I run into this from time to time and I often have to remind clients that sexual distancers like sex. Yep, they sure do. Here is an important point to keep in mind however; they like sex to happen when they are ready for it, when they are expecting it, when they want it. Simple, right? Well, read on and see how not simple it can be.
Seduction is often the pick-me-up that awakens their sexual desire. They enjoy being tempted, coaxed, reassured, charmed, and sweet-talked toward the point where it feels slightly dangerous, and where they feel just a bit out of control. Here is something their partners miss; their feeling safe emotionally is a precondition. They also like sex to be just right for their partner too. They want to deliver sex to their partner that will earn them the gold seal of 100% satisfaction.
Luxuriating in the present moment is usually their favorite way to enjoy sex i.e., simply, purely, and completely. That being said, for the distancer, sex is just one of the ways they receive and give love. It is not necessarily the preeminent avenue, and that is what the rest of us pursuers find confusing at times. Some sexual distancers are also emotional pursuers who gain much of their closeness through talking and being together in non-sexual, yet to them, intimate, even affectionate, times and ways. They understand sex to be something that streams out of the framework of a warm connection and not as thesource itself.
Their frequency of sexual relations is rarely the measurement in their minds of love, commitment, or attraction to or for their partner. Their fantasies revolve around making their partner happy in relaxed, stress-free harmony. They really do want to be sexy, skilled, attractive, and most importantly, good enough.
Yet sex feels uniquely risky to them for two reasons:
- The intensity of what they feel personally in the sexual act
- The frequent disappointment of their partner in their performance
Distancers like orgasms as much as anyone, but sometimes they suffer from the feeling that the depth and intensity of their orgasm exposes their soul. Many of them come from childhoods where they were disregarded or neglected and learned to carry on without expecting simple recognition of their needs. For them, sex can awaken primitive unmet needs in their body and it frightens them.
To trust their lover to always meet their needs (body and soul) sometimes feels like unbearable vulnerability to them in the context of their background. Some sexual distancers were unrestrained in their younger days and are now afraid of what might happen if they let their desire run amok again. So from that, they contain and confine themselves. Controlling the frequency, the position, or what happens during a sexual encounter manages this wild force and helps them to feel safe again. While their partners may be surprised or angry to find they willingly go it alone, masturbation is one of their ways to keep the experience in their own control. They are able to avoid the demands and unpredictability of a partner, even one they love deeply.
Some sexual distancers were
unrestrained in their younger
days and are now afraid of
what might happen
if they let their desire run amok again.
When the lovemaking seems to be going well and their sexually pursuing partner wants something even more or expresses frustration by word or deed, sexual distancers feel their fragile vulnerability was a gift gone too far. They quickly erect that too familiar wall. Take extreme care when you ask them what would make the sex better. A distancer will hear a covert criticism that they weren’t good enough in your question regardless of how innocently you posed it. When their pursuer partner checks in, does this feel good? Are you getting excited? Perhaps only to make sure the sex is satisfying, distancers start to feel anxious and pressured. It is similar in experience to the introvert being forced to talk before they are ready.
Take extreme care when you ask them
what would make the sex better.
The sense that their partner is disappointed in “how much” or in “what happens” puzzles and disturbs sexual distancers. They are particularly good at measuring. They are more than willing to change and grow sexually, but it’s that ever-present sense of criticism that shuts them down. So take care; they can hear it even when you don’t mean it.
In marital snarl-ups, the pursuing partner always seem to be the one measuring everything around them. Distancers hate the measuring, as compared to the feeling of it all. The intensity of their partner’s reactions can also be unsettling at times. Fear of being swallowed in their partner’s disappointment can make them shy away from another encounter. Starting back with sex again feels like a ridiculous invitation for more criticism and discomfort. So for the pursuing partner, just take a lesson and live in the moment and enjoy all of it.
The intensity of their partner’s
reactions can also be unsettling at times.
If the distancer’s partner’s sexual instigation is blasé or the technique less than skilled, sexual distancers shrug, perhaps disappointed but willingly shying away from any thought of confrontation. If they told you once, they won’t nag you. In their mind, if it matters to you, then you will make the change. To bring up differences would, in their mind, be unwelcome. To their way of seeing things it would only bring more intensity to an already loaded issue. Pass.
If the relationship has converged around sex, there are some things that a distancer will do to stop the pursuer from criticizing and spoiling the moment besides withdrawal or lose desire. Here are three:
- Do you own work first. Examine your own sexual development. What were the implicit and explicit messages in childhood about sex? A “good-enough” childhood lays the foundation for later sexual capacity. If your needs were acceptable and you were reassured that you were not a burden, you can trust others with your desire. Give it a try when you are ready with the right person.
- Commit to being knowledgeable about your body. For women, read Name that Yoni and for sexual technique, read Michael Castleman’s Great Sex. If sex means love to your pursuing partner, then bump up your commitment to set time aside for intimate connection—above work, above children, and above laundry. Discover ways to turn yourself on so you feel motivated to approach your partner sexually.
- Remove sex from your shared power struggle. Realize how much pleasure you personally miss when the sexual frequency remains low in your relationship or marriage. When you are ready, challenge yourself to accept more risk in the bedroom if things are too routine or dull for you. If you have participated in making sex part of a quid pro quo arrangement, you have already become alienated from your own need.
Regardless of whether you are a distancer or a pursuer, if you withhold information about ourselves from ourselves, the price you pay is the inability to experience acceptance and love. There is always going to be lingering doubt, “if they really knew me, they wouldn’t ask…if they really understood me they would….
By facing ourselves fully, learning all we can about ourselves and our partners, we learn who we are and can embark on loving ourselves “as is,” allowing us to become more serene and still. As we come to quiet acceptance of being a mixed bag of greatness and flaws, we can become more real and authentic with our partner. This gives them the chance to love us back.
It is the quiet sitting with what’s true, the deficiencies and magnificence that comprises us both that the magical love will lightly touch down, filling our life with exquisite beauty and gratitude of both distancer and pursuer alike.
How are you living with a little distance in your life or relationships?
Schedule some time and we can talk about how things are going and where you would like to go.