A passionate partnership not only needs the nourishment sexual energy provides, it also needs maintenance. Conscious maintenance. We believe that as much care, thoughtfulness, and attention should be paid to a relationship as to a career, a family, or a cause. Unfortunately, this is not a popular concept.
More popular, but less realistic, is the theory that love, having visited itself upon us, is here to stay; that a relationship, once established, will operate on automatic, will be self-sustaining, and will not interfere with the partners getting on with their individual lives. Furthermore, couples expect their relationship to augment and complement each other professionally, creatively, socially, and economically.
That's a lot to ask of coupledom; but in fact a loving relationship can provide nourishment in all areas of life. It can generate energy enough not only for itself but also for work, family, friends, hobbies. But this doesn't happen by magic. A relationship is like a garden. If it's not watered, weeded, pruned, fertilized -- cared for -- its yield suffers. If it's untended it goes to seed. One of the main reasons relationships deteriorate is that the partners neglect them.
Another reason is that partners don't communicate their needs to one another. Many people are too shy or too afraid to say what they need in order to feel loved, or whole, or just happy. Some people don't know the words, or they are afraid of having their needs rejected or of being thought less of for being needy, or they are ashamed of their needs. So they sometimes hold back what's in their hearts or on their minds, and when they finally do express themselves having stewed too long in silence, the communication comes out a little too sharp, or too flat. We need to learn how to communicate with one another as lovers and as partners, and we need to find a different form of communication from the ones we use elsewhere in life.
In addition to neglect and lack of communication, preconceptions about what the relationship should be can also cause problems. These preconceptions are often deep-rooted: they are based on what we observed of our parents' relationship while we were growing up; on how church, society, and the media promoted relationships then, and on what is acceptable now; and on our own experiences in relating to people -- family, friends, lovers -- and how these people have related to us. Our personal histories and past experiences are part of who we are, and so of course they have an influence on our partnerships. But when we become a couple, our new relationship should have no history, only a present and a potential future. Part of what we do in living the relationship, in fact, is to create a history for it together.
Vive La Difference
Men and women today look for similar things in a relationship and they desire them to similar degrees: We want psychological security from one another; we want to be able to trust one another; we want to support one another, emotionally as much as economically; we want to share similar experiences, to be playmates as well as responsible partners; we want to improve ourselves through our relationship and we hope that the relationship will improve with us; and truly, we want to love one another for a lifetime together.
The fact that a couple shares similar goals for their relationship bodes well for them because it signifies the couple's appreciation for their partnership as an entity in and of itself. It focuses them on it as separate from us, and this point of view is crucial to the health and well-being of the partnership.
However, while men and women may not be so different in what they want for themselves as a couple, we know from our seminars that they are very different when it comes to what they want -- in fact, need -- for themselves as sexual individuals in the relationship.
Intimacy Is Needed
For example, we have found that most women use the word intimacy to describe what is most important to them sexually. Sexual intimacy (as expressed by the women we meet) is a special kind of closeness, a communication that is deeper than the couple can achieve physically, a sharing that goes beyond material partnership. This profound connection is described by many women as a spiritual connection, or as the feeling of having found one's "soulmate". Women relate it to the heart or the soul more than to the brain or the genitals. Although when true sexual intimacy does occur, sexual passion is its by-product. This seems to be true in all areas, not just sex. When one becomes "intimate" with a subject or project, one becomes passionate about it -- excited, energized, turned on. It's the same with sexual intimacy -- a woman is aroused, stirred deeply and physically.
But when intimacy is missing, when a woman doesn't make that special connection with her partner, she remains unsatisfied at a primal level because this need for intimacy is so deep. When intimacy is missing, it's hard for many women to feel passionate or to be satisfied, and the more deficient in intimacy a relationship becomes, the more dispassionate and dissatisfied the woman feels.
For most men, however, the word intimacy conveys something very different. Most 20th century western men are ecstatic when they hear a woman say she wants sexual intimacy -- needs it. Because to them the words sexual intimacy mean intercourse. So if in the beginning of the relationship the woman seemed to be getting a satisfactory amount of sexual intimacy, measured by the amount of sexual passion the couple exchanged, and the man's not doing anything different in sex today except trying harder to get some, whose fault is it? What went wrong?
These are common questions for couples today, and they represent a serious misunderstanding of terms -- a major failure in communication at the very cornerstone of the relationship. It's easy to project the resentment and anger, the frustration and hurt feelings, even the embarrassment, that are bound to occur between two people who haven't communicated their most basic needs to one another, who have misunderstood one another, who have been operating on incorrect assumptions, perhaps for years. And it's easy to envision how their relationship will suffer.
Because the need for sexual intimacy is so basic to women, it must be defined by each woman for herself, and then she must communicate its personal meaning to her lover. This is not so easy to do. By nature and physically, women are sexual introverts; they contain their sexuality. Their sexual organs, their most sensitive places, are internal and protected. It's not difficult to understand how this might affect a woman's ability to speak out about her deepest sexual feelings, how protective she might feel about them. But a woman absolutely must be able to make her lover understand what intimacy means to her. When she does, her effort will be rewarded a thousandfold.
It's far less difficult for most men to communicate what they need for themselves as sexual beings, or to express what keeps them passionate. Man's sexual nature is fundamentally extroverted, and he projects obvious physical evidence of what turns him on. Quite simply sex turns most men on. Sex makes them passionate. Men love sex -- they love two bodies, naked, tangled together. Men are crazy about women who love sex. Intimacy may be nice, certainly psychological and emotional compatibility are important, but for the vast majority of the men we work with, sex is a barometer for the health of their relationships, and a healthy relationship is one with a goodly quantity of good sex. To oversimplify (there are many exceptions and gradations to these feelings), most women want a heartfelt or soulful experience in love, most men want a glandular one.
What Is The Answer?
We have different desires, men and women -- they are physiological, basic to our male and female natures. They seem, if not opposite to one another, at least not conjunct. How can these differences be reconciled? The solution is based in part on the tantric "lifestyle" that was designed centuries ago specifically for householders -- that is, couples. The tantric texts are explicit on how the differences between the sexes can be used as a positive force in a partnership, how the proper combination of these differences can produce a near-alchemical reaction, an ether in which everything flourishes, in which the garden of your relationship bursts with color and new life and growth, and you and your beloved thrive.
Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving
by Charles and Caroline Muir.
The above was excerpted from the book, Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving, published by Mercury House Inc.
About The Authors
Charles and Caroline Muir run the Source School of Yoga and Tantra: The Art Of Conscious Loving Seminars on Maui, Hawaii. They have appeared on national television as tantric sex experts. The Muirs can be reached at: P.O. Box 69-B, Paia, Maui, Hawaii 96779. Visit their website at www.stardancertantra.com