You may want to try this “advanced cuddling” for enjoyment and for building trust with your partner. It is called advanced because is requires a well–established bond of trust between the partners to begin with.
First, you need basic trust to lie with another person and enjoy physical closeness. You would not do it with a stranger. This is the trust in gentleness, which is quite obvious, but is worth acknowledging.
Second, you need the greater trust of grace, that your attitude to each other is without worldly motives. The courtly lovers of medieval Europe practiced asag to prove their sincerity. (The word comes from the Occitan assag or ensag and is related to the modern words assay and essay, through the French essai, or essayer — a test, to try.) This consisted in sleeping in the same bed naked, but without having intercourse. Only if they refrained from sex the whole night would their love be considered courtly. Tristan and Isolde famously slept chastely side by side with a sword between them as the sacred symbol that attested to the purity of their love. The King, who was Isolde’s husband, was furious at their elopement, but upon seeing them thus, he gave up his plans to kill them both. This peculiar test proves the greater trust in sincerity, and in the ability to defer gratification for the sake of love. So you may try asag if you want. Chastity is not the point here, but the self–control it requires is a prerequisite to further exploration. With this dual foundation of trust firmly in place, you can approach cuddling in an entirely new and powerful way.
Ordinarily, desire is seen as a need that must be fulfilled, or even a means to an end.
Lie in bed with your partner, wearing a single layer of light clothing, such as pajamas. Snuggle together, intent on letting desire grow between you, but without following through with sexual intercourse. This first phase of advanced cuddling is called desire as desirable. Ordinarily, desire is seen as a need that must be fulfilled, or even a means to an end (sex). We summon desire to obtain arousal, followed by intercourse. In this case, desire is seen as an end in itself, something to be enjoyed for its own sake. This counters any tendency to experience desire as a lack. If you look deep down, you may find that this sense of lack is a very impoverished way of relating to yourself and to your partner. Instead, you can rejoice in, and be confident that desire for each other is intimacy in and of itself.
If you dedicate the time and place for desire to be fully experienced, for its own sake rather than as an expedient to intercourse, a greater vulnerability toward the other becomes possible.
Being fully open to desire requires a special kind of vulnerability, because we normally fear expressing too much sexual interest in another person. Expressing too much interest can cause the other to reject us as too needy, and therefore we may avoid desiring too much. Lack of desire can therefore be a subtle form of self–preservation, the opposite of being open to each other. But if you dedicate the time and place for such desire to be fully experienced, for its own sake rather than as an expedient to intercourse, a greater vulnerability toward the other becomes possible. This is the third level of trust. Instead of using intercourse for the maintenance of a relationship or the fulfillment of pent-up desire, you trust in your ability to face your sexual desire as a wholly positive force, worthy in and of itself. It is equivalent to a supra–mundane state of vulnerability with your partner, a way to deeper communication.
While insecurity often requires the elimination of any and all ambiguous situations, in this case you trust one another enough to cultivate ambiguity deliberately.
When you both feel you are in the thick of the experience described above, you can agree to the second phase of advanced cuddling, ambiguous arousal. It is the relaxed enjoyment of greater and greater states of sexual arousal, by touching and caressing each other lightly through clothing, but without aiming for sex, and also without aiming for no sex — that would simply mean going to sleep. Beyond refraining from intercourse, be attentive to maintaining such a state of arousal that would be expected to lead either to intercourse or to a milder form of cavorting, according to your habit and experience. While insecurity often requires the elimination of any and all ambiguous situations, in this case you trust one another enough to cultivate ambiguity deliberately. This is the fourth level of trust, taking a leap into the unknown.
Maintain this state as long as the ambiguity remains. You can tell that ambiguity has dissipated if you feel you had enough and are ready to fall asleep, or on the contrary if you feel irresistibly drawn to intercourse. Should you decide to have sex after all, that is not a great failure or a moral offense, only something other than intended. Try this again some other time.
You can then move to the third and last phase of cuddling, making love without making love. It is quite formless. Because you have gone though the stages of arousal that would/might lead to intercourse, your bodies naturally know how to take the next step. But because you have applied a commensurate amount of self–control to refrain from conventional intercourse, outright physicality is completely optional. You can be very nonchalant, but still quite present with each other. You are content and joyful merely reveling in each other’s presence. This cannot be described in words, because it depends on the partners, the phase of the moon, the tide, unicorns, and many other things. It needs to be experienced.
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