Intimacy and Relationships, Life Lessons, Sexuality

What Is an Intimate Adult Sexual Relationship?

Is there a gap between what you were taught in Sex Ed at school and what you’ve experienced in real life?

Let’s face it, we don’t know what we don’t know. If you were asked to create a delicious four-course meal from scratch that would be enticing, balanced, and healthy for your dinner guest, where would you begin? Personally, I would begin by freaking out. If you’re a skilled chef, this assignment would be easy, right? But for someone like myself, who was never even offered Home Economics in school, I would be at a total loss.

I don’t even know what’s served in a four-course meal. I know appetizer, entrée, and dessert. I thought appetizers were the first course. I’m missing an entire course. And as for “balancing” a meal — what exactly is a balanced meal — does that mean I have to offer vegetables; and if I do, do they have to be green to count? If they do have to be green, I’d also like to know whether or not a box of frozen peas would be considered as cooking “from scratch” because I think it does, as long as I add some spices or something to them. I guess green peas could be enticing if I added enough butter and cheese, but then that might subtract from the healthy part of the equation. And speaking of healthy, a healthy dessert just sounds like an oxymoron to me.

So, if our culture, our churches, our families, and our friends all think that we should eventually be in an intimate adult sexual relationship … where the hell are we expected to learn how to do it?

If current data on the divorce rates is any indication, adult relationships have been miserably failing for the better part of the past thirty years or so. What the hell happened? It’s obvious that adults have been entering marriages without being properly taught the skills of effective communication, a deeper understanding of interpersonal expectations, healthy emotional boundaries, and how to be committed to their intimate lives. So, if our culture, our churches (synagogues, temples, or other homes of spirituality), our families, and our friends all think that we should eventually participate in an intimate adult sexual relationship — being successful at it, notwithstanding — where the hell are we expected to learn how to do it?

Colleges are talking a lot about everything sexual being consensual nowadays, but they’re not teaching young people how to build sexual and emotional intimacy. I wonder if the type of  “education” we are offering is a result of, or a precursor to, our new and often damaging “hook-up” culture. Because a lot of young folks are proficient at releasing sexual tension, but they woefully lack what it takes to participate in mature, emotionally healthy, sexual partnerships that develop and deepen over time. I’ve heard this is called “sharing parts, not hearts.”

For those of us who desire lasting relationships over brief encounters, answers deeper than “it’s complicated” are necessary. So, let’s break it down. Intimate Adult Sexual Relationship:

  • intimate:  arising from a close personal connection or familiar experience
  • adult: grown up; mature
  • sexual: of, relating to, or for sex
  • relationship: the way in which two people are connected

Having a mature, close personal connection with a sexual partner seems easy enough, right?

According to Elizabeth Entenman, “Being in a relationship means you’re in a relationship with your entire partner; you can’t pick and choose which parts you do and don’t like. Along with the good comes the bad, and being a partner means embracing all of someone.”¹ Okay I’ll admit, that does sound complicated, but not impossible.

So, maybe not everyone wants to be in a lasting intimate adult sexual relationship. But, for those who do, it’s important to acknowledge that fostering deep emotional intimacy is crucial to building a healthy, solid sexual relationship. If you are interested in learning more, I’d love to hear from you.


What Being in a Relationship Really Means,” by Elizabeth Entenman for The datemix via zoosk, September 3, 2017

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