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Part 2 of What I've learned after two years of daily sex

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

In Part 1 of this piece, I concluded that underlying all the frisky, flirty, dirty, sexy times between Preacher Man and myself has been the element of play. In this post, I want to attempt to break down what I mean by play being an essential ingredient in our new steamy status quo.



I’ve already talked about how ancient Greek writers conceived of play as emerging out of an internal state of bliss or pleasure. For someone imbued with a blissful spirit of childhood, no matter the age, play naturally follows. As envisioned by the Greek philosophers, play forms a pleasure loop of sorts –– feelings of joy lead us to play, and given that play itself is a form of joy, this joy inspires still further blissful play.



This differs from the way we would normally think about play –– that play represents activities or games that produce feelings of enjoyment. But the more that I’ve thought about it, I think the Greek philosophers have something here, at least when applied to erotic play. But I’ll get to that.



Later play theoreticians would talk about play in terms of a suspended state of reality –– a “magic circle” as it were –– with its own set of rules, where what is normally impossible can become possible.



There is a suspension of disbelief in play, and reality, what is possible and impossible, doesn’t matter one iota to those playing. When I finally give into Three’s demands for me to play with him, we stomp around and roar like dinosaurs. We toss matchbox cars about and pretend to crush and then eat them. We’re not really dinosaurs that eat cars. In reality, dinosaurs and cars never coexisted, and they wouldn’t have eaten them even if they had. But in our magic circle of play that Three and I have created together, we are just that.





But, I know, I know. What you really want to know is what the heck does all this have to do with going to Pound Town? *shakes my head and chuckles* Get your minds out of the gutter for a few minutes, you dirty minxes, you!



Looking back at earlier posts, I see an evolution happening, not only in how PM and I relate to one another, but also in my understanding of that relationship. In “My Orgasm Fix: Part 2,” which I wrote almost one year ago, the way I initially talk about sexual play sounds more like I’m describing work that needs doing than play. *cringes* There I shared that in an attempt to prioritize one another’s sexual needs, PM and I had begun defining “sex” loosely, and instead of trying to find “the right time” to get sexy, we had made it a point to take turns getting one another off, in whatever fashion we wanted. This meant that we no longer had to wait for the stars to align in order to get busy. Making the conscious decision to take turns in the roles of giver and receiver allowed us to make reconnecting intimately with one another a daily fixture in our busy lives.



But as I said, this tit-for-tat approach to sex doesn’t sound particularly playful. It may be extremely pleasurable *eyebrows waggle suggestively*, but what I’m describing isn’t really play. After all, goal-oriented activities –– in this case, activity driven by sexual needs –– are, no matter how pleasurable they may be, the purview of “the serious.” Play, on the other hand, is an immediate and spontaneous experience born of an internal state of bliss that concerns itself only with joy and pleasure in the moment.



However, back in that post from last March I already began to hint at play in the way that I talk about how pleasure-giving could become an art form. Pleasure-giving and pleasure-receiving begins to resemble art, that is, a form a play, when I embrace the joy inherent in being in the moment. When I let go of worries and distractions. When I find delight in my partner, even if I’m not on the receiving end. Though PM and my journey together started out goal-oriented (as a way of seeing to our sexual needs), it quickly became something else entirely. Something magical.



What PM and I began to create was a delicious anticipation that both preceded and accompanied every sexual encounter. When I knew our next encounter would see me on the receiving end, I would gleefully await what PM had planned. Knowing that I would be able to let go and just focus on myself –– the thought was intoxicating. Every interaction between PM and me that led up to my turn being the receiver was a delicious build. I’d catch myself daydreaming about it. My imagination was engaged, a prerequisite for play.



But what was a real surprise was my headspace in anticipation of being the pleasure-giver. One might assume I’d view it as I would a chore. But when I knew I was going to be up to bat, I found myself taking time beforehand to think about what I was going to do to PM. To envision an erotic scene. What did I want it to look like, how might I surprise him, what might I do to play with his pleasure. The delight I took in imagining myself as the creator and manipulator of my partner’s bliss was almost as exciting as the anticipation I felt over my own bliss.



PM and I were inadvertently fostering and nurturing an internal state of joy and delight in one another, that mental mode that Plato says naturally erupts in playful activity. And what more, we were entering into each other’s erotic imaginations.



This sense of excitement that I feel over the thought of erotically playing with my spouse closely resembles what I feel when I’m planning and executing a prank. We call it “playing” a prank for good reason. There’s imagination involved. Anticipation. A sense of glee in the preparation, sometimes almost as much as the pulling-off of the actual prank itself.



And so erotic pleasure between PM and I began to more closely resemble erotic play. In asking, “How can I maximize my partner’s experience of pleasure?” PM becomes a puzzle, a riddle, a mystery to be solved. And I, too, am an enigma to PM in each of our encounters. Erotic pleasure –– birthed out of a state of delight and joy in one another –– turned into art, into discovery, into play.



But more than just rediscovering erotic mysteries to be solved in the bedroom…or on the couch, or on the dining room table, or at the kitchen island *winks*… PM and I had also begun to create room for eroticism in our overall life together. In making turn-taking a regular erotic practice in our relationship, unbeknownst to us, we had already begun conceiving of sex as an opportunity for play, in that we were carving out spaces in our messy, chaotic lives where a “magic circle” could be constructed.



So let’s talk a little about this “magic circle” concept, because I think it’s such a great way to conceive of this figurative erotic play space.



Play concerns itself only with enjoyment in the moment. And in order for play to be possible, there needs to be a space –– it could be literal like a soccer field or gameboard or metaphysical like an imaginary world –– where we are free from the rules and expectations of ordinary, serious life. We essentially press pause on life around us so that we can enter play mode. I immerse myself into a new world with its own rules and possibilities, and those expectations are what solely concern me for the moment. To fully engage in the play, I create a sort of mental bubble. In this play mode, I draw a line between real life and “play.” This is the idea of the “magic circle.” (The term “Magic Circle” in play theory was first used by sociologist Johan Huizinga and later coined by game designers.)



I see a relationship between this separateness from our partner that psychotherapist Esther Perel tells us is so necessary and the idea of an erotic magic circle.** But making a magic circle for erotic play is more complicated than suspending reality and disbelief to become a dinosaur with Three. Or, at least, it feels infinitely more complicated. After all, how can feel delight in my partner when all they do is irk me? How could I possibly want to be playful with the person who can’t seem to get how much I need time away from our children?



Perel writes about couples in long-term relationships, “In order to bring lust home, we need to re-create the distance that we worked so hard to bridge” (Mating in Captivity, 32). She’s not talking here about creating actual physical space between PM and I, although there’s a reason why I’m eager for him when he’s been away. Separateness from PM allows me to see him as an individual, distinct from me as well as from his roles and responsibilities in our domestic life together. Once severed from all the messy stuff of our lives, I once again can spy the intriguing person that so enamored me in the early days of our courtship. I’m reminded of the pleasure of his company, how much I really do admire and appreciate him as a human being.



And in allowing everything else around him and attached to him to blur, so that I’m left re-seeing and re-appreciating my partner, I tap into an internal sense of joy –– that state of child-like bliss –– that the ancient philosophers recognized as a prerequisite for play. A renewed sense of delight in my partner spurs me on to activities of delight. In short, in remembering why I like PM so much, it makes me want to have fun with him… sexy fun. Those feelings of joy that I associate with PM make me want to play with him. Like play play with him. *smirks and nods*



What does an erotic magic circle of play look like? It’s any span of time where we stop, even for a moment, and show we still appreciate one another sexually. It’s any activity that expresses that appreciation. It can be as small and brief as a suggestive brush of bodies as we work at the kitchen island together. It can be as subtle as a lingering, stroking hand on my waist as we watch our children play at the park, or eye contact that holds a second too long. All these things could be taken as innocuous and meaningless, but context is king, as they say.



And, sure, I could ignore the press of PM’s body behind mine as he reaches for something, or I can lean into it *winks*, and so create a moment of play. PM could pretend he doesn’t see me bite my lip as I hold his gaze and give him a knowing smile, or he can play along. And sexual tension –– erotic possibility –– builds in those moments.



Our frisky exchange doesn’t have to leave our minds, our imaginations. We’re certainly not going to sneak off behind a tree at the park to get handsy. But it’s erotic play, nonetheless. And, what more, we’ve affirmed one another in those playful moments: I see you, and I can tell you see me, too. There’s something incredibly powerful in that, especially when you’ve been together a long time. (I talk more about the power of flirting in my piece from last summer, “What’s so dirty about a little flirty?”)



When I send a flirty text to PM, apropos nothing, I imagine his pleased response –– a grin, a chuckle, or a smirk. I don’t know precisely what he’s doing when he reads my text, but I plan my move with certain hopes for what his reaction might be. I wait with a fair bit of excitement for his countermove. Will he respond the way I think he might, or will he surprise me? The game begins, and anticipation builds –– where might this game between us go?



In this circle of play that I’m hoping to make when I send him that suggestive text, there’s no real goal in mind. It’s a flirt. A tease. A statement and a question. Are you thinking of me? Will you think of me now? (Oh yeah, you will.) There are a lot of unknowns, and we make up the rules as we go –– what direction will our banter take? are we going to get explicit? is this going to turn silly? –– but we’re pressing pause on life for just a moment to enter a playful space together.

In that magic space of play, the outside world – real life – doesn’t exist. In play we get to show sides of ourselves that we normally hide. We get to experiment and can try on whole new personas. I can be a slutty vixen. He can be a cad. I can play the part of the innocent virgin, wary of his advances. We can wax poetic or get naughty and dirty. It’s all up for grabs because in our magic circle, normal rules don’t apply.



In a simple yet loaded 6 text exchange, PM and I have created a circle of play, pressing pause on real life for a moment. And what more, what happens in the circle, stays in the circle. There are different expectations in play, after all. When we’re back in real life mode, all those wicked things I’ve suggested stay in the game (unless we choose to play in some other way later *smirks*). The very fact that it’s play means I’m safe to experiment without fear of judgment or without worrying about what any of this means. That’s the magic of play!



In our magic circle, when I’m in that play mode with PM, I’m not the mother who’s worrying that our kids have too much screen time. I’m not the stay-at-home spouse who shops because she’s feeling depressed about her lack of career. I’m no longer the domestic partner who piles dirty laundry in front of the basement door instead of just bringing it down the stairs. For the moment, in this space, I’m not the birthday, holiday, play date planner. I’m none of those ordinary things.



In this Magic Circle of play, I am once again a creature of mystery. PM is transported back to a time when I was still unfamiliar to him. Back to when time spent together wasn’t aimed at any particular goal, like getting the kids ready for bed or going over a household budget. To a time when he looked forward to our exchanges. When there was still a sense of longing to know more about me. That span of time in our still new relationship when he wondered what I was thinking, how I would respond, what I might be feeling.



When PM enters that circle with me, he’s not the parent who comes home after working all day just to be handed domestic tasks as soon as he walks in the door. He’s no longer the breadwinner who feels like he’s the only one thinking about the long-term financial future of our family. He’s not the domestic partner who is the only one who picks up the laundry pile and brings it down to the basement.



We briefly take a step away from our routines, from old argument stalemates, from past misunderstandings and disappointments. We try to see one another through fresh eyes, to find unfamiliarity and surprise in the known and predictable. To make a safe space for our partner to show, or even experiment with, a different side of themselves.



But what PM and I have found is that all this takes practice.



As I’ve been working on this piece, I have found myself asking, Can a person learn to play? Or in the case of most of us, can we relearn to play? And I think we can (just look at PM and me!) or else I probably wouldn’t be sharing this with you.



When all I can see of PM are the ways he’s hurt me, when all I feel when I think about him is frustration, playfulness simply isn’t possible. Play requires that we tap into a headspace that allows us to suspend reality for a time. Sure, it’s not always easy suspending reality in the midst of the chaos, even for a few moments. Sometimes it can feel downright impossible.



But in choosing to see and focus on those parts of PM that delight me, even for just a few minutes every day, I’m creating the conditions for the magic of play.



So what have I learned over the past two years of getting it on with my husband like we’re horny teenagers?


First, PM and I needed to take a step back from one another. If we aren’t giving one another the breathing room we need as individuals, finding joy in each other seems out of reach. There’s no room for us to create an erotic magic circle together, and frankly, without a sense of delight in my partner, I don’t even want to try.



In last summer’s post "Getting ogled and loving it," I talked about feeling invisible as a 42-year-old mother, erased by our youth-obsessed culture. But even within a loving, committed relationship, I don’t always feel seen. It’s hard to imagine I’m the wet dream of anyone’s, much less of my partner, the person who sees me day in and day out (in all states of horrific dress and appearance), the person who knows all my flaws and weaknesses, the person I frustrate and disappoint on a daily basis.



And so we create some distance between one another, and we nurture our own friendships, and interests, and even erotic imaginings. We remind ourselves that as humans we are complex creatures, infinitely-faceted. As we get older, we evolve, we grow. And we can never fully know one another.



The other thing I’ve learned is the importance of play for stoking the fires of passion for one another. When we are able to mentally step away from the chaos of our lives and the complicated aspects of our relationship, we find moments for levity and joy that lead to a playfulness with one another.



And turns out this playfulness -- and the erotic anticipation it's built -- flows naturally into all kinds of steaming hot fun between the sheets. *fans herself* The levity we've found in our erotic play outside the bedroom has made us excited to try new sexual experiences together, to get out of our comfort zones. Maybe I'll channel that naughty vixen that's been teasing PM all day. Or PM might decide he needs to tie me to the bed for all the trouble I've caused him and teach me how to be a good girl. *nods enthusiastically*



It’s taken us practice over the last two years, but I can say that it’s gotten easier the more we do it. In the last two years, we’ve begun to recapture that sense of elation we once had in being with one another, in thinking about each other when we’re apart, in wanting to surprise and delight one another. It started with tiny moments here and there –– a text exchange, a playful grope, a lingering look –– and it’s beginning to come a little more naturally.



The reality is that after two decades together, there is very little physical or metaphorical space between PM and me. We’ve seen it all (or at least it feels like it), whether we wanted to or not. *grimaces* We are to one another familiar, predictable, safe.



But in that erotic space of play? Who knows? I can be who and what I want. And he is free to respond as he wants and be whoever he wishes to be. We’re no longer locked into our old dynamics in this place of play together. The only thing that is important is that we’re having sexy fun together.



Remember that essay I wrote about being married and still wanting a side-piece? The appeal of the side-piece is having a person with whom you can simply enjoy sexual pleasure in that moment, without thought of past or future. Without the baggage of years of misunderstandings, arguments, hurt feelings. A time together with someone in suspension of the reality of duties and responsibilities. To lose myself with a person that doesn’t need or expect anything from me but simple wants me.



And I realize now that what I was describing back then was the fantasy of entering an erotic magic circle with someone –– a space where it’s just pleasure and bliss with another person without regard for outside realities.



And so PM and I play. We step outside our normal roles. We press pause on managing the chaos. It will all keep. We allow ourselves to temporarily forget about all the balls that we’re keeping in the air. We step inside a new space together. It can be flirty. It can be outright kinky. *smirks* But, whatever the case, we become each other’s side-pieces in play.




Yes, it’s a little scary, shaking up the norm. There’s risk involved. What if PM doesn’t respond in the way I had hoped? What if my ego is bruised? What if an aspect of my partner is revealed that I’m unfamiliar with? There are risks and unknowns to playing with one another.



But as Perel reminds us, risk is an essential element in eroticism, in passion. As is uncertainty, the unpredictable, adventure, and even naughtiness and transgression.



Safe is wonderful. That sense of familiarity and predictability, of comfort and stability –– these are the things that draw us together into committed relationships. But these aspects of love aren’t exciting either. They don’t breed lust. They don’t feed passion.



And so we play.



Until next time, stay kinky 😉


**Footnote:

Perel makes the case that, “Eroticism, intertwined as it is with imagination, is another form of play” (Mating in Captivity, 217), and she also talks about play theoretician Huizinga and his insistence on the purposelessness of play. However, she never draws on play theory’s concept of a magic circle. And I think she’s really missed something here.

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