Your body is what you live in. Think of it as your house. When you don’t love and care for your house, what happens? It gets run down and starts to fall apart. When you don’t love and care for your body, you become detached from your body. You move about unaware of how things affect your body or how your body responds to people, places, and things. You go about your day because of routine. You do what you do simply because it’s what you’ve always done or what you know you’re supposed to do, without feeling any of it. It’s like being on autopilot.
Nine years ago I unconsciously detached from my body. I experienced an early miscarriage and then a stillborn baby at 21 weeks. This was followed by over a year of infertility. My body, as far as I was concerned, had failed me and my husband. My body failed to do what it was supposed to do. We wanted a family so badly! Mentally, I hated my body. I didn’t understand why it didn’t produce a happy little human-like so many other people I knew. Hating my body meant I quit listening to it. I quit paying attention to my physical needs, mental needs, desires, etc. In particular, I quit paying attention to my intimate needs, because intimacy wasn’t resulting in what I wanted. Why would I continue doing something that wasn’t giving me the results I was looking for? Then I would have phases where I pushed for more intimacy just because I wanted a baby. I still wasn’t listening to my body or even my partner, I just wanted a baby! My head and heart weren’t truly engaging or tuning in to intimacy. I was just going through the motions. I spent several years detached from my body. Detached from the idea that my body deserved love and attention. Detached from the idea that my relationship with myself and my husband was breaking down.
I thought it got better when we finally did conceive again. We spent a lot of time worrying or fighting the worry internally. It was a long nine months, but we enjoyed it as much as possible. I was upset about the C-section I was told I had to have it due to my weird uterus and I would have visions about going into labor early. Maybe going into labor so quickly that I wouldn’t be able to have a C-section. How messed up is that? I knew the C-section was best for me and baby. More hate for my body developed because again, I couldn’t have a baby naturally as I wanted. So I was also getting robbed of the natural childbirth I had always dreamed of. Here I was finally pregnant with our miracle rainbow baby and I was still angry at my body for something.
The day came and the baby was happy and healthy and we felt like part of a miracle! But my happiness and connection to my body didn’t just miraculously return. When the baby was 2, my husband “woke me up.” He started trying to communicate with me in a way that we hadn’t really done before. He wanted to try new things. New things and communicating required thought and presence, and that’s when I realized I had detached from intimacy for awhile. I had completely checked out. No one had ever taught me or talked to me about communicating with my partner on the topic of intimate needs and desires. I honestly didn’t know it was something anyone did. At this point, I had realized sex could be pleasurable for me, but had yet to be empowered to feel like I could explore and find things I liked and request them! Thank goodness he loves me and didn’t give up on me.
Maybe it was age, maybe it was a lack of experience. Maybe it was a lack of sexual health education. I remember three things about my “sex ed” in junior high and high school.
- Birth Control
I could go on for days about what that means I was lacking in terms of sexual health education, but maybe that’s a topic for another day!
I think there are a lot of situations in life that take us away from our body. In my case, it was my inability to carry a healthy baby or get pregnant. In others, it may be a long term illness, a disease that makes you feel weak, weight gain, emotional instability that challenges your confidence, etc. Maybe you’ve become a mother and feel like your only purpose now is to nurture and nourish your baby. It might be difficult to get past the idea that your body is not just for baby. It’s possible you have had negative intimate experiences with a partner, or maybe you’ve been assaulted. It could be that you have emotional or mental challenges that cause you to have low confidence or libido issues. There are probably more reasons than I know about. Regardless, I do know that I am not alone. I know there are many women and men that experience this problem of becoming detached from their bodies.
The good news is, these are all things that can be improved! There are doctors and therapists that can help you address medical, emotional, and mental needs. There are tons of ways to engage in self-care that will reconnect you to your body and your relationship. Believe it or not, your body is for you! Your body has an organ with the sole purpose of pleasure! Nobody had told me this before. Your body is for more than babies, more than your partner’s pleasure, more than something to look at. Your body is for pure sexual pleasure too! Focusing on doing things that bring you pleasure and feeling that pleasure will help you feel better physically and emotionally too! Staying connected with your body for the purpose of pleasure is crucial! But beyond that, loving your body for all the amazing things it does, like your lungs that breathe air, your heart that pumps blood through your body, and your joints and muscles that allow you to work. Love your brain that allows you to think and be creative, and your heart that loves. What I have learned is that no matter what, your body does amazing things every second of every day. Think about those feats. Be thankful for them. Enjoy them. Love your body for everything it is. Don’t hate it for what it doesn’t do.
Let’s discuss some of the ways to love and care for yourself that, when done mindfully, will help you reconnect!
- Meditate or sit in silence and breathe deeply.
- Stand at the mirror, look into your own eyes, and tell yourself positive things, such as: “You are enough. You are my hero. You are inspiring. You are thoughtful.” You can also praise yourself for something you accomplished or a temptation you resisted.
- Keep a gratitude journal and each evening record 3 things you’re grateful for.
- Spend time visualizing the best version of yourself and the future you want.
- Exercise, even if it’s just a stroll outside. Movement helps produce feel-good chemicals in our body!
- Eat foods that are good for you and while you eat them think about the goodness you’re fueling your body with.
- Visit/call/chat with a friend.
- Go get a massage, manicure, haircut, etc.
Self-care is defined as anything you do willingly and deliberately to improve your physical, emotional, and/or mental health. I’m sure none of these ideas are a surprise to you. These are things you probably do once in a while and when you do them, you think “I should do this more often.” You’re right, these things should be done more often to get the full benefit.
What about the things that will help you focus more on your body and your intimate health? What about your relationship health? These are the self-care tips that don’t get talked about enough. These are the things that will help strengthen your relationship with yourself and/or a partner. Not just now, but in the future as well. Divorce rates are high and the top reasons for divorce are lack of communication and lack of intimacy, which go together. All of the tips above will help you reduce stress and sleep better. Our relationships are better when stress is low and sleep is adequate. That’s just the beginning! The following is a list of self-care tips that will help improve your relationship!
- Have fun! By yourself, with your friends, with your partner. Take time to have fun.
- Be selfish sometimes. Learn how to focus on what you want. Tune into your body and focus on what it’s looking and asking for. This doesn’t mean you should ignore your partner or what they want, but be able to focus in on what you want.
- Practice (yes that means self-exploration, a.k.a. masturbation) and pay attention so you know what you like and what feels good. If you don’t know what feels good, then you can’t communicate with your partner. Research or read about your body and intimacy to get new ideas. Believe it or not, there are a lot of great books out there on this topic. I’m not condemning pornography, but make sure your sources of information and ideas is realistic. Pornography contributes greatly to unrealistic expectations for couples. Remember it’s acting.
- Communicate with your partner about your needs and listen when s/he shares his/her own needs. Remember to communicate with your partner not about your partner.
- Date your partner! Go on dates and take conversation game cards to spend your time talking about yourselves instead of kids, work, & money. Those aren’t good date night conversation topics!
Most importantly, know that whatever you choose to do, DO SOMETHING! Know that you are not alone, that it is possible to make a comeback from whatever it is you experienced that brought you to a low. No, you do not just have to deal with everything the way it is because you think that’s just what’s normal after marriage or childbirth, etc. There is no normal. There is just what makes you happy. You deserve to be truly happy. Loving yourself opens your heart to a much deeper love with someone else. You deserve to be madly in love with yourself and maybe even a partner, but most importantly love yourself first.