Sex: Comfort seekers, thrill seekers, and where do you fit? (And how can you be both?)

10 years ago

Some friends and I were discussing sex and relationships the other day and one of them brought up an interesting premise. She thought that most people could be divided into two types: thrill-seekers, and comfort-seekers, and that those impulses drove their sex and relationships behavior.

In other words, in her book, there were people who thrilled to wild energy, adventure and novelty; that led them off into open relationships, testing themselves with practices outside the sexual average (tantra, BDSM). These were the folks who liked their feelings to be written large, and who always savored a noticeable bit of risk. They wanted to “challenge their assumptions, push their boundaries, and leave their comfort zones.”

The other sort of person, my friend said, was a comfort-seeker. This type of person valued the deep intimacy, quiet engagement and trust over time of familiar relationships. For them, sex was best as a safe, loving and nurturing space—not a place to push the boundaries of new experiences.

I am interested in these categories, but truth be told, I think most people—myself included—fit into both. Aren’t there moments when sex is comfort, a deep intimate exchange with someone you love and trust? Moments when being together is soothing, a way to find refuge and go inside. And then aren’t there other moments when sex is a kind of play? When the fun and the exuberance get dialed way up--and stay there for a long time?

Part of what makes this question interesting is understanding yourself, but the other part is how to you communicate to keep you and your partner in synch? It can be challenging, but truly, this is one of the areas where communication is key (aren’t they all?)

I admire my friend, whom I will call Patty, who’s been married for 10,000 years to a guy for whom sex is as comforting as a crock-pot. Steven is always there for her and she loves him, but geeze, things are always at a simmer. For Patty, who was married and monogamous for 18 years and then woke up one day and said “My heart has dried out!” (not to mention her body), turning up the heat has meant negotiating with hubby how she can add more excitement to her life without breaking their vows. For the past 15 months she has—with hubby’s knowledge and approval—been taking all sorts of massage and sexological bodywork classes and finding ways—like tantra workshops—to have more of that wild energy and heat she craves without veering off into full sex with other people. And of course, she always comes home to her guy.

I have another friend. Jayme(not her real name either), for whom sex and relationships are always about the adventure. Jayme—as she’ll tell you herself—is a new relationship energy junkie, feeding off the passion and surprise of getting with new people, but pretty outta the relationship as soon as that feeling of comfortable familiarity sets in. “I don’t do long-term,” says Jayme, who doesn’t describe herself as fickle as much as she’s still exploring, needing lots of room to grow, and fascinated by new people.

And then there’s my friend Lora (another changed name) for whom sex is both, often at the same time. On one hand, she’s the woman who wants to nest at home, cooking her guy meatloaf and hanging on the big, cushy couch; on the other hand, she’s an enemy of complacency and wants to feel like things always have an edge and are always getting better. “I see sex and relationships as things that don’t just happen,” Lora said when I shared these ideas with her. “I like having a familiar partner, but it takes work to get closer.”

For Lora, that work can mean going to self-development workshops together like Landmark or HAI; it can also meant deep talking about what she and her partner want, then trying to act on those feelings. “But you have to want compatible things,” Lora says. “If you want unpredictability and he wants to check out swingers—well, you may be too far apart.” (Department of TMI: She earlier broke up with a guy like that.) With the person Lora is currently seeing, lots of talking about their fantasies, assumptions about one another, and things they might enjoy are charting the balance between crock pot and blow torch.

For myself, I currently veer toward the thrill seeking side, even though I’m exploring that more in the context of a committed partner. No matter how much I am deeply grateful to have found A, and how safe I feel with him, part of what makes our relationship so thrilling are the unpredictable and playful aspects.
(As my kid likes to point out to me, I'm definitely going through bits of my twenties..now.)

Soooo… Are you more on the seeking comfort side of sex in your relationship(s), or the wild thrills? Crock-pot or blow torch? Meat loaf or crème brulee?

And if you’re a bit of both, how do you manage the switch (between modes, that is?)

Let’s take a look around the blogosphere at some of our friends who are deep into the sex and relationships space. Which of these posters do you think is a comfort-seeker? Which a thrill seeker?

And where do you (and your significant other(s) fall on that line?

Babeland blog: Moments in the Night
“He pushes me against the wall, kissing me, hard. His hand on my forehead, holding my head back- tilted upwards towards him. His other hand moving up my skirt, digging into my panties. Our mouths connectedm our tongues tangled. For a moment I forgot. The years of disappointment and the nights of crying myself to sleep. It was all gone, and we were together. Young, carefree and stealing a moment of passion away from the troubles. We were somewhere in our 20’s again. In love, in lust, and indestructible.”

Barmaid Blog: Gift Horse
“Will you come live with me?"

"I - what?"

"Your lease is up for renewal in July, you told me so yourself. Jill and Cassie can find someone else to take your room, can't they? I have so much space, and Puppy loves having you around, and we could be together every single night, no spare shit in a drawer, no cabs or subways home first thing in the morning only to go back to sleep."

"I don't know, Jenny, God, I only met you a few months ago. We've never talked about it, I've never thought about it, I love it here with my friends - I mean I love you, you know that, right?" She nods. "But it's awfully soon!"”

sexagenarian and the city, a babyboomer’s adventures with jewish gentlemen in the new york dating scene: mimi’s dating statistics after 856 days of dating: a quirky survey

  • number of first-dates since June 25, 2006: 41
  • number of second-dates since June 25, 2006: 11
  • (henceforth in these statistics, “number of men” or “number of dates” or “number of first-dates” refers only to the period after June 25, 2006)
  • number of second-dates turned down: 6

The Honeymoon Phase: My First Year of Marriage, A Lovely Adventure
“Yesterday we celebrated our one-year anniversary. Although we didn’t do it over a candlelight dinner or a romantic mountain getaway like we may have liked, it was a lovely day. We spent most of it in airports returning from the wedding of a friend back in Iowa. We got home in the evening, hauled trash (including an old toilet) onto a trailer bound for the dump, did laundry and organized our bathroom closet. We did crack into our year-old wedding cake and reminisced about our first year of marriage: a time period described best as a lovely adventure.”

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