If it’s meant to be – it will work out. Won’t it? At 37 years old I began exploring what I wanted from sex and relationships. Prior, I travelled with an expectation that I should know how to be intimate with other people. Deep down accompanied by competing doses of fear of being alone, and unwillingness to go there.
To be fair, being a good person with positive intentions and expectations coupled with conditioning: ‘This is how things are done/my parents did it’ – can take you quite far in a relationship. It took me to 13years and I suspect it’s what has kept many more relationships going.
If I waited long enough, the frustration that occasionally surfaced from not feeling seen, from not connecting and feeling disconnected – would pass. We would continue on. After all, I was in love, and love is all you need.
It is fascinating that I lasted so long with this frame of mind. This, in the context of knowing that when I finally look back over my life, what I owned or achieved at work will count for nothing. What will matter most is relationships, and especially anyone I shared an intimate relationship with.
I think about this from the position of 8 years later. It seems my intimate relationships are the only part of my life where I was on some level content to work from trial and error. Unconsciously and conveniently in collusion with my partners.
In my 25year career in mainstream and alternative health, and more recently through events; caring for people with the benefit of an evidence base makes so much sense to me. Studying formally at high academic levels, I worked as a nurse for twenty years, mostly in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). The NHS culture during this time strongly supported life-long learning and practice development. I lapped this up.
But how I related to those I was sexually intimate with, my friends, even people I worked with; had not made it into my plan for learning. Nor had it been included in my early sex education which focused on procreation – or avoiding it.
With hindsight, my belief was that wanting to learn more about sex and relationships was for those people who were broken, whose relationships were on some level, failing. I lived with good intentions and good enough. The other option would be admitting I was a failure. A failure is how I felt when my 13yr marriage began to crack and eventually broke down.
Motivated now to learn more about intimacy, I found a focus on counselling therapies, a plethora of books and magazines. This was helpful to a point. The reality of these formats was they couldn’t communicate how it feels to connect, how intimacy feels. It could not teach me how to be more present, nor integrate previous experiences. They ignored essential elements of adult learning: clarity of purpose, an experiential component and respect for past experience.
Around my hometown of Melbourne, I visited groups and clubs where sexuality was a focus. I found some had dress codes, asking me to change the way I presented myself. Or exploring your sexuality meant being sexually promiscuous. Some had rules or ways of interacting which the other attendees just seemed to know. Others were highly experiential, with little or no information shared to facilitate learning.
I felt uncomfortable and confused. I wasn’t after a quick fix but it felt like it could take years to understand and I didn’t feel like I wanted to change the way I looked or behaved to fit in. I’d already resisted doing that during my high school years.
In 2012, persevering, I attended a weekend event exploring the spectrum of sex and relationships. In one of the first workshops, I had to simply look into and hold the gaze of a stranger – and breathe. For all our discomfit we may have standing in a busy supermarket under fluoro lights. Naked. I was seeing them and I was being seen – and I knew it.
I now understand I was experiencing connection without sex and without an agenda. It was an experience that was initially uncomfortable for my mind, but my body knew this was what I had come for. That weekend event was to change my life on a personal and professional level, more so than I could have imagined.
Later that year I began running that same event under its new name, Celebrating Sexuality. Parts of the structure remain, however, over time I have gained more clarity about the impact of the event, not just on individuals, but also the wider political and social agendas.
Commonly people arrive in a similar way as I did, with little to no clarity as to why they are there. What they have in common is a willingness to share their curiosity, learning, fears and struggles; aiming to live their lives more fully.
Yes, I am providing people with an amazing weekend experience; but also with strategies and tools for moving forward. I am regularly contacted by the attendees, months and now years later, describing their experience as life-changing. They also keep coming back.
The most important thing I learnt thus far is that connecting with myself first is the enabler to connecting more deeply with others. It is not always easy, but loving myself has allowed me to love others more deeply in return.
Indeed, love is all you need.
p.s. Celebrating Sexuality has helped hundreds of individuals around Australia to feel more confident & free to express pleasure and desire, learn more about how to please their partner or future partners, learn more about what pleases them; and to feel safe to experiment.
If you feel you don't know where to start, or you just want more, now is your opportunity to take a radically different approach and understand how you have been standing in your own way.
Let us help you to finally experience sex & relationships in a way you deserve.