Intimate relationships in the age of physical distancing

Yesterday, a lovely couple landed in our swimming pool. After a few minutes of frolicking in the water they retired poolside, their heads lovingly intertwined. He was a beautiful Mallard duck, with shiny, virtually fluorescent green markings on his head. She was much more demurely and simply feathered Mallard, as if in a travel outfit. I am not sure if they were the same ducks that visit us each spring, but they looked the same. As they snuggled together I thought of our current state of physical distancing when outside our homes, and being cooped up at home. 

Newspaper comments predict that there will be a population increase in our communities 9 months from now. As to a significant increase in population, I doubt it. A bit of pessimism about our safety and economic future may temper our desire for offspring. Widely accepted, easily used, and safe birth control methods will prevent most accidental or unplanned pregnancies. As to intimate relationships, I would hope that given couples’ somewhat enforced physical closeness there will be more frequent, more planned, more elaborate, slower, but more mutually enriching physical encounters.

Intimate relationships include a host of interactions between two people. There is now time and opportunity for talk—how precious talking is at the time of courting, an art seemingly long forgotten. Think too of the other ways of expressing affection for each other; there is hand holding, hugging, sitting tightly together even if the kids or grandkids are running around. There is the allure of the bedroom and the comfort of resting side by side, fully clothed or not, holding hands and talking, just talking. There is the moment when gently caressing one another just unfolds naturally, helped by the outpouring of brain chemicals that enhance feelings of trust, needs, and desires. 

Now there is no need to hurry. There is time to explore, time to guide, time to let go. There is no need to worry about performance. There is no need to think of the act (doctors call it coitus) as the one and only destination. There is no need to have a prized goal. Feel safe, feel good, feel the pleasure that the body and the mind so desires. Yes, the act of intercourse is fine for those couples for whom it really works. In reality the hasty or single-minded drive for climax only by that act may lead the way to malfunction, disappointment, anxiety, dissatisfaction, pain, and disinterest. Guiding and helping each other to fulfillment of erotic potential creates a unique and pleasurable bond between two persons.

Is it safe to have physical intimacy when an invisible virus may lurk around? Washing hands is probably a must. Shedding street clothing would be advisable. Having a shower together may add to the occasion.

To be very realistic, couples who have symptoms of tiredness, cold, runny nose, cough, or elevated temperature need tender care, even a degree of isolation, rather than physical intimacy. There will be another day for that.
—George Szasz, CM, MD

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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