At some point in the counseling process I talk sex with just about every couple I counsel. Sex tends to be one of those hot topics that prompts couples to initially seek counseling and often they come ready to talk about it – or the lack of it – in their relationship. But even when they don’t, it’s still something we usually cover. Why? Because I believe sex is that important in a marriage.
Most of the time, both spouses will agree that sex is important. Beyond that however, agreement is often hard to come by. More times than not I hear something along the lines of “I wish my spouse wanted sex as often as I do.” Or, “I wish my spouse would initiate sex more”. Or even “I want my spouse to desire me.”
Here’s the thing, it’s rare (as in really rare) that I find a couple who shares the same level of sexual desire. Instead, what I find to be most typical, is one spouse has a significantly higher sex drive than the other, which causes frustration and resentment for both of them. Though not always the case, more often than not, it’s the husband with the higher drive. I’ll talk more about the exceptions to this generalization in another post, but for now, I hope you’ll hear me out.
Let’s Talk Hollywood
The media has significantly influenced our sexual expectations. Specifically, they have “masculinized” sex. What does this mean? It means Hollywood portrays sex according to how a male views and experiences sex, and they give women these same masculine characteristics. It’s generally a testosterone-heavy experience. The woman is visually stimulated and shown to be the aggressive pursuer. And, the sex is always a spontaneous desire. How real-world is that?
The truth is men and women are wired differently. This includes how we are wired for sex. Most of us know this and yet we don’t always know what it means from a sexual desire standpoint.
Let’s Talk Biology
For women, it is important to understand men are driven primarily by one hormone – testosterone. And it’s always on! A woman’s hormonal chemistry is very different and often absent of – at least initially – that high arousal or what Milan and Kay Yerkovich, authors of How We Love, refer to as the “Panting Factor”.
A study by Rosemary Basson, MB, FRCP showed that whereas men have a spontaneous desire for sex, women have a more responsive desire. A woman’s desire for sex usually comes much later in the sexual experience than a man’s. Her reaction is in response to her partner’s sexual desire rather than a spontaneous ignition of her own libido. She may want the emotional and physical closeness with her partner, but lacks the sexual arousal and desire a man has at even the first thought of sex.''Whereas men have a spontaneous desire for sex, women have a more responsive desire.'' Click To Tweet
To compare the sexual experience by gender to a NASCAR race, men are generally at the starting line with the car in gear, ready to put the pedal to the metal. Women, on the other hand, may start the race with their car in neutral and take a few laps to get up to full speed. Not very Hollywood, is it?
Let’s Talk Real-World
So does this mean most women never want sex? No. Don’t enjoy sex? Of course not. Does it mean a husband should never expect his wife to initiate? Again, of course not.
What it does mean however, is that a couple who strives to understand their partner’s pre-wiring is better able to carry realistic expectations into the bedroom and therefore enjoy the encounters more.
If both spouses can accept that a woman’s desire is often responsive, I’ve found it to be a bedroom game-changer that can relieve both the disappointment and pressure one or both spouses may feel related to their sexual relationship.
What I teach my clients is to negotiate their sex life, to talk about sex openly and honestly. Yes, I said negotiate. No, it doesn’t look like what you see in the movies folks, but it works. What doesn’t work is non-verbal guessing games where both parties assume what the other person does or does not want. Guessing just breeds disappointment and unrealistic expectations.
With good negotiation, a wife can be open to a sexual encounter because she loves her partner and desires the emotional closeness it brings. She can also initiate a sexual experience because she understands her husband’s desire and knows that after a few minutes her desire will likely match his, and together they can enjoy the encounter.
A husband can recognize that his wife may not initially be feeling the passion and desire that he is feeling, but can negotiate a time when she is open to an encounter and the emotional closeness it can bring.
A Mutually Satisfying Sex Life
A mutually satisfying sex life is possible even when partners have vastly different levels of desire. It takes work though. And if you are a couple that is not used to communicating openly about difficult and sensitive topics, chances are negotiating sex is going to be a real struggle. That’s where we can help you get started and actually teach you how to do it. Whether that’s in person or over the phone, you can start down the path now by scheduling an appointment online or simply calling us.