For the last few weeks, I have been offering my nine tenants of a happy sex life and how the Giver/Receiver exercise can help you practice them. Let’s get to number seven.
Phase 7 – Being Selfish
Most people are raised to believe that selfishness is bad. And it certainly can be. There are plenty of people who manage to get their orgasm regardless of whether they connect with or think about their partner, but that is not a wholesome selfishness. That is bred of insecurity and smallness. I am talking about being selfish in a good way. I am talking about being able to take pleasure, ask for what you want, and allow yourself to soak up pleasure with abandon. This kind of selfishness is crucial to great sex. Having the strength to want and receive is a powerful thing. Being able to relish your experience, dive into sensation, and luxuriate in sex brings passion and dimension to your sexual encounters. This ability enhances not only your own enjoyment, but also your partner’s. It is attractive to want! You are a much more compelling sex partner when you thoroughly enjoy yourself.
But this selfishness is hard to do when you have been raised to be a people pleaser. Many of you were brought up and trained to always be looking for ways to be of service, keep the peace, be easygoing, and roll with the punches. As a people pleaser, you may take pride in your ability to accommodate and not need too much. Your friends appreciate your easygoing attitude, and you may find yourself coasting through life without much conflict.
And yet, like so much in life, this comes with a cost. If you focus only on pleasing others, you may not know what you want or have any sense of how to figure that out. You may have devoted so much time and energy figuring out what others wanted and trying to give them those things that you never took the time to tune in and see what you would choose.
Over time, some of you have learned to bury your desires because it was clear early on you weren’t going to get them met anyway. They may be buried so deeply by now that you can’t seem to find them. But somewhere inside of you there are things you want. And over time, if you ignore those wants and desires, a feeling starts to smolder. It may be unhappiness. Or resentment. Or maybe just a worrying feeling of being unsettled. But something simply isn’t right.
At some point, going along with what others want becomes a problem. Some of you will hit a wall, suddenly, and can’t go along anymore. Others get to this place more gradually, with a consistently growing and gnawing sense of dissatisfaction and unease. In whatever way you get there, once you do, there is no turning back. Your desires will make it to the surface one way or another. The question is, are you going to wait for them to explode on their own? Or will you proactively start looking for them now?
There is another cost to always being the one who accommodates: your partner never gets the opportunity to give to you. There is something profound in being able to please someone else. If you don’t give your partner the opportunity, you are depriving them of that experience. When in Thailand many years ago, I was watching the Buddhist monks begging for rice among the crowd. In talking to my tour guide, I became intrigued when he explained that they were providing a service: offering a gift of the opportunity to give. This applies to all of us. Allowing yourself to want (and allowing your partner to give by fulfilling those wants) is a critical part of a good relationship—and good sex.
A balanced relationship is key to a great sex life. You need to be able to think about yourself in addition to thinking about your partner. In great sex, there is a dynamic of being both selfish and giving. If you or your partner only has sex for the other person’s pleasure, or if you’ve only had sex in the way that works for the other person, you are out of balance. It is not sustainable to keep pouring from a cup that doesn’t get filled. Eventually, it feels draining at the least, and toxic at the worst. Once sex starts to feel negative, sex is going to suffer unless you step up and bring your own wants into the equation. It’s important to be able to be selfish.
Having the strength to access your desire and then act from that place opens sex up and creates a more fulfilling experience for both people. Letting your partner give to you, as well as share in and enjoy your pleasure, can make their experience better. Sex starts to get hollow if it’s always about one person’s enjoyment, even if that one person is you. Ideally, you create a flow where you each get a chance to think about yourself and receive.
To practice being selfish in your life, you can use the same strategies I suggested in the stage where you were accessing desire. Think about yourself and ask for what you want. Let yourself focus on what would make you happy. Rely on your partner to take care of himself or herself and to speak up if they have a problem. Remember, you don’t have to take care of them. See what it’s like to indulge yourself.
Using the Giver/Receiver Exercise – Being Selfish
The zeal of selfishness takes openness and confidence as well as a strong alliance with your partner. You are exposed in sexual desire. That’s why it takes practice and growth. You can use the Giver/Receiver Exercise to stretch the limits of your pleasure and your ability to revel in it. You can ask for exactly what you want, and you can practice taking the space to think only about what would feel best, letting your partner set the limits they need in order to participate with you in a healthy way. Watch what happens as you explore positive selfishness!
Pitfall: Inability to Put Yourself First
It’s hard for you to think about yourself. You may have spent your life focused on the pleasure of the person you’re with, or you may have more recently decided that you need to worry more about your partner.
You worry that your partner won’t like your choice, so you censor. If you believe that the touch should (or shouldn’t) be sexual, you limit your choices to those expectations instead of really tuning in to see what you want in that moment. Or you ask for what you want, but you watch your partner for their reactions (their comfort) and gauge from there. You spend the whole time wondering if they are okay, instead of being in your own experience.
Breakthrough: Giving Yourself Permission to be Selfish
You can think about yourself, to be selfish in a good way. You take up space and let yourself have a turn. You allow yourself full access to your desires, and you relish receiving that touch. You trust your partner will take care of himself or herself, freeing you to let go of all those cares and savor the experience. You feel unburdened, free, and expansive. It feels good!