People often have the mistaken view that great sex only happens in youth and deteriorates with age.
But very often the reverse is true. Younger people are frequently unsure and frightened of sex – having not had much practice. They also experience considerable social pressure to rush in and be physically intimate with partners before they have built adequate psychological intimacy.
In my work as a clinical psychologist for 25+ years, I have seen the significant problems that can arise when people get ‘physical’ too early. For example, it often leads to difficulty with desire, arousal, performance and orgasm. More importantly though, the wider the gap between physical intimacy and psychological intimacy – the higher the level of ‘alienation’ (a mental strategy that results in feelings of disconnection, estrangement, anxiety, hostility and/or repulsion).
This happens because, if we don’t know our partner very well mentally, yet we are trying to interact with them at very close (and confronting!) physical quarters – then our emotional response is often fear.
When we get scared, we generally try to flee, repel and create distance. However, if it is impossible or socially awkward to either ‘acknowledge’ our fear or to physically flee the situation, then we tend to run away mentally instead.
It is the mental behaviour of becoming ‘alienated’ that allows us to run away. We get stressed, withdraw, repel, disconnect and retreat internally. Unfortunately, one of the inevitable costs of utilizing this ‘strategy’ is that we lose empathy for our partner (since empathy primarily depends upon connection and ‘alienation’ is all about disconnection).
Interestingly, most people completely lack awareness and cannot acknowledge their own fear in these situations, so they reach for alcohol or drugs to subdue their feelings – which only further diminishes their capacity to connect.
As further camouflage, people often engage in ‘alienated’ sexual behaviour and fantasy that ultimately lacks empathy and kindness (either towards themselves or others). For example, they may adopt sexual behaviours that create even more alienation like becoming sadistic or masochistic.
On the other hand, taking years and decades to really ‘know’ your partner psychologically, reduces alienation and often leads to profound feelings of safety, trust, kindness, love and empathy.
These are the emotions that are ultimately crucial for truly great sex. The sort of sex that diminishes fear, alienation and ‘aloneness’ and instead creates loving, friendly and genuinely ‘intimate’ connection.
It is this deep, empathic connection that can help provide us with the strength and support to be brave and strong out in the wider world – and this connection only gets better with age!