Tapping the Sexual Potential of Intimacy


Good sex isn’t about just elevating your heart rate — it’s about elevating your heart.
-David Schnarch

The crossroads between our genitals and our neurology turns out to be a super highway. One of the most powerful transformers in the new science of brain re-wiring occurs during deep intimate connection. As some of the mystery of sexual intimacy is revealed through the emerging science of neurobiology, we begin to understand how we are shaped and re-shaped by the people we love and who love us back. The brain actually rewires itself as we open wide to physical love within a committed relationship.

Enjoying intimate connection in a committed partnership is an important distinction because the intimacy we share with someone who loves and is committed to us is qualitatively different from casual sexual encounters. I recently heard my 18-year-old son tell his brother, “Don’t bother with hook ups; it is way more chill to have a girlfriend who really cares about you.” I was gratified that he can already sense how committed relationships change your life compared with the easy hook-up.

In fact our personal relationships are the most gentle and profound mechanism of growth throughout our adult life. As we mature in our relationships we move toward the process of differentiation, wherein each partner develops more of themselves and stops looking to the relationship to validate them. Allowing ourselves to be different from our partners fosters passion and intimacy. By learning to effectively hold onto ourselves in our relationship, we circumvent the classic responses of men sacrificing the relationship to their sense of self and women sacrificing themselves to their relationship.

Building a relationship that has room for both people to be themselves is by definition flexible and resilient. It is also fertile soil for transformative intimacy. David Schnarch, best-selling author of Passionate Marriage and most recently Desire and Intimacy believes that doing the important work of becoming separate individuals actually allows you to enjoy some of the best sex of your life. By not needing to agree or get the approval of your partner, you are free to explore and express yourself deeply and authentically and, which is perhaps the biggest turn-on when it comes to tapping the sexual potential of the relationship.

A powerful technique that Schnarch teaches to tap this potential is called “Hugging Until Relaxed.” The practice is deceptively simple, yet remarkably transformative. Both partners stand on their own two feet and hold each other for at least ten minutes; more if necessary, until you are both completely relaxed into your selves and then into each others arms and presence. This holding period is challenging, given that the average hug lasts 5 seconds. Many of us never really learned to relax in a hug. Learning to relax fully in the arms of someone else, even someone you have been intimate with requires a new level of trust in yourself.  Knowing that you can really open up and not lose yourself in a sustained hug triggers your brain to think differently. It creates what Schnarch refers to as a “Somata-sensory” moment of meeting, which means that we meet each other deeply with our whole body.

Even more daring and profoundly erotic is the exercise of open-eyes sex. Although historical and spiritual texts have long described the practice of looking deeply in to the eyes of the beloved during sex and orgasm, a whopping 80 percent of people do not look at their partners or have sex in the dark. This is an amazingly powerful tool of seeing into someone at a point when you are most deeply connected, but also clearly differentiated from each other. I remember the first time I practiced this technique and was stunned not only by witnessing my husband in a way that I had never known him, but more deeply by realizing how far apart I kept myself from him at the moments when he was inside of me. It is a practice that changes everything and, now it turns out, the change remolds your brain wiring.

If you want to learn more about this don’t miss the recent interview I had with Dr. Schnarch who is brilliantly articulate and one of the most learned teachers I have ever spoken to about the art of loving.

24 comments

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

Disgusting porn. Yuk.

Jenny S.
J Stergiou5 years ago

"Building a relationship that has room for both people to be themselves is by definition flexible and resilient. [..]doing the important work of becoming separate individuals actually allows you to enjoy some of the best sex of your life. By not needing to agree or get the approval of your partner, you are free to explore and express yourself deeply and authentically and, which is perhaps the biggest turn-on when it comes to tapping the sexual potential of the relatioship."
This...this was music to my ears. I've always believed in being yourslef in a relationship and accepting the other for who they are (or never start a relationship with them in the first place!) and that having a partner who doesn't need someone to agree on everything with them is crucial. I'm tired of seeing people in relationships around me who want their partner to agree on everything they say/do/believe in in order to feel "happy". So thanks for that.

Lika S.
Lika S.5 years ago

It's also the safety of knowing he won't be afraid waking up in the morning to your hair being unkempt and no make up.

C L.
CL L.5 years ago

There is nothing more satisfiying that falling sleep on your partners arms after a wonderful session of love making...the feeling of complete safety and love is amazing! I hope everybody at one point or another gets to experience it

Michele G.
Past Member 5 years ago

Enlightening. Thanks Wendy :)

Dan R.
Dan R.5 years ago

I would have called this "Tapping the Intimacy Potential of Sex", rather than the reverse.

"Making love" just meaning having sex is a vulgarity. Making love is much more than sex. Love is the emotional side of compassion, which is about concern for another's welfare and happiness. "Making love" is about doing nice things for each other, as well as oneself, including through sex, to generate more love.

I also consider it vulgarity to show as much of bodies as possible, except for certain banned areas, often seen on TV and the web, usually making the scene rather unrealistic.

I certainly see the advantage of a "committed partnership", but I don't think it should be overly recommended as the only way. We should all feel some love for each other and express it in the most love-productive ways and degrees.

Manuela C.
Manuela C.5 years ago

I'll certainly try the hug until relaxed thing!

Donni Schick
Donni Schick5 years ago

WOW! Excellent article! It is clear and encourages me to re-think my experience. I'm sharing this with my friend!

Jane H.
Jane H.5 years ago

What an amzingly fantastic article!! WOW HOT

Mary L.
Mary L.5 years ago

Thank you, I really like the gist of the article.