Eyes wide open



Dear Dr. Jenni,

I’m a straight male and I love having sex, but I can’t do it with my eyes open. When I open my eyes and look at the other person, I feel overwhelmed and wig out. My two last partners pointed this out, and I’m curious if something is wrong with me.

—Eyes Wide Shut

Dear Eyes,

Nothing is wrong with you. Sometimes our past experiences plague how we operate in the present. Having a full understanding of yourself and your past may help you.

Intimate moments during sex can feel scary to people who have experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse because it is a time of utter vulnerability. Though I don’t have more info on your background, it sounds like intimacy may be an issue for you. If anyone looks too deeply into your eyes, this triggers a response where you feel exposed and overwhelmed. As you have noted, this can affect your sex life because the deeper you go in a relationship, the more likely you will have eye contact during sex — which pushes your intimacy buttons.

Irrelevant of past experiences, eye contact is a powerful connector and can be intense or uncomfortable for many people in our culture. Even conversations in grocery stores, at Starbucks, or in restaurants lack prolonged eye contact. In the age of email, we communicate face-to-face, eye-to-eye much less often. It’s like we are losing our ability to learn intimacy.

Considering your situation in bed, are you able to look deeply into your partner’s eyes before sex and after? Ultimately, where do you go when you close your eyes? Are you enjoying the sexual act, yet not the sexual connection? If so, I suggest practicing eye contact and intimacy in a safe setting, like a men’s group.

Dear Dr. Jenni, My wife and I are in our mid-40s and have been married for more than 20 years. To my knowledge, she has never masturbated. Recently she has taken up masturbation, and even initiates sex more often. As you can imagine, I’m thrilled beyond belief. But I fear that she has started to open up sexually from having an affair. I love the way she is opening, and I don’t want to rock the boat by asking, but I can’t stop thinking of the potential affair.

—Afraid to Rock the Boat

Dear Afraid,

Is the risk worth the consequence?

You have two options. You can stay silent and enjoy the increase in sexual frequency and expression. Or, you can ask her about her new sexual vivacity.

Staying silent will require you to ignore that little voice on your shoulder questioning her fidelity. Otherwise, you may bump up against growing feelings of jealousy and resentment.

The other option is to be forthright and ask. If you learn that she is having an affair, you will have to decide what that means for you and the relationship. You may also learn that there is no affair at all. Perhaps she’s been having conversations with her friends about sex and she finally gave herself permission to explore self-pleasure in more depth.

And perhaps you already know the answer, whether you ask her or not. How happy are you in the relationship? Do you share emotional and sexual intimacy? Do you share physical and social activities? Do you feel like you really know one another? If you answered no, you will want to start asking honest questions anyway to figure out a life path that consists of sharing more intimacy.

Send questions for Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., to drjenni@theintimacyinstitute. org. Skyler is a sex therapist and boardcertified sexologist who runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org.

Questions Send questions for Jenni Skyler to drjenni@ theintimacyinstitute.org.

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