Creating safety during sex: the moment of disconnect & the importance of the pause

All too often, women ignore our own desires during sex because our desires feel un-explainable, too complicated, or not worth taking the time to figure out.

Even if we don’t consciously believe it, we’ve often absorbed the narratives that our bodies are complex, annoying, and incorrect.

Along with our conditioning around our bodies, we’ve often received societal conditioning to be accommodating and pleasing to others. Many women have also had experiences of interacting with men who did not care about our pleasure or what we wanted (or worse, purposely violated our boundaries).

Instead of being gentle and honoring of ourselves (because that was often never modeled to us), we self-attack to make these experiences feel more normal.

We shame ourselves for changing our minds too often. We feel impatient with our bodies for not doing what we feel they’re “supposed” to do. We shame ourselves for not knowing what we want. We feel that it is wrong to speak up because we don’t want to disappoint our partners, or ruin the experience for them.

This shame, impatience, and wounding combine to create many things (an inability to orgasm, thinking about what we look like during sex, not desiring sex, etc) – but the result I want to talk about today is an experience I call the Disconnect.

The Disconnect occurs in the moments where our feelings shift during sex and instead of naming or honoring that, we choose to ignore it.

The Disconnect happens when our partner is touching us in a way we don’t love, but we pretend we like it until they touch us in a way that feels better or until we orgasm regardless.

The Disconnect happens when we suddenly feel a wave of anger, impatience, or deep sadness during sex, and we stop feeling pleasure while we wait for sex to be over.

The Disconnect happens when we aren’t feeling sexual, but we try to convince ourselves that we are by coercing our bodies into doing what they don’t want to do in the name of our partner’s pleasure, a frequent sex life, or what our minds feel should occur.

I am naming it: the moment of Disconnect. Because by naming this moment, we can see it as a common experience that happens to women – and once we realize it is common and is a natural result of our conditioning, we can choose to interrupt it.

The thing every Disconnect has in common is that we stop feeling what is happening in our bodies, and we go into our minds.

Everyone’s personal narrative will be different, but yours might sound something like: “Oh, I didn’t like that. I don’t know how to explain what I want, so I’d rather not try to tell him. I don’t even know what exactly I didn’t like. I feel irritated at him but I don’t know why. It’s almost over anyway, it’s fine. I shouldn’t be feeling this feeling. I don’t want to ruin his pleasure. This is fine, I can just deal with it.”

It can be triggered by anything, and it doesn’t have to be triggered by anything in particular at all.

When we’re super connected to our bodies during sex, the nature of that connection will cause waves of different energies in our bodies to come up to be felt and processed.

Often the most challenging thing about the Disconnect is that it comes along with so many thoughts, so much conditioning around what we should or should not be feeling and what we should or should not say, that it can cause us to go into overwhelm and freeze/shut down, instead of explaining what is happening.

Part of the resistance to explanation comes from not even knowing what we are feeling or why.

Because of that, asking yourself to go immediately from Disconnect to Explanation is often going to be too difficult. You’re asking your brain to go from deeply having a felt experience inside your own body, to explaining intellectually what just happened – while you’re still feeling the effects of it in your body. It will feel easier to just ignore it until you feel better, or sex is over.

So instead… I present the PAUSE.

Next time you feel that moment of Disconnect – however it shows up for you – say out loud to your partner, “Can we pause?”

You can also say, “Wait, pause.” Or “I need you to pause.” Or whatever language feels best to you.

The beauty of the Pause is that you do not have to know what you’re feeling, or what it was that affected you – you literally only need to know that you are feeling something that you were not feeling before. 

The Pause interrupts the Disconnection. Because in that moment, you’re stopping in order to connect with your body and feel into what is happening in your body.

The Pause can take as long as you need it to. You can ask for whatever you need in that moment, while you’re Pausing.

You can say, “Can you pause and just hold me for a moment.” Or, “Can you come out of me and pause for a moment.”

When you Pause, you’re inviting your body to come back on board.

You’re saying, wait, I’m listening, I want to understand what you need. I will honor you. I will listen to you.

You might realize when you Pause that you want sex to be over now. You might realize that you want to switch positions. You might realize that your partner touched you in a way that you didn’t like. You might realize that you feel sad and just need them to hold you while you cry. You might realize that you didn’t want to have sex in the first place. You might realize that you need your partner to slow down, or speed up, or be more gentle, or be more aggressive. You might realize you need to scream into pillows.

You might realize any number of things, but you won’t have the space to realize it and be able to name it unless you choose to Pause.

Sometimes even naming that you want to Pause will feel really difficult. It will require you to summon up energy, to interrupt the flow of things. It will also require you to face and acknowledge what your body is actually feeling as opposed to what you want it to feel, and that isn’t always a fun experience (though it is what leads to healing).

It will help to not expect yourself to be perfect at recognizing and naming when the Disconnect is happening. When we’ve spent a lifetime not listening to our bodies, the feelings that you’re ignoring won’t always register consciously.

You might get to the end of sex before you realize that earlier on, you experienced the Disconnect and didn’t listen. That is completely normal and completely okay.

The purpose of learning to Pause is that over time, the lag time gets shorter. You’ll recognize it more quickly, and you’ll be able to speak up more quickly.

The Pause will allow you to create a container of safety for your body. This is because it shows your body that you care about what it needs and you are listening and staying connected to it.

If you regularly ignore your body, you won’t feel like you trust yourself and it’s likely that your body will feel unsafe; you can rebuild that sense of safety by beginning to listen to what your body is telling you.

The deepest healing only happens when we feel safe; likewise, the more safety you feel, the more pleasure your body will be able to experience.

You can also let your partner know ahead of time that you’re working on really honoring your body, and you might ask them to pause. You can let them know that that doesn’t mean anything about them or how they’re doing, and that it just has to do with you learning to listen to your body.

Any partner who truly wants you to experience pleasure should be happy to honor your needs.

The beauty of the Pause is in its simplicity: you don’t need to know what you’re feeling, you don’t need to know what you want, you don’t need to explain.

All you need to do is ask to Pause.


If you liked this piece, you might also enjoy:

51 real-life examples of how I set boundaries and ask for what I want during sex

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It’s not your fault: how past sexual experiences limit your sex life today

How to stop thinking about your body during sex