An interview with Aimee Heart. Aimee is an intimacy and relationship coach, she specializes in energy and tantra healing. Her therapy is an experiential journey to guide individuals and couples into a deeper connection with their body, breath, sensuality and core authenticity allowing them to experience intimacy and connection safely.
What is intimacy?
In-to-me-see. Intimacy is a unique, safe, private space to connect with one’s authentic self and be ‘seen’ by another. To get into this space one has to be present in the moment. Intimacy is a space where one can sense himself/herself, their partner, and the connection between them. Intimacy is a skill that can be learned. It is not something that can be developed by talking; it must be felt and experienced.
Why is it so important to develop intimacy in a relationship?
Each intimate experience and every intimate discovery make the relational connection more fulfilling and rewarding. Intimacy strengthens the emotional, physical, spiritual, and energetic bond between two people. Intimacy enhances the joy of sexual relationship and gives it more depth, meaning and pleasure. When people look to share their sexual desires with someone other than their primary partner they often experience feelings like intimately unfulfilled, unsafe, guilt ridden, and shame. They may not even know what they are lacking. Intimacy issues often show up as addictions, from insatiable hunger for shallow activities and promiscuity, to over spending, working, eating disorders, frustration, anger, and isolation. When it comes to intimacy the expression “use it or lose it” is true.
How do couples start getting intimate with each other?
At my office I start every session with 30 seconds of a conscious hug. The partners hug, gaze into each other’s eyes and I encourage them to sigh out loud.
What is so essential in this conscious hug for building intimacy?
A big part of intimacy is being present. Some people, after being in a relationship for many years, take each other for granted. People forget to see into each other, they become invisible to the other. At the beginning of a relationship people’s presence is very prominent and exciting. Partners notice each other’s nuances. As time goes by, when no conscious effort is made to maintain the intimate connection in the relationship, some tend to develop indifference to their partner. People tend to forget the initial excitement of intimacy. When I ask a couple to do the conscious hug, I ask them to awaken the forgotten old self and bring it to the present. It is the same self that is still in them that used to get excited from the same person who is in front of them.
What role does the eye gazing plays in this conscious hug?
Eye gazing by itself can be so intimate that I include it only after the hug. Eye gazing is also called – soul gazing. The eyes are windows to the soul. When staring at one’s eyes one can see into the other's authentic soul. For many people the first intimate connection starts when their eyes meet. This is the moment of truth when people understand if they have a connection with the other. Eye gazing has a strong part in bringing the faded intimacy back in to the couple’s life. They feel seen. It also helps to bring their awareness to the present. This is the place to mention that for some people eye gazing is too intense; the gaze stimulates their thinking and it disturbs their ability to feel. In this case I ask people to close their eyes, lean their forehead against their partner’s forehead, let their noses touch, and just breathe and be.
It sounds like a basic simple exercise.
And yet people resist it. Some people find it to be very hard, especially after years of avoiding each other’s gaze, presence, or thoughts. It can be a scary moment for both partners. It can be the moment they realize the truth about the nature of their relationship, the truth about each other, and the truth about themselves. From all the three parts of the intimacy exercise: the conscious hug, the eye gazing, and the loud sigh, some people find the latter to be the hardest thing to do.
Why making a sound such as a sigh is so hard to do?
We are socially trained not to make sounds, to hide the different sounds our body makes and to be ashamed of them. The sigh is one of these noises. Sometimes I have to trick my clients to make some kind of a noise, by getting them to answer with um, uh-huh or uh-uh. Once people make an actual guttural sound they will naturally inhale a deep breath and be more awake in their bodies and in the present. They release many emotional blockages. They feel lighter. They are ready to go deeper in to experiencing intimacy. Breathing and sound can also help with orgasm, but that’s a subject for a different discussion.
Besides being present, what other skills can help with developing intimacy?
Communication has an important part in building intimacy. Communication is more than just listening to each other's pronounced messages. Communication is also a skill to understand the unspoken words between two close people. It is actually very hard, because two people can feel very vulnerable in a relationship. At times one can interpret a statement the other makes as a criticism or even a slap in the face. In such a situation many tend to take it personally, get hurt, shut down, and withdraw, instead of being curious and wanting to find out what is behind the statement that was made. Let me give an example. After 20 years of marriage one of my clients told her husband that she hates the way he touches her. His immediate response was to stop touching her. After all, this was the way he used to touch her for years. This was how he used to express his love to her. At my office I asked her to discover and show him how she would like to be touched instead. She had to discover a new way to get intimate with herself first, to find out what she likes, then she had to learn a new way to communicate it to her partner. This is best done not by telling, but rather by showing her partner. By making him able to sense and be present to her pleasure. He had to be willing to really connect to her in order to listen to her sounds and read her body, despite the fact that he was hurt by her comment. He had to be open to learn from her something new. They had to be open to learn something new together.
Does sex increase intimacy?
Intimacy increases Sex! Sex, or intercourse is one way to express intimacy. Emotional intimacy does not automatically occur with sexual intimacy. People who are sexually involved may still be emotionally unable to feel intimately connected. They can still choose not to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with their sexual partner. In fact, people sometimes find it easier to be emotionally intimate with friends rather than with their sexual partner.
What do you think of relationships without sexual intimacy? Do they miss something, even though both partners claim to be happy?
Different people have different levels of sexual appetite. Negotiating the “menu” is the key to a satisfying intimate relationship. For some couples their intimacy lies in comfort, while they are not interested in having a sexual intimate relationship. As long as both partners are happy with this arrangement, so be it. It is possible to have fulfilling intimate relationship, to feel safe, secure, and vulnerable without sexual intercourse.
How about people who are happy to have sexual relationship without intimacy?
Sex without intimacy can be very fun and feel immediately gratifying, yet in the long run it might feel empty and unrewarding. A lack of intimacy is one of the most common reasons for relationship breakdown; it causes people to feel lonely in a relationship, even when they are having sex. Today men and women are socialized to relate to intimacy as sex. Too many men request sex as proof of love, and too many women give sex in hope of love. Many men do not have the language of emotions and intimacy. They are plagued by social expectations of performance, success, and achievement, and suppress their deepest desires. Many women may be well versed in the social language of feminism, romance, or porn, but they are unaware of their own personal embodied femininity, sensuality and intuition. Sexual intercourse is an exchange of energy. Even if it is meaningless sex we are affected by the other person’s energy, and we carry this energy with us, long after the sex is over. A one-night stand can be energetically charging, nourishing, and healing when it is done consciously with a person who carries the right energy.
In your opinion, what is the main factor that stands in the way of intimacy?
Unspoken expectations. Today there are no clear rules of behavior for the sexes, so a lot is left for guessing. This reality creates confusion in relationships.
How can people minimize the intimate and sexual confusion between the sexes?
People need to ask themselves questions such as: what is their own personal attitude towards life and sexuality? What are their desires and expectations in regards to connection and intimacy with a partner? Social messages are too often adapted as our own and are not congruent with our authentic beliefs. These messages are suppressing people’s ability to connect. Today, society expects men to be sexual masters and always ready to perform. From women society expects to be the forever virginal and yet ready for sexual Olympics. These external expectations harm people’s ability to build true intimacy with themselves and their partner. If both partners define their expectations within themselves, from the beginning, before they are involved sexually, they create a good foundation for intimacy between them. They will feel more comfortable to show their real self, their vulnerability, their sensuality and encourage the other to do the same by creating a safe place for this self- expression to evolve authentically.
How do you get sexuality out of bed?
I suggest for both sexes to start exploring their sexuality in everyday life. I tell women that femininity is like liquid: a flowing, comforting, soft place to land. After a hard day at home and/or busy day at work they can always connect with the softness of their femininity and nourish themselves. I see young women going out at night, dressed with tight minimal outfits and high heels; they are cold and uncomfortable just to be (porn style) sexy. Next to them I see their boyfriends very comfortable in sneakers and hoodies. Had a girl used her femininity as a soft place to land, she would be sitting, covered with her man’s hoody, while he goes to get the tickets or drink. Society trains women to make men the center of their lives. That belief subtracts women’s power and femininity. A woman is a complete being by herself. She does not need to suffer and appear sexy to attract men to feel worthy or complete. A woman needs to love herself without conditions. A woman needs to acknowledge her femininity, respect herself, and nurture herself. Being a sex object does not nourish femininity. Sex by itself is not a soft place to land. Intimacy, however, is an excellent soft place to land. For men, I tell that masculinity is like a tree: growing from nurturing warm water, it provides fruits, shade, and protection from the elements. To be masculine is to stand tall like a tree and be like a compass for a woman to find her way home to you. I encourage men to let their woman know that they are strong, solid, and appreciate her watering and nourishing them. The relationship between masculinity and femininity can be symbiotic and influence each other beautifully like the balance in nature. Back to the night scene I described before, the man who’s partner has his coat over her shoulders and is sitting while he provides for her, tickets and drinks, creates feeling of connection that adds to their intimacy in everyday life.
What kills intimacy?
Resentment. When a person resents his/her partner’s needs and feelings, feeding it with the different ongoing stories in his/her head. There are some cases of resentment that are more common than others. One example is having a new baby. Babies change everything in the relationship. After a child’s birth, many men feel pushed aside and neglected, while the woman shifts all her intimate focus to the baby. In this case I work with the masculine image I mentioned before. I tell men to imagine themselves as a tree that their wife and child evolve around it. The tree offers them fruits, protection, and shade. As they grow, they become three trees, their own forest. The connection between mother and child is sensual; there is no way to deny it. Men need to understand this shift and realize that they are part of this intimate connection. Sexual resentment can also be caused by different physical ailments and disabilities. Erectile dysfunction can be very frustrating for a couple and puts a lot of pressure on both. Vaginal pain during intercourse causes many women to refrain from having sex with their partner. I see both cases as a blessing. It’s an opportunity for people to explore their sexuality, learn new ways to please themselves and their partners. It is an opportunity to heal. Sometimes the cause of this is emotional. Our muscles remember and our mind makes the stories. My job, in such cases, is to help those people go through the pain, bring up the physical memories and release them from their body so they can enjoy their sexual life and clear the related resentment from their current situation.
How would you summarize your work?
My goal is to guide people into their bodies and out of their minds. Everything I do comes from the heart. I am here to create and hold the feeling of safety, support and love, so that my clients can experience and get in touch with their passion, purpose and aliveness, freeing them to express themselves intimately. My clear boundaries allow me to offer a safe space for authentic connection. I am not a replacement for an intimate partner or an addiction, just like a therapist is not a replacement for a best friend. I believe individuals and couples can benefit by exploring intimacy and connection. When people become aware of theirs and their partners’ energy and sensuality in a unique professional experiential way, they add to their intimate relationships whether they have issues or not.