When we think about the gifts of a happy marriage, sensuality is at the top of the list. Not just sex per se, but sensuality. What does that mean, exactly?
The dictionary defines the word as, “the enjoyment, expression, or pursuit of physical pleasure; the condition of being pleasing or fulfilling to the senses.” So what’s fulfilling to the senses? And in particular, the real question we want to ask is, do we know what’s sensually pleasing to our partner and are we providing it?
I was thinking about this very simple question yesterday as my husband and I sat on the beach reading. We live a simple twenty minute drive from the ocean, and we joke with each other about how rarely we get our rear ends out there. Ditto for just hitting the city for the day to walk around, have a drink, and relax. We’ve got this and that to do; these obligations; this stuff we’ve got to get done.
But what I’ve begun to do is think about is the actual number of sensual hours we spend with each other. Yes, we’ve got date night—a sensual and sexual time we can be together—and we hold to that each week and it helps us stay close. But if I want to really feel the joy of my husband’s company, I’ve got to do more. And beyond that, I’ve got to think about balance. Meaning, if we do something difficult, are we providing a balance of pleasure to even those experiences out?
What do I mean—specifically—by that? On Saturday we went to visit friends—one who had just had a serious surgery and was feeling delicate, and another older friend who had just had a stroke and was in a rehab center. It gave us both pause, and by the end of the afternoon, my husband looked at me and said, “We really just have to grateful for each breath, don’t we?”
I took him by the hand and said, “Let’s walk into downtown Palo Alto—since we’re here—and see what we can find.” A few minutes later we discovered that My Fair Lady was playing at the varsity theater, and we grabbed a bite and jumped in line. Just a few hours of sensual laughter, in a packed movie house, lifted our spirits and made us feel joyous again. That’s what I mean by balance. I’m not always good at doing that. And I need to get better.
The next day I hopped out of bed and we grabbed our beach gear and drove the ocean. My husband read stories for a short story contest he’s judging, and shared a few with me, and we talked about fiction and read fiction, looked at the sea, lay in the sun, and watched happy dogs running in the sand. It was so simple, but it built sensual glue between us. By the time we got home, we felt relaxed and sweet on each other, and it was easy to be swept away into the bedroom.
It seems so simple—a delightful movie in a room full of people who were willing to be delighted by it; a day in the sunlight, with a sea breeze wafting over us as we talked about writing.
If we want that closeness, we have to help it happen. We can’t let our sensual love die off in a sea of duty. We have to feed it. And it can be as simple as a little time out, keeping track of whether we’re providing ease, grace, and lightheartedness to our partner—particularly after we’ve had to do something difficult.
We cannot let our love lives be consumed with responsibilities. When we’re sensual with each other—in whatever form—we remember why it’s good to be alive, and why we love our partner so much. We remember, as my husband so graciously put it, “to treasure each breathe.” And especially, to treasure the ones we take together.