Episode 02 The Price We Need to Pay to Be in a Relationship Devoted to Sacred Intimacy

“Devotion to the relationship, devotion to our partner’s nervous system also requires that we let them know how we tick, that we let them know where our reactivity is coming from. We let them know exactly how our nervous system is going to respond to certain stimuli, certain triggers. So just being able to identify and bring our own awareness and our own sort of ruthless honesty to the things that are going on in us is an incredibly helpful way to lay the groundwork for sacred intimacy.” — John Wineland

Today on The Embodied Relationship Experience:

  • Exploring the distinction between fleeting and enduring intimate experiences
  • How inner work and addressing past traumas foster deep sacred intimacy
  • Learning intimacy skills vs. undergoing deep relational work
  • The importance of self-awareness and communication of personal triggers
  • Creating a culture that sustains a relationship devoted to sacred intimacy

Connect with John:

The work that is often the most difficult is for us to look at who we become when our partners are not giving us what we want. But it’s also the greatest place of growth. It’s the place where we can really learn about ourselves. In learning about ourselves and sharing our work around trying to heal that part of ourselves, we actually add so much stability, nourishment, and relaxation to the relationship.

Welcome to the Embodied Relationship Experience Podcast. I’m John Weinland.
Today, I want to talk about the price we need to pay to be in a relationship of sacred intimacy. Oftentimes, when we think about sacred intimacy, we think about this sort of idealized union of divine masculine and divine feminine. We think about the practice of sexual polarity, and we think about all of the really juicy parts of sacred intimacy, especially sexual intimacy. But we rarely stop to consider what’s needed to sustain that.

I want to make the distinction between sustaining sacred intimacy and having moments of sacred intimacy. Having moments of sacred intimacy is relatively easy: you learn how to drop into the meditative practice of really seeing someone deeper than their surface. You get to feel deeper into who they are, into their heart, and into their soul. These are all things you can learn. You can also learn how to animate your masculine and feminine tendencies. You can learn this stuff in a weekend workshop and get much better at it.

Creating these moments, these artful, beautiful, juicy moments of sacred intimacy where we are in our divine masculine and divine feminine, ravishing each other and seeing each other deeply, is a relatively easy thing to learn. What is more difficult is doing the deep interpersonal and relational work that will allow that intimacy to become something foundationally strong, something that can be nurtured, developed, and created over many years.

Now, some people may not have that as their goal in a relationship, but many do. One of the questions I get a lot is: how do we sustain this? How do we sustain the experience we had in the workshop and take it home for long periods of time, and live this way?

The answer is usually disappointing to most people because, as I’ve learned in my own experience and continue learning, deep sacred intimacy requires us to do our own deep work. It requires what David Deida called ‘second stage work.’ In Deida’s model of first, second, and third-stage relating:

1. The first stage is that wounded space where ‘I want what I want, and I want you to give it to me.’ It’s the space of ‘me,’ my needs, and my wants. We’ve all spent a lot of time there; there’s nothing shameful about that. But it rarely cultivates the depth or gets us the relational experience we desire.

2. The second stage is about ‘we,’ about us, about ‘what you need and what I need.’ It’s about healing, and it’s that aspect of healing I want to dive into today. The second stage is where the [explicit] hits the fan for most people. It’s where many people who genuinely love each other, and might even have fantastic sex, continue to struggle with ‘us.’ Terry Real talks about this in his book *Us*. He discusses the ‘you and me’ version versus the ‘us’ version of a relationship.

3. The third stage is serving the relationship itself.

My point today is that if we want to live in sacred union and exist in this artful capacity of spiritual intimacy, we have to master ‘us.’ When we start doing deep sexual polarity work, opening ourselves and our hearts during sex, we bring all our past trauma into the mix. In many workshops, I’ve seen that as people open more deeply, they often bring up all the grief and trauma they’ve been carrying their entire lives.

It’s crucial to work on these issues because if we don’t address them, those ‘wounded parts’ will derail our intimacy. They will undermine our capacity to remain solid, safe, and trustable in our relationships. If we can’t live in that space of trustability, where our partners are allies and our relational experience is an ‘us’ experience rather than a ‘you and me’ one, it will undermine all our tantric or sexual polarity practices.

To sustain this spiritual intimacy, the ‘price we have to pay’ is to return to our healing space, addressing our wounds and pathologies. Skill sets like how to stay non-reactive in the face of your partner’s criticism or withdrawal are crucial. In my own life, even after 15 years of practice, these areas still come up. If we’re reactive to our partner’s criticism or withdrawal, that reactivity will undermine our sexual closeness and intimacy.

In the last episode, I discussed the three pillars of sacred intimacy:

1. **Intimacy:** Our sameness, human bond, and recognition of each other’s souls.
2. **Devotion to your partner’s nervous system:** Creating a practice to solidify ‘us.’
3. **Sexual polarity**

Creating devotion to your partner’s nervous system is about solidifying the temple of our love. How can we work on this? How does it impact our sexual capacity?

Most people intuitively understand that emotional intimacy directly affects sexual intimacy. You can perform as the Divine masculine or feminine, but unless you nourish the soil of your relationship with the needed nutrients, you’re missing the soul of your sex.

When we tend to that soil, it adds richness and depth to our capacity to open up and connect with our partners. David Deida’s stages of relationship development provide a framework:

1. **First Stage:** About ‘me and my needs,’ often expressed through criticism or demands.
2. **Second Stage:** About ‘we,’ where negotiations of needs and feelings occur.
3. **Third Stage:** Serving the relationship as a sacred entity.

The third stage is serving something greater than just you and me. About before is kind of beyond us. It’s beyond me, and it’s really about this—it’s about the divine. It’s about the art of loving, about love itself, openness itself. It’s about the spiritual aspects that we are all the same in some way or another.

So how do we start this? I think the first piece I’d like to offer today is that diving into owning our own [ __ ] starts with being very clear about the pathologies we’re bringing into the relationship. Think about it this way: imagine you’re with a partner who has a pathology or neurosis that you’re aware of because it’s right there in front of you, but they’re not aware of it. Say they have some addiction to technology, gaming, or anything else. If they’re not aware of it, this will put you on alert because you’re never quite sure if you can trust them to recognize this blind spot.

If they’re aware of their blind spot and working on it, that will relax you. It’s the same the other way around: if you’re aware of your blind spots and let your partner know like, ‘Wow, I’m noticing I’m reactive in this way,’ or ‘I’m angry and pursuing in this way,’ or ‘I’m avoidant in this way,’ it helps relax your partner. This is one way to tend to your partner’s nervous system, helping to relax them. Owning our own pathologies is a crucial part of being devotional to our partner’s nervous system—that second pillar of relating.

I believe this practice falls under what David Deida calls ‘second-stage practice’ and ‘second-stage healing.’ Another way to look at owning our own [ __ ] in a relationship as an offering to sacred intimacy is to be aware of our shadows. Be aware of the angry child in me, the wounded child, or the critic within. Be aware of these parts that will emerge as we become more intimate and committed.

Usually, the first few months of intimacy are filled with hormones, and we’re all on our best behavior. But once we move in together, decide to start a family, or get married, we get into these really deep, committed experiences. magically transported back into the space of our family of origin, being able to come to the relationship with some understanding, even if it’s still vague, is a way to—it’s an act of devotion. To own our own [ __ ] is an act of devotion, and I want to really emphasize that.

When we think about devotion, we often get the image of being on our knees in devotion to someone or having a wide-open devotional heart. And that’s all true; it is an aspect of devotion. But devotion to the relationship and to our partner’s nervous system also requires us to let them know how we tick, where our reactivity is coming from, and how our nervous system responds to certain stimuli or triggers.

We can let them know, ‘Hey, when you withdraw, you can bet I’m going to pursue. I may transgress boundaries, and this is my habit in intimacy. But I’m working on that. I’m working on being aware of it, I’m in therapy because of that, and I’m going to take space rather than knock on your bedroom door and try to get you to talk to me. I’m going to give you space and request that you come to me when you’re ready, hopefully not too long.’

Being able to identify and bring our own awareness and ruthless honesty to what’s going on in us is an incredibly helpful way to lay the groundwork for sacred intimacy.

When sacred intimacy literally pops the top on our wounds and fears, this is something not often talked about in the field of sexual polarity or sacred intimacy. It’s important to bring it up here.

Here’s how I usually see it in workshops: I’ll be leading couples through practices of sacred intimacy and addressing the feminine partner, asking her to open her heart, trust the partner in front of her, and give him or her feedback as she opens up her heart. I’m directing the masculine partner to be fully present, fully grounded, and fill her open heart with love and consciousness.

I’m guiding them on how to open together as consciousness and love. What inevitably happens, and it happens to both masculine and feminine practitioners, is that as their hearts begin to open, and they’re faced with a really deep connection, deep intimacy sparked and amplified by sexual energy, past traumas and fears start to surface.

In this third-stage space, the yogic answer is to just keep opening: open as the fear, open as the grief, open as the yearning, continue to open as the feeling. But what often happens is that after the exercise is over, they’re left with this revealed storehouse of grief, fear, or disappointment.

For masculine practitioners, the fear is often, ‘I didn’t do that right,’ or ‘I wasn’t good enough,’ or ‘I’m not doing it right.’ For feminine practitioners, it’s a sense of, ‘I don’t feel safe,’ or ‘It’s not safe for me to open this much,’ or ‘I’m too much.’ This points to one of the reasons I love this work so much.

Elucidates through your practice what the deeper personal practice is. It shows—like if, for example, you’re a feminine practitioner and you have this feeling, as you open and express and feel so much, that you’re too much—this fear of, ‘Oh, I’m too much, and my anger, my grief, my longing, my fear, it’s just too much for somebody to meet or love,’ then that is a beautiful opportunity to take off the mat and return to personal exploration.

After the workshop is over, you can go back and get clear on where that came from and what you can do about it. Maybe there’s inner child work or shadow work—modalities that I love. There’s likely a lot you can do to address the things that come up as you open your heart and body so fully.

What I normally see is that most people acknowledge having all this fear, longing, and grief surface, but rarely do they go home and do the deep work on it. They just wait to re-enter that space of sacred intimacy and be in those feelings of closeness and love.

What happens is that if we don’t take responsibility for what’s bubbling up as we deepen our practices, it can also occur in solo practices, like grief or pleasure practices, or any kind of practice that opens your heart and body. Of course, stored trauma remains in our bodies—the body keeps the score—and it will come up, which often shuts us down. I want to highlight that the practices we’re doing are leading us to the deeper work we need to attend to.

Let me give some examples. In my own relationship, my partner and I often have periods where we’re in this incredible love bubble: our sex is yummy, we’re connected, and there’s so much magic. We’re both open and in love, and it’s like Valhalla—the Valhalla of relating.

But inevitably, a day or two afterward, some crunchy things start to come up—resentments or fears surface. This points to how our practice reveals areas that need to be worked on, like codependency, over-dependence, or withdrawal, which are just byproducts of how we were raised and the issues of dysfunctional parenting. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s important to recognize that after these experiences of openness, it’s not unusual for crunchy stuff to bubble up to the surface.

Another example is when people attempt sacred intimacy and sacred practice, whether in a workshop or at home. They’ll try to stretch their capacity. A masculine partner might bring out more of his primal beast, and even though it’s a beautiful sexual experience and his partner loves it, afterward, shame might surface. The fear of ‘Did I hurt her?’ or the feeling that part of him is ugly or dangerous may arise.

Now, he’s left with a couple of choices: fall into shame about it, avoid it and pretend it’s not there, or just be with it momentarily but not address it. I’ve seen this happen often, especially with men. But what he can do is say, ‘Wow, I was loving my partner deeply, bringing fierce love and primal desire, and afterward, I felt shame. What does that mean? Where does that come from?’ If he’s on his game, and hopefully has trusted men he can bring it to, they’ll point out that he should address that in therapy or a group.

He needs to address the part of him that’s ashamed of his primal desire, beastly love, and fierce, killer, or warrior nature. To stay in an ongoing opening space of sacred intimacy, he must address this. Otherwise, it will keep coming up, and his partner will sense it block their capacity to connect deeply. As we open together sexually, and become more adept at tantric and sexual polarity practices of expanding our range and capacity, these things will surface. And each one is a beautiful invitation to till and fertilize the soil. You know, soil gets fertilized with our [ __ ], right? So, we till the soil and fertilize it with past beliefs, insecurities, and the roots of those insecurities—often rooted in trauma, family system trauma, and the grief of carrying that trauma.

Let’s consider this symbiotic relationship between the practice of sexual polarity and sacred sexual intimacy, and the deep personal work that we need to do. Here’s an example from the feminine side: if she’s afraid to say ‘no’ to something she dislikes, she’ll just stay in the experience. She might be touched or maneuvered in a way that doesn’t feel good, but if she hasn’t learned to own her ‘no’ or has been punished for asserting it, then that’s a block—an impediment to deeper connection.

If she emerges from that experience and speaks to her partner, saying, ‘I noticed something that didn’t feel good, but I didn’t say no, and you didn’t do anything wrong because I didn’t let you know,’ then she didn’t own her ‘no.’ This is a beautiful thread to pull on and explore therapeutically, whether with women’s groups, a counselor, or a mentor. There are endless healing modalities available today, and they’re incredible. I’m a huge fan of embodied therapy, trauma release, EMDR, yoga therapy, and many more techniques and modalities to help us move through stored trauma.

If we truly want to live in this space of sexual intimacy, which has infinite depth, we must clear our bodies of trauma. Otherwise, we’ll use practices to paste over the wounds rather than using them as nutrients and fertilizer for an even deeper sexual and spiritual experience.

How can we become more adept at owning our [ __ ], identifying the pathologies, habits, and patterns we bring into our relationships? I’d like to offer a few ways to approach this:

1. **Understand Your Reactivity:** Notice what happens when you’re triggered. Childhood wounds and patterns operate unconsciously and instantly, often repeating the same arguments and breakdowns in relationships.

2. **Identify Patterns:** Recognize patterns that arise when your partner doesn’t do what you want or when your expectations aren’t met.

These are just a couple of strategies to start identifying the areas within us that need to be addressed. uncover what someone like Terry Real might call your ‘adaptive child.’ We all have strategies to try to fix things when our partners aren’t giving us the love we want. There’s an important practice I encourage you to try at home: identify moments when you get triggered and start pulling on that thread. For instance, if he becomes dismissive, what happens in your body? What sensations do you notice? Where has this occurred before in your life?

Be aware of what you do in response. As you pull that thread, you’ll likely uncover a wound, pattern, or series of events that led you to develop that strategy. Articulating this to your partner is crucial. For example, if he’s dismissive and your pattern is to withdraw and punish with coldness, narrate your impulses: ‘When you said that, I felt dismissed, and I want to withdraw and be cold.’

You might also express, ‘What I’m aware of is that the part of me that feels unimportant to you wants to react.’ Sharing this can nurture intimacy, empathy, and care, creating a culture of exploration rather than perpetuating your habitual pattern.

There are moments when we can slow down and put a microscope on our awareness to understand our reactions, emotions, and the deeper triggers at play. Pulling on those threads often leads to something rooted in childhood or past relationships. Sacred intimacy will continually ask us to go deeper into healing our own wounds and those inherited from past generations.

We can create a culture of relationship that reflects the values we wish to live by. Consider cultivating a culture of self-reflective honesty and self-responsibility to sustain your relationship. Turn the lens on yourself and reflect on what you’re bringing to the dance.

Complaining won’t get you more love. It’s more effective to understand our patterns and model personal responsibility. For example, if you’re avoidant, share this with your partner: ‘This is why I avoid, when I do it, and how it feels.’ Create a culture where honesty and self-reflection are natural and a core part of intimacy.

Sacred intimacy begins when we no longer need our partners or the moment to be different. We can only see another as a perfectly imperfect human child of the divine once we address the parts of ourselves that feel unwhole. This is why personal work matters. As we integrate all the wanted and unwanted parts of ourselves, we can accept and love our partners as they are.


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