I’ve always been more of a casual relationship person due to hurts in my past and wanting to maintain my independence, but I met someone recently who made me feel totally different. We connected through the apps and when we met up in person I actually didn’t want to fuck her which is huge for me. We stayed up all night talking then got together two days later and had super hot sex and processed our feelings and I really think this has relationship potential. But now I’m starting to freak out! I don’t know how to be vulnerable with people I’m also being sexual with — it’s usually one or the other. How do I have sex plus feelings without scaring her away?
– Closed Heart
Dear Closed Heart,
Your current discomfort stems from the fact that you’re straining up against that limit that you set to keep yourself safe: Separating intimacy from sex. To move into a fully vibrant life, you have to work through those hurts from the past.
In other words, it’s going to hurt before it gets better.
I know, you want a shortcut to intimacy without having to open up all those old wounds. You can get there without healing your old stuff, though, because our wounds resurface again and again so we rinse another layer out with healing until we are free of them.
Tell your new partner what you told me: that you have difficulties opening up to women, you think there’s relationship potential, and if it seems like you have an emotional wall up, it’s for good reason. She should be understanding and supportive if your initial read of her was right.
Spend time thinking about those past hurts. If they stem from your youth, you may have changed and grown to a point where you are strong enough now to get over the things that wounded you way back then.
Remember and relive those wounds, paying attention to how you feel. Do your shoulders tense up? Does your heart ache? Try to breathe into the areas that hurt. It might help to repeat a phrase, something like release or heal.
See if you can find a way to learn from the pain of those lessons and really let go of what happened, so you can move forward with an open heart.
If a past partner cheated on you, you might write her a letter when you open up about all the feelings and insecurities. Tearing up or burning the letter provides emotional release and can spark healing.
A trusted friend can help you process some of the stuff you aren’t ready to share with your new partner. Talking it over with a pal is also great practice for opening up about the things you aren’t super fond of sharing: old wounds, insecurities, and fears.
It sounds woo-woo but working on self-love can really help you here. Start by accepting yourself the way you are now — all the good and the bad.
Those hurts from the past gave you armor you’ve been using to survive. They helped you grow. They were hard lessons. Loving yourself, battle scars and all, helps you put down the negative emotions that may be attached to that pain: guilt, shame, fear.
Find little ways to practice self-love every day, whether it’s looking in the mirror and repeating a self-love mantra you come up with or taking five extra minutes in the morning to put on an outfit that helps you feel like your most radiant self.
As you get to know this woman more, begin to share small things. Opening up within your comfort zone will help you two connect while serving as practice for opening up about the things you wouldn’t normally share.
Move on to the bigger things as you feel ready.
Timing is everything when it comes to opening up about important, hard stuff. If you need to disclose past trauma that keeps you from opening up in relationships, don’t do it when you’re having dinner before going to a movie. Sure, you might want to say your piece and head off to an escape zone, but she’ll have questions—which means you’ll have to go through a follow-up convo to process it.
Give important talks the space they deserve, be present in the moment, and answer any questions she has (of course you can always tell her you can’t talk about something or it’s too painful).
If you go through the process of opening up to her, you may be able to find a deeper love. Even if things don’t work out with this woman, you’ll grow as a person—and it may help you find love the next time around. Good luck!
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