Safe. Vulnerable. Intimate.

Safe. Vulnerable. Intimate.

This is the formula for love. For sexual intimacy enjoyed in its fullness. Sex is just something people do. But sexual intimacy, adding a richness, an intensity, a fullness to the experience – that comes out of this formula. And perhaps formula makes the whole thing to sterilized, to scientific. Organic is a better word. The natural processes resulting out of a place of mutual safety, fostering mutual vulnerability, where then both parties can begin to explore intimacy, expressing itself in physical love-making that draws out the best in each other, an intensity expressed only through climax.

I have had invitations for sex since grade nine and my first girlfriend. We fooled around, driven more by curiosity then anything as she was my first kiss and my adolescent self wanted to know more about what was going on – apart from the giant diagram of a penis played for my co-ed sex-education class. That relationship came to a place, as you recall, to where she had kidnapped me, telling me that I was going home with her that night. I declined. Not because I didn’t want sex, my body would easily betray me in that department, but because it didn’t feel right emotionally. I didn’t feel safe.

Then there was the girl who in the end wanted me only to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. The invitation was there when I was trying to show off to my brother and asked for her shirt, to which she was more than willing to comply, with me in the room, but I declined, standing outside the closed room waiting for the shirt. It was both an immature and mature thing to do. I wasn’t ready. Again the contradiction raged within me.

The next real opportunity that came up to have sex was with my girlfriend whom I hooked up with on the same day as becoming a Christian. I pursued her physically, wanting to consummate our relationship, and she did as well, but her past trauma, made any amount of intimacy difficult – if not impossible – and in the end our times of cuddling only resulted in her suddenly freaking out and beating me up. I realize that those times of being beat up were more than likely a result of a retraumatization of her own sexual abuse history but I can say that now, having completed a Master’s degree in Counselling, but back then I was really confused as to what was going on – and in particular, what it was that I did in order to elicit such a violent response.

This, then, put a damper on my desire to be physical, to seek out intercourse. With my next girlfriend, she would talk a lot about us making love but it was always cryptically in the context of us getting married, adamant that we remain sex-free during our courtship. The irony was, of course, that both of those last two girlfriends left me to go have sex with some other guy. Go figure.

And so I found myself in this new relationship and my attraction to her was so much more than physical – so much so that I felt overwhelmed by it all. I connected to her emotionally, which was intense in of itself, considering I had been so disconnected to my emotional self for so long, I often found myself overwhelmed with all that I was feeling. I connected to her spiritually, with some of my fondest early dating memories coming out of praying with her, reading Scripture with her, singing worship songs with her. We would spend hours talking, dreaming, sharing past stories, hopes, future plans, exploring who each other was.

Oh yes, then there was the kissing. To hear her breathing next to me. To feel her hands on me. To gently taste her lips. Oh yes, there most definitely was attraction. But I had no experience in what to do next and I was scared. I longed to be with her and as she granted me permission to explore her body with my hands I responded slowly, unsure of what to do, not wanting to dishonor her, desiring to show her my love for her. Somewhere in that exploratory time I realized that if what I needed for love was to feel safe then perhaps my partner needed that as well.

So I approached her always with the desire to keep her safe. I would kiss her only when she would grant me permission to do so. I would embrace her when she indicated that she desired to be embraced. Such was our dance. I was learning how to dance and neither of us were leading. We were learning together, careful not to step on each other’s feet, attentive to the needs of the other. And so we explored. Carefully, wonderfully, sensually, safely, explored.

In these increasing places of safety created and explored through our intimacy we began to introduce a deeper level of vulnerability. On my part, I would share with her how I was feeling, what I was thinking, as we would embrace, when we would share intimacy with one another. My words, tentative, unsure, revealing my inadequacies, my fears, my silliness, left out there in a place of risk, shared with my lover, for her to care for – to do with as she pleased. And she responded, and our dance would pause as necessary to explore how each other was doing, caring for each other in a growing way with every step we were taking.

It is of no surprise then when that moment came and I gave her my virginity. It was the last thing I had that I could offer her. A place of ultimate vulnerability, birthed out of place of safety, and fostered in a bed of intimacy. And it was beautiful. This dance with this woman was all I longed for, all I ever needed. I could picture myself dancing with her for the rest of my life. Almost twenty-five years have passed us by now and the dance continues, the tentativeness, the tenderness, the safety leading to vulnerability leading to a place of incredible intimacy.

The dance of love.

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