Sexuality events and couples
How do you attend intimacy/sexuality events and tantra workshops as a couple?
In this article you’ll find the Survival Guide for couples who go together or separately to such events.
Among the many events that deal with sexuality, some are workshops designed specifically for couples to experience and learn together. To learn about connection, eroticism, touch. To create a common language about sexuality, to jointly explore different aspects where emotional conversation and connection dynamics meet in the sexual erotic space.
There are also events designed for everyone: couples and individuals; and there too you can learn and explore.
The Boundary Conversation
Before arriving at any event or workshop, it is important to have a "boundary conversation” together.
Understand this: when you go to a workshop together, it's your relationship that goes to the workshop first, and only then each one of you. This means that there might be exercises or situations that will suit one of you but not the other, and that means you should step back.
If something is not within the boundaries or pace of the delicate and vulnerable parts of either of you, don't participate – or your relationship will pay the price.
The preparatory conversation will help you and your partner to manage expectations and seek ways to respect the boundaries and comfort of each other. This requires reciprocity, mutual containment and mutual guarantees.
- Attending the workshop does not mean that all instructions given during the workshop will be right for you; remember that you are your own sovereign.
- No Tantric-Shamanic teacher or guru or facilitator knows you better than you do.
- When you feel a "no" in response to some guidance in the workshop, ask yourself what level of "yes" might possible for you.
- If the guidance is to touch genitals and that doesn’t feel right for you, consider touching feet instead.
- If there is guidance that would lead to emotional exposure that is too much for one of you, then do not reveal or expose, share only what is a clear "yes" within your boundaries.
To conclude – the “boundary conversation” before a workshop or event:
- It is your relationship that goes to the workshop, so you both need to move at the same speed, which means the pace of the slower partner.
- Desires, boundaries and fears of both partners must be expressed and heard. See below regarding how to listen to fears.
- Agree on a sign or code word which, when one of you gives it, means that something is too much and that together we need to find a more gentle alternative.
- Remember that you first hold your togetherness and only then your selves. The challenge is for the togetherness to contain the desires of each, while not ignoring the sensitive parts of the other.
If this state of moving slowly is too frustrating for either of you then don't go together. Attend the workshop separately.
Attending events aimed at individuals or mixed events
Besides couple-specific events, there are other events not specifically for couples, to which you can go together, learn a lot and explore and experience together.
There too, follow what is right for you as a couple and if the guidance is not within your boundaries then look for what is and do that. As a couple you may attend events that are not for couples and simply work together: you can talk in advance with the facilitator and ask if it is okay that you come and decide for yourselves when it is right for you to work with others or whether you want to remain as a couple for some or all of the time. Then, when the instruction is to find a new partner, if you wish to remain together you are free to stay where you are.
Engaging with other people
Now, for couples who are curious to engage with other people, the following recommendations are for you:
Understand the difference between touch, intimacy, eroticism and sexuality. It may be that your relationship is open to explore with others only one of these four things and not all of them at one event.
I will begin by saying that workshop and sexuality spaces can be a safe and fascinating space for couples if they have held a clear and direct boundary conversation in advance. These spaces can also be a very challenging, painful and destabilising space if the conversation was absent or unclear. Remember that your boundary talk is a process. It continues during the event as well. It is actually a dynamic discourse that develops and becomes more accurate as you keep engaging.
Intimacy with people outside the relationship can bring with it triggers, deep pain, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness and can activate the freeze response. The trick is to move very slowly in this space, to pause often and to communicate as much as possible.
And now some further detail …
- What does our relationship call for?
- What are its desires?
- What are its boundaries?
- What are its fears?
- Listening together to our relationship, our connection, our togetherness. Feeling what the relationship wants and needs right now.
- Is there something that our togetherness wants to meet? To open up to?
- What would either one of us like to explore within the framework of us?
- How can our relationship contain the individual desires of each being and recreate them as part of the romantic-erotic togetherness of our relationship?
- What are the boundaries of each one of us? What is completely out of the question for me and what is outside my comfort zone but I am willing to explore?
- What is the scariest thing that could happen? What is the coolest and most magical, if it were to happen?
- How would I like you to respond when I panic or encounter pain/fear?
Remind one another prior to the event that:
"No matter what intimacy and contact I participate in, know that you may and are welcome to join at any moment. When I move in this event, we also move together. Your place is guaranteed."
The boundary talk is not a one-off conversation. It is actually a discourse that we return to repeatedly and make more precise before and during an event and sometimes afterwards.
Listening to fears
To know how to hold boundary conversations you must know how to listen to fears. It can be tempting to respond to expressions of fear with solutions: "There's a monster under the bed. Let’s turn on the light!” This is unhelpful.
If you do not know how to listen to fear, having a boundary conversation will only cause tensions and quarrels, and you’ll lose the desire to go to the event at all.
Before you embark on a boundary conversation, you need to know how to respond to a partner’s fear.
How do you react to fear?
Listen. Pay attention.
Don't try to calm your partner down and don't respond.
If you must reply, make it a "dialogic reverberation" of the person who expressed the fear. Which means repeating what you heard them say:
"What I heard you say is that [this] scares you… Did I get that right?"
Breathe together with the frightened person.
Ask for more detail if you need further clarity, allow the fear to be revealed gently.
Fear is fear is fear. It wants to be heard and seen.
We share fears because we want to know that we are no longer alone with our fears and that the other is with us, aware of our fears.
There is no point in trying to calm fear.
There are compelling reasons to listen to it.
When you listen, you will be able to say "I've heard what scares you, and I'm paying attention."
Hold a boundary conversation and know how to listen to the fears that arise.
Responsibility for your triggers
Everyone takes responsibility for their emotions and their inner world.
Know what triggers you, what challenges you, what activates pain within you.
Communicate this to your partner.
Don't expect your partner to read your mind or feelings at any time.
Learn how to communicate what is going on inside you.
Agree to observe and feel the great pains of your life that activate you. Feelings of worthlessness or fear of loneliness. Be gentle with these emotions first, then communicate them to the other. You can hold them together, so that when one of you encounters them, you both hold them and don’t turn away.
Knowing your triggers and those of your partner is an important foundation for shared conscious movement within a relationship.
Know yourself and your triggers + “boundary conversation" – before, during and after.
Ask yourself what could be painful in the situation – what could bring up unpleasant feelings and emotions.
Find solutions together for these moments. Consider what might help you right there in the moment.
Let me offer myself as an example:
- Sometimes I feel pain because I need to know that I'm special to my partner; that what happens with me is different and special for her compared with others she is with (behind this lies my own feelings of worthlessness).
- I need to know what will remain sacred and intimate, just between us. What we don’t share with others. Knowing that there is a space that is just for the two of us, where no one else enters (perhaps there is some fear of losing her and of being alone, confronting me with the loneliness within me).
- I may be triggered more at certain periods in my life and sometimes by specific people. It's important to know how and when to meet pain and to know when it's too much. Do not face it alone because then it's just trauma.
It is important to know what I can solve myself when these triggers are pulled, and when I need the help of my partner. For example: I remind myself that I choose me. Again and again and again. Reminding myself that I feel many more things, like the longing I have for her to spread her wings and celebrate herself in the world. To feel in my body and my heart how I hold this special place of our connection, regardless of what each one does with his or her body with others. I find the dialogue inside me that connects me to myself. Then sometimes I need her to help me solve it, to ask in real time to slow down, or stop and take time with me for a conversation or touch, or to invite me into the situation that she is in.
And sometimes it helps to have a friend who knows me well who can be there with me, with a warm gaze and silent understanding in case I am flooded with pain.
Before the event:
Honest and open discourse is required before the event. Discuss our triggers in intimacy or sexual contact with others, share what I need from her and what could help me if I’m triggered, what could be helpful in real time.
During the event:
- After situations with others, check in regularly: “Was what happened with him within your boundaries?"
- When I engage with someone new, look for a moment in the flow to tell the person I am with that I am attending the event with a partner and what our boundaries are.
- The three fingers signal – a sign we have agreed with each other. Sometimes you can't speak, for whatever reason: maybe loud music or we’re in pain and we froze so no words can come out. So we make a sign – if you lift one finger it means that everything is okay; if you raise two fingers – I'm activated: You can carry on, but let's find a way to connect me to the situation; three fingers – Stop Playing. I am activated and in distress. We stop and offer support.
After an event:
Take time to slowly process the many small moments, not necessarily the big ones. It is specifically the little moments where there were small concessions made or things unsaid that led to the more challenging moments.
This is your journey.
- The way to find out how to do all this will be unique to each couple. You get there through trial and error. There is no common answer for everyone.
- Remember that not every event has to deal with your biggest triggers. Try taking small steps, there is always a next time. It's important to take time to process, talk and communicate, especially about the little things.
- In the event of distress, it’s okay to look to the organisers, assistants or other participants. It is important
There are many fascinating spaces for couples to explore intimacy, contact and communication alongside erotic enquiry.
- What will make this a fun, pleasant and educational adventure is a boundary conversation that gives time and space to everyone.
- A conversation that continues during the event and flows into a debrief and and processing afterwards.
- Every couple is on their own journey, according to what their relationship needs in each moment.
Hugs and see you soon!