We lost a friend to breast cancer recently. She left two young children and a grieving husband, now a single dad. It was tragic loss with an enormous ripple effect.

Once the shock subsided, we realized this was one of those rare moments in life to stop and really think. Loss like this leads to an examination of our own lives.

Often there is some unnamed vision we seek — a conglomerate of possessions, accomplishments, achievements, life’s boxes to tick. If only we had them, we would finally be complete. We’d be able to relax and revel in precious moments that are passing us by.

If only we had all the pieces in place, then we’d be happy. Relationships are like that too. 

When we see patients who want to improve their sex lives, we like to break things down. When was the last time they truly looked at each other, made eye contact for more than a quick glance? When did they last hold hands and walk outside, smell the fresh air, observe nature, talk freely and easily to each other?

We expect too much of ourselves — to reconnect quickly after a stressful day at work, to carry financial burdens, disagree about how to raise the kids, survive in a state of exhaustion and then, spontaneously, randomly, without forethought or foreplay, undress and make love with passion, energy and presence — and not just to have sex, because sometimes we can manage that part OK, but to want to from somewhere deep within.

The connection we truly seek, especially women, involves more than sex (usually). It needs to involve an element that goes deeper than the sexual, a bond that transcends all the responsibilities of our lives. We seek to be valued, cherished, sought after, played with, challenged, stimulated, equaled. Regularly, over the course of our life together, we need those things from our partners and they, from us.

As we ponder the truncated lives of those who’ve died too soon, it behooves us to move slower, act consciously and reflect often on the fragility of life and the legacy we want to leave.

The way to start improving “performance” in the bedroom is with ourselves. The most important medicine is understanding how we view ourselves and the world around us. 

If we only had today, would we see each other differently? Would we connect more deeply? Would we forgive more completely? Would we share our bodies more openly and with more creativity without looking at the clock or worrying about the chores? Would we allow, even encourage, ourselves to try new things? Would we be present for our partner in a new way?  

No pill in the world will help you connect to a partner who is emotionally distant, harboring resentment or even just a little stale. Our relationships need upkeep and it doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming or involve a new drug; we just need to set aside the rest of the world regularly and really focus on each other.

If we are absent from tomorrow, would the people in our lives know, without question, that we truly saw them? We hope so.

Drs. Tristi Muir and Catherine Hansen are gynecologists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. For more information, go to www.utmbhealth.com/pelvichealth.

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