Have you ever been in a relationship where the sex was amazing, but most everything else sucked?
You know … as long as you were physically stuck together, everything was great. Meanwhile outside the bedroom you couldn’t agree on much (unless it was to have sex outside the bedroom).
I broiled in the fire of such an experience for five years during the longest and most significant intimate relationship of my life.
Our sexual chemistry was finger-licking delicious. Always. In five years, we probably had less than a 3-pack of condoms worth of bad sex moments.
Even those were still pretty damn good.
But with our clothes on, we were a disaster. We saw too many things differently, and after a few months together we didn’t really trust each other. She was sure I wanted to be with other women (I didn’t) and I was sure she was always trying to hurt me emotionally (she was, but only because she was in a lot of pain herself).
When things got too tense, I would run away and she would fight harder, which just made me run farther. I always came back once things calmed down though, in large part because the sex was addictive. I would have never stayed around in all that chaos if the sex wasn’t so good. (good thing I stayed around, too, because that relationship has taught me countless massive lessons that I get to turn around and share with others now)
I was 36 when it ended, and clearly still completely ignorant about how to create a relationship that works. Rather than learning how to make it work well, I only knew how to make it exhausting.
Which brings me to the point:
Great sex is never enough.
I know it may already be crazy obvious to some people, but it isn’t obvious to everyone all the time. It’s certainly not obvious to the one who’s caught up in a sexually gratifying but turbulent relationship experience.
The sex was divine.
The other 23 hours of the day were stressful – I even had nightmares about it while I slept.
I tried everything to make it better: couples therapy, self-help books, personal-growth workshops (together and solo), going to a spiritual church and praying to whomever, running away, staying put, and plenty of other curious things I thought might finally bring us blissfully together on all levels.
Nothing worked because we didn’t have all of Dr. Pat Allen’s 3 C’s of relationship:
Oh, we definitely had that one! At least sexual chemistry. Anytime. Anywhere. Any way. Our bodies just fit. Our pheromones flickered bright and brilliant between us like a Las Vegas light show! Chemistry was never a problem.
We were missing this one in some seriously fundamental ways. Although we had enough compatibility to live in the same apartment, it seems we didn’t often live in the same universe.
Here’s a simple example: She was very private and hated it when I shared openly with other people what I was struggling with, particularly if it involved our relationship. I was a budding young writer and life coach. Sharing my struggles in service to both learning and teaching was foundational to how I would offer my best service to other people struggling in their own lives. In fact, I often reflect that I could not do the coaching work I love to do today, or write the way I love to write, if I was still in that relationship.
We didn’t have this one, either. In my coaching work, I’m finding that many couples struggle with communication. While modern culture is trying to teach us how to communicate more effectively with each other, many of us still lack the skills to communicate well.
Further, we rarely explore the differences in how masculine-oriented people and feminine-oriented people communicate. Which is tragic, because that’s what intimate relationships essentially are: interactions between the very different expressions of masculine and feminine being (which are independent of sex organs).
People who consistently express more masculine energy (man or woman) tend to communicate more at the level of thoughts and ideas. People who are more feminine-oriented in their expression (man or woman) tend to communicate at the level of feelings and emotions.
Ignorance of this dynamic causes great strain in relationships. I was always trying to meet her at the logical “level of complaint” while completely missing the emotional body that her words were often pointing at. In other words, I was so intellectually focused on the details of her complaints that I failed to hear her yearning for emotional connection with me. That largely ruined us.
This is a common strain I see among the people I coach. It’s not something we’re taught in our masculine-oriented culture, yet it sabotages us constantly.
Of course many couples do have great communication skills that help them navigate through inevitable storms. Good communication is essential for great relationships.
Great sexual chemistry is wonderful, but it can be so overwhelming that it’s easy to overlook compatibility issues or stressful patterns of communication.
Without compatibility and communication, those thrilling bedroom fireworks can set your whole life on fire, leaving you wrecked and distraught and addicted to a physical love with an awful hangover.
Or, once the physical novelty wears off, you’re left staring at a partner with whom you can’t really talk to or do the things you love to do.
Either way, great sex alone just doesn’t work out well in the long run.
Can you recall how missing one (or more) of the 3 C’s played out in your past relationships? Your current relationship?
Please share your story in the comments below. I’d love to know which C you were missing or affected your relationship the most.
You never know who you might be helping by sharing your experiences and vice versa.
**(Dr. Pat Allen talks about these 3 C’s of Relationship in her book, “Getting To I Do”)