimacy and connection. The need for connection is hardwired into us as humans and a healthy couple’s sexuality includes not only intimacy, but eroticism as well.
So, what is eroticism?
Eroticism is considered the life force of connection. It integrates a sense of vitality and creativity and even mystery back into our relationships. It allows us to reconnect with that playful part of ourselves. To connect with our erotic selves, we must learn how to take emotional and sexual risks. These risks do not include crossing our own boundaries, but instead leaning into our experiences in a way that allows us to connect within ourselves and the space around us.
Relationships face many challenges in today’s modern society. With the responsibility of oscillating between so many roles it can be difficult for mothers to stay connected to a sense of self, as well as to our partners. External stressors from work to parenting to illness to overall anxiety about the current state of the world we live, can all keep us from truly feeling alive and connected. However, it is in this state of stress that eroticism may be even more important.
Eroticism can be a type of antidote to despondency, a loss of spirit, curiosity, and liveliness. A way to begin integrating eroticism can be as simple as mindfully engaging with our own senses.
Touch is one of our most basic senses. Touch can release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. This hormone is incredibly powerful and is believed to increase the experience of connection, trust, and sexual arousal.
By being present in the moment without judgment or expectation, I invite you to notice the tactile experience of touch, coming back to the sensations of temperature, pressure, and texture. How does the sand feel on your feet as you walk along the beach with your partner? Is it hot or cold? Smooth or rough? Notice the cool touch of your partner’s hand across your back. These are just a few examples of how we can bring a sense of awareness to touch and to awaken the body.
Our world is an orchestra of sound, and it can be difficult to know what to pay attention to at any given moment. What if we could slow down and truly listen to the world around us to increase connection with our partners? What might that look like? Perhaps it is singing a song together at the top of your lungs or whispering something gently into your partner’s ear.
Our sight influences how we perceive, and our minds are designed to create meaning of the world around us. As we take in stimuli, our brains construct a narrative about what this now means for our sense of self, sense of others (relationship with partners, etc.), and our sense of the world around us.
Utilizing the power of sight can be a powerful way to slow down and feel more connected in an intentional way. Maybe it is a long gaze into our partner’s eyes or our own through the mirror. Or, trying to make a constellation from their freckles. We might try to pull off the scene from Titanic and draw our partner nude. No drawing experience required! Use your Eyes to see your partner and yourself through a different lens, one with compassion and curiosity.
Our senses can act as our brain’s memory file, bringing us back to moments and experiences. Maybe it is the smell of a relative’s cookies or grandma’s perfume. Smell and taste can be a powerful way to take us back in time to a moment of pleasure, connection, or comfort.
Is there a smell that transports you back to a moment with your partner? How can we utilize smell and taste to our advantage, enticing our senses in a way that allows our memory to experience it again and again?
Perhaps, taking a cooking class together and describing the experience of taste and smell with one another. One exercise that couples can try is to choose a food of choice, such as an orange or chocolate. Let yourselves get messy, rub it on your hands to pick up the aromas and incorporate the food in different ways (a massage, a kiss, etc.) with your partner. Next time you see that food it will have a new meaning and a shared moment of connection that you can revisit in your mind.
As mothers, we may find ourselves rushing through life. I invite you to slow down. How can you begin utilizing your senses to increase eroticism and fuel a stronger connection in your relationship? Take the risk. Your relationship will thank you.
Alyssa is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and owner of Relational & Sexual Health Initiative. She holds a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Sex Therapy Certificate. Alyssa specializes in relationship/couples and sex therapy. She helps people work towards improved connection within themselves, their relationships, and their sexuality.
Alyssa is also trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman Method Couples Therapy, a systemic approach that helps couples repair/manage conflict and deepen intimacy.
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