As children, we build the legends we believe about ourselves: Caretakers, Scholars, Athletes, Heroes, Artists… At first, it might feel like a coat we try on: too big, borrowed. But as we grow, we adjust, flexing to what we want to become, what others’ hope for us to be. The coat becomes us, and we no longer catch it on benches and coffee tables.
Imagine then, the caretaker who needs care? The athlete who finds they are being outperformed by younger or stronger competitors? This disconnect creates a sense of unease as our rock-solid notions of who and what we are erodes.
Apply this disconnect to intimacy: when once known for falling into bed with every beautiful face, now the drive to pursue some other passion might fill that space. Someone who might have delighted in a varied set of positions and locales might be now choosing the few that still feel good. Or it could be that after decades of focusing on building a business or family, they find that they want more than a once weekly copulation in the same bed with the same person.
We change. And while society is becoming more accepting of divorce, career changes, even sexual identity, the notion of changing one’s appetites and desires is still seen as anything from distasteful to sinful to something we’ll pretend isn’t a real part of who we are becoming.
Talking about these changes with our partners’ … ‘um, I think I might want to try that thing we saw in the movie the other night, with the, um, toy?…’ we can go from mature, centered adults to fumbling teens in seconds. The confidence to express likes and dislikes doesn’t elude us – we can say, ‘actually, the pasta at the place across town was overcooked last time, let’s eat at the new fusion spot’ and no feelings are hurt, no doubt at the critique of the previous meal is countered. But with intimacy, what we want in bed, especially if it changes, is another matter. Imagine the equivalent statement ‘actually, the position we tried last night didn’t feel good, let’s try something new next time.’
Or, ‘honey, I’m not sure I want to’ or ‘um, if I put on that outfit from last summer, do you think you could be the lifeguard?’ or ‘why don’t you let me take charge more often?’ It is keeping these statements in that can create conflict, resentment, and doubt… kept in most often because of a change in who we are, not because (usually) our partners will be upset/hurt/disappointed. We question whether our changes are real, how they might impact our relationships, how wanting more/less/different/none might affect the family, our co-workers, strangers even. All chewed on over and over and over internally before ever
mumbled late at night
in the dark.
Do you hear what your beloved is saying during sex? Or what they aren’t? Does your partner hear you? Does the coat you’ve been wearing for the last couple of decades still fit or is a new one waiting for you to try it on?