Sexual problems are maintained between 2 people. High/low, kinky/vanilla, softer/harder, erotic/dull desire – whatever the differences… people can’t resolve sexual issues because of the speck/log problem. We can see what our partner is doing wrong. The question we need to ask is, “What am I doing (or not doing) that gets in the way of a satisfying sex life?”
Sam wanted his wife to be free and uninhibited. Once when she was on top, she reached down to stimulate herself. By taking matters into her own hands, so to speak, he thought she was communicating that he (his size, rhythm, whatever) wasn’t good enough. Not a regular drinker, she decided to try some wine before bed. He complained that she had acted silly not sensuous. His anxiety about being adequate proscribed the ways she could change things. His expectations about what freedom looked like turned spontaneity into a command – “be spontaneous the way I like it.”
Marianna was bored in bed. She longed for skilled seduction from her husband. Most of the time he acted like a little boy, joking about, “When were they gonna do the jungle act?” He grabbed at her breasts and buttocks. Junior high jokes about farting and burping were his kind of funny. In turn, Marianna acted prim. She more often than not, rejected his initiations by rolling her eyes. Her reactions made her the mother or the school-marm and him the naughty little boy. She never took on the role of seductress because she believed initiation was the man’s role.
Questions to ask yourself:
1) What 3 words describe your ideal sexual encounter? You have to know what you want and own it before you can get it. In my clinical experience, women more often than men, describe ideal sex as “I’ll know it when it happens.” This attitude lacks the adult responsibility of shaping our future and makes it impossible to ask for what we want.
2) Have I met the conditions my partner has asked for? Spouses might have peculiar requests but meeting them minimally reduces their argument for resistance. Not meeting simple requests reinforces the power struggle between you. For instance, your partner says, “I’d feel more comfortable giving oral sex if you showered first.” Shower. “Your breathe is a turn-off.” Get regular dental cleanings, scrape your tongue, dental floss your teeth. “I want you to initiate.” Buck up. Be courageous. Plan a seduction. “I want to feel connected before we have sex.” Schedule a twice weekly lunch/date/dinner to talk about emotional subjects, dreams, goals – think dating. Keep the appointment as a matter of integrity regardless of what happens sexually. Change is uneven and not based on quid pro quo.
3) Does my temper make my spouse feel afraid or anxious? Sex requires a sense of physical safety and most often relaxation. If you can’t control your mouth – MOVE YOUR FEET! Put a door between yourself and your family before one cross word or one elevated decibel threatens to destroy a normal disagreement. Commit within yourself to a zero tolerance standard over your inappropriate anger.
4) Do I keep raising the bar? Spouses become afraid that change will only last if they keep the pressure on. Most people respond to appreciative reinforcement more. Say thank you! Talk about how great small changes are without mentioning the next step. Keep in mind that changes happen along an average trajectory with a step back every now and then. Don’t over-react if the old pattern emerges temporarily.
5) Am I a blamer? In most decent couples, for every transgression of our spouse, there is a corollary to the way we have injured the relationship. Find it. Own it. Forget calling attention to your partner’s every flaw. That is exhausting to a relationship. Being one up means your partner is one down – you both lose.
6) Have I given sex its proper priority? – One woman I knew exercised 11 hours a week – tennis lessons, 3x weight training, 3x aerobics, etc. She said she was too tired for sex. Yet trading one of those hours for love-making would have eliminated their stressful fights over sex. Poor decision. Another man felt life was good but would be better with just a little more sex; his nagging eroded a relationship that was satisfactory. In both examples, the people felt anxiety over getting close. She was afraid of being controlled if she let him into her body or gave him leave to exercise her in a different way. He was afraid that there would never be enough sensation to satisfy an aching need inside; he projected responsibility for his emptiness onto her.
7) Does comparing outside my relationship leave me envious and unsatisfied? No matter how the neighbor brags, most people don’t volunteer the unvarnished truth about their sexual problems. Jokes, innuendos and public displays of affection are sometimes actually designed to make others jealous. Pornography has nothing to do with real life. Women don’t look that way. Men aren’t that big. Truly being satisfied with one person will be more difficult if you feed yourself a visual smorgasbord.
Link for more help from Laurie Watson with SexTherapy in Raleigh, Cary, Greensboro and Chapel Hill, NC. Laurie’s book Wanting Sex Again is available on Amazon!