When the stress and fear of the unknown forces us in, Sensate Focus allows us to restore intimacy with our partner.
I get it. It’s hard to find a place in life for intimacy and closeness lately, with the media screaming “social distancing” 24/7. Our enforced isolation is creating a much smaller world as fear of Coronavirus spreads.
Use this frightening moment to restore intimacy
Perhaps it’s a time to reset our pace. Maybe slow down and consider this historic moment a reminder of what is most important in life. If you’re living with a partner, your relationship isn’t on lockdown. In fact, you may find yourselves closer than ever. What you make of this temporary situation might permanently influence the quality of your relationship after life gets back to normal.
We’re experiencing a slower pace – an opportunity for practicing mindfulness, deeper connection, and more time together at home. Maybe it’s also an opportunity to expand your definition of “intimacy.”
Remember that intimacy isn’t synonymous with sex. Offering and receiving simple touch is a fundamental need all humans share.
As a certified sex therapist, I spend a lot of time with couples, helping them to restore intimacy and rediscover fundamental, loving touch. One of the biggest challenges is time. Work schedules, children’s activities, friends… so many things compete for our precious minutes.
But now, we’re faced with the opportunity to shut down all those outside attractions and turn our gaze within. How can you use a terrible, global challenge to improve intimacy with your partner?
Do you have six minutes?
The Sensate Focus Hand Exercise: A Healing Practice For Couples
There’s a lovely and astoundingly brief exercise brought to us by the famous sex researchers, William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Their exploration of sex and human behavior led to ground-breaking advances in the way couples therapists look at sex today.
Masters and Johnson called their approach to simple physical intimacy “Sensate Focus,” which means simply to focus on the senses.
An adaptation of the Sensate Focus exercise is the “Sensate Focus Hand Exercise” and it’s a powerful demonstration of the ability for simple touch to realign a couple and inspire real, meaningful intimacy.
How The Sensate Focus Hand Exercise helps restore intimacy
1.) You’ll each take a turn being the giver and the receiver of touch. You’ll need a simple timer and six quiet, uninterrupted minutes.
2.) Choose one person to be the giver of touch and one to be the receiver of touch.
3.) Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit such as a couch and minimize distractions.
4.) This is a nonverbal exercise and a lot of couples choose to keep their eyes closed.
5.) The person giving touch is to touch their partner’s hands one at a time from elbow to fingertips. Focus on expressing positive sentiments like love, gratitude, and joy through touch.
6.) As the receiver of touch, if you do not like the type of touch you are receiving or where the touch is being given, you may gently and non-verbally guide your partner’s hand to touch in a different way and/or place on your arm.
7.) As both giver and receiver, focus on the thoughts and feelings that come up. Also focus on and notice sensations. It is normal to feel some anxious or awkward feelings. Notice them and let them come and go.
9.) Now, set a timer for three minutes and begin.
10.) After the exercise, debrief with each other. What thoughts and feelings did you notice during the exercise? What sensations did you experience? Do you feel closer to your partner, further away from your partner, or about the same? How did it feel to be the receiver of touch? How did it feel to be the giver?
11.) Switch roles.
If you and your partner are trying to restore intimacy in your relationship, I can help. Call me.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash