In Grief, Resilience, and My 66th Birthday Gift, a short story in the book Best Sex Writing 2012—The State of Today’s Sexual Culture, Joan Price talks about losing her husband and the pain and time it took to rediscover herself as a sexual being. Price spent her life writing about sex; she had a multiplicity of experiences and partners; she married her husband Robert in her late fifties, wrote a book about sex for the elderly, and practiced it frequently. She was familiar and comfortable with sex in a way that many of us either strive to be or do not understand. But when Robert died, grief erased sexual desire and she spent over a year denying herself any form of arousal. She was not ready for another partner, much less a relationship, and feeling another man’s touch seemed a betrayal of Robert’s memory as a lover. Eventually Price searched for a service that could provide her with an erotic massage, an experience that would allow her to be reintroduced to her true sexual self. She found Sunyata, a man who would touch her and help her discover that, despite her mounted sadness and attachment to Robert, she still was an independent woman with needs to be pleased.
As we come to care for our partners, to become dedicated to them, they become etched into our beings. We replace bits of ourselves with bits of them. Once in a partnership, both members’ lives become intertwined. A choice made by one, affects both. So naturally, when we lose a partner, whether to death, disturbance or distraction, we lose a part of what has become ourselves. We have forgotten what it is like to focus on ourselves, to make choices that relate solely to us, while not taking into consider another party. Turning your attention to yourself, however, can be what empowers you. What brings you out of your misery and confusion. What reinvigorates your sexual character.
Despite the cause of the disruption within the relationship, we all can suffer from the sudden feeling of being alone—what was once a routine is simply chaos and confusion and we are left trying to sort out how to deal with loss. In the process of trying to nurse our hearts and heads back to a place of calm, we forget that our bodies need something more. They need intimate nourishment. Rediscovering yourself sexually does not mean you need to seek out an expensive masseuse like Joan Prince did. Each person needs to discover what is most re-centering for them—perhaps it is becoming reacquainted with yourself naked by taking a bath and rubbing a new lotion on your body afterwards, stopping to really touch and feel the skin and the crevices that make up you. Or maybe you buy new batteries for the old beloved vibrator. Maybe you begin to explore yourself below the belt. The process is slow and isn’t always easy. Climbing into bed at night next to an empty imprint once occupied by your confidant can be extremely difficult and sad. But you need to recreate that space back into something of your own. Invite yourself to bed, reacquaint yourself with your arms, your legs—your body.
Entering into a partnership is such a glorious occurrence, but it is quite easy to lose track of yourself and your needs. Whether you are just entering, sitting solidly within, coming to the end of, or still searching for a partnership, remember that your needs as an individual take precedence over another’s. Once we are truly confident and comfortable with ourselves, we can give the time and commitment to another.
Let’s be honest- Your body needs you more than another’s.
Correction: March 19, 2012 The author’s name has been updated to change a mistake in spelling.