One of the most common questions people ask me after reading my blog about exploring sexuality is “What was the turning point?” If discrepancy in desire is the most common issue raised in a sex therapist’s office, then my marriage was certainly in good company! So what was the trigger that allowed us to shift from decades of habitual interactions to a brand new set of experiences and surprising revelations?
Before discussing the turning point, I think it would be helpful to describe my internal resistance first. For most of our relationship, I had little interest in trying to change things. Of course I thought it would be nice if things were different for his sake, but I believed low libido was just who I was. I directly experienced that my desire was lower than his, and what could be more real, more true than that?
Because of this “truth”, I believed that any change in the way that I felt or behaved would somehow make me less ME. That I would be acting or pretending for the benefit of my partner and our relationship. I believed that if I genuinely tried to change, and failed, that I would give my partner false hope, ultimately leaving us in a worse place than where we began. Bottom line, I feared and did not believe in the possibility of lasting change.
So what was the turning point? It was the day that someone asked me this question:
“What if it was not change, but growth?”
For whatever reason, that question hit me hard. After frowning and throwing a mini temper tantrum in my head, I felt a subtle shift in perspective and realized that what I had seen as an unsolvable relationship challenge for years was in fact fertile ground for diving deep into myself and achieving personal growth. I realized that as much as I thought I wanted it, a happy, idyllic marriage in fact would have been a graveyard of boredom and stasis.
This line of thinking allowed me to ask myself some new questions:
“What if I don’t even recognize my own desire anymore?”
“What if I don’t actually know what I want sexually?”
I’ll admit that even writing those questions now brings up feelings of embarrassment and guilt. I feel embarrassed that it took me until I was nearly 40 years old to realize I hadn’t fully explored my sexuality. I feel guilty that what drove me to eventually really care about addressing the discrepancy in desire in our relationship was not that it would benefit my husband, but that it would benefit me.
So that’s it. That was the big turning point, in all of its simplicity and shame-filled glory. Those were the questions that enabled me to begin to deeply and systematically (I’m trained as an engineer folks, that’s how I roll) research and discuss everything possible about sex. I’d say my journey is about 1% finished, but I no longer instantly respond “Yes, I like that” or “No, I don’t like that” when presented with something new sexually. Instead, it’s more like a “Maybe, let me learn more” or “I’m not sure, let’s try xyz variation of it and see”.
My own journey continues to have its ups and downs, helping me balance confidence with humility. There are days when I feel in complete control of my sexuality and connected with my partner and other times when I feel like my libido has gone missing, never to return again, mocking my naïve belief that I’ll ever have my sexuality all figured out.
This month, I entered a master’s program in counseling psychology to continue my journey of education. No matter where you are on your own journey, this quote from my professor, Dr. Maller, beautifully summarizes my wish for you:
"We come to serve you in a spirit of exploration, of finding out what is true for each of us, and of using times of difficulty to increase our skillfulness and our intimacy."
This blog reflects my real-life experiences. I'd love to hear about your experiences, so let’s continue the conversation in the comments section below.
You can also check out these resources or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in classes or coaching to explore your own sexuality. I am a sex and relationship coach and if I can't personally help you, I'd be very happy to connect you with other wonderful sex educators, coaches and therapists.
New to this blog and want to start at the beginning? Check out this post about why I started a blog about sex.
© Pam Costa, 2015