Wow, has it really been that long? Almost 30 years since that first time? And three children thrown into the mix too?
I could fill a book with what I’ve learned along the way, but I’m challenging myself to whittle the list down to just five points.
So, where do I start?
Probably the biggest surprise over the years was that not everyone wants sex as often—this had never occurred to me before starting on this long relationship with sex. The less-than-useful discussions when I was a teenager always suggested that men had strong libidos and women needed to watch out.
How false that turned out to be!
What about the women with strong libidos and the men who just aren’t as interested? Why was that never mentioned? I think there’s a whole article in itself lurking here, about how a woman with a strong sex drive finds emotional and physical satisfaction. Thirty years on, and I’m not sure I have a definitive answer to that, but I handle it with more dignity than I did in my twenties.
Another surprise was that even if you have given up on ever making love the way you dream of, it can still happen.
Before I ever had sex, I had an image of how it could be—swept away on a cloud of bliss with my soul mate. I know I’m not alone in saying my first time having sex was anything but that blissful cloud, fun though it was. And the years that followed were marked with experimentation, sensual exploration and pushing the boundaries.
I left not only that first decade but also the second, still feeling as if I hadn’t ever made love fully.
I had even given up on the dream entirely as some old romantic fantasy when—wham!—it happened: I had the most blissful, loveful, ground-shaking experiences that were way beyond anything I had ever imagined. It took more than twenty years for me to finally feel as if I’d really made love. And then it changed my life.
When it is good, it is heaven!
But no matter how wonderful or dreadful, sex never stays the same—which was something else I had to learn. You can be with the best lover in the world, but they won’t always love you as you want to be loved—and you won’t always love them as they want. And you can be with the worst lover in the world, but that can change too.
Yes, some people are naturally intuitive when it comes to sex, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always use that intuition when we’d like them to. They can get distracted, stressed, disinterested. And others may seem like the clumsiest partners to start, but can end up being the most attentive and focussed.
Being able to navigate the ups and downs of sex with different partners and through different stages of life is now a real skill that I appreciate more each year.
Then there’s one of the harder things I had to learn: sometimes, you just have to ask for what you want.
Not true for everyone, I know, but I found asking for what I wanted when making love one of the hardest things—for lots of different reasons. In the first place, I didn’t want to insult a new partner by suggesting that they didn’treally know what they were doing, which is how I felt if I had to prompt them.
Then, it also just felt totally unromantic to have to ask—surely he should know what I wanted if he tuned into me. What seemed even worse, as the years slipped by, was that I found myself having to actually ask for sex itself—because if I didn’t, it didn’t always happen by itself.
This last was perhaps the hardest challenge of all, as it meant looking at all those shadowy parts of myself that felt unattractive and unlovable. But I’ve learned to ask for what I want—and it’s a hell of a lot better than fuming in silence.
Above all, though, one thing that has been a real discovery is that sex can get better as time goes by.
I’ve read all kinds of theories about why this might be but my own theory is that we can relax more into who we are over the decades, becoming more tuned into our own sources of pleasure and feeling more at home in our bodies. Nothing interferes more with being able to make love with total abandon than worrying about how we look or an inability to relax into pleasure.
Like all skills too, practice makes perfect—and thirty years have offered plenty of training ground.
So, here’s to another three decades of yearning, longing and pulling my hair out in frustration as it doesn’t always work out as I want it to. But, especially, here’s to another thirty years of blissful lovemaking that leaves my head in the stars and my legs like jelly.
(Originally published on Elephant Journal, 2013)