How much are you limiting your relationships by framing intimacy in terms of sex? Dan Griffin talks about his own experiences.
This article was originally posted at DanGriffin.com.
First, this is not an article about the newest sex toy you can purchase on Adam and Eve dot com. It is about a core concept from our groundbreaking curriculum, Helping Men Recover, describing the vehicle through which so many men experience all forms of intimacy. When feelings of closeness, affection, attraction, love, and connection pass through the “sex funnel” they become interpreted through the lens of sex. We are mostly unconscious of it but it affects so much of how we behave in relationships. While women are also impacted by this idea, they are not raised to view sex as something that will literally save them and solve all of their problems. I don’t know how much of it is nature and how much is nurture, but I do know that when I was getting married and the husband and wife couple leading our marriage class told us, “Women have sex when they feel loved and men feel loved when they have sex”, I had not heard any other maxim that felt truer for me. That remains true for me. And, as I have spoken to other men, that idea has resonated greatly with them as well, and it seems to have little to do with whether a man is an addict or not.
Think about it.
If you are a heterosexual man, how many times have you felt close to another man and held back from expressing those feelings? Said differently, how many men feel attraction to or affection for a man and recoil or instinctively distance themselves, if only momentarily, from the man because they are not able to separate the feeling of affection or closeness from sex? For some men it is not momentary, but rather a constant saboteur of their relationships with other men keeping them at arm’s distance, at best. This is not a cognitive experience – it is deeply rooted inside of us and operates on a visceral level. But it is there for many of us keeping us from experiencing the depth and power of connections with other men. Of course, this concept overlaps with homophobia – a huge issue in the recovery community – but that is another post unto itself.
The sex funnel also interferes with our relationships with women. One way this happens is that many men have difficulty simply being connected to women without letting sex get in the way. Sometimes it is just the thought of sex. Or the inability not to have sexual feelings come up and interfere with our interactions. Of course sexual feelings and thoughts are going to come up at times and there is nothing wrong with that but when we attach to them and let them slip into the funnel we head down a path that complicates our feelings. This may sound a bit overthought, but when we create a space for men to talk about this it is amazing how many see how often it operates in their lives.
What’s my point?
My personal experience has been that awareness of the sex funnel and being able to notice when basic feelings of connection and intimacy are about to slide into the narrow and limited confines of the funnel I try my best to notice them and simply be with the feeling without judgment. This practice works with my wife as much as it does with women I meet in the trainings I do or at the conferences I attend. Whether it is thinking that sex is the connection I need from my wife when it is not to thinking that a woman who is attractive is worth more of my time than a woman I don’t find attractive, I am constantly navigating the impact of the sex funnel. I have discovered after many years of trying that sex alone cannot create the connections I desire. I also know that when I don’t allow myself the full spectrum of feelings of intimacy I limit my relationships with men and women and when I do that I limit my experience of life. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of that.