A woman recently told me she was thinking about leaving her husband, because, she said, she’d caught him looking at pornography. “All the time?” I asked. “No, just once,” she answered, “but I’m sure he’s done it other times.”
Whoa! I thought. She should see what’s crossed my computer screen. I wondered if I should let her comment pass, or be a friend and give her a brief lesson on sexual energy. Friendship prevailed.
I started by talking about sexual addiction—when the desire for a sexually triggered endorphin rush becomes so repetitive and overwhelming that a person can no longer meet his or her responsibilities—going to work, caring for kids . . . Like rats in Skinner boxes, all addicts can do is keep clicking for treats, putting themselves and their families at risk.
“He isn’t that bad,” she assured me.
“Then let’s talk about sexual energy,” I went on. “It’s our life force—the heat beneath the surface that fuels our passion, enthusiasm, and drive. Without sexual energy, we’d never be creative, never accomplish a thing. We’d cease to care and cease to live.” I asked if she knew any 30- or 40-year-old couples who had already hung it up, acting as if life had passed them by. “A few,” she said. I told her that happens when people fail to access and exercise their sexual energy. They become hollow and lifeless—ghosts of their former selves. “Each of us needs to acknowledge the central role sexual energy plays in our lives, take responsibility for nurturing it, and find ways to keep it churning—for ourselves as well as our partners. It’s an essential part of our job descriptions.”
“How do you ‘keep it churning’ as you say?” she asked.
“By smelling a rose, staring at the clouds, taking time to breathe, and checking in with your body.”
“Anything else?” she asked.
“Sure. Spotting great-looking people in restaurants and feeling the thrill down to your toes.”
“I hate when he does that!” she barked.
“He’s not plotting to skip town,” I said. “He’s running sexual energy, breathing in the beauty around him, enjoying a moment’s excitement, and keeping himself alive. Later that evening, you’ll be the beneficiary; she won’t.
“But how do I know he isn’t thinking about other women when he’s making love to me?”
“Let me clue you in. He is! He’s thinking about a lot of other women, he’s maybe thinking about men. He’s thinking about his girlfriend in second grade, the images he enjoys on the Internet, the woman he caught a glimpse of in the restaurant, and a thousand other things that facilitate his running sexual energy. That’s what he’s supposed to be doing, being the best husband he can be. At the same time, he’s also thinking about his rising penis, his curling toes, his deepening breath, and your tender touch. He’s thinking about how much he loves you and how grateful he feels each time you give free reign to your sexual energy, marrying yours with his.”
I then described for her my favorite scene in the movie Don Juan DeMarco when a sixty-something Marlon Brando, in bed with his wife, Fay Dunaway, refuses to allow sexual energy to slip away, telling her: “What happened to all the celestial fire that used to light our way? … No fire, no heat. No heat, no life. … Baby . . . you and I are gonna go out of here like Haley’s Comet!”