It seems a dichotomy that couples who share lovemaking are often hesitant to talk openly with each other about this most intimate act. Keith and I have witnessed this shyness many times when we speak to couples. It’s common for couples to approach us after our presentations and tell us how much they appreciate our honesty, and then to add: “We haven’t talked openly with each other since (my mastectomy, my prostate cancer surgery, etc.) but that is going to end tonight. Thank you so much.”
Our book was published in 2002, so we’ve been speaking about sex publicly for sixteen years now. Still the most often asked question we hear is, “What gave you the courage to speak and write so openly about your sex life?”
My answer has remained the same: It wasn’t courage that prompted me to write our story, it was the realization that no such story had been told—and it was needed. In the midst of our loss we wanted to know what other couples did to maintain/regain intimacy due to sexual dysfunction, but there were no books written by a couple sharing openly. That’s when I vowed if we ever made it through…I would tell our story, with the hope that it might help at least one other couple not have to struggle the way we did—or feel so alone. Now, sixteen years later, there are still no books written by couples who tell their story with such honesty.
Hesitancy to talk about sex/intimacy is still prevalent today. Even as our society seems progressive, open, and some might say, obsessed; talking about sex is still a taboo topic.
I think feelings of shame and embarrassment are the major reasons people remain silent.
There are many illnesses and conditions that cause people to feel embarrassment and shame, the two most common categories being mental illnesses, or any condition or procedure which physically impacts and/or alters one’s sexuality: including cancer, disfiguring surgeries, burns, and accidents, among others. I myself initially felt embarrassed and ashamed when I was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Humans are unique sexual beings; a rare species that engages in sex not solely for the purpose of procreation but also for the pure pleasure of experiencing orgasm, closeness, as well as the undefinable term “love.” We use the terms “intimate” and “intimacy: in trying to explain the depth of what one can experience when sex is elevated to near ecstasy; yet we still blush, stammer, stutter, and avoid honest and forthright conversations, even with our partners, in trying to describe what turns us on, what turns us off, suggestions for possible new positions, toys, gadgets, etc.
I write from personal experience. I was taught sex was taboo until you married. As a rule-following child I “held out.” Still, even while I practiced restraint, I questioned how can something be so “bad” and taboo…then become miraculously be so “wonderful” overnight?
As Keith and I “grew up” sexually—by reading, experimenting, and physically exploring—we vowed we would never let our children grow up naïve and uneducated1 regarding intimacy; no more so than we would ever let them remain uneducated about any other aspect of their life. Consequently, when we decided to tell our story, they not only supported us but were proofreaders as well.
Speaking about intimacy after so many years is no longer intimating for Keith and me, however we never assume the same is true for our audience. We are very mindful to tell our story as the journey it was: a learning, and relearning, of how to be vulnerable, honest, and willing to express and share one’s emotions and needs with the intent of receiving and giving physical and emotional pleasure to each other. A natural, normal, expression of human love; not something to be ashamed or embarrassed of.
Keith and I were in our late forties when we almost stopped making love altogether. It was one of the saddest periods of our marriage. The best medical care in the world, couldn’t fix us. It was only when we started talking intimately to each other could we heal.
When couples approach us after our presentation, holding each other’s hands and saying, “You’ve saved our marriage. We haven’t made love in two years, but that’s going to end tonight,” we know they have broken the silence, overcome shame and embarrassment, and will never be silent again.
1 One of the best and first books we read to our children was “Where Did I Come From?” by Peter Mayle.