“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?”
― Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic
Many of my male clients come to me with a conundrum puzzling them: "Why, since my sexual urge is still strong and I'm still in love with my wife (or partner) and attracted to her, can't I seem to initiate sex with her or turn toward her sexually? It's like my desire to actually HAVE sex with her is gone."
It’s not that he doesn’t want sex or that it goes away….but he often stops initiating sex.
Or how or when he initiates sex with a partner is greatly reduced.
I have been, for years, helping women to see how they can be emasculating, how their approach to communication and their busy-busy, hyper-competent presence can be somewhat less than erotic. Women, myself included, have reclaimed wide swathes of wonderful terrain in their feminine selves by looking underneath these dynamics. But this thing men bring me is something different... and something on his side of the table. It's not about her being too fast, too sharp, never relaxed enough to move toward. It's about him feeling like, as one client put it, "sex has fallen into the 'too complicated' box."
Sexuality and life DO get complicated.
When you first meet someone, things are often really hot. You don’t have a mortgage together or kids together yet. Raising children together, managing in-laws together, handling finances together: these are all separate roles. As we layer role upon role atop our relationship, the relationship's shoulders can begin to hunch under the weight of them all. And our libido can be the place where the pain shows up.
Shared complexity is not necessarily conducive to wanting to have sex with someone.
So perhaps you really want to have sex…but initiating it with her feels like too much to do.
Might it be because she feels so complicated to you? And sex with her feels complicated to you? Do you have high standards for yourself when it comes to having sex with her? Must you stimulate her to orgasm before penetrating her, no matter what she says? Granted, penetration is so much more fun when her yoni is actually ready for penetration. But some of our "best sex" ingredients become standards, rules, requirements. It feels like there's so much to DO to get her on board, to please her.
You find yourself jumping through hoops... and then do you find yourself recoiling from the complexity of all those hoops? Have you started to procrastinate on this thing - sex with your partner - that you really want, biologically and emotionally. But you can't quite put your finger on why.
There's no more "easy" sex, even though you ostensibly have nightly access, love, devotion... all the things we'd think would have us come together with ease. So even when your wife initiates sex, or flirts, your visceral reaction can be a sinking sensation: must I? Sex with your partner can feel like One. More. Thing.
And even if you'd never dream of being unfaithful to your wife or partner... Your fantasies may turn to the kind of sex that would fall into the "easy" basket: nameless, faceless sex. No strings attached. Even though in your heart, the sex you actually want is in the context of love, connection, devotion. You just crave the simpler.
I want to hear from men:
What is it for you that feels complicated?
How do those things get in the way?
What does it mean for you emotionally?
And as a woman:
Has your partner not initiated as often? Not responded to your initiation or flirting?
Can you imagine that his own standards for what sex with you has to look like might make sex with you feel complicated?
What else in your communication, your relationship, might make sex feel complicated or hard to "get to" for both of you?