Intimate needs, physical distances: making a lockdown or “dry spell” count for you

“I met someone just before we went into lockdown and I’m struggling with the lack of the physical contact. How do I resolve my personal needs with the need to keep my community safe?”

I was asked this question in a Social Wellbeing Masterclass I ran last week for an audience as big as the whole Australian Olympic Team.

The person who typed this question into the chat was brave enough to “take off their mask” (pardon the pun) to ask it in front of such a large group. It was a question that served as a reminder of how human we really are. The fact is, we all have needs, and it can be really hard when those needs aren’t met.

First off, it’s important for me to clarify that I’ve made a few assumptions about this question. One, that the person “met someone” in an intimate/romantic sense, and second, that they are currently not involved with another person in an intimate/romantic sense.

I’ll be honest: when I started The Intime Collective, the customer research I carried out –  interviewing 200+ parents about their pain points and needs – did throw up a clear theme around parents having intimacy issues. Usually, the issue went something along the lines of “my partner wants to have sex more than I do and it’s causing issues both inside and outside the bedroom!”

We do have a body of knowledge in this area at the Intime Collective and while I wasn’t able to share some of it with the person who raised the question at the Masterclass itself, I’ve taken another route: sitting down with the esteemed Dr Linda Kirkman, who has been right be my side since starting The Intime Collective.

Linda has a list of notable accolades: she’s our go-to Sex & Relationship Therapist and is the President of the Society of Australian Sexologists (and if you’re wondering what a sexologist is, it’s a therapist with deep expertise in the study of human sexuality).

Of course, humans are wired for connection and there are many ways to go about connecting. Whether it’s because you’re isolating solo or because you’re in a situation where your partner doesn’t have the same level of desire for intimacy as you, here are some suggestions from Dr Linda on how to reconcile those feelings.

  1. Firstly, normalise what you’re missing: Acknowledge it. It’s ok. It is perfectly normal to miss the feeling of touch or sex. “Skin hunger”, or sensory deprivation, is real and is not good for us. Lack of touch does influence our wellbeing, and you are not alone in feeling that way.
  2. Where’s your head at? Appreciate your own touch and get into your body.  Betty Martin’s “Waking Up Your Hands” activity will help you to achieve this (see (https://bettymartin.rg/hands/). Experiment by tracing one of your hands with the other. Ask yourself where your mind is at with this feeling. Do you focus on your finger that touches your other hand? Or do your focus on your hand that’s receiving the touch from your finger? This one requires sensory awareness and focus. Don’t panic if it doesn’t come to you straightaway: be patient.
  3. Use the time to learn more about yourself: Emily Nagoski, author of “Come as You Are”, (https://www.emilynagoski.com) encourages us to understand our own sexual temperaments. Her questionnaire enables us to gain a deeper understanding into our “excitors” – what excites us – and our “inhibitors”. This can support a greater connection when the time comes to reconnect with a partner. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a2311d41f318d2a02e64554/t/5a297a759140b74afafff188/1512667766207/Sexual+Temperament+Questionnaire.pdf
  4. Enjoy – and experiment with – the ordinary: Immerse yourself in a body of water, e.g. a bath. Weighted blankets, or even just heavy blankets, can provide comfort.
  5. Masturbate: There is nothing shameful about solo-play. It does not mean there is anything wrong with you or you’re undesirable. It’s self-love. By investing in your own pleasure, you’re preparing for partnered sexy times being able to bring your self-knowledge to that exchange to guide a partner and support a partner to discover for themselves what they like for themselves.
  6. Map your body: Use this time to work your erotic imagination. Practice different kids of touch on yourself (not just genitals) because people don’t know what they like and often  expect partners to magically work it out. Your house is full of “pervertibles” – take the time to try them out! Explore the 2nd drawer down in the kitchen. Does the wooden spoon or spatula feel better to use to smack yourself on the bum? Perhaps you haven’t done this before, and it might feel strange at but remember – self-exploration is part of honouring and acknowledging your own pleasure.
  7. Shopping “dates”: While we’re minimising how much we go out, most of us do need to go out to stock up on supplies so, if you’re single, you may choose to line up your next shopping trip to replace your traditional Tinder date. It gives you a chance to be appropriately physically distanced in a safe environment. You can also check out what they want to buy – it might help you work out some of your compatibility.
  8. Being creative: If you have a partner who you don’t live with, perhaps COVID’s a reason to investigate teledildonics – which do exactly what they say on the tin! Enjoy using technology for remote, yet still intimate, contact. Dr Linda recommends checking out NikkiDarling.com.au, for a Melbourne-based gender-inclusive, ethical and safe range of products.
  9. Pets: You might notice that cuddling your dog, cat, bunny or guinea pig is very good for your wellbeing. As Linda puts it: “My dog, Louie, is a creature who sees me and makes eye contact with me. If you don’t have a pet, simply enjoying the birds at your window can do the trick”.

So to the brave person who asked that question during the Masterclass, and to all the people out there in relationships where you might be living under the same roof, but you’re still missing some physical touch, intimacy, sexy times or whatever you like to call it – something can be done.

Thank you for raising the important topic and question and thank you for inspiring me to be brave enough to write this article and share it with you all.

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