I kept my word: yesterday afternoon, when my therapist asked me what I wanted to talk about, I told her I wanted to talk about sex. I explained everything I’ve explained here: my feelings about sex, my reactions to it and to the idea of it, how I want it in theory but rarely in practice, how it used to be so great, and how I can pinpoint the exact moment when all that changed.
“Something got tied up,” I kept saying.
“That’s a great image,” she said. “Can you describe what else happens in your body when you think about sex, or when Doug propositions you for sex?”
“Well…” I began slowly, thinking. “It’s like I shut down. Or a closing up, maybe, like a flower?” I thought of how women’s genitalia have been referred to as “opening like a flower” during arousal, and how sad it was that I was describing myself as a manifestation of the opposite. “And I think there’s, like, a personal space thing going on, too. If Doug tries to kiss me, a lot of times, it’s like there’s a forcefield that comes up, so my gut reaction is to dodge him or block his attempt with my hand.”
“So you have a forcefield,” she repeated, “but when you step out of it and go to him, you’re okay. But if he tries to come in, all these blockers go up and your body contracts.”
“That’s good awareness. I wonder if we might be able to try something. I’m going to move my chair a little closer to you – only about six inches – and I just want you to notice how your body reacts to that. Would that be okay?”
“Yeah.” I laughed. “But you’re not trying to have sex with me, so it might be different.”
“Well that’s true. It might be. But let’s just try it and see.” She scooted her chair up, then paused for a moment, sitting there six inches closer than usual and watching me. “What do you notice in your body? Anything?”
I was surprised. “I kind of want to scoot my seat back, now.” I couldn’t, of course. I sit on a couch, which sits against a wall.
“Yeah… I saw something flicker in your eyes when I moved up. Why do you think you want to move backwards?”
“I think it’s a perspective thing,” I said. “I’m used to you being a certain distance from me while we’re talking. And when you moved, I had to refocus my eyes to look at you. And it’s harder to let my gaze wander, like, to read the titles on the bookshelf behind you, because when you’re closer, it’s more noticeable if I don’t keep my gaze on you…. I don’t know if this is giving you any kind of answer you were looking for.”
“No, it’s interesting. So how about you ask me to move my chair back?”
“Why?” I asked, knowing immediately that I couldn’t bring myself to do it, just like I can’t bring myself to make phone calls or ask Doug to change sex positions.
“Well, so you can practice articulating your body’s wants and needs out loud.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “If you stay there long enough, I’ll probably get used to it.”
Either I’d successfully distracted her, or she knew I was uncomfortable and decided not to push it. She scooted her chair back, and then back again, so that now she was about six inches further back than usual.
“What happened now?” she asked. “What did you notice when I moved back here?”
I kind of giggled, then almost whined, “Now you’re so far away!”
This is what I do to Doug. I don’t want him to leave me alone, go to work so I’m by myself, or sit across the room and play video games; I want him next to me, cuddling, holding my hand, giving me his attention. But I don’t want him too close either; I don’t want him breaking into my intimacy forcefield. I want him just so, much like I apparently want my therapist’s chair just so, with not even six inches of difference.
I explained this connection to my therapist, who said, “So you have this one little pocket where you feel comfortable. That’s good. It’s good to know exactly what you and your body need.”
“It feels so complacent, though!” I said. She was startled by my word choice. “It feels lazy. There’s no risk and no reward. And it’s so unfair to Doug, to ask him to be exactly where and what I need him to be to make me comfortable, then turn around and refuse, or be unable, to fulfill his needs.”
We ended the session with her telling me I have a very loud, intolerant inner voice, who likes to tell me what I’m doing wrong all the time, who doesn’t love or accept me the way I am, and who cares way too much about how other people will react to what I think, say, or do.
“Why don’t you write about…” she started to suggest, then stopped herself. “No, the voice is loud enough already.”
And she’s right. I don’t need to dedicate a post to that voice; that voice lives here already, in nearly every post.