In the beginning, when love is new, romance, courting and conquest are aphrodisiacs, stimulants that increase our appetite for sexual union. Eventually the chase ends, hearts are won, and lifetime pledges are made. The happy couple says “I do,” strolls off into the sunset together, destined to be lovers forever.
So what happens? The newness fades, the passion flees. Where does it go? Does it get mortgaged along with the house? Disposed with the diapers?
Years ago, Mary, age 49, shyly told her family doctor that she had lost interest in having sex with her husband. She was told this was a natural event, that women eventually lose interest and that’s the way it is. For some women, she was told, it comes earlier. Today, Mary might be offered testosterone patches to fire up her lagging libido.
Martin, age 59, is having erectile difficulties. Viagra® to the rescue.
Times may have changed, but is it really just a story of diminishing hormones and loss of blood flow? The popularity of these new biologically-based treatments attest to their effectiveness as sexual aids. Yet we continue to yearn for the fulfillment of a deeper intimacy. Reviving the mechanics of our sex life may help, but it does not fully address the hunger in our hearts.
We desire even more than the wonderful climax of sexual release. We crave a connection with our partner’s soul. We ache to embrace a love that lights up our eyes, that enlivens our very being.
More than one divorcee has stated, “the sex was great, but there was no intimacy.” Without intimacy, sex is not lovemaking. Without lovemaking, hearts are empty.
Laura, married 22 years, loves her husband immensely. Therefore, she has “sex” with him at least once a week, because he has “needs” that must be met. Yet each time, when it is over, she experiences loneliness and loss. Something is missing.
A Chinese saying tells us that “young love is from earth; mature love from heaven.” Could it be that our bodies are trying to tell us something as they slow down and cool off? Could it be that it is not our biology which needs assistance, but our spiritual self?
If we look at relationships from a perspective of the Chinese five-element system, we can gain some insight and direction. In this ancient understanding of the cosmos, the elements that describe all the phases of creation are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each influences the next, in a nourishing cycle of harmonious development.
Wood is represented by the flexibility and rapid growth of bamboo. When love is first born, it too grows rapidly. Its season is Spring, a time when plants sprout new life and blossom profusely. There is tender excitement, exploration and discovery. As the day brightens from dawn to noon, relationship proceeds to the next phase, which is fire. Wood provides fuel for fire.
Fire burns erratically and represents the passion and turmoil of life. The season is Summer, and the heat is strong. In relationships, fire represents the energetic and creative clamor of life’s demands, the tears and laughter of sexual drama and delight.
When fire burns out, ashes remain, which turn into earth. Earth gives shape and structure to relationship. Although more than fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, this does not seem to slow down our “urge to merge.” We keep trying, looking for the right partner, a life partner, a lover forever.
It is the nature of earth to slow things down, providing stability and a sense of restfulness. It is here, in the earth phase of the five-element system, that our relationships are often lulled to sleep. The sex medicines and hormones temporarily awaken us, remind us of the burning fire we thought we had left behind.
Yet something is missing. We cannot stay here or we will get stuck in a rut! What is essential in the Chinese system is a dynamic balance of all the elements. What will energize our relationships is a movement forward from earth into metal. It takes effort to draw metal from the earth, to extract the gold from the dirt. Yet it is here, as the day darkens and the season moves to Autumn, that we can best harvest the deeper love that we desire. Dr. Victoria Lee writes in Soulful Sex, “each moment in which you are conscious of the sacred sexual energy that runs through your veins becomes one in which you experience the divine.” The key words here are conscious, sacred, divine and sexual.
From this perspective, we mindfully transform our relationship into a meaningful spiritual path that finally brings the fulfillment we have longed for. Our sexual love becomes the aphrodisiac and opens the doorway to our soul. We draw on ancient wisdom, we explore the energy of sexuality through Tantra, we communicate, we touch our beloved attentively and with intention.
Ultimately, the cycle releases into the element of water, as we awaken to our inner self in the presence of our beloved. Water, cradled by metal, nourishes the growth of wood, and thus the cycle continues, passion is renewed and our relationship becomes an ongoing love affair.
Originally published in 2011