The waiter brought a silver tray of desserts to our table nestled on the beach in Cabo. The waves, the candles, the empty beach felt like a Bachelorette-esque, made-for-TV moment. I leaned over and whispered to my husband “Will you accept this rose and join me in my fantasy suite?”
My arousal was still in full bloom the next morning as I started kissing him slowly to wake him from his slumber. I was pleased to find him interested in my advances, as he rolled over on top of me and started kissing me back. He was above me, holding himself up. As my desire ramped up further, my hips started slowly moving and eventually lightly grinding up against him.
His weight descended onto me, full of desire, grinding firmly against me. My instant reaction was to push him back up and off me, telling him to hold still. He stopped in his tracks. The energy of desire that had been permeating the room immediately vanished.
He felt confused and rejected. I felt confused and guilty.
Luckily, we’ve navigated enough challenges in our sex life over the past two decades that we weren’t totally derailed by this speed bump. We each took a deep breath, shifted positions and started making out again. But I left the experience wondering, “What the hell just happened? What was my reaction all about?”
On the plane ride home later that day, I started to think about the sequence of events. I felt arousal. I acknowledged that arousal through movement. He acknowledged that movement by responding in kind with similar movement. I lost arousal. He lost arousal. Why?!?
I pondered sexual arousal and desire as analogous to hunger and I realized how much I enjoy feeling hungry for something. Sure, going to Cabo, being chosen by my husband and getting dessert on the beach are incredible experiences… but so are planning the trip, whispering to my husband that I want him to accept this rose, and salivating before the dessert arrives.
Feeling such strong arousal that my hips started to move on their own made me feel hungry. But even though I was hungry and communicating my hunger to my husband, I wasn’t actually quite ready to take a bite… not yet anyway. Because sexual hunger can sometimes feel elusive for me, I felt frustrated and angry that my husband gave me a bite before I had a chance to enjoy my hunger a little bit longer.
As we were descending into SFO, I turned towards my husband and said “You remember that thing that happened this morning in bed? That was hard, huh?” He looked at me and nodded. I then asked “Do you want to know what was going on for me in that moment?” He nodded again.
I explained the sequence of events from my perspective and shared I was in so much pleasure grinding up against him, that I just wanted it to go on a little longer. He nodded and said that he knew I was feeling desire, and that he was enjoying that, and that he had thought my movement was an invitation to escalate. I nodded in return and said it made a lot of sense that he thought that.
He pointed out that it is hard to know when to escalate with me. For instance, when I kissed him and he responded, I liked it. But when I grinded and he responded, I didn’t like it. I agreed and laughed that if we diagrammed all of the combinations of my desire and his desire and what turns each of us on in any given moment, it’s a miracle it works well most of the time!
I felt so relieved after our conversation. Even though nothing had really changed, his feelings of rejection and my feelings of guilt seemed to be replaced by a shared sense of curiosity, compassion and laughter.
It wasn’t our first miscommunication in bed. And I am certain it won’t be our last. But I’m grateful for it. Thanks to that moment in the early morning hours in our bed in Cabo, I learned more about how important it is to me to hang out in that space of wanting before finally getting the thing that I want.
I do want my husband. And I also want to want.