Erotic Intimacy: Bringing lust home

Larry and Carol entered my office with signs of marriage fatigue. As their story unraveled, their marriage of 29 years was more than just fatigued; it was comatose in the sexual department. Well, they were both having sex, just not with each other. You’d think after all these years of working in the relational trenches, I wouldn’t be surprised anymore. Yet, I’m still amazed how many people are willing to experiment sexually outside of their committed relationships and yet, are so puritanically constrained at home with their partners.

In American culture, there’s an accepted muting of erotic imagination if/when couples turn into parents. In the movie Before Sunset, Jessie forlornly summed it up with “I feel like I’m running a day care center with someone I used to date.” On the extensive list of what children need, according to the parents, why isn’t there listed; parents having satisfying sex with each other?

Is there no room for the lusciousness of lust within coupleship, marriage and families?

Unleashing passion within long-term relationships is a fascinating, challenging and rewarding part of my vocation. Couples and families prosper in an environment of comfort and consistency. The paradox is that eroticism sprouts from the moment filled with spontaneity, unpredictability and risk. Is it any wonder we can feel a bit tenuous maneuvering through relationship-land or shut down and avoid it all together?

First, let me say there are many limitations to using just ‘talk therapy’ to teach couples about intimacy. In my field as a licensed couples and family therapist (in three states, no less), that’s speaking heresy.

Our bodies are the most pure, primal tool we have for communicating. Our bodies do remember what our minds may have chosen to forget. Our entire emotional and energetic history plays itself out in the physiology of sex. What ‘talk-it-out intimacy’ tries to accomplish or conceal will eventually come through the body. Or as I once heard, “my body is a stubborn child; my language is a very civilized adult”. In recent times past, we use to live in our bodies more hours of the day. We no longer plow the fields together, today we text and tweet.

As a breath of fresh air, Esther Perel describes in her playful book (Mating in Captivity) “the body must become a conduit for emotional intimacy. The body is our original mother tongue and for many men it remains the only language for closeness that hasn’t been spoiled. Through sex, men can recapture the pure pleasure of connection without having to compress their hard-to-articulate needs into the prison of words.” I think this is true for many women as well.

Sexual desire does not obey the laws that govern peace and contentment between partners. Or as Perel puts it “desire operates along its own trajectory”. Eros does revolt at becoming domesticated! A recent case example in my own home, my partner of 10 years mistakenly called me a ‘homebody’ the other day. Needless to say, my own Scorpio Eros took alert to any inference of him seeing me as becoming more domesticated, heaven forbid.

Sometimes there are traumas from the past. In adult love, we seek to recapture that sense of oneness we felt or needed to feel with our mothers/caretakers. If you can tell me how you were loved, then I can tell you how you make love. The smaller we feel in this world the more we will feel compelled to shine in the eyes of our partner and others. Yet, the erotic imagination when body-based is ingenious in undoing and transforming traumas. Jack Morin, sex therapist and author (The Erotic Mind) states, “The experiences that caused us the most pain in childhood sometimes become the greatest sources of pleasure and excitement later on.”

Our deepest fears and our most persistent longings will emerge within intimate sex. Erotic intimacy is a blend of mutuality, merging, total self absorption and selfishness. It’s where hedonism and God collide. The erotic encounter is a mirror of our own level of pure consciousness and our comfort zone with vulnerable human pleasure.

The complexity of sustaining desire within the walls of long-term domesticity is no small feat. I decided to throw my pebble into this vast pond by writing and sharing this article. My fantasy is that one small ripple can quite possibly help transform the way we live and love with passion.

If this post speaks to you in some way, let us hear from you. Post your comments or questions by clicking here to access Marcia’s Blog. Or email: or Tel. 805-750-3759.

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