The Sexless Father wanted to really capture his intensely personal conversation with his wife, without distorting the message. So they recorded it.
This was originally posted at The Sexless Father.
Last week a reader wrote in and asked exactly what I mean when I say intimacy. It seems that I’ve used the word interchangeably to mean a variety of different things in the essays here. The Mother and I started a conversation over dinner the other day to try and figure out exactly what intimacy means to us. Just as it was getting interesting, the bedtime meltdown started and we had to cut the conversation short. Once the kids were asleep, we had a brainwave. As we prepared and ate breakfast the next morning, we’d put a tape recorder on and capture the whole conversation to share on the blog. What follows is a transcription of that conversation, edited somewhat for clarity. The Girl was helping us cook and eat, and some (not nearly all) of her interjections are included in the transcript to give you a better idea of what conversation is like at my house.
Father: So we’re talking about intimacy.
Father: And I kind of want to know what it means to you as far as what is intimacy? We talk about it and it has all these different dimensions, all these different connotations, and it’s like, what’s the most important part? Or what’s the essential part.
Girl: Mommy, I drank all my cow milk.
Mother: Yes, you did buddy… I don’t think you can separate the most essential part. I think a lot of the different levels of intimacy all feed into each other, and once you lose one then they all kind of disintegrate.
Father: So what are the different parts? What are those different levels?
Mother: Well, obviously there’s sex. And there’s physical intimacy. And actually, there’s two different kinds of adult physical intimacy, right. Because there’s sex and just like…
Girl: I’m a big helper.
Mother: You are a helper… Whatever that entails, whether it’s manual or oral or regular old penis in vagina. But there’s also the intimacy of knowing that you like your head scratched.
Father: Knowing how I like my head scratched.
Mother: Which is not something that usually comes up in our sex play, right?
Father: Right, it’s not sexual at all.
Mother: But it is something I do for you that is very intimate.
Father: Deeply, yes.
Mother: So there is what we’ve termed in the last several years as “adult intimacy” but there’s also the intimacy of just knowing someone’s touch preferences and touch needs.
Father: And to a large extent what we had talked about as “adult intimacy” and what we had termed “adult intimacy” was just sex. We were using the phrase as sort of a way of saying sex without saying sex, because it’s uncomfortable, because we don’t want to say it in front of the kids, because of all sorts of other sort of cultural things.
Girl: Mama, I’m cooking with my papa.
Father: That for whatever other reasons that’s what we say, but that’s not the whole thing. That’s not even most of it.
Mother: That’s not the whole thing. But those are two pieces and I think it’s important to deliniate those two different pieces of intimacy, right? Because I have that kind of “I know how this person likes to be touched” intimacy with many people. With our children, with my good friends, and with you. I don’t have sexual intimacy with anyone else.
Father: Is that important?
Mother: I don’t know. But, well, I think it is in the context that intimate touch does not have any kind of sexual connotation necessarily – although it can certainly lead there. And therefore it can be shared safely with a larger more diverse group of people, that includes children.
Father: Sure. We don’t have sexual touch with our children, but we do have intimate touch with them.
Mother: Exactly. I mean, I feed our kids with my body. That’s pretty damned intimate. You know, it’s not something I do with anyone else.
Father: But the exclusivity factor. That I only do this certain kind of touch with you, is that important? Why is that important?
Mother: Because I think the nature of intimacy is that it’s something that you don’t have with…
Girl: I did enough! I did enough cheese!
Mother: You did enough cheese. Watch out for that hot pan.
Father: Do you want to put the spices in? Just take that and dump it in.
Mother: Let me go back to that. Because there are all these different levels of intimacy, right? There are things that I only share with you, things that I only share with the kids. And part of what makes it intimate is that exclusivity.
Father: I disagree. Or, I don’t see it that way. I see that what makes intimacy is a closeness, a knowledge of the other person that makes a touch intimate. It’s the quality of the touch that feels intimate, and that’s sort of an ‘I know it when I see it’ kind of thing. But certain touches feel intimate, and I can’t say what makes them feel that way.
Mother: But that is, if you go back to a closeness with a person or with people, that is something that evolves. For me, with most people it takes me a really, really long time to get to a point where I would consider them intimate. Where I’m really willing to share…
Girl: I did enough cheese.
Mother: …deep feelings. Really close touch, not just like hugs or a little shoulder, but like, holding hugs. Arms around waists.
Father: But let me ask you this. The kind of physical intimacy that you have with your close friends is of a similar, not identical, but a similar kind between all of these different close friends that you have. That you would have similar hugs, touches, cuddles with your sister and your dear friends. And having that kind of hug, touch, or cuddle with your sister doesn’t lessen in any way the value of having that kind of intimacy with your best friend. It’s not an exclusive kind of a thing, and the lack of exclusivity doesn’t damage the quality of the intimacy. What’s different about sexual intimacy that it is, you know, a wholly exclusive thing?
Mother: I don’t think it has to be. I think it is for me. I didn’t make any kind of comment about other people’s…
Father: No, and I mean for you. What is it about this one… I guess we’re talking about what intimacy means for us, right?
Father: And I’m really curious about this. What is it about this particular kind of intimacy that…
Mother: I don’t… I mean, partly it’s just that I honestly don’t think about, fantasize about, view other people. Ever. As potential sexual partners. Ever. Like the closest I’ve ever come is the first time I snuggled with our friend Pete. I was like, “oh, if I wasn’t married, he and I would make a really good pair.” But it wasn’t like I was fantasizing about him in that minute. I was saying, “oh, this could have been.” And that’s something that’s me. I don’t know if that’s because of my family and my upbringing, or if it’s because it’s just who I am. I don’t know if it’s nature versus nurture.
Girl: I did enough cheese!
Father: So I want to talk a little bit about the interplay between physical, nonsexual intimacy and sexual intimacy, and kind of where those things, where those lines are. Because I think that they’re…
Girl: I did enough cheesy, mommy.
Father: I think that they build on each other in a marriage. I think that you can’t really have one without the other. Or if you can, it’s really tricky.
Mother: It gets really tricky.
Girl: Papa’s cooking the butter and he won’t give me a turn to cook the butter!
Mother: Well that’s a concern to take to him. I can’t help you. I’m not the person at the stove.
Girl: You can cook much better. You can cook too.
Mother: I can cook too. But it’s Papa’s turn. He makes the best breakfast.
Father: So we’re talking about intimacy and the physical nonsexual aspects of intimacy, hugs, cuddles. And the sexual part of marital intimacy. Up to and including vaginal intercourse…
Girl: Papa’s cooking the potatoes!
Father: …which I still kind of think about as the epitome of sex even though it’s not the only kind of sex. And that’s probably a little bit of straight person bias.
Mother: I don’t think it’s necessarily even straight person bias. I think for you, it’s your favorite kind of sex.
Father: It’s my FAVORITE kind of sex!
Mother: It’s the holy grail, man, for you.
Father: And I imagine for you too, when, I mean, back in the day it seems like it was the one.
Mother: Yes. Generally yes. I mean, it was the most satisfying kind of sex we ever had. But that doesn’t mean that your holy grail is THE holy grail.
Father: No. And I don’t want to make it a big universal thing.
Mother: And I just want to be clear that we’re talking about OUR intimacy.
Father: We’re talking about our intimacy, and we’re talking about sex, and we’re talking about everything up to and including vaginal sex, the power of that. So, I completely lost my train of thought. We got off on that tangent.
I was talking about… Oh, the difference between non-sexual intimacy and then all of the different kinds of sexual intimacy that we can and could have. And I’m thinking about several weeks ago before we started the blog, so a couple of months back I guess. And you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, and you’re sick all the time, you’re feeling really awful, and this was sort of where I had my moment of “EEK! I’ve got to do something about this” because we had no intimacy of any kind. And probably you would have been able to handle some cuddles at some point except that I couldn’t go there without feeling sexual. It had been such a long time since we had sex.
Girl: Mommy, Papa couldn’t cook the eggs because the eggies are in it.
Mother: Papa’s cooking the eggies my love.
Girl: HE’S NOT!
Father: I am cooking the eggies, honey. It had been such a long time since we had had sexual intimacy.
Mother: And real sexual intimacy, not just, you know, spread your legs get ‘er done kind of sexual intimacy.
Father: God, it’s been years since we’ve had real sexual intimacy at this point.
Mother: We had some, we had a couple of fine times while conceiving this baby.
Father: Okay, that’s true.
Mother: But it still wasn’t really what you were looking for.
Father: And you weren’t really enjoying it, you, I think it was like, you didn’t really enjoy anything up until we were kind of actually having sexual intercourse and it would seem like you would start to enjoy it a little bit but then I would come really fast and then it would be over, so you would get this minuscule ounce of pleasure out of it.
Mother: And it was like, you know, as good as a good movie. But not a great movie.
Father: And just for the readers. I totally would have gone down on you before or afterward or done anything at all to give you pleasure, except that none of that stuff does anything for you.
Father: It’s either bad or it’s just not particularly good.
Mother: So it is.
Father: So it is, but I don’t want anybody to think that I was failing as a lover.
Mother: Sweetheart, you are GGG to the max.
Father: Thank you dear. But at any rate. So during that period, that sort of worst black-hole time where it felt like this was going to be going on forever, I felt like I couldn’t just cuddle with you because it would end up being sexual for me, and I would end up being really frustrated. And I guess I could have ended up being really frustrated, and I did. I mean, we cuddled a little and I would go and beat it off, and it would be okay. But it really impacted my ability to enjoy those non-sexual cuddles.
Mother: And it impacted my ability to enjoy them too, because whether or not you had a hard-on I know that you really want to have sex, and you want to have sex all the time because we never have sex, and so therefore even if we are just cuddling there’s still this pressure to make it not just a cuddle.
Father: And even if we’re working really hard to make there not be pressure, I mean, we put a lot of effort into making it not be a pressured thing, but it’s still there, because you know that I want it even if I’m pretending not to.
Girl: [singing] Sammisoon. Sammisoon.
Mother: [singing] Sammisoon. Sammison. Are you feeling a little hungry?
Father: I’m just going to make a plate for The Boy and he’ll be up soon.
Mother: Good, yes.
Girl: Mama, mama. My brother is hungry. Do you know him? He’s hungry. Mommy I really want some mango!
Mother: After we eat our breakfast we can cut up the mango. Will you do me a favor? Will you go put some pee in the potty before breakfast so you don’t pee on your chair?
Father: So, but you were saying something last night. Because I was saying that I think the lack of sex makes the cuddles bad. And you were saying that you felt the opposite way – that the lack of cuddles…
Mother: The lack of cuddles makes me less inclined to want to have sex, right? Because my body hasn’t been woken up to the reality of sort of non-functional touch. I do a lot of cuddling the kids and holding them while I cook, and I have one actually growing inside me right now…
Father: Kind of a big deal.
Mother: So I’m kind of being touched that way all the time, right?
Father: Right, this sort of weird internal touch that probably feels a little bit like something out of the movie Aliens.
Mother: No. Nothing like the movie Aliens.
Father: Have you even seen that movie?
Mother: Yeah, I saw that movie. It was before I got scared by movies. Sister!
Father: Sister, get down please.
Mother: We’re going to have the mango after we eat our breakfast.
Girl: (Crying) Mommy, I’m big!
Mother: You’re very big.
Girl: (still crying) I can reach that mango!
Mother: But I think because touch is such a big part of – I think that it’s not a – I don’t think it’s a causal relationship. I don’t think it’s that you want to have more sex and therefore we need to have more cuddles, or that I want more cuddles and therefore we need to have more sex.
Father: Right, having more cuddles doesn’t…
Mother: I think the two are, a-ha! intimately linked. And that they…
Father: That they play into each other and that they add to one another, but that you can’t really have one without the other.
Girl: Mommy, I’m thirsty!
Mother: Yeah, because… Do you want some water?
Father: Or at least we can’t.
Mother: We can’t. Other people… There you go, buddy… and we’ve just talked about physical intimacy. We haven’t touched on the other things that make up…
Father: Emotional intimacy, and…
Mother: Emotional intimacy, mental intimacy.
Father: Let’s pause this and get breakfast on the table.
[tape paused to get breakfast on the table]
To be continued in “An Intimate Conversation, Part Two”
Photo—Couple enjoying magazine from Shutterstock