The Battle Between Heat and Heart: Intensity vs. Intimacy

The Battle Between Heat and Heart: Intensity vs. Intimacy

By Drs. Ginger and Bill Bercaw






This recent sampling of magazine headlines screams to us all that porn star sex is what we should be striving for.  The message is that if you are not having the kind of sizzling hot sex that everyone else must be having, there is a new technique, pill or cream that will allow you to have it.  Our cultural expectations have shifted sex to a mere physical performance, the more intense the better.

There is certainly nothing wrong with experimenting with new ways to enjoy sexual experiences.  In fact, one of the cornerstones of our Sexual Abundance model is novelty, and this model does not place any kind of a ceiling on enjoying sexual pleasure.  But when the main goal of being sexual becomes “Let’s go all out to see how hot we can get it,” sooner or later you are bound to have challenges.   The magazine articles above not only reflect our culture’s idealization of very intense sexual experiences, they supply an endless array of options to constantly turn up the heat.

Many of these options, like increasing risk, watching porn together, or even exchanging pain can yield short-term boosts via dopamine surges to the brain’s reward circuitry.  This is what keeps you coming back for more, and can even be perceived as bonding by virtue of sharing an intense experience.  This is actually intensity masquerading as intimacy.  The way this cycle typically plays out is that more external stimuli are needed to get the same effect, or that one partner becomes uncomfortable with new sexual activities that are pushing them beyond their comfort level.  Once your efforts to keep surpassing the last performance reach an inevitable ceiling, a cascade of frustration, resentment and even despair usually follows. This isn’t sexual liberation, it’s sexual restriction, and we’ve seen this cycle wreak havoc in countless clients’ sex lives.

Another common scenario involves one partner who uses online porn (often secretly or in quantities much greater than his partner knows), and has less interest in sexual intimacy with his partner.  She then begins to fear that she is not enough to meet his sexual wants.  Often this actually is true, not because of anything having to do with her, but because his brain has become trained to expect a level of sexual hyper-stimulation that no experience with a real human being can replicate.  The online porn can also skew his expectations of sexual normalcy: We have heard many accounts of sex acts demanded that never would have been on someone’s radar if not for viewing it repeatedly online.  We have heard just as many stories from partners (“porn widows”) who feel as if they might as well not be in the room during sex because it feels so disconnected.

These are the consequences of intensity-driven sex.  In fact, there is an absolute Law of Nature involved: Pursuing sexual intensity chases intimacy away.  But the intensity path is often what people think of first when attempting to rekindle a ho-hum sex life.  Pursuing intimacy is actually a much better remedy, as it ultimately allows you to let go sexually and to enjoy each other in a very pleasurable, connecting way that is grounded in presence.  And as long as the letting go is occurring within parameters of mutual respect and comfort, it is a true win-win.  This is the freedom of Sexual Abundance.  When you are living with Sexual Abundance, you will be having your most enjoyable sexual times together because they will be your most connected sexual times together.  When your emotional intimacy is in alignment with your sexual intimacy, you can savor the pleasure so much more than when the sex is hot, but that’s all you’ve got!

It is completely understandable to be drawn to the quick fixes that are everywhere you turn.  The road to more intimate sexuality takes a little longer to travel, but the rewards are significant, lasting and renewable.  One man we worked with told us, “I used to be so focused on giving her orgasms that I could hardly enjoy myself.  Now I tune in to her eyes and let myself notice how awesome everything feels.  We both like it better this way!” The reason for their appreciation is simple: They found the trade-off from intensity-focused sex to intimacy-focused sex to be more connecting and pleasurable than they ever imagined.  And so can you!

Intimacy-Enhancing Bedroom Ideas

Take a sensual bath or shower together before jumping into bed.

Take turns caressing a non-sexual part of each other’s bodies before any sexual touching.

Kiss like you did when you first met!  Do this for at least ten minutes before getting naked.

Open your eyes! (Look at each other while having intercourse).

Share gratitude- let each other know how you enjoyed and appreciated your time together

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