Do you ever feel as though you’re just going through the motions? Perhaps it’s hard to enjoy sex because you’re always stuck in your head, feeling disconnected from your body to the point where it doesn’t even feel like it belongs to you.
It can sometimes feel like a physical block, a complete dissociation from felt sensation, where you enjoy sex and intimacy on an emotional level but can’t connect to the physical enjoyment.
Maybe you struggle to maintain eye contact, feeling a lack of connection to the person you’re with, unable to really tune into what you’re both feeling.
Feeling challenged by staying in your body during sex is a challenge with staying in the present moment. For whatever reason, intimacy feels scary and vulnerable, and so instead of staying with the experience you leave your body, which is where we feel the present moment, and come into your mind instead – and the safety of thinking about the past or the future.
In this way we move from feeling connected to feeling protected. We sacrifice connection in order to protect ourselves from the vulnerability of real, in-the-moment intimacy.
Because of this, the process of learning to stay in your body during sex is a process of helping yourself to feel safe again. When we feel safe, we can be with our whole experience, without needing to escape into the mind.
Here are some tools you can use to do just that.
1. Slow down
Slow everything right down. Give yourself time, without pressure: instead of trying to make sex work last thing at night, or when you know you’ve got something else you need to do soon, make some space for exploring pleasure at a time of day when you’re feeling energised and relaxed.
It can also help to experiment with practices to help you stay in your body outside of the bedroom, so that when you do want to have sex you’re doing so from a place of feeling yourself a little more. This means that when sex is initiated, instead of trying to connect to your body and to pleasure in a short space of time, you might already be halfway there.
2. Release expectations
Feeling the pressure of expectations is a really fast way to create insecurity. Reframing sex as playfully exploring pleasure, instead of needing to reach an outcome, can help here. What happens if you take orgasms off the table as something to be achieved? What happens if you share an intention to follow pleasure, rather than ‘have sex?’ What happens if you experiment with different forms of physical intimacy instead – massage, playfighting, watching each other self-pleasure?
Opening up to different ways of exploring sexuality and pleasure is a great way to begin to find what feels good for you. It might be that your body needs lots of physical closeness with another person in order to really feel safe enough to have sexual contact with them – and that’s ok.
3. Notice your breath
Getting stuck in your head means you may be triggered into a stress response, which is what happens when we feel unsafe. When this happens our breathing usually changes too: perhaps your breath becomes shallow and fast, or constricted. You may notice that you hold your breath on either the inhale or the exhale. This can be a great indicator that you’re not fully present any more, and for some people lengthening and relaxing the breath can help to come back to presence.
(It’s worth mentioning that often orgasms are associated with tension and holding the breath, and this common type of orgasm is also known as a peak orgasm. There are alternatives to this where orgasm can be experienced with relaxation and deeper breathing, but that’s a post for another day.)
4. Pause when you need to
One of my favourite tools is to ask for a pause. This works best when you have the conversation before sex is initiated, and explain that you might like to ask for a pause to come back to your body, so that you can feel connected again. Instead of placing blame or responsibility on the other person, this allows you to ask for what you need. If and when you do need to pause, you can take that moment to ask if you’d like something different: maybe to be held, receive some massage, or to try a different activity. Maybe it’s simply some reassurance.
This means that in those moments when you notice you’re not feeling fully present, you can take a minute to feel into what your body needs to feel safe again.
5. Trust your responses
The responses you have – whether it’s to numb out, escape into your mind, or dissociate from your body – are there for a reason. Chances are that there’s some fear showing up, even if it’s well hidden. Trying to push through or ignore the disconnection doesn’t help – it only serves to reinforce the experience of sex feeling disconnected.
Reframing the responses of numbing out and disconnecting as a protective behaviour is helpful here. What is that protection telling you? What does that protection want you to do, or say, or ask for?
6. Connect with the present moment
There are some simple, practical things you can use to reconnect to the present moment, too, some of which may be helpful if you have taken a moment to pause. I detail some of these in my free PDF of tools for feeling more secure in relationship.
One of my favourites is to consciously notice the textures you can feel with your hands: what are you touching right now? What can you feel? Texture, temperature, density? Taking in as many details as you can with curiosity is a great way to gently ground yourself back in the moment.
You can do this with all of your senses, too, not only touch. What can you notice in the room around you? What sounds can you hear? Are there any tastes or smells?
7. Ask for help
Finally, it’s most helpful if you can speak with your partner about your desire to feel more connected to your body during sex. Knowing that they’re on side can make those moments when you need to pause easier, and they may be able to help in offering things that can help you feel more safe.
If you’re not in the kind of relationship where you’re able to do this right now, and instead enjoying encounters with less emotional involvement, it can be as simple as letting them know your needs when things begin to escalate:
“Hey, just so you know, I might need to ask for a pause. If I do, it’s because I want to make sure I’m staying present with you, rather than getting lost in my head. Does that feel ok with you?”
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