For a natural act, sex can be surprisingly challenging. It is remarkably easy to feel threatened, hurt, rejected, or self-conscious in intimate moments. And that just makes sense, because it is during love-making that we are most vulnerable and exposed – we are even without clothing. This opens the door for toxic emotions to seep in, such as those mentioned above. And when feeling these ways, it’s easy to revert back to a less mature state of mind, and stop acting our age. So instead of behaving as the adult we like to think we are, we somehow find ourselves acting quite adolescent – yet feeling completely justified in doing so. And when one partner expresses their “inner juvenile”, the other is usually quick to follow. So now we have two adolescents trying to make love – not usually a smooth experience, particularly when their biological age is several decades older.

So, for example, assuming a heterosexual couple, he comes on to her and she’s not interested. She agrees anyway, trying to be a good sport. But her heart isn’t into it, and she tells him to skip foreplay. This is not a good idea because now her body won’t get the warm-up time necessary to relax, open, and really connect with him. He feels this rejection, which makes him feel small and ashamed – like he’s 16 again, being sexually rejected for the first time. He shuts down emotionally so as to not feel that discomfort, closes his eyes, and becomes robotic in his movements. His stiffness makes her feel used and unloved – and now, in a nanosecond, it is her turn to revert back to an emotional age of 14. And so it goes, as each partner feeds off the discomfort of the other. Now there is no adult in the room to turn things around.

These scenarios are not uncommon. But with a little effort, you don’t have to participate in this kind of sexual melodrama. At the first feeling of discomfort, check in with yourself. How old do you feel? You’ll be surprised that you can actually identify it pretty clearly – the stubborn adolescent, the hurt child – these aspects live on in all of us, and they tend to show up at inopportune times – such as the bedroom. As a result, what could have been a sweet opportunity for connection and comfort becomes a Petri dish for hostility and hurt. But the good news is that if you get in the habit of checking in with yourself, you can drastically improve this dynamic between you and your partner. So, in the example above, either one of those folks could have intervened as an adult and turned the situation around. Rather than shut down, he could have maturely said “I really appreciate your trying, but I can tell you aren’t into this. How can we make this better for you?” Likewise, she could have said “I feel so distracted right now. But I do want to connect. Can we make love tomorrow night instead?” Or, “Honey can you open your eyes? You feel so far away.” In fact there are endless ways to maturely respond to the above scenario. The key lies in acting your biological age when doing so.
So remember, it’s easy to regress when making love because it’s such a vulnerable experience. But if you respond immaturely, the situation is likely to degenerate. So do yourself and your lover a favor in those moments. Take a deep breath, ask yourself how old you feel, and then find a more mature part of your psyche to take charge. Consistently making love as an adult adds depth to your intimate connection.