What Happened To Courtship and Pillow Talk? The Loss of Romantic Sexuality

Has the Intimacy Fizzled Out of Your Relationship?
Randi Gunther, PhD
by Randi Gunther
over 2 years ago in Sex & Intimacy
page 1 of 3

Today's mass media sanctions and supports lust-driven sex oriented towards fantasy, arousal, and orgasm. My single daters constantly ask me on which date they should expect sex to happen, relying on their physical responses for successful sexual contact. Their goal is to make that single physical focus work first, and then worry about what kind of relationship may or may not evolve. Most know intuitively that adding love to the mix can only make it better in the long run, but they fear rejection if they try to commit too early.

The beauty of romantic intimacy can only happen when lovemaking includes all the ways in which partners experience each other. The multiple dimensions of spiritual connection, emotional bonding, intellectual fusion, and physical affection must all be present before the sexual experience is at its best.

Romantic sexuality asks its potential lovers to be in the process of continuous discovery of all the significant dimensions of a great relationship. If the magnetic intensity of physical attraction focus lovers into that single dimension too quickly, the others may be temporarily lost, or never realized. Couples who want to know sexual connection at its deepest level of fulfillment work together to make certain that they prolong each dimension until all are present.

Many people believe that women, more than men, need a period of extended romance prior to lovemaking. The truth is that romantic intimacy is as important to men as to women. Though men are more orgasm focused by nature, they do love a wonderful build-up as much as their partners do. Women may more often seek a longer courtship period, but do not always expect nor need their partners to prolong the pre-arousal experience.

It is not true that women prefer courtship and men would just as soon, literally and figuratively, get in and get out. Many women are well able to enjoy a purely lustful sexual connection at times, and many men are innately romantic and prefer a long, intimate buildup before they are sexual. There is a significant difference between lust-driven sex and romantic sex. When love enters the picture, sex changes, and the primary drive to orgasm becomes a four-stage process that ensures complete satisfaction for both genders.

The four stages of romantic sex begin with courtship, move through sexual arousal and orgasm, and end with pillow-talk. The courtship and pillow-talk stages are more timeless, and nurture deep affection, discovery, and emotional intimacy. The second and third are more pleasure oriented and driven by physical desires.

When lovers are able to integrate all four stages in sequence, they experience the middle stages of arousal and orgasm differently from participating in those same two stages during lust-only sex. Folded into the embrace of their lovers, they add love and emotion to their foreplay and release.

The Four Stages of Romantic Sex

Stage One - Courtship

Mating clues are influenced by time and culture. As if predestined, two people find each other in unpredictable ways. Within moments, they circle each other, searching for signs of mutual recognition. Wanting to be invited and fearful of rejection, each watches the other covertly, hoping that the relationship will happen. They show their interest by consciously and unconsciously signaling their desire, hoping it will be returned in kind.

The conflict between growing desire and carefulness to avoid rejection creates a wonderful tension. Feeling the uncertainty of outcome, they begin the ageless dance of flirtation. Approaching and avoiding, touching and pretending ignorance, coming in close and running away, the potential lovers feign disinterest while raptly attentive.

Committed couples replay these tender moments of new discovery as well. They know how to recreate courtship as if it had not happened before. Temporarily putting aside the intimacy of familiarity, they search for new ways to appreciate each nuance of each other that they may have overlooked in the past. They realize that they must be continually transforming internally to make those new discoveries authentic and to keep the mystery between them alive.

Independent of age or gender, the signs of new or reclaimed courtship are familiar to us all. We feel an intensely focused, joyous desire for connection, yet willing to play with the idea that we may not connect this time. People newly within each other's captive arousal are quickly memorizing every word, gesture, and desire. They search for any hint of invitation while anticipating the despair of unrequited love. The movement toward fusion of soul, mind, and body, has begun.

When courtship follows its course, both partners begin to feel more welcomed and confident in each other's realms. Initially obsessed with a mutual urgency to secure the treasure, the lovers now experience a calm timelessness. They no longer feel pressure to move the process quickly because it has become too sweet to rush. Filled with a delicious desire to prolong the tension, the lovers allow their bodies to store the excitement and anticipated ecstasy.

Stage Two - Sexual Arousal

The lovers have electrified one another's complete being, fully engulfed in the discovery of every dimension. They now begin to focus on specific sexual arousal. Emotional and loving affection becomes erotic, as erogenous zones call out to be touched. The new lovers have an almost unbearable urge to fuse as one.

They search to please one another, directing their foreplay to their partner's wishes while communicating their own. Every dimension of their being vibrates with desire. The time they have given during their courtship phase has allowed their hunger to mature.

The sexual expression of that deep connection makes the experience exquisite. They want it to last. Locked in an embrace and allowing their natural physical desires to grow, they strive to put aside their limitations and search for ways to increase each other's pleasure.

Separately and together, they begin to build the energy that unites them emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, in the simultaneous desire for release.

Stage Three - Orgasm

As the lovers move towards their individual orgasms, they become less aware of each other's presence and more exquisitely tuned to their own desire for release. If the lovers are skilled, experienced, and responsive to each other, they may be able to share simultaneous orgasms.

They can also find deep satisfaction in taking care of each other in sequence, sharing the pleasures of alternately giving and taking. As long as they feel confident that their partners are close and similarly entranced, their mutual enjoyment is reborn in these moments of total vulnerability.

Stage Four - Pillow Talk

The experience that follows orgasmic release is an intertwined state of wonderment, satiation, and openness. The partners are beautiful to each other. Like children in a state of bliss, they are able to share their most vulnerable fantasies and their deepest fears. Not wanting to feel the inevitable separateness of quieted arousal, they reach to one another in a different way, searching for new understanding and deeper connection.

The deeply connected lovers often treasure these relaxed moments together in many ways that are meaningful to both. Some take long, sweet showers and serve each other delicious foods. Others wrap themselves in warm blankets and listen to their favorite music or watch a beloved movie. Not wanting to let go of their intimate connection, the lovers continue to savor experiences that shut out the rest of the world and its pressures.

Still in the afterglow of their sensual connection, lovers may begin to flirt again, deliberately pretending they are farther apart than they are, and begin to build desire again. Timeless connection can lead to a new cycle of romantic lovemaking, as well as promises for encores.

The four stages are not necessarily as long or passionate each time. Every couple has its own needs at a particular time. Sometimes the goals of courtship happen very quickly and at other times take more time. Foreplay and arousal can last for a few minutes or for several hours. The depth of arousal can create a drive for multiple orgasmic experiences or one profound release. Some couples share vulnerable and intimate thoughts for hours after the sexual part of their connection is complete.

There will be times when one or both partners want to alter the cycle by abbreviating or eliminating some of the stages. Sometimes one partner may not be interested in his or her own release but is happily willing to service the other. Or, when time is short, both agree to only do stages two and three because they just want to have a lust experience separate from their emotional connection. Those choices are normally not a problem, as long as the couple completes the entire romantic cycle often enough to regenerate their love.

Randi Gunther, PhD

Randi Gunther, PhD

Dr. Randi Gunther is a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor practicing in Southern California. She has inspired hundreds of people in her workshops and lectures to go beyond their limitations and create successful relationships. A practical idealist, she encourages her patients to give up their negative entanglements and to pursue their dreams. More »