Can you have great sex without trust? Is it possible for two bodies to connect with no confidence? And if trust affects intimacy, can better trust lead to better passion?
When I experienced first date sex last year, I initially felt excited and uninhibited. Here was an attractive, successful, interesting man, desiring me enough to take me to his bedroom for the night, unconcerned I could be an assassin or successful thief. My sexual urges demanded I too, forget safety concerns. I won’t walk down a dark alley alone but thought it okay to trap myself at a stranger’s apartment.
Yet the weirdest aspect – while putting my wellbeing in the hands of a dating app user, I didn’t feel comfortable making sexual requests. No spanking, blindfolding, typing up. We both tapped around like puppets on string. With an ex-boyfriend, the opposite occurred.
The first time I stayed round his, he asked about taboo fantasies. Without trepidation, we discussed favourite positions and possible new ones to consider. Our adoration spilled from the bedroom – reaching the streets as we cuddled and kissed. Sexually, I arose in his presence. I only turned into an online spy after Sunday evening – when we weren’t beside each other. He accused me of cheating, and I spied on his Twitter.
How trust affects intimacy
To explore the connection between sex and trust, I spoke to sex therapist Stella Anna Sonnenbaum. Based in London, Fitzrovia, Stella’s vast experience and unique training has improved the pleasure and wellbeing of countless individuals and couples. From having trained in Reiki, Shiatsu and Tantra, to being a certified movement analyst, sexological bodyworker and somatic sex educator. Frequently featuring in the press (GQ, Men’s Health, Pink News…) Stella offers both sex coaching and workshops, including cuddle parties.
The signs a person doesn’t trust their partner
It’s no secret trust is important for building a healthy relationship. As I showed with my first date sex story and ex-partner, trust should appear both in and out of bed.
“It’s usually a lack of honesty in the relationship. While I’m not advocating that the partners need to know absolutely everything about each other, there is a difference between not telling something that we have consciously decided is private, and only for us, and starting to tell lies. A particularly bad habit is checking on our partner without them knowing”, Stella says. “Another sign is eye contact. It’s important to choose wisely who to trust. It’s a beautiful sign of trust in a relationship when partners turn their faces to each other at the same time, and stay there, to gaze, and smile.”
How trust can improve intimacy
“A very common issue which is more common for women but also occurs in men is to want to look good when having sex, which may be rooted in the fear of inadequacy. Having sex is messy. There are body fluids involved, positions to be negotiated, and turn-ons discussed. Turn-ons and fantasies tell a lot about what kind of sexual persona we are, and we may be tapping into some pretty dark stuff”, Stella explains.
I recently watched Sex Education on Netflix. One episode involves a girl covering her partner’s face when she orgasms, to stop him from seeing her look unattractive. For a while, my fear of losing control stopped me from orgasming. What if I look bad, what if I make a strange noise or moan too loudly? Trust affects intimacy when you feel unable to be yourself.
“We need to dare to not only be naked physically. When we feel that we can’t trust our partner with all that we are, including our messy wilderness, sex will remain shallow. Sexual intimacy is linked to our life force, and it’s beautiful when we can bring all of us into our relationships, which ensures that we are growing by embracing and showing all of ourselves. That is vital for thriving relationships, too”, Stella says.
Sex as a method to build trust
“These days, there is a tendency to override our own boundaries, our inner voice that is telling us it’s too early to open up sexually to this new partner or friend to be, often with the help of alcohol, when sex is imminent. Unless we are engaging in casual sex where building trust is not really on the agenda, I would suggest getting to know each other platonically to avoid getting hurt badly. Too often, we want to grab sex when it’s on offer, out of fear that it might not be available any more with that person in the future. I would suggest for people to learn about their inner signals and develop intimacy with themselves”, Stella explains.
I used to believe, if two people can see each other naked and partake in sex, they must feel secure together. Sex to me was a power exchange – I struggled to find the confidence to agree. I worried I’d be powerless and alone, in despair as a man breaks up post-sex. Mid-twenties, and Stella’s words describe my mindset. I said yes to sexual acts when I didn’t feel ready. Assuming I needed to be sexy and passionate from the beginning, to avoid disinterest.
“True self-respect is to choose wisely who we give so much of ourselves to, and that’s true for men as well as for women. Once there is a foundation of trust, sex can be a great tool to trust even better, as long as we communicate about likes, dislikes and turn-ons”, Stella adds.
How the relationship with yourself affects your sexual relationships
Months ago, I listened to a podcast discussing self-trust. The podcast host asked, “Do you trust yourself?” What initially sounded like an obvious yes answer, evolved to uncertainty. Past patterns include not following through with goals and to-do lists. In relationships, this transpires to bad relationship habits. Knowingly dating an unsuitable man; worrying I’ve said too much or too little.
“In the beginning of any new relationship, we are understandably guarded, and try to show our best side. When we get to know each other better, and grow in trust, we by and by dare to show more of us. This is also a phase where we try out if we can continue to open up and feel safe with that new partner on all levels. Typically, misunderstanding, clashes, and inflicting hurt – often without meaning to – happen, and trust is built when we can be honest about what was happening for us, and thus, revealing even more about ourselves”, says Stella.
How can we trust our partners?
“Trust between partners is probably greatest when we have overcome many adverse situations with them and can continue to grow in love. To trust our partners, we first need to somewhat know and trust ourselves. If we are at odds with ourselves, chances are, that we are at odds with others too”, explains Stella.
Loving yourself before loving another – trusting yourself before trusting another. Trust affects intimacy by editing how we communicate and express ourselves. According to Stella, “a great physical sign of trust is eye contact.
Eye contact goes both ways, we are seeing, and being seen, and the eyes can be a window to each other’s and our own soul. When we are not at peace with ourselves, we may feel we are not ready to be seen. Avoiding eye contact can also be a protective mechanism, of not wanting to be seen by people who might hurt us. When we feel we can’t bring ourselves fully into the relationship, because on some level we feel unacceptable to ourselves, sex will suffer too. That said, we also grow in trusting ourselves by seeing that our partners love all of us, even the parts that we think are not loveable. That’s the beauty of loving relationships”, says Stella.
A lack of trust reveals itself in body language (eye contact), allusiveness, dishonesty, not listening and respecting self-boundaries, poor communication, and insecurity (concern over self-image). A relationship without trust affects intimacy by influencing how we feel with our partners, impacting how much of our true selves we put forward.
As a sex therapist, Stella provides coaching on a wide array of sexual issues for any gender or sexual orientation, including first time orgasms, painful intercourse, pleasure communication, masturbation, porn addiction and coming to terms with sexual fantasies. With her practice based in London, Stella also teaches workshops in London and internationally.
Stella has a 7-week online course for men coming up, Liberate your Libido, which aims at using pleasure and conscious lovemaking with self or partners to improve performance. Click here for more info.
She also has her signature 5 week practical online group course for woman, ‘Fall in Love with the Woman you are’, available for booking several times a year. Follow her Instagram @Stella_With_Love to find out about the next one, in addition to other events such as Virtual Cuddle Parties. Facebook: @stellawithlove