I’ve gathered stories from hundreds of couples about what they’ve tried to help them get more interested in sex, spice up a lackluster sexual connection, or make time in their busy lives for sex. Now, I’m not knocking any of these or saying that every single one of them can’t produce results, at least in the immediate sense. But each has either its drawbacks or some limitation to its effectiveness. Let’s see how this matches your experience….
Initiating sex is vulnerable. We’re expressing a need. We’re asking for something and we’re offering ourselves… So the possibility of hearing “no” in response exposes us to the risk of feeling rejected. Here's how we can expand our capacity to make - and to receive - offers with our partner.
In our culture, though sex is used to sell just about everything, we’re not often encouraged to put sex on our list of goals. Friends who’re posting on facebook about how they’re going to eat differently or exercise more or make more of a difference for others this year… They’re not, too often, talking about how much more sex they’re going to have and the skills they’re going to grow to make that sex deeply satisfying. So there isn’t nearly as much reinforcement for pursuing goals that relate to fighting erotic entropy and expanding our sexual skill set. That’s why I am a voice standing up for those desires, those goals, and those skills. Sex matters for long-term couples who value it. It’s a good thing. And you can push back on entropy.
The #1 challenge couples tell me about: it’s hard to get to to sex, even if you both want to. There are 3 categories of reasons why that's so. I'll walk you through them and show you what to do about each.
You haven’t been hearing your wife. I didn’t hear mine until it was too late. Please let my loss prevent yours. I’d give anything to be back in your shoes. Don’t waste your opportunity.
The very fact that she’s talking to you about what she wants tells us it's been rough for her for a long, long time.
We’re going to look at sex,happiness, men, women, and change today through the lens of ten myths I see operating in our culture.
I have a confession to make: I’VE BEEN FEELING LIKE A FRAUD. A FAILURE. AND AN EROTIC HAS-BEEN, TO BOOT.
A male client: I think sex can really be a distraction from the most important things in life, such as providing for one’s family or having a faithful marriage. I think many people, and particularly many men, are preoccupied with sex in unhealthy ways.
“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?
It's totally fine with me if a woman or man or couple decides to pursue aliveness through multiple partners... But I decided to live my fullest aliveness... and THEN decided Kurt and I would cultivate the "genius" of monogamy Warren Beatty was referring to.
The 5 best ways to make more time and energy for sex, a short video.
John Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences has one called Kinesthetic Intelligence. Proproioception - knowing where your body is in space. Eye-hand coordination. Physical grace. The ability to move your limbs together in concert in a way that facilitates dancing - or even walking or running - well. Admittedly, among my many gifts, kinesthetic intelligence is not a strong suit. I'm kind of a kutz.
I adore men. It breaks my heart that women so misunderstand you. And it pisses me off that so many of the good things that have happened for (at least some) women in the past 50 years have created such funky dynamics between empowered women and the good guys who love them. We emasculate you and ask you to contort yourselves in so many ways. Not today, my darlings. The following list of invitations is my way of calling you forward in all your masculine glory.
Most of my readers consider themselves pretty progressive, liberated, and new-fangled (rather than old-fashioned), right? Do you? I do, too, but I've also realized, in my quest for deep satisfaction and happiness in relationship, that I've had to drop layer after layer of old conditioning, belief, story, and cultural more, in order to forge the relationship I enjoy with Kurt today.