Taking Sex Back: Marriage and The Mindful Woman
I am a woman in my forties, so the word SEX conjures up a variety of emotions. Somewhere between my twenties and forties, sex went from a semi-fun activity to a responsibility. I say “semi-fun” because sex was never actually fun for me. In my twenties, I didn’t have orgasms, I didn’t have a sex drive, and sex didn’t leave me feeling great about myself. It was mainly for the boy I was having sex with… and I thought it was giving me confidence. Sadly, later I would realize how false that was. Looking back, I was putting on a show. I couldn’t enjoy sex because I didn’t even know I was supposed to. In my mind, having sex was about turning my partner on. Was he having a good time? Did my body look good? What about my boobs, how do my boobs look? Seeing in his eyes how badly he wanted me was the only payoff I needed. Right?
Somewhere in my thirties after having children, sex turned into score-keeping. A quickie here and there, once a week to keep him happy. Have I fulfilled my quota? Score one for me. I can’t say that there was much emotion attached to it. My mind was on kids, to do lists, anxiety—and how long is this going to take? It’s hard to feel sexy with spit-up on your shoulder. It’s hard to feel sexy with a toddler pulling at your pant leg all day. For me, it was always just hard to feel sexy, period.
My forties have been all about self-discovery. I began practicing Mindfulness two years ago at 41. For me this means increased self-awareness, a higher level of empathy for myself and others, and better sex… waaaaaay better sex! I have yet to read, anywhere, about this particular benefit of Mindfulness. Apparently, discovering yourself and choosing to “live happy” translates to the bedroom.
As I got more in touch with my emotions, I unknowingly gave myself permission to enjoy sex for the first time in my life. This is an awakening worth writing about! The more I enjoyed sex, the more I realized that the discovery process can go on and on. I am still discovering, and I am still growing in this area. That’s exciting. My own sexual revolution—who would have thought?
Practicing Mindfulness encouraged me to set my intentions in the bedroom:
- I want to lean in when my partner touches me, not recoil.
- I want to be an invitation, NOT a denial.
- I want to build our sexuality together, not be pulled apart by head trash.
- I want to stop thinking of why I can’t have sex, and think of why I can.
- I want to feel great about my body, not cover the parts I’m unhappy with.
- I want to view sex as a physical and emotional need, not as a duty.
- I want to make my husband feel less like a predator, and more like a lover.
To make these intentions a reality required a lot of work. I had to figure out what my head trash even consisted of, to start with. It required overcoming years of society’s programming to judge other women for their level of sexual desire. What is a slut exactly and why aren’t men ever called that? Lastly, it required coming up with steps to warm myself to the idea of wanting sex…not giving in to sex, but wanting sex. I’m talking, cannot WAIT to have you inside me sex. Yes, I said it.
My tips for a more Mindful sex life:
- Spend time in front of a full length mirror naked. Yep, naked. Check out your body. The one body you were born with, and still have. I don’t care what it looks like. LOOK at it. EMBRACE it. LOVE it.
- Learn how to please yourself. I’m talking masturbation. If you don’t know how to give yourself an orgasm, how do you expect someone else to give you one? Becoming intimately familiar with your own body might even help you go from one orgasm during sex to multiple. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
- Spend time thinking about sex. This works whether you’re trying to get in the mood, or are already in the mood. Think about how good it feels to be touched. Imagine being touched. Think about your partner naked. Imagine your partner on top of you.
- During sex, feel every single movement. Go slow if you need to, feeling every touch, every nuance, every breath.
- Breathe. This is something we forget too often. Breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth slowly will heighten any feeling.
- Be self- aware. Keep track of what feels good and what doesn’t so you can communicate this later to your partner.
- Don’t be self-conscious! Don’t think about what your body looks like or your face looks like. There’s a big difference between self-awareness (which is necessary for great sex) and self-consciousness (which will ruin it). This isn’t the time for vanity. It’s the time for pleasure, and pleasure has no ego. When you’re focused on the sensations in your body, as well as pleasuring your partner, you’ll find there’s no room for self-consciousness.
One of the biggest ah-ha moments for me was the realization that sex is for us too, not just for men. Once I decided to be mindful about it, I found out it’s a stress reliever, a calorie burner, an intimacy builder with the right partner, and just plain feels amazing. Wherever you are right now with your sexuality, bringing mindfulness into it is virtually guaranteed to make it better.
No, I won’t be coming to your girls night out. Why I am not a friend for everyone and am finally okay with it.
She said, “no”, and it set me free. She said, “I’ll take my own car” and it set me free. She said, “ I don’t feel like it tonight” and my heart sang. My best friends will always be the ones that are not available.
From an early age, as women, we are taught to be kind. We are taught to be sensitive to others feelings, and sometimes that includes doing things you don’t want to do. Going places you don’t want to go and spending less time doing exactly what you would like to be doing. Our Mother’s either showed us by modeling the behavior, or by reminding us of our manners, when the time came.
I was very clear, by the time I reached my twenties, what a good friend “looks like” and with this came awareness of the guilt when I wasn’t being a “good friend”. In my head, I should be available every time you need me. I should go out to the club, even if I’d rather stay home and watch Beverly Hills 90210….and I should never, ever use complete honesty and say “because I would rather lay on the couch with a bag of Cheetos, then go to the movies.” That would just be rude, and definitely NOT a good friend.
I minded my manners, even with the conflicting messages in my head. I did this, until I met my first “adult” friend. The first woman I had met that just said “No.”
- She said no, and didn’t wait to see how it made me feel.
- She said no, and continued on with what she was doing.
- She said no and it didn’t have an excuse that followed.
She didn’t want to do what I was asking…..and that was perfectly just fine by me. I will admit, at first I was a bit taken aback. “Ummmm….okay?????” I felt a bit, I don’t know……offended maybe? This behavior continued…….we had plans to go out that night…..and she would rather drive separately. When questioned, she responded, “Because when I want to leave, I want to be able to leave without having to wait if you aren’t ready.” My heart sang. YES!!! Of course, THIS!
Now in my mid-forties, women paint pottery together. They organize “girl’s night out” or go shopping together. In my inbox, I get invitations for Scentsy parties and craft nights. Ugh. I say “ugh” not because I’m a bitch (although it’s been known to happen), but because I don’t enjoy getting together with “the girls”. There, I said it. I would rather lay on my couch and watch Real Housewives scream at each other. Actually, I would rather sit in my living room and hear my kids scream at each other. Is this because I don’t like you? Probably not, it’s me…..not you.
So…..this begs the question, am I a bad friend?
To answer this question, I needed to clearly define my intentions around friendship in my forties. I talk a lot about intentions. I set my intentions for my day. I set my intentions for my career, parenting, marriage, and in all other areas of life. Clearly, I needed to set my intentions for friendship in my forties, and that looks very different than it did in my twenties.
- I want to be supported, and support you, with clear boundaries.
- I want to enjoy each others company, and then go our separate ways. Not linger uncomfortably.
- I want to put my family first, and not have to deal with your hurt feelings about it.
- I want to say No, and not offer an excuse. Not feel pressured to make something up.
- I want to hear what I could do…..and not what I should do.
- I want to talk about my kids accomplishments, without being judged.
- I want to talk about my kids failures without being judged.
- I want to talk, really talk and not leave our conversation with doubts.
- I want to skip the small talk and talk about the real issues in our lives.
- I want to take the mask off, and to see you mask free as well.
- I want to be able to drop an F-bomb without feeling creepy (don’t judge, it’s important).
- I want to exchange ideas about the bigger issues in life, not spend our time talking about other peoples lives.
- I want to dream together, play together, build together and motivate each other.
By setting my intentions, it helped me to clear the cob webs in my head surrounding adult friendships. It helped me to take a more precise look at myself. Am I offering these things as well? Instead of sitting back and complaining about women and their idiosyncrasies, setting my intentions, forced me to get a feel for the particular kind of energy I was putting out there. Was I being honest about who I was? Was I being honest about what I was offering? It took me years to figure out what kind of friend I am , and what kind of friends I truly want.
With my forties came many realizations, and one of them is this…..I am not the girls night out friend and that’s okay. I am the forever friend. I am the friend who comes over in her pajamas and watches trash TV with you. I am the friend that always forgives and never places guilt on you for being who you are. I am the friend you can say No to and not give an excuse. I am also the friend that will hear you, not just listen to you. I know what I have to offer in a friendship, and I know what I lack as a friend.
You are my friend if you are confident enough to deal with the fact that I don’t need you. I say that with projection….utter and total projection! Wouldn’t you rather be wanted than needed? I would.
I am a refined taste, sort of like a good beer. I am not for everyone, but I am for the strong women! I am for the women who are just fine on their own, but enjoy a good belly laugh from time to time I am for the woman who cusses, or the woman who doesn’t, but also doesn’t shrink when she hears the word Fuck from me on occasion. I am for the woman who can talk about sex, openly, loudly and without apology. I am for the woman who doesn’t need in a group setting, but in our darkest hours we lean on each other and NEED with all of our energy, crying until there are no tears left. Make no mistake, I am there if you need me, but I am not there for the parties, not there for the girls nights and not there if my heart isn’t in it. I won’t be planning your next craft night with you and I won’t be discussing which shirt you should buy at the mall.
So, that girl I met in my twenties, taught me to accept who I am as a person, without apology. We are now best friends twenty years later, and I am there for her and she is there for me, without question. We both know this, we both accept each other’s lack of need. This has created a forever friendship.
This has also created a bar by which I measure new friendships against. I am creating my girls…….but make no mistake, you will not find us at a girls night out. You will not find us politely engaging in conversation or sitting back with hurt feelings. You will find us on a mountain top with blood running down our legs from hiking, applauding the battle scar we have created. You will find us spending time with our own families, because THAT is our priority. You will find us speaking our minds, having educated opinions and yes, sometimes hurting your feelings with our honesty. You will find us communicating in the form of texting (because phones are too much of a commitment) self- deprecating, sometimes rude, but hilarious things to each other and never apologizing for who we are…….or who we aren’t.
In determining who I am as a friend, I realized I have a sisterhood…..I just had to be me…exactly, me with no apologies. This is a sisterhood, an unbreakable sisterhood I am building with new friends and old friends who are beginning to understand who I am and who I am not. Some will stay the course, and some will not…..and I am just fine with that.
Recently, I wrangled my 43 year old ass onto a mountain bike, and faced a fear that I had no idea was a fear until that moment! I felt my anxiety rising, I know this because I began to bark at my husband. I am unteachable in these moments, my mind is shut and I am angry at what I can’t control. My aching rear end continued to feel each rock underneath me and my mind panicked at the large roots that rose from the ground, creating an obstacle that most mountain bikers welcome. I was determined to not let this beat me, determined that I could do this, and determined that I would not grow old quietly! Well…..it beat me that day, but I managed to find something valuable in it…..and isn’t that what it’s about anyway?
When I was 5 years old, I was playing in the front yard of our home, when our neighbors pulled up to tell my parents that my 7 year old brother had been hit by a car, while riding his bike. What followed for me, was like I was in a dream. The memory truly feels foggy. My sister and I were taken to our neighbor’s house until our Grandma and Grandpa could pick us up. We were unaware at this time, that our brother was being life lined to the Children’s Hospital….and that his life and ours would change forever.
We arrived safely at our Grandma’s house and continued to live there over the next couple months, while my mom and dad stayed at the hospital with my brother. We visited my brother a couple of times during this period, and I recall feeling strangely disconnected from reality during this time. I believe I dissociated. His little fists were balled up, his eyes closed due to severe head trauma that had rendered him in a coma. Bruised from head to to……his lifeless body lay there. Yet all I can recall with certainty that day is my sister sobbing as we walked down the long hallway to return back to our grandparents…..and I remained stoic, independent. A dreamlike state. My life remained as normal as possible. My grandpa drove me back and forth to school, while I pried him with questions that leave adults feeling helpless. “When are mom and dad coming home? Is my brother going to die?” Grandpa did his best to redirect with his always welcome sense of humor. I asked my Grandma if I should start calling her mom now? She quickly hushed me, and encouraged me to never talk about this again, lest it hurt my own mom’s feelings.
Out on the mountain, with my anger yesterday, I met my 5 year old self. My mom always lamented at how independent I was from an early age. It often hurt her feelings, and I was very aware, and am now equipped with a healthy dose of guilt and shame. The story goes, that at age 5, in the spring of the year, while walking to school….I looked at my mom and said “you no longer need to walk with me anymore, I can do it myself”. She was hurt and dejected….and I was free to walk alone, from that day forward. I said this…..after they returned from the hospital with my brother in tow. I had experienced freedom and independence and at age 5, was pretty sure that I was in this alone. The troops had rallied for my brother, and at a selfish young age, this meant I no longer had the spotlight. This would become a theme in my family….there was always a problem, much bigger than me. A problem much too loud to hear what I was saying. Hence, she becomes a writer.
It took a mountain bike and a whole lot of mindfulness for me to meet and understand this part of myself. This bitchy, irritable, impatient self. I have always been fiercely independent, I don’t like to be taught…….anything. I want to learn on my own, at my own pace, in my own style. Yes, I am a joy to behold. This has been a gift and a form of self-sabotage my whole life.
How do I take this self awareness and use it to create change in my life? I needed to reconcile in my head, which of these coping skills, I learned as a child still serve me as an adult? Do any of them? Are they working for me or against me? This required an even closer inspection of my life and my intentions with the ones I love.
- I want to be able to learn from those I love, not be a know it all.
- I want to be humble enough to realize the lessons that surround me, not be a closed book.
- I want to be independent, yet able to lean in to support when I need to.
- I want to forgive my mom for needing so much when I was a child, not carry resentment.
- I want to process trauma, not let it guide the decisions I make with my children.
- I want to parent out of wisdom, not out of reaction to how I was parented.
- I want to continually challenge myself, not isolate from risk.
I used Mindfulness to look at my irrational fears, raise my self-awareness, and instead of being angry at myself and berating myself over it, I chose to have empathy for myself. Any change I have ever created in my life, has started with empathy for myself and others, in how I came to be at this place.
This is what that looks like: My brother was almost killed on a bicycle before I even learned how to ride without training wheels. The fear that enveloped my family over this, was palpable, understandably so. But it was silent fear…..we didn’t discuss this fear. So, it wasn’t a part of my story that was logged into my consciousness. I have instilled this fear into my children around riding bikes. When I look at my story, it is obvious how I have carried this fear over! For this infraction, I must also have empathy for myself.
The second part of this lesson, is much more impactful. On my bike ride from hell yesterday, I saw myself, like a flash, asking my Grandma if I could call her mom from now on. I could almost feel the moment I disconnected. The moment I became independent at 5 years old. The moment my feelings took a back seat, and for some reason, I decided I was on my own, from then forward I would figure things out for myself…..and I did, even though it may have taken me longer sometimes. In this, is forgiveness, for my parents, for some of the things I have put on them, that I think belonged to me. But also forgiveness for being independent. When you grow up with a mom who NEEDS, you learn to feel guilty for being independent. Today, I will forgive myself for being disconnected, independent, and stubborn. Today, I will forgive my mom for needing. I am wise enough to know that my mom needs due to what she missed out on in her childhood. It’s a cycle friends, and we have to be self aware enough to recognize the cycles and break them.
In cultivating gratitude, I am grateful for resiliency. I am grateful for an independent spirit and now knowledgeable enough to realize no one person can do it alone….and I didn’t, and I don’t. Independence is lonely. It took a mountain bike path, and challenging myself for me to be mindful enough to recall this memory. To understand its implications and to garner the lessons I needed to learn from it. Had I resisted the challenge of getting out on that mountain, I would never have discovered this valuable piece of myself. I would never have the chance to give myself compassion, or see independent in a positive light instead of negative. These moments are valuable people. I am also grateful for parents who never left my brothers side in the hospital. Regardless of the changes it created in me, the hospital is where they belonged, and they knew it.
So, I continue to seek. I am seeking those parts of myself that are unknown to me. They are a road map to explain who I am and how I got here. Only these parts can feed the rest of my journey. I will not allow myself to walk with my eyes closed, letting life happen to me. I will face who I am…..who I really am. I will offer compassion when needed, empathy when appropriate and expect better of myself whenever I can.
What coping skills did you develop as a child and why? Are those same coping skills still relevant in the world you are living today? Are you challenging yourself enough to get in touch with those items in your subconscious that haven’t surfaced yet? Can you imagine what you might learn about yourself? Can you imagine how that might affect those in your life currently? We must have the courage to go back, and the resiliency to keep moving forward. Never get stuck my friends, always live your life as a seeker.