As the threat of COVID-19 continues to spread, more couples are finding themselves at the mercy of the situation. Due to travel restrictions, pressing health concerns, and profession (for example, medical staff on the front lines—thank you!), couples—whether they’re in a traditional and/or long-distance relationship—may be forced to spend more time apart than they’re used to.
Are you familiar with the latest sex technology? What suggestions do you have for long-distance couples interested in exploring the virtual and remote realms of pleasure?
Whether by choice or through circumstance, long-distance relationships (LDRs) and marriages are on the rise with no visible decline in sight. While military couples are no strangers to the struggles of maintaining intimacy through unplanned and planned separations, more and more young couples are embracing the positives of a long-distance relationship and the potential of sex tech to enhance intimacy while apart.
This article will explore current sex technologies, the future of these technologies, the phases of separation, and how sex coaches can guide their LDR clients in their explorations with sex tech.
Overview of Current Sex Tech
Most of us are familiar with the first wave of sex technology, which includes applications used to communicate with current and prospective partners that enable texting, video chats, and dating apps. While at one time it was considered taboo to use these platforms for intimate communications, today these are widely accepted and barely register as technology used for sex anymore.
The second wave of sex technology has a much wider range and includes remote intimacy sex toys, sex trackers, feedback devices known as teledildonics, sex robots, full body haptic suits that enable hugs, and even adult virtual reality (VR) environments where the possibilities for erotic interaction are endless.
The Six Stages of Separation
So, where do all of these fit into sex coaching and the emotional cycles of separation?
The C.A.R.E.S. Resources for Couples cites military psychiatrists from all services and their personal and professional contributions to the Emotional Cycle of Deployment (ECOD). Using the phases in current deployment cycles and additional research, Lisa M. Pawlowski discusses the six stages of the ECOD:
- Pre-deployment: Begins when couples receive the deployment order and ends when the service member departs.
- Deployment: Departure through the first month.
- Mid-deployment: First month through the fifth month.
- Pre-homecoming: The fifth month until one month before the scheduled return.
- Reunion: Reunion day up to three months after reunion.
- Post-deployment: From reunion to about four to six weeks after reunion date.
While this cycle is based on a typical 6-9 month deployment separation, it can certainly be adapted for use with couples experiencing any long-distance separation, civilian or otherwise. It’s important to note that at each of these stages, a variety of different stressors crop up that can be broken down into different possible reactions.
For example, in the first stage (pre-deployment), a couple may experience a sense of distancing, even while they’re still together. You might imagine a couple facing separation would take every opportunity to spend physical time with one another. However, it can become emotionally painful to share physical touch knowing it will soon be impossible to reach out. Predictably, intimacy issues may arise as a result of this distancing, which can occur to various levels depending on whether or not the couple faces or denies the upcoming feelings of loss.
Use the MEBES© Model to Guide LDR Couples in Trying Sex Tech
Using a holistic view of human sexuality, such as the MEBES© model developed by our founder, Dr. Patti Britton, we can work with the long-distance relationship couple at every stage of separation by considering those five important aspects of their relationships to themselves and one another (mind, emotions, body, energy, spirit).
Some couples may want to introduce the latest high tech remote genital stimulation teledildonic device that connects to their VR unit. Others will want to invest in a device such as Pillow Talk, which lets you hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one through a wristband. As their sex coach, it’s important to help couples map out at what stage to discuss these options and provide the communication tools to broach ideas they may feel shy about.
From here, questions of infidelity and new boundaries may also need to be discussed well before the actual separation takes place. If couples decide to venture into a virtual space for their intimate expression, they may need some assistance moving through sexual shame they might feel for their arousal in these virtual worlds.
Couples using sex tech in their long-distance relationship for the first time might experience an unanticipated effect. As couples explore these virtual and remote delights, they may find new things they are interested in exploring and find it difficult to discuss these with their partner.
Additionally, during the reintegration phase following reunion, many couples struggle with the intense desire to physically touch one another but actually find themselves quite hesitant and lost across the touch continuum.
One of the most powerful things you can provide for a couple in a long-distance relationship is validation: you can remind them that their intense and seemingly irrational emotions and fears are something they can trace back to the significant phases before and throughout separation.
For example, during the reunion phase, a couple might have to adapt to last-minute changes of homecoming dates and times. These logistical elements can potentially interrupt the excitement of reunion, even if they might not seem very significant.
Leading up to the reunion, couples often spend a lot of time planning the “perfect” homecoming and fantasize about how it will be. This can lead to disappointment when the “perfect” homecoming looks different to each partner. While fantasizing about the immediate moments after reunion can get us through the tougher times during separation, they can set us up for more severe disappointment and rejection.
When tensions run high and couples find themselves literally close to one another but emotionally distant and don’t know why, they can come back to the road map they created with their sex coach. They’ll be able to move past simultaneously fearing and desiring intimacy. They’ll find validation and clarity in their previously unexplainable, mismatched sexual needs.
Giving clients a roadmap through each of the stages and information on the latest in sex technology within their price points can help to reduce their stress. You can even help refocus their fears into excitement and anticipation for the temporary time apart.
Continue the Conversation
Have you or any of your clients navigated the uncertainty that can come with a long-distance relationship? What are some of your favorite apps, toys, and other tools for couples who want to maintain sexual intimacy while they’re apart? Advances in this field are developing every day, and we would love to hear your thoughts! Join us in our Facebook discussion group, Sex Matters, and give us your take on sex tech in LDRs. We’re excited to see you there!