Love Doc

Plumbing the depths of the psychology and neurobiology of love.

Sexy Women Wanted

Sexy no more, so what's a guy to do to?

Where have all the sexy women gone? Early in the relationship, sex was on her mind and in her body so much of the time. Remember how she desired you sexually and passionately? That was when your partner and you were madly in love. A shiny path of anticipated romance, pleasure, emotional attunement, love and lust, stretched out before the two of you.

Despite the hurtful interactions in the relationship ─the anger, the rejections, the attacks, the dismissal ─ many men can still tune out the friction and tune in to feelings of sexual desire. Alas, women are not always able to do that. Why not?

For starters, let's look at what is going on in most women's brains. Why brains? That's because the most erogenous zone in the body is the brain, not the genital areas. It is quite amazing how─ when a woman is in love and also when she is nursing her infant─ the brain triggers love enhancing chemicals such as vasopressin, oxytocin, dopamine, natural opiods to ensure bonding, attachment, and pleasure. In both cases, the woman trusts her adult partner or her infant to attune to her emotionally and physically.

Let me touch on some remarkable findings regarding empathy and attunement by looking at some infant studies. The research shows how, from the get go, infants and emotionally healthy mothers attuned to one another. On twin split screens ─ one of the mother and one of the infant ─ the pair engaged in simultaneous shared experience. Their interactions resembled a delicate seamless dance. And that is precisely what defines love in adulthood ─this shared experience of attunement, reciprocity, and trust. That's not to say loving adults engage in shared experience and trust all of the time, but certainly it is an underlying feature of love and of sex.

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Alas, when a woman loses trust in her partner ─whether he betrays her with infidelity, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and so on ─ her brain shuts down. No longer does her brain trigger the release of love enhancing chemicals or the good mood neurotransmitters Serotonin or GABA. The result is a dispirited, depressed, angry woman. The pain lodges deep inside the brain and she is hardly in the mood for love, let alone sex. Actually, her brain is now helping her take security measures to protect herself so she won't get hurt again.

The trauma recruits the amygdala (the seat of the emotions in the brain) where the trauma response of fight or flight is generated. Reminders of the old pain sensitize the amygdala further so that any fresh hurt has a resounding fearful response. The woman either fights or she flees. So what's a guy who may have hurt his woman to do?

Here's the thing. When a man hurts a woman and offers a swift apology, he is in trouble. The first step, and it is not an easy or painless one, is to really and truly experience guilt. When I say guilt, I don't mean guilty feelings, but profound, deep remorse. To get into the experience, try empathizing with your partner ─ putting yourself in her shoes. Can you feel her pain? It is excruciatingly difficult to experience guilt, but it is a must if you are to save the relationship.

When you are truly immersed in the painful experience of guilt, you will not blame her. That does not mean she did not provoke you into the action or inaction. What it means is that you take responsibility for your part in the interaction, show your remorse. I would suggest you reach into your authentic feelings and express them. If you are truly remorseful, chances are that you won't be prone to repeat the hurtful actions. Lo and behold she will respond more warmly. It takes two to tango, two to hurt one another, and two to heal one another.

The second step is to repair the damage. In order to heal from trauma ─ to dislodge the pain from the brain─ fresh positive experience must enter the relationship. You and only you, knows just what pleases your partner and just what new positive experience would bring her closer.

Here are some baby steps to bring love and lust back.

Think of the times when you first met. What did you do back then? Let your memory cameras roll back in time. It may have been something as simple as talking together for hours, when there was a meeting of minds. It may have a favorite song that symbolized your early love. It may have been a full moon and a walk along the beach, or a first date in a special restaurant. Whatever it was that brought you together and led to passionate sex, go for it now. Let emotional attunement, empathy, reciprocity, mutuality and trust lead the way back to love and red hot sex.

Over a century ago, Freud asked the proverbial question ‘What do women want?' The answer is simple, to be cherished, to hear the words "Je t'adore" uttered from a deep place within.

Email: drpraver@cs.com

Web : www.drfranpraver.com

Frances Cohen Praver, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and relational psychoanalyst and author.

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