Sex is an essential aspect of marriage. When your sexual relationship is going well, sex involves shared pleasure that bonds you and your spouse emotionally and physically. Mutually fulfilling sex creates a deeper and more meaningful relationship over time. Sex can also feel good and be fun.
Sexual Problems in Marriage
Unfortunately, most couples will experience sexual problems over the course of their marriage. Premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, painful intercourse, problems with lubrication, and difficulty achieving orgasm are just some of the sexual problems that can occur. However, the most common problem that couples come to Marriage Counseling for is that one person wants sex more than the other does. What might start off as a small difference in desire over time gets magnified to the point where the couple has sex less and less. This might be fine for some couples, but rarely are both spouses happy with this arrangement. Resentment and bitterness tend to grow in both partners – the partner who wants more sex gets rejected over and over, and the partner who wants less sex gets tired of being asked and saying no.
Often the woman wants more romance before she is interested in sex and the man wants more sex before he can be emotionally intimate. While this isn’t true for all couples, when this dynamic occurs it usually becomes a big problem. In the early stages of a relationship, most couples have lots of sex and both partners are usually happy with this arrangement. Over time, and it could take from months to a year or more, the sexual and romantic passion starts to fade and differences in levels of desire between partners becomes more apparent.
One of the most intoxicating aspects of a new relationship is often that the excitement and romance is fabulous and the relationship is completely fulfilling. But nature ensures that the newness and mystery of the new partner wears off and you start to see your spouse’s flaws. This is often accompanied by feelings of disappointment and despair. Some couples split at this point and go searching for someone new. But couples that stay together have to make this difficult transition into long-term stability which requires effort on the part of both partners.
Men and Women Are Different (At Least When It Comes To Sex)
While it can be debated how different the genders are, it is quite clear that men and women are different when it comes to sex. Let’s start with some of the biological differences:
- Male and female sex organs are different
- Men have much higher levels of testosterone and premenopausal women have much higher levels of estrogen and progesterone.
- Many women are capable of multiple orgasms which is rare for men
- Women have a monthly cycle
- Women get pregnant, give birth, and breast feed
Most of these biological differences are reflected in psychological and behavioral differences when it comes to sex:
- Men tend to think about sex more than women
- Men tend to get aroused and climax more quickly than women
- Men usually have an easier time climaxing through intercourse than women
- Women want to feel emotionally intimate before having sex, sex allows men to feel close
While these differences may not hold true for every couple, more often than not they are the case. And the reality for most couples is that men do not understand female sexuality and women do not understand male sexuality. While it might be true that men and women are from different planets, couples have to live here on earth together. A big part of living together harmoniously is bridging the gender gap though mutual understanding. The more you understand yourself and your partner, the better you can deal with your differences in caring and constructive ways. Here are three steps you can take to connect and create a more satisfying sex life:
1. Talk About Sex
The best way for couples to bridge the gender gap is to talk about sex. This is both the most difficult aspect of getting your sex life back on track and the most important. Couples have to be able to talk about their problems directly and openly so that each spouse can understand the other’s concerns. This can be problematic and lead to fights, or it can be healing and lead to greater emotional intimacy.
Sexual problems can lead to conflict, hurt, and disappointment, or they can be a path to greater emotional intimacy and closeness. How you talk about these issue is essential to managing the differences in desire, frequency, intensity and communication styles. One of the best ways to get a dialog started is to ask your partner a question and then just listen. You might try a few of these:
- What do you think of our sex life?
- What turns you on?
- How does sex make you feel?
- Tell me about a specific time we had really good sex.
- What would you like me to do more of sexually?
The hard part is to just listen to what your partner says and take it in. The temptation is to be thinking about your response while your partner talks and possibly to interrupt. The more you are able to listen to your partner the more likely they are to listen to you. To be able to listen deeply to your partner is an important relationship skill, one that you can learn in Marriage Counseling.
2. Bring Back The Romance
This one is addressed mostly to the men, since women are usually the ones craving romance. There are tons of ways to do something romantic, and many of them don’t cost very much. And often, the thought and time and effort you spend are much more important than how much you spend. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
- Date night
- Leave romantic notes around the house for her to find
- Bring her flowers for no reason
- Look deeply into her eyes and tell her you love her
- Listen without trying to fix anything
- Volunteer to cook dinner one night
- Do something she has been asking you to do for a while
And here is the kicker and often the hardest part: try to do these things without expecting anything in return. If you do something with the expectation that your partner will do something in return, on some level they will sense it, and probably get even more resentful. To be able to give to give rather than give to get builds a stronger marriage. But to be able to do it often requires “Jedi Master” level relational skills, the kind you can learn in Marriage Counseling.
3. Notice Your Turn Ons And Turn Offs
This one is addressed more to the partner that has lower desire, often the woman but it applies to everyone. I learned this from Sex and Relationship Therapist Esther Perel. She suggests that while we usually think that our partner turns us on or turns us off, all of us have a role in how interested we are at any given moment. This might sound a little backwards at first, but the more you think about it and notice your own level of sexual desire, the more you might find that you have some control over it.
Watch what happens outside the bedroom to your level of sexual desire. At first it might seem that your state of sexual desire is based on what your partner is doing or not doing. Or maybe you are just in a state of complete sexual and romantic apathy. But the more you pay attention to your inner emotional and sexual state, the more you might find that you have some ability to change the way you respond to your partner. And you might even find that this might help you to say “yes” a little more often. And this is something that both you and your spouse might enjoy.
Sometimes you need help getting your marriage back on track. You can have the sex life that you want. Call me to find out more or to set up an initial consultation.