So, last week I introduced you to the Dual Control Model that is comprised of both accelerators and inhibitors (breaks, if you will) that are each on a continuum from sensitive to insensitive. Too much of either one and you're sure to become frustrated.
There are so many factors that contribute to the sexual accelerator or the inhibitors' degrees of sensitivity and insensitivity, but first You have to know these two important premises:
1. Our levels of sensitivity are relatively stable traits we are born with: think of it kind of like your IQ -- you can enhance it and enrich it, but you will remain within a certain range.
2. While you cannot change your innate sensitivity traits, you can gain an awareness of the elements that your inhibitors and accelerators respond to. So, for instance, you can reduce the threat of getting pregnant by being on birth control and therefore be more into the moment, thus removing a break/inhibitor. Additionally, you can gain greater awareness of the sensations that are more pleasurable, or expanding your view of what sex can be, thus enhancing the accelerators.
So what are the elements that factor into tweaking your responses?
There are so many -- Emily Nagoski wrote a whole book about them! -- but the one that has the most layers and depth is context (which is why I'll cover it over the course of several future posts).
Take a moment to think about your most positive sexual experience... (it's ok, I'll wait...).
Thinking about your most positive sexual experience will give you the blueprint you need
When you take that most memorable positive sexual experience make a list of the following categories:
- Your mental and physical well-being (were you stressed? were you feeling in top health? etc.)
- Your partner's characteristics (physical appearance? did he smell a certain way? etc.)
- your relationship characteristics (what were the power dynamics? did you feel desire? trusting?)
- Think of the setting (was it private or a public location? was it in person or phone? etc.)
- Think of the other life circumstance at the time (did you have a job? was everything ok in your family life? etc)
- Things you did to turn yourself and each other on (did you fantasize alone or with your partner? what were the body parts that felt the most pleasure? was there intercourse? etc.)
You can see just from this list that context is very complex and multi-layered.
I had seen a couple who were struggling with their sex-life. They were really trying hard to get back on track (date nights, lingerie, candles, you name it, they were throwing it in there!). When they came to see me and they each did this exercise and compared it to their current context, they realized what had been right in front of them the whole time: they had two very young kids at home!
I'm not suggesting that you can't have great sex when you have young kids, but I am giving you a permission slip that be more forgiving toward yourselves and each other, and that a variety of the elements I listed above are not at their most optimal.
Back to my couple: they were stressed, changing diapers, frequently battling new germs that their pre-schooler was bringing home, they had both put on some weight and couldn't find the time to take care of what they were putting into their bodies, all sense of privacy had gone out of the window since baby#1 who loved to get out of her new toddler bed and visit mom and dad at night, and finally when there was so much pressure around date-nights and the expectations of sex on those special occasions, sex was no longer satisfying.
When we went over the list, I will never forget how they burst out laughing. They realized they needed to take a step back (or 10!) and re-evaluate the elements that made for their most memorable sexual encounters with each other to re-introduce the most desirable elements.
For them, it started with their individual health -- they both made time to workout again, they started cooking together a few times a week (healthy meals). Knowing that they could not yet control some of the other elements (kids, demands from kids, and so on), focusing first on a few of the most manageable things not only allowed them each to feel good about themselves individually but also to be in it together, encouraging each other.