Sweet and Tough Love and Sex: A Cocktail

How much sweetness and how much toughness do we need?

Posted Jul 18, 2018

The words ‘sweet’ and ‘tough’ largely speak for themselves. Readers can refer to what is by now a familiar concept of “tough parenting” which combines basic love and caring with firmness and discipline. When it comes to adult love relationships, the parallel will be lots of love and caring with firm requirements of mutuality, fairness, respect, basic equality, and such. When it comes to adult sexual relationships, the parallel will be a great deal of caressing and much affection and love combined with a wholesome driving–penetrating ‘conquest and surrender’ to one another (which are different for men and women, of course, yet still with a basic sameness).

In our day and age in the western world, outside of fundamentalist religious thinking, so many barriers and ‘musts and have to’s’ have fallen in every area of life. The prevailing guide is that in most cases, love and sexuality are to be accepted pretty much for what they are–though subject to an initial rule that there is no insulting or harming the partner. So that if you are a young couple (under 40) and you decide explicitly, or de facto in your behavior, to enjoy being a loving couple and family without much, if any, sex, so be it (and we have learned there is a huge number of such young couples). And if you are a dashing handsome man or a gorgeous knockout of a woman, and you ‘prove’ yourself over and over again in your sexual prowess though without very much gentleness and real affection, that’s OK too, you can be considered a fun sexual partner for however long it lasts.

Whatever you are is to be respected and appreciated for what it gives you and what it gives others – again always with the stipulation that you are not harming anyone.

Nonetheless, it is also scientifically sound to say that love relationships and sex relationships are far more satisfying and enduring when the two are joined together, and both mix sweetness and toughness in a delicious cocktail.

There have been few if any manuals that speak to ‘conjugating’ first, sweet and tough love, and second, sweet and tough sex, and then combining the two together in an exciting symphony of sweet and tough love and sex.

As noted, the first of the above concepts of ‘coupling’ sweet and tough love has been alive and recognized in psychological writing about parenting, but far less for sweet and tough loving of adult partners, and far less to little at all for sweet and tough sex. And you will be even more hard-pressed to find writing about a symphonic integration of both love and sex with both sweet and tough love/plus/sweet and tough sex.

The first coupling of sweet and tough love is tender, caring and appreciative, yet simultaneously authentic and genuine in exchanges of true feelings, opinions and criticisms, as well as in drawing clear red lines regarding unacceptable behaviors. This does not mean ‘everything goes’ in the couple’s communication between one another: The style of communication between couples, both verbally and in body language, needs to be limited by boundaries of politeness and decency. Humiliations are not allowable, and non-violence is the absolute law of the land.

The second coupling of sweet and tough sex is an application of the same principle of combining heartfelt caring with impressive assertiveness in one’s sexual functioning.  The point is to seduce and arouse and enjoy the full range of making love – entering one another and being entered – and parting affectionately after climax to a healthy separateness and a charming process of refilling the tanks of intimacy, desire and arousal for the next time. Sexuality is both sweet and pleasured but also mutually ‘aggressive,’ which means active and self-expressive in a choreography of conquest and possession and a yielding and surrender of both partners.[i]

For all their enjoyment of real love for one another or genuine attraction and passion for making love to one another, unless wholesome love and wholesome sex become parts of a single whole, couples may not really be able to commit to one another and be ‘protected’ meaningfully by the relationship. Without a synergy of wholesome loving and wholesome sex, couples do not give a real security to one another – they are variously lovers emotionally and/or sexually, but they don’t have it “all together” in a way that maximizes safety, pleasure and trust in one another.  Both love and sex become far sturdier when ‘caveman’ and ‘cavewoman’ passions, and desires to conquer, possess and command are combined passionately with authentic appreciation, tenderness, and love – a tasty cocktail indeed.

Two historic major breakthroughs in the study and our society’s knowledge of sexuality are the works of Albert Kinsey[ii] and Masters and Johnson.[iii] Kinsey reported on the frequencies and outlets of American sexual behaviors. Masters and Johnson developed new inspired techniques for curing and improving sexual performance. However neither explored the feelings and meaning of sexuality for people, and neither looked at the implications of our sexual behaviors for our health.

Over and over again, studies confirm that sexual activity and/or warm physical contact makes people, including quite old people, feel much better.

Thus the National Health Service of the United Kingdom promotes quite strongly “love and sex.”[iv] Besides a heart full of love and a big smile, it is pointed out that a loving relationship, physical touch, and sex can bring benefits such as:

  • Sex is good for your heart.
  • A hug keeps tension away.
  • Sex can be a stress buster.
  • Weekly sex might help fend off illness.
  • People who have sex feel healthier.
  • Loving support reduces risk of angina and ulcer.

Our Advice:

a. Have fun, be capable, and above all, feel loving as you go and enjoy lots and lots of love and lovemaking with your partner.

b. Be an active lover and leader in making love, and be tender and yielding to your partner’s excitement and leadership.

c. Are you the ‘boss’?  Are you the puppy dog? Try to put together a friendly strength with appreciation and gratitude for your partner.

Wise psychologist-philosopher Erich Fromm wrote:

“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”

References

[i] See the author’s chapter, “Marital Sexuality: Joyful and Loving Sexuality versus ‘Good Marriages’ with No Sex and ‘Bad Marriages’ with Good Sex.” In Israel W. Charny (2015). Existential/Dialectical Marital Therapy: Breaking the Secret Code of Marriage. New York: Routledge (originally published 1992, republished as paperback in 2015, e-book due soon).

[ii] Kinsey, Alfred C. (1988). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders (original publication 1948); Kinsey, Alfred C., and Pomeroy Wendell (1998). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Indiana University Press (original publication 1948). The above two books are known as the Kinsey Reports.

[iii] Masters, William H. and Johnson, Virginia C. (1970).  Human Sexual Inadequacy. Boston: Little Brown.

[iv] United Kingdom National Health Service. NHS Choices: Benefits of Love and Sex. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/good-sex-tips/