Barbara Gold on scheduling in sex, challenging sexual labels, and re-stimulating a healthy bedroom atmosphere.
Truth to tell, it would be extremely rare, if not impossible, to find two people with perfectly matched libidos. If that was possible, it would definitely be impossible for them to match every single time, despite the fact that it feels that way for most couples at the beginning of their relationship. They don’t live together, have spans of time between “dates”, and if they are sexually intimate, both are generally mutually interested in participating fully in that endeavor most of the times when they’re able to be together.
And thus our expectations are set for all that is to come in the future. Since that early passion will inevitably change in most relationships over time, it’s vitally important to understand what that’s about-and what it’s not.
Despite what most think, it is not always the woman whose libido causes her to desire sexual intimacy less often than her male partner in heterosexual relationships. Often it’s the man’s drive which is lower in frequency.
As a certified sexuality therapist, I see many couples for whom “mismatched” libidos are the reason they come to counseling. Despite what most think, it is not always the woman whose libido causes her to desire sexual intimacy less often than her male partner in heterosexual relationships. Often it’s the man’s drive which is lower in frequency. I believe this misconception arises out of popular, but toxic mythology, i.e. “guys only want one thing” and “women use sex to control”. Never say never, but usually, neither is the case. These myths do untold damage to people and relationships, and yet they endure. It’s ironic but disproving of the myths, that when I see same gender couples, their libidos don’t identically match either!
When a couple has different libidos (which includes just about every couple I see), I often hear them describing each other in negative ways-“he is a sex maniac” or “she is cold (seems to be taking the place of ‘frigid’)”. This labeling makes an already challenging situation worse. A big part of the problem is that the person who is more frequently interested in being sexual almost always feels rejected by their partner. They take it personally and begin to wonder if, or even believe that they are no longer desirable. Most often this isn’t the case. It’s hard to look outside oneself enough to think that the less frequently interested partner is only taking care of themselves by deciding if they are interested in being sexual or not. Due to this perception, anger is likely to occur. As for the one declining the invitation, they usually feel a great deal of pressure and guilt, which can turn into anger and resentment if not addressed. Oftentimes, when this precedent is set and the couple does not discuss and find ways for resolution, the pattern continues indefinitely, sometimes over the entire span of the relationship.
When one is being sexually intimate despite not wanting to be, that person may be engaging in obligatory sex. It is rare to find people who actually want their partner to be with them out of obligation, so it can be a lose/lose. That doesn’t mean that it might not be fine to offer one’s partner sexual pleasure even if they are not interested in sexual pleasure for themselves. Wanting to give something to your partner is a part of what goes on in the give and take of a relationship. That’s different from obligation or a “have to”. Think back rubs. And while you’re thinking about them, realize you get to say no if you choose and to quit when you’re tired without guilt, and hopefully without your partner feeling rejected. Although more emotionally complex, the same rules apply for sexual giving. Problems can arise from this when the desirous partner is unable or unwilling to accept this as the gift it is meant to be and thinks of it as not being fair to the other unless it’s mutual. Ironically, it often evolves into mutuality, as the less interested person may become sexually aroused by their partner’s passion. The more rules couples make about what someone else “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing, the worse it becomes. It’s both the right and job of each person to determine how best to take care of themselves-in and out of bed!
If there is something going on in the relationship which is pushing one or both people apart, this will almost always manifest in a waning interest in being sexually intimate.
If there is something going on in the relationship which is pushing one or both people apart, this will almost always manifest in a waning interest in being sexually intimate. That does not mean that is necessarily the case, however, and I encourage people not to jump to any conclusions but to have an honest and open dialogue with their partner to determine if there are unresolved problems which are getting in the way. If it’s needed, enlist the help of a therapist in this process. Once you get the “all clear” on the relationship front, go with being mismatched as the reason.
How do you close the gap? First, recognize that you’ve probably already got a scenario where neither person is a happy camper. Look beyond what’s not working for you and find out what your partner’s experience is like. The saying “foreplay begins when you get up in the morning” applies here. Be interested and curious about what’s going on with each other as you work toward finding solutions.
Neil Cannon, Ph.D., a Certified Sex Therapist, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Professor of Couples Counseling in Denver, Colorado described a wedding cake model for sexual intimacy in a recent web seminar. Going from the bottom layer up, it goes like this: connection; cuddles and kisses; foreplay and intercourse. According to Dr. Cannon, some couples’ cakes are upside down-in other words, the start with intercourse as the foundation instead of the top, last layer. Take a look at what your wedding cake looks like (even if you’re not married!) and begin a conversation with your partner about what you both would like to do to change it if necessary.
Some excellent suggestions for having more sex are to be found in an article by Greta Christina/The Blowfish Blog. She advocates scheduling sex. This usually provokes grumbling and statements about spontaneity, so I remind you that when you first started out and weren’t cohabiting, you scheduled dates, and since at some point you were being sexually intimate you were, in fact, scheduling sex! Why should that have to be different just because you live together and/or see more of each other over a longer period of time? And if you have kids, you’ll recognize truth in the statement that just about everything has to be scheduled. Christina recommends thinking of scheduling as planning and being partners together-much like if you were planning a vacation. This can put a very different spin on it.
She [Greta Christina/The Blowfish Blog] advocates scheduling sex. This usually provokes grumbling and statements about spontaneity, so I remind you that when you first started out and weren’t cohabiting, you scheduled dates, and since at some point you were being sexually intimate you were, in fact, scheduling sex! Why should that have to be different just because you live together and/or see more of each other over a longer period of time?
She also recommends redefining sex in a mutually agreeable fashion. This opens the door to all possible combinations of who gives and gets pleasure and in what manner, whether touching is or isn’t involved by both, visual stimulation, talking, reading, watching videos, phone sex, etc.
Even if no one or only one has an orgasm, there is a romantic and erotic connection (bottom tier of the cake) going on; looking at when one thinks about sex, wants to have sex and work around those preferences. Sex does not work for everyone at night once the couple is in bed, though it may work for one, but not the other. Talk about it. Figure it out. If your libidos are really far apart, think about whether it would be better to have less than what’s perfect for both, or to have neither partner at all satisfied with the sexual relationship. Dr. Cannon states that it’s not always toe curling and is better some times than others. Since that’s true for most things, why should sexual intimacy be any different?
Photo credit: Getty Images
I appreciate the ideas and opinions in response to my article. For more information about sexuality, relationships with self and others, you might want to take a look at my book, “Loving Courageously: First Me, Then You, Now Us” on Amazon, which covers these topics more in depth.
I very much appreciate the comments and opinions expressed above. For more information on sexuality and relationships with self and others, you might take a look at my book “Loving Courageously: First Me, Then You, Now Us” available on Amazon.
I want to respond to Silke and Jules regarding the question of libido and the articles by Emily Nagoski. I think the question as to whether a libido “exists” is academic, so I leave it to those who study to determine. Whatever we call it, there are differences in sexual interest and drive among individuals, and there are gender differences and socialization differences between males and females. Most often, (but not always) women need to feel emotionally connected to desire sexual intimacy with their partner. Some males require this, as well, however, men generally open emotionally through sexual intimacy, most… Read more »
Hi Silke!! How are you? I do hope you are well. I went for a short vacation to Ecuador last week….Was time to detox from the internet as you say… As for the sex drive/libido debate, I am inclined to think there is indeed a lot of validity to it. I certainly do believe that women to respond to context, situation,.touching, conversation,…when it comes to sex. So, yes I do believe a large part of it is responsive desire. But, you also see some instances in the same women who are aroused by certain men with little or not effort.… Read more »
I need time to answer this long comment.
Right now I am worried about Daesh and terrorism .
Norway have more refugees and migrants coming in everyday than we can cope with.
And then the terrorist attack in Paris.
Since I live in the largest city in my country I know it will happen here sooner or later because Daesh is ideas and belief systems hard to stop.
@ Silke, I too am very concerned about this Islamic terrorism. How do you just slaughter innocent because you are upset? Just crazy. What is so baffling to me is countries like Germany and Sweden that are opening the flood gates to these refugees. There have been millions of refugees in camps throughout the world. Why suddenly are Syrian refugees considered special? I am sure many are extremists. Many are also probably not even Syrian. I think it is a huge mistake that many European nations are making. They are going to pay a heavy price down the road. I… Read more »
Jules I don’t think Angela Merkel or the Swedes had no way to see into the future and see that someone organize where and how refugees now travel. it looks like a jihad by migration ,well organized. And that in itself is a scary though! I am not paranoid ,and I do not think all Muslims are bad but it looks like this migration ( refugees and migrants) is organized from somewhere. Well organized. Only 25% of those that come into Norway from Russia are from Syria. Many come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh , and other countries as well. And… Read more »
What do you say to this statement:
Sex drive , also called libido does not exist !
more from Emily Nagoski
I admit I do not understand why it is such a huge problem for many.
If you are so fortunate to have found a person to share your life with, you both love each other .
Why is it so terrible that one is not identical to the other sexually?
Some will rather spend their life all alone rather than live with one that do not want sex as frequent as the other .
@ Silke, “Some will rather spend their life all alone rather than live with one that do not want sex as frequent as the other.” Yes…because sex IS a connection for a lot of men myself is included. When a woman is constantly telling you NO, it is a form of rejection. Sex is a way to draw closer emotionally to your partner. Cuddling, kissing, caressing, touching, snuggling…and sex are my favorites. In my case, I never hounded her for sex. I could have lived with sex once a week as a fit and sexually enthusiastic man in my late… Read more »
Does your sex life revolve around your pleasure or do you focus on her, too? If she is just expected to give you sex, then I don’t blame her for not being interested. I can guarantee that if a woman were having multiple orgasms every time you had sex, she would be eager to have sex everyday.
That’s what’ so cool about making love, which by the way doesn’t have to include intercuource. Hardly ever have my wife and I not want to intimately be with each other. Laying in bed watching tv, cuddling, stroking her arm as she lay in my arms.
“Sex” is way over rated.