Relationship & Sex Advice

What Is Erotic Empathy? This Might Be the Ultimate Fix to Your Lackluster Sex Life

What Is Erotic Empathy? This Might Be The Ultimate Fix To Your Lackluster Sex Life



Understanding Erotic Empathy Could Be What Saves Your Relationship

The act of empathy — giving your partner some slack when they’re under a lot of pressure at work or sharing in their grief after they’ve lost a loved one — is a crucial component of romantic relationships. But we don’t often talk about how this concept comes into play in the bedroom. Erotic empathy, a term coined by Canadian licensed psychologist Amanda Luterman, refers to allowing your partner to find you attractive even when you don’t feel you are.

Luterman, who is also the founder of the Center for Erotic Empathy, got the idea for the term after observing patients who struggled to understand or relate to what pleases their partner sexually. Her husband loves carrot cake while she hates it, but she learned to support his enjoyment without saying “yuck” or “that’s gross.” She quickly realized this can apply to sex as well.

“Who am I to tell him I am not appealing?”

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Other experts agree that this concept is one of the most important capabilities you can cultivate for a healthy sex life. Here’s what you need to know about erotic empathy (and how to work on it).


What Is Erotic Empathy?


At its core, empathy is just being aware of someone else’s feelings and experiences. It’s the ability to put yourself in their shoes, as well as understanding where they’re coming from. With that known, how does it come into play between the sheets?

“Erotic empathy means verbally communicating one’s emotional and physical needs and desires while validating those unique to your partner,” says Rebecca Torosian, an intimacy behavioral therapist.

For example, say your partner starts trying to make moves on you after you come home from the gym, but you’d rather shower off the sweat before you engage. Torosian says a response that incorporates erotic empathy would be to touch them in a loving way and allude interest without shutting them down completely.

“Speaking your truth not only is freeing for you, but it also assures your partner that they are not the cause of your discomfort,” Torosian tells AskMen.

Another example involves porn. Luterman noted in a podcast interview with Smart Sex, Smart Love that it’s very common for one person in the relationship to like porn while the other feels disgusted by it (or even consider watching it cheating). According to Luterman, this disgust response is often rooted in the fear that your partner is more attracted to what they see on their screen than they are to you and what you have to offer. But if you can push past those insecurities and at least try to understand what your partner enjoys about porn, or even try participating with them, you’ve shown erotic empathy.

Now, here’s what erotic empathy isn’t: You should never have sex with your partner out of guilt or avoidance of conflict when you don’t want it just because you know they do. Luterman calls that an act of self-betrayal because while you may be showing empathy for your partner’s needs and wants, you’re ignoring your own.


What Makes Erotic Empathy So Important?


The last thing you want to do when your partner expresses desire is to imply that there’s something wrong with what they want. Rejecting them without compassion could cause them to retreat, leaving them less likely to open up about what they want or initiate sex in the future, and as you likely know, having an open line of communication is crucial for a fulfilling sex life.

“Practicing and developing erotic empathy within your relationship strengthens bonds of trust and good will,” says Torosian. “It gives each person the space to express their authentic selves without judgment. Summoning courage to verbalize our fears, needs, and desires opens the way for our partners to reciprocate. And stronger emotional and physical bonds are created when we are willing to be vulnerable.”

RELATED: What to Do When Your Partner Is Not in the Mood, According to Intimacy Coaches

Working on erotic empathy encourages both of you to be more free in expressing what turns you on, which in turn ensures that you both feel supported in your sexual relationship.


How Can You Build Erotic Empathy?


According to Torosian, erotic empathy is based both openness and curiosity.

To get the ball rolling, she recommends engaging in an exercise that involves taking turns sharing the individual parts of your body that you feel good about. Follow this by taking turns sharing about those body parts that you dislike. Listen without judgment or the need to reassure your partner that you love the parts of them they don’t. Empathy starts with understanding, and this exercise allows you to learn a little more about your partner’s insecurities so you can be more sensitive to them when it comes time to tear each other’s clothes off.

“Erotic empathy grows when we share and acknowledge both our own and our partner’s true feelings,” explains Torosian.

Another of her favorite exercises that focuses on erotic empathy is the “touch permission game.” Sit on the bed or floor and take turns asking permission to touch a specific part of your partner’s body. When you hear a “yes,” put your hand on that part for a few seconds while taking a deep breath before removing it. After that, make your next touch request. When you hear a “no,” notice what feelings come up and discuss them before moving on to the next request. The idea is that hearing a “yes” can boost your confidence while hearing a “no” can give you insight into your partner’s inner world and boundaries.

And when your partner tries to initiate sex and you’re just not in the mood, Torosian strongly advises asking for a rain check as kindly and compassionately as possible. Bottom line: You don’t want to force yourself to get physical because that could breed resentment, but you also don’t want to make your partner feel ridiculous for trying.

Luterman shared that a couple she worked with had struggled with a disparity in the bedroom in which the husband loved when his wife was on top, but she felt incredibly insecure about her body from that angle after just having a baby. Once she opened herself up to the idea of empathizing with her partner’s enjoyment of that position, she found herself aroused by her partner’s arousal. The more she noticed he was turned on, the more turned on she got until her self-consciousness melted away. How’s that for empathy?

“Erotic empathy is ultimately not about self-love, it is an alternative to the ever-popular movement that says unless you love yourself and your body you will not achieve love and gratifying sex,” says Luterman. “We live in a world that capitalizes on self-loathing and insecurity. Social media, TV, onslaughts of advertisements and promotions everywhere, perpetuate our insecurities, Erotic empathy is about seeing yourself through the desire of your partner, even in an imaginative erotically inspired narrative, in order to heighten sensations of arousal in good company.”

If you can start focusing a little bit more on your partner’s experience and perspective during sex, maybe you can start to understand what makes them tick. Better yet, maybe you’ll even start to share in their excitement, too.

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