Valentine’s Day and Beyond
Co-creating amorous life in your relationship.
Posted Feb 14, 2019
Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for couples to express their love, affection, passion, and desire to each other. Given the cultural expectations associated with Valentine's Day, it is not uncommon for couples to find themselves willing and able to express such feelings for each other in ways that are uncharacteristic of how they typically relate. And I wonder: If we are able to allow ourselves to experience such a jolt of heightened affection, desire and love on Valentine's Day, why can't we bring this jolt with us into our everyday lives?
Dining out at a special restaurant might not happen every week for most couples, but how many times do you give your relationship special attention in any given week or month? Do you have a fulfilling sex life with your partner before and after Valentine’s Day? Are you aware of your own erotic appetites? And do you know what your partner craves sexually? Valentine’s Day experience can help couples connect sensually with each other and help them be more aware of how loving and emotionally connected they can be with each other in general. If the exploration of intimacy becomes a more usual part of our lives post-Valentine’s day, then Valentine’s Day can be a discovery day for couples to share, explore and learn about their sensual appetites—to then communicate what they desire from each other.
But sex is complicated
“I don’t feel like I am in the mood for sex a lot of the time and I don’t think we do things to stimulate our sex life. We don’t have a date night, and we stopped enjoying each other in that way. We watch movies at home and call this ‘couple time.’ And I am actually happy with that. Sex is not the first thing I want on my menu,” says Evelyn.
“I want to have more sex with my wife,” Nick sighs. "Our kids are out of the nest and we have more time with each other now. And the fact that she is not in the mood is hard for me. I feel like she pushes me away and does not want to be with me.”
Both Evelyn and Nick are in their mid 50’s and have been married for 20 years. Evelyn identifies herself as a Chinese immigrant and Nick is a second generation Japanese American. Their twin boys have recently moved away for college, and the nest has been empty for about a year now. Nick and Evelyn say when their twins were living with them, they did not feel comfortable having frequent sex. “Twins took so much room, emotional room and physical room, in our apartment,” says Nick, “that I did not feel like asking my wife to have sex often. But now that they are gone, we are free to do whatever!”
What’s underneath the infrequent sex
When asked about what would help her to feel more sexual towards Nick, Evelyn says that having more communications with Nick would make her feel up to having sex. "How could I be in the mood when you don't communicate with me? We come home from work and go separate ways. Our couple time is watching our favorite TV shows. Romance went out of the door.” It is becoming clear that Evelyn sees sex as a continuation and extension of their emotional life. The question of sex highlights the importance of communication as a key source of intimacy for her.
"We don't talk and share much time when we are together, and then, out of blue, I get naked with you and have sex? Sex is not a sport! That does not work for me, and is not going to happen!"
Nick says that he wants to spend time with Evelyn after work. However, he finds himself hesitant to approach Evelyn. “I want to approach Evelyn for a conversation but then I hesitate to do so. Oddly, after all this time, I still get nervous, tongue-tied. When I watch TV with her, I don’t have to deal with my awkwardness and the distance I feel in our marriage. I think I lost the momentum to approach Evelyn over the course of our marriage. I hesitate because I forgot what to do, and I want to deny that we have been distant.”
Not having sex can be a sign of a distant relationship
Evelyn and Nick both agree that not having sex was a symbol of the distance in their marriage. By looking at their infrequent sex (they used to have sex once a week, and now down to once every two to three months) and simultaneously looking at how they have been connecting as a couple (emotional, conversational, social, etc.), they are becoming aware of how they have been neglecting their coupledom.
“I grew up in a home where affection was not expressed physically nor verbally. So it’s easy for me to be in the state of not asking and not giving affection to Nick. I did not want to admit this, but as Nick was talking about how he neglected our couple time, I realized that I was resentful for the fact that we were not spending time with each other.”
Looking at differences in sexual appetite
Evelyn wants to spend some time with Nick before she dives into anything physical. “For me, spending time with Nick and talking to him is very important. And this is something I miss the most. Feeling like Nick is interested in what I am up to and then holding me, hugging me, and kissing me would be as sensual as passionate sex to me.”
Nick wants to communicate with Evelyn and rebuild what they have lost over the course of their marriage. He says, “Having sex would make me feel that I am wanted and loved; sex is strongly connected to how I experience my own self-worth.”
Esther Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity, reveals the complexities of having a sex life in long, committed marriage and relationship. For Evelyn and Nick, closing the gap in their sex life opened up a conversation about what they had lost in their marriage: sexual and emotional connection. They were both feeling resentful toward each other, but neither had admitted their resentment. Opening up to a conversation about wanting something sexual between them allowed each of them to become more aware of their desires for each other. It also gave them a better sense of what was missing from their marriage, and commit to finding it again together.
Valentine’s Day can be an evening to share an emotional/sexual connection—or reconnection. That’s all well and good. But this year can you allow yourself and your partner to take whatever works on this night into the life you share together? Will you allow the spirit of Valentine’s Day to come with you, in the days and weeks ahead. To continue to be curious about and willing to explore your connection whether sexual or emotional? Can we take Valentine’s Day into our everyday life? I think, why not?