By Anita Tedaldi: CNJ columnist
I often receive questions about relationships from other women. Being from Italy, the land of passion, my reputation as a Latin lover at times precedes my reputation as writer.
Recently, an anonymous reader I will call Jane asked me if I had tips to stay intimate with a partner during long absences and in her particular case deployments.
I started responding to Jane and realized that the answer was harder than what I thought. For starters, this topic can be embarrassing for the writer and the reader. I know you don’t want to know specifics of my sex life, and probably don’t especially want to share yours.
But being too broad and dispensing advice that is obvious doesn’t work either. Intimacy is a crucial part of any relationship and we should work on it by communicating and being honest, but what exactly does this mean when it comes to the physical part of intimacy, in the context of long absences?
I’m not reducing intimacy to sex. Intimacy is much more than physical closeness, it includes the emotional, mental and the visceral desire to be with another person. Open communication and honesty go a long way when we only have phone calls and e-mails. But my experience has been that the scale is tipped toward all other aspects of intimacy and that when it comes time to talk about sex, people turn purple and start talking in generalities.
It’s embarrassing. Women in particular have a hard time discussing sex and admitting that they miss it — which doesn’t mean that one should go out and look for it elsewhere. But it does mean that acknowledging our physical frustration can help bring us closer to our partner and strengthen other areas of our relationship.
Personally, I have ignored this aspect of my marriage on more than one occasion when my husband was gone. I didn’t know what to say or how to share my thoughts with him. I loved him and he loved me, but should I send him a steamy letter about our sex life or suggest that I can take care of my needs on my own while he’s gone? (There I said it, now you don’t have to feel badly about thinking it!).
When I started hinting at things or being upfront about these issues, my husband and I got much closer.
The best thing that I can say to my friend Jane is that if she wants to be intimate with her husband while he is apart, she needs to find out what intimacy means to her personally. Is it sharing a fantasy, is it a steamy letter or code words on the phone? Is it buying special toys while her loved one is gone and telling him about it? Or is it much less steamy, a heart and sweet words letter?
I can’t give Jane the answers. But I can say that sex within the context of a loving relationship needs to be acknowledged and that oftentimes, for men especially, it validates their emotional needs.
Absence is never easy. But with a little attention to each other’s needs, it can, as the expression goes, make the heart grow fonder.
Anita Tedaldi is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org