There is tremendous pressure to have electrifying, earth-shattering sex at every encounter. The failure to experience this can leave both partners feeling like failures.
Men want to satisfy their partners and feel the need to provide their partner with multiple orgasms or their job isn't done. Women feel pressure to look and perform "sexy" along some unrealistic scale of sexiness. Both have fallen victim to the effects of media-generated porn which warps the sense of sex and intimacy.
All this pressure creates unrealistic sexual expectations, because in every committed, long-term relationship…
Mediocre sex is inevitable.
Sooner or late in every relationship, sex will become somewhat average, unsatisfying, and perhaps even disappointing. This is a fact. And when it happens, couples feel shame. They feel something is wrong with them. They start blaming each other, reading self-help books, counseling, or they open up their marriage to more sexual partners. Sometimes, couples are sure that mediocre sex is a sign that they shouldn’t be together because they have “lost the spark” or they are not that compatible.
But the most common reaction is avoidance.
For many couples, there is a dichotomy—either full (hot) sex or nothing. And when partners finally do initiate sex, the buildup and pressure are so high, that the chances for a peak experience are low. This pattern becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad sex and cements the tension and pressure around sex and may ultimately lead to what Is known as “the sex-starved marriage.”
What’s the solution?
Good ol’ garden-variety, maintenance sex.
It might not be the hottest, erotic encounter of a lifetime but it keeps the connection there, the dopamine levels up, and enables a healthy sublimated expression for tensions, ensures touch, and most of all, it prevents a further escalation toward the sex-starved marriage.
I once worked with a couple I’ll call Dan and Mary. Dan felt immense shame about his lovemaking abilities due to some mild erection dysfunction. Mary didn’t feel comfortable talking about sex and they had no playfulness or openness regarding sex in their relationship. Therefore, Dan began avoiding Mary sexually and started to watch porn and masturbate instead of making love with her. They continued to have 12 years of barely any sex because they both avoided mediocre sex. They needed permission to expand their perception of sexuality and to embrace mediocre sex before they could start engaging with each other as sexual partners again.
Expand your definition of sex.
Know thyself. Yes, I’m talking about masturbation. You first need to become the best lover you ever had. When partners feel comfortable with themselves, they can expand their understanding of sex to be more than intercourse. Masturbating next to your partner becomes an additional area to meet with lower stakes. Mutual masturbation can also be a form of erotic connection where both partners practice sexual differentiation while lowering stress.
Open your mind. Because at the end of the day, sex is essentially another avenue of connection and intimacy. Intimacy is essentially "into-me-see": letting our partner witness our sexual side is a wonderful way to increase vulnerability, intimacy, and passion. When we expand our perception of sex and see it as a playground to just be intimate next to each other or with each other, then there's a lot more there that you can explore as a couple. Mutual multiple-orgasm intercourse does not need to be the benchmark or minimum requirement for sexual satisfaction. This expanded outlook helps us to enjoy whatever sensual activity we share, regardless of orgasm, climax, or other pyrotechnics.
Share this article with your partner and have a good laugh that you are completely normal. You can develop a code word for mediocre sex when you think it's going to happen or that's what you have the energy for. You can even use that term afterward to relieve the pressure of a less than earth-shaking sexual encounter. Name it to tame it and move on.
Play is the lubricant of life and, together with humor, helps you enjoy mediocre sex. It's okay to laugh during sex. Laughing during or after sex gives the couple much-needed shame-resilience and maintains a positive connotation for sex in the relationship. This is especially crucial for partners who are also parents with small kids because finding uninterrupted, sexy time is rare and often occurs late at night. So remaining playful will help you forgive yourselves and just enjoy the connection
Just do it.
Keep aiming for great sex. Keep trying, lower your expectations, and keep initiating. Because after all “bad sex is better than no sex.” It’s not called maintenance sex for nothing – it helps maintain a vital connection between partners.
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Dodson, B. (1987). Sex for one: The joy of selfloving. New York: Harmony Books.
Perel, E. (2007). Mating in captivity: Unlocking erotic intelligence (p. 272). New York, NY: Harper.
Schnarch, D. (2003). Resurrecting sex: Solving sexual problems and revolutionizing your relationship. New York, NY: Harper.
Weiner, D. M. (2003). The sex-starved marriage. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Wolf, N. (2012). Vagina: A new biography. London, UK: Virago.