Women are often confused by their male partners’ sense of urgency about sexual frequency. Men wanting a lot of sex is not surprising to women. We are all raised to believe that men have a stronger sex drive than women, which research demonstrate is not true. What is surprising to women is the desperate sense of urgency they feel from their partners about sex. At times it’s not just that their partners want sex, it’s more like they need sex, almost as if it were a life and death matter.
Women are confused about men’s sexuality because men don’t let women know that sex is about a lot more than just having an orgasm. If it were just about the physical release then men who are partnered would simply masturbate as often as they liked and there wouldn’t be this pervasive tension in heterosexual relationships about sexual frequency. One of the reasons that sex is so important to men is that because the homophobic prohibitions against men touching each other in any kind of intimate way mean that sex is often the only opportunity men have to intimately touch and be touched by another person. A member of my men’s therapy group recently said that for many years he looked forward to coming to the group every week because the hugs the men in the group exchanged afterward were the only time he could count on touching and being touched all week. Men-particularly but not exclusively single men- can go days, weeks, months or even years without any kind of intimate touch in their lives. While I hope that physical touch is something that you take for granted in your life, research has demonstrated that infants can literally die from a lack of touch alone.
Men’s sense of sexual urgency runs much deeper than just a need to be touched. Many men also harbor a deep-seated, largely unconscious fear of being abandoned by their female partners. While men do their best to hide this fear, it shows up in how conflict avoidant men can be in relationships, and how hard they will work to stay in their partner’s good graces. “Happy wife, happy life.” Men’s fears of being abandoned can seem intractable at times, impervious to any words of reassurance from their partners. Sometimes it is only the physical intimacy of sex that can penetrate this resistance and help men feel truly loved and give a respite from the fear of being abandoned.
Because men are socialized not to show any signs of weakness or dependency, they often compartmentalize their sexuality, pretending that their desire for sex is simply the need for a physical release, and carefully hiding their powerful underlying emotional needs. This rather impersonal approach to sex is often not very appealing to their female partners, resulting in either outright rejection or at best a not very intimate sexual exchange which is not satisfying to either partner. The key to unlocking this dynamic is for men to learn how to talk to their female partners about their underlying needs for connection and fears of being abandoned, rather than acting those feelings out sexually. As men are able to talk more openly with their partners about their underlying emotional needs and fears, the couple is increasingly likely to learn a variety of new and more mutually satisfying ways of sharing intimate experiences together.
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