Editor's Note: Joe Weston also authors an advice column, Ask Joe, where he shares his training, wisdom, and experience with RealJock readers. Got a question? Need some clarity? Ask Joe anything that's on your mind. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will be kept anonymous, but do note that questions may be edited for length and clarity. For more info on Joe's workshops, see his bio at the end of this article.
You could say that one important role of developing intimacy is to provide a way for you to get your needs met. As I mentioned in my last article, it is necessary to our survival, health and well-being to know what our needs are, and then to recognize which of those needs you can take care of on your own and for which you will need to ask another to help or nurture you. Because there are different kinds of needs, you could say that there are different kinds of intimate relationships, by no means always romantic. And it's critical to remember: it really isn’t possible to get all your intimate needs met by one person.
Your Many Intimacies
In my life I have many people with whom I am intimate without ever being romantic or sexual. You probably have these relationships as well, and they deserve recognition. For instance, I can get my spiritual needs met with friends of mine who share a similar path and practice. Because we speak the same language and have similar ways of viewing the world, our level of intimacy goes very deep regarding spiritual matters. I have friends with whom I love to have a nice dinner and discuss deep philosophical ideas and current events. They satisfy my mental, intellectual needs. Then there my friends with whom I wouldn’t think of having political discussions, but we love the same movies, like the same sports and have a great time hanging out after the game in the same kinds of bars. They satisfy some of my emotional needs and my desire for fun.
These are all in some way forms of intimacy. Why? Because we have taken the time to develop depth in our connection, we nurture each other in some way, we know what the other likes and dislikes and we choose to find ways to give the other what it is that we desire—whether it be another round of beers, encouraging the other to keep meditating or working out when they get discouraged, or simply offering a supportive ear and words of encouragement when the other feels insecure or emotionally low. There is an unspoken, or sometimes agreed upon, arrangement to grow together and commit to the happiness of the other. This is intimacy.
All of these types of relationships are important as a way to take care of and nurture ourselves, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This is essential to develop into a balanced, fulfilled person. However, the most important kind of nurturing that is necessary for our survival and health—and oftentimes the most neglected—has to do with our physical needs and developing healthy, lasting physically intimate relationships.
Intimacy On Your Own
Many of my clients, both in one-on-one sessions or in workshops I offer around intimacy and erotic touch, claim that the number one reason why they are unsatisfied in their relationships is because they don’t feel that their physical needs are being met. This is understandable if you find it challenging to first know what you need or desire, and then not take the time to find ways to nurture yourself and ask your partner for what you desire. By not taking care of yourself in this way, you are putting too much pressure on your partner to have to guess what you need. I recommend that you start working on yourself and on getting your physical needs met. There are many creative ways for each of us to find individual paths to fulfill and nurture our own physical needs.
There are some things we can actually do on our own, away from our partners. For instance, we can get massages. We can go workout alone or with a trainer or workout buddy. We can play sports, take dance classes, or attend massage classes or other courses that involve touch. But we can address the sensual aspect as well. One thing to explore and practice is called self-pleasuring. Some might call this masturbation, but there are differences. With self-pleasuring, you are choosing to take the time to consciously pleasure yourself, to in essence make love to yourself—no videos, no internet. Just you, yourself, a quiet relaxed place, enough time (like an hour or two) and your imagination. Imagine taking that much time to pleasure and nurture yourself! As an instructor for the Body Electric School, a massage school for erotic massage and healing, I teach people how to give themselves and others very deep and satisfying erotic massage based on ancient Taoist healing techniques. The participants are taught massage strokes that create a totally different experience to masturbation. The beauty of self-pleasuring is that you begin to develop a deeper level of intimacy with yourself, which is essential for your ability to be intimate with others.
Intimacy in Relationship
Now let’s look at how this works with our partners. In order to keep an intimate relationship healthy, nurturing and vibrant, I believe that it is essential for both partners to find ways to keep the physical intimacy alive. I am talking about committed relationships. Casual sex can provide you with the temporary stimulus that you are craving, but there is something deeper and nurturing when you engage physically with your partner. You may have a relationship where you both agree that it is okay to have sex with others. Even so, I still feel it is necessary to have some kind of physical intimacy with your primary partner. You may have multiple lovers and have committed relationships with all of them. That's fine—but I still recommend you find ways to be physically intimate with all of them.
The bottom line of physical intimacy is fulfilling our desire and need to be touched. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to be touched and to touch others. Often, the reason the physical intimacy dwindles in a relationship is that there is a belief that the only way to satisfy the cravings and need for touch is through sex. Yes, sex is an important part of establishing and maintaining good health and balance in relationship. But there are many other ways we can get our physical needs met and give and receive touch. Let’s make a distinction here between sex and erotic contact.
- Erotic massage and play: There are many ways to engage erotically with a partner that are not necessarily sex. I call these types of encounters erotic play. This could look like giving and/or receiving an erotic massage. This doesn’t demand as much energy and preparation as sex does. You can still stimulate each other erotically without the pressure of having to “perform”—meaning the need to get and maintain an erection or ejaculating. You can be more playful and not have to worry about it needing to "go somewhere."
There are also ways that you can create fun erotic play with your partner. When was the last time you used food as a way to connect with each other? Imagine stimulating more of your partners senses, with nice smells, delicious food and sweet sounds while engaging erotically. I would suggest you take some time to talk with your partner about some of his hidden desires. If you can approach this in a way where he gets the feeling that he won’t be shamed for what he would find hot, you may be surprised. This could involve erotic play in different settings, locations and with different kinds of “props.”
- Regular massage: Touch can open worlds of intimacy without ever becoming sex per se. You can give each other massages—back massages, head and shoulder massages, hand massages, and, the most delicious, foot massages. You don’t have to be a professional—just have the desire to please your partner and help him to relax and enjoy himself. These massages don’t have to be on a table or with lotion. They can be in a chair or on the floor. The important thing with is that you stay present to how you are touching your partner. Ten minutes of conscious, loving touch is more beneficial than 90 minutes of a professional massage by someone who is not present to the act of touching or to your partner's needs.
- Caressing: Then there caressing and affectionate touch. You can do this while watching TV; ten minutes of back rubbing, light caressing of legs and arms while watching the tube or talking about the day will go a long way to establishing closeness.
- Cuddling: Make a point to wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to be in each others' arms. Or, agree to lie down for 10 minutes when you both get home from work. No words, no need to perform. Just holding each other, breathing together is very nurturing and intimate. Like the last example, these are small things, but the affect goes very deep.
So, my challenge to you is to commit to finding a way to engage in some kind of physical intimacy with your partner every day. This may seem like a lot but take some time to plan it out and start doing it. If you have been in a relationship for a while, use this as a way to recommit to your partner. Bring some new energy and spice to your connection. If you are just entering a new relationship, use this as a way to establish healthy physical and erotic contact that will remain throughout your time together. This will not only help you create more satisfying relationships, but it will also provide you with the foundation to find fulfillment and happiness in all aspects of your life.
About Joe Weston: Joe Weston is an international workshop facilitator and personal life coach. Born and educated in New York, Joe lived in Amsterdam for 17 years and now lives in California. He is committed to helping others embody spirituality and supports others on their journey towards personal fulfillment and empowerment. Joe brings a wealth of insight to his work based on many teachings, including Tai Chi Chuan and various spiritual traditions—plus his experience in theater and various organizational trainings. He also volunteers for the Liberation Prison Project, teaching Buddhism to inmates. To find out more about his workshops and his personal coaching, visit www.joeweston.com
Joe will be offering a monthly class in Oakland Ca, Full Body Meditation, combining different physical disciplines as a preparation for a successful mediation. Check for details. He is also leading a Respectful Confrontation Weekend Training in Oakland on February 5 - 7, 2010 and he is offering a 25 dollar discount to RealJock readers. For more info: http://www.joeweston.com/register
Joe is also co-leading a retreat in Costa Rica called Sacred Elixir for Men: learning the healing power of yoga and intimate touch. For details, check here