Tag Archives: sexual desire

The Fading Passion of Monogamy

WHOLE-lovefades

There seems to be a lot of new research lately that suggests that women do grow less sexually attracted to their husbands over the long relationship. Um… This is news? There’s this little concept called the seven-year itch that has been hanging around men’s heads for quite some time. Well, it seems the ennui is a two-way street.

I suppose the previous assumption was that women grew more deeply in love as the marriage years passed by. And with this assumption, was the idea that the deeper the love, the more sexual and connected the women would feel towards their husbands. Guess what? It’s difficult for two people to maintain a marriage, and even more difficult to keep that marriage vital, sexually exciting, and emotionally connected.

Love fades. A quick Google of the topic generates enough material for two movies and several encyclopedias of information about the fleeting nature of love, passion, lust, and love. Some of us, who tried and failed to sustain the magic, are looking for clues, ways to not repeat the mistakes of our past. And some people are becoming more convinced that enduring monogamy is just not viable in our modern society.

The real miss for me, right now, as a divorced dad, has more to do with my kids than with my ex-wife. However, I have to say, she’s still attractive to me.

I’d say love ebbs and flows. There are moments of peak experience, high times of love and raw sexual joy. And these moments are easier when you’re in the early stages of a relationship. And there is no denying that a new sexual partner is an amazing opportunity to rekindle your own inner sexual demon. Perhaps in a past marriage you began to doubt if you still had it in you. And after some work recovering your mojo, post divorce, you’re back in the dating game and BOOM it happens. The Joy of Sex becomes a thing again and not just a book.

But the question of being able to maintain sexual desire and interest in your lover year after year is a bit more difficult to decipher. I’d love to say there was a strategy or a book I could point to that would give us all the answer. There is not.

I can tell you, that in my marriage, even as things went from awesome and new, to awesome with children, to less awesome with children and mortgage, to less than awesome, to non-existent, that I never lost the desire and energy for my wife. While there would have been plenty of reasons to look outside the marriage, or ask for release from the sexless bedroom, I was more committed to my kids than I was to MY sexual gratification.

Of course I can’t speak to her and her levels of desire, or how the monotony of monogamy might have had something to do with the frosty bedroom. But I knew that our love would prevail over the time and stress and aches of growing up and parenting two wonderful kids.

The real miss for me, right now, as a divorced dad, has more to do with my kids than with my ex-wife. However, I have to say, she’s still attractive to me. I would still be in love with her, if there were some way to magically turn back the less-than cool things that have happened since. And if we were still working together, financially, rather than independently, and with two houses, we could be dialing back our work loads rather than dialing them up again.

It’s okay, I don’t want a reconciliation, and I’m sure that she does not either, but it’s a shame when all this wonderful chemistry, love, passion, and mutually agreed upon goals falls into disrepair and we find ourselves having to start over, or in my case, imagining starting over, with someone new. I didn’t want someone new. I didn’t want any one else. I was not tired of her sexually.

I was hopeful that by withdrawing a bit of my overt love language with her and the kids, that she would step back into “that loving feeling” and return to her previously joyous self.

However, I think I was also carrying a huge portion of the task of keeping the love alive. Not just in the bedroom, but in our daily lives as well. I learned about The 5 Love Languages a bit too late to help my marriage, but I can see now how we were wired very differently for love and affection. My language is touch. And in our lives, and our kid’s lives, I was the one who wrapped my arms around everyone and hugged. I was the one generating 90% of the touchy-feely actions in our entire family.

This lack of balance in our expressions of love was most apparent, as things were trending downward in our love life, when I took a break from being the cheerleader of the emotional family. I was hoping that by dialing my own warm fuzzies back, my wife would recognize the lack and move in to fill the vacuum a bit. I was hopeful that by withdrawing a bit of my overt love language with her and the kids, that she would step back into “that loving feeling” and return to her previously joyous self.

It didn’t work. It didn’t really backfire either, but I got my message loud and clear. If there was going to be joy and connective love in our house, I was going to have to generate all of the adult portion of it. The kids were busy little love bugs. They reflected back as much love as you could pour into them. But between my wife and I, the connection sometimes required effort.

Thus I believe the new studies showing women too suffer from long-term monogamy burnout not as a finding, but as a confirmation that love and passion take work on both sides. You can’t find true love and hope that it will carry you on into your twilight years together. You’ve got to work at remaining loving, remaining vital and active in your own life, so you can show up as vital and loving in your marriage. If either partner drops in their love energy, it is the other person’s responsibility to respond, support, nurture, and communicate.

If you can talk about what’s happening, there is a possibility that you can read books like The 5 Love Languages, or Seven Principals to Make a Marriage Work, and do what it takes to rekindle your marriage. If either of you decides not to do the work of keeping the love alive, then you’re in for some tough times. And when negotiations and discussions break down, sometimes over sex, the fractures may end up becoming breaks. The loss of the love may end up signaling the loss of your marriage.

I don’t have any knowledge of how this myth of women’s sustained love life came about, but I know I didn’t buy it. And so when the books began coming out and women started saying, “See, we’re in need of excitement and variety too, ” I was nonplussed. Um, yeah, we know this. It’s called the seven-year-grass-might-be-greener-with-a-new-sexual-parner itch.

This post continues here:  The Rest of Our Lives Loving the Same Person

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Positive Divorce 

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image: found image, creative commons usage

 

What Men Think About Sex vs. What A Woman Thinks They Think About

WHOLE-menthinking

[This post is a response to a previously published post, What Men Think About Sex vs. Reality – from a woman’s perspective, albeit an educated sex therapist with a Ph.D. Still she’s a woman. I’m a man. And I beg to differ, just a bit. And I love S Rodman Ph.D. btw.]

Okay so let’s crush a few of the stereotypes. Or, are we talking about college boys (men) here? Let’s quickly scan the list and see what pops out for debate.

  1. Frequent and strong sexual desire and thoughts should be natural and normal for all people in long-term relationships. (Boy: Yep. / Man: Not by a long shot.)
  2. Most married couples are having sex at least three times a week, if not more. (Boy, never been married: YES. / Man: married twice, divorced twice: um, yeah, next myth.)
  3. Women go into sex expecting and wanting the focus to be on their pleasure. (Boy: That’s where the focus should be, right? / Man: hyper-focus on anyone is a turn off, let’s have a little play with our sex, shall we?)
  4. Men who focus on a woman’s pleasure (read: enjoy giving oral sex) are few and far between, but I myself happen to be one of these rare ones (note how every male client I have met thinks this). Actually the Dr. say she thinks it’s more like 80% of men think this. (Boy: I’m eager to learn, eager to please: Yes. / Man: I do love it, but it’s only part of the fun: a qualified YES.)
  5. I must last as long as I can and be in full control of myself at all times. (Boy: because anything less is premature ejaculation. / Man: losing control is part of the fun and turn-on for men and women: NO.)
  6. Also, I should engage in a lot of foreplay, all the time, because women want this. (Boy: Women have longer warmup cycles: YES. / Man: sometimes, sometimes a quickie is what’s in order.)
  7. Women orgasm from intercourse alone pretty frequently. (Boy: Even I’ve heard this is false, hence all the focus on oral sex: Not really. / Man: Old ideas die hard: NO.)
  8. The women I dated in high school/college/my 20’s who I had lots of crazy sex with are still doing that with the men they married. (Boy: and all women love to have sex, right: Sure. / Man: but we’re not in our 20’s and sex takes planning and effort, if you’re even able to talk them into it: No.)
  9. My wife makes up excuses not to have sex, and other women just go with the flow and are happy to feel desired. (Boy: everyone is having more sex than me: YES. / Man: well there does seem to be some connection between clean dishes and sexual desire, but there’s a lot more to the equation: NO.)
  10. After the baby, most women get their sex drive back reasonably quickly. (Boy: I’m guessing at this, because I’ve never been with a woman who’s had a baby: Okay. / Man: Um, I don’t have any data to determine “reasonably quickly” so I’m going to ask the experts on Google: No.)
  11. Watching porn does nothing to hurt our sex life or relationship. (Boy: It makes me a better lover: Agreed. / Man: it depends on the relationship: Porn is not the problem, the relationship might be. NO. Porn in general is not harmful to healthy relationships.) Here’s a review of Don Jon review that goes into porn addiction and the pros and cons of porn in general.

So those are my answers. And while I’m no sex expert or marriage counselor, I have enough sense to know that this list was generated from clinical observations. At least the people in question were working on their relationship. So they are a long way from the possible “norm” cave man mentality. But somehow, a few of these “truths” feel like back “myths” that need to be busted. Or that have been busted and passed on a long time ago, but maybe are still tossed around in clinical settings for what’s going on.

Let’s start with Porn. Porn is like a drug or alcohol. Some people can use it and not abuse it or suffer the fallout of addiction and withdrawal. To say that porn is harmful to marriages is simply not true. It’s like an old wives’ tale that women have been using to hammer us men for quite some time. And what about the couples that like to watch porn together? Or porn that is used when the wife is disabled or unable/unwilling to be intimate? Is that killing the marriage, or is that a way for the man to still have some sexual fun without leaving the marriage? Porn is not the issue. The relationship and perhaps the couple’s relationship to porn or their own sexuality that could be a problem. It’s up for discussion, but it cannot be written off as evil or corrupting. It’s simply porn. Some do and some don’t.

Frequent and Passionate Sex throughout our lifetimes as a married couple. Um, yeah, on what planet? Planet Libido?  Sex and sexual desire takes work on both partner’s roles. And both men and women can experience highs and lows of sexual desire. In a long-term relationship a lot of factors begin to come into play. Stress and exhaustion are the two top killers or sexual desire. And add a little depression on either partner to that mix and you quickly see, sex is a negotiation and dance. It’s not a given. The recent studies showing how women in monogamous relationships tend to lose sexual desire, are like old news. We’ve been talking about the 7-year itch forever. Did you assume it was just about men? Both partners have to work at staying sexual interested in their partners. Sure, a new partner might seem to offer renewed vigor, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons divorce rates have skyrocketed, but to keep in tune and sexually interest in your life-partner is an ever-changing quest. I was all for it, and would’ve worked at it continuously. My ex-wife and mother of my kids, had other ideas.

Oral Sex, Vaginal Orgasms, Foreplay Good lord women, we’re all in this together. This information is fairly new, but if we’re even half interested in pleasing a woman, we’re reading about it on the cover of Cosmo in the checkout line. These types of hints and tips are everywhere, not telegraphed, frickin broadcast to all of us, men and women.  Fact is, a lot of men and women don’t like oral sex. In a divorce recovery class when the topic was brought up (25 men and 25 women) the split was about 25% didn’t enjoy it, 25% really loved it, 50% were okay either way. And for all the times we’re told to go slow, get into the foreplay, to somehow have this thrown back at us as something we’re doing wrong. What? Okay, the big issue here is communication. That’s hard. Talking about sex, asking for what you want DURING sex, that’s hard.

Why Arent’ We Having Sex Again? This is a loaded topic. And yes, in general, the woman is the excuse maker. But that’s part of nature’s little game. You see it in peacocks every day. Do you think the male peacock is getting frustrated at showing his handsome feathers? No, it’s just what he does. He says, “I’m ready. I’m willing. I’m gorgeous. What about you?” And in the human species we have some of the same rituals.

My ready and willing proposal: “I’m honest. I’m fitter than I was a year ago. I’m feeling sexy. How about after we do the dishes together I draw you a nice bath and put the kids to bed.” The woman can say, “No thanks.” Or, perhaps leave an opening, “I’m not feeling it right now, but the bath does sound nice. Let’s finish the dishes, and start there…”

There’s no right or wrong way to ask about sex. There are plenty of ways to turn off the options immediately. The issue is more about communication. It’s fine if the male is more driven by their t-score. And women are more attracted by romance, a clean house, and all the bills being paid. It’s just slightly different wiring. But it’s not all that different from the caveman who ran out and risked his life for the tribe while hunting down dinner. And the cavewoman prepared the fire, dried the fur bedding, and was ready to cook when the meat was brought home. If there was energy left in the warrior after all that, and the woman was still awake, a little rutting could be a welcome thing. But I have a hard time imagining a caveman being all self-conscious when his woman fell asleep directly after dinner.

Sex is a complex dance. We’ve got to have better communication about it. I’m no fine example. It can be difficult just to say, “Um, can you try this.” But it’s part of the education we must go through to learn the ways and means of our partner. And life-partners get to know us better than anyone. So we can find all sorts of ways, over time, to turn them on and turn them upside down crazy. IF we’re looking for them, and asking about them, and continuing to work on our parts.

Perhaps too much of our sex lives have become routine and lazy. And the stereotypical male who gets his and rolls off to go to sleep, still exists. I’m sure he’s out there. But his days are numbered. As women wake up to their needs and their own power, they’re asking for more. Oral, maybe. Frequency, as determined by prior arrangement. Foreplay or animal sex, depending on situation and available time.

Sex is fun to think about. It’s more fun to explore. But we often don’t get enough time to explore the nuance of making love to the same beautiful person year after year. And if a man or woman gets bored with their partner, or thinks the 20-somethings in porn are more to our taste, the responsibility is on them to either wake up and get to work, or leave for greener pastures. It’s kind of harsh, but that’s the reality these days.

Enough with the myths and truths. Let’s find out what our partner thinks and wants. Let’s ask them. Let’s return the favor and tell them our dirty little fantasies, too.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating After Divorce

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Sexual Desire: Men & Women, the Chemistry Between Us

sexual desire differences between men and womenAccording to science, testosterone is what regulates sexual desire. And, as expected, men have a lot more of it than women, both the hormone and the desire for sexual activity. That’s a fact of our biological evolution. Men hunt for food and available mating partners. It’s in our DNA. But in the modern world, can these sexual differences cause problems or be the key to opening up a better balance in our sexual compatibility?

One place to look for the variation between men and women is a 2009 study on masturbation.

masturbate-650

If we take self-pleasure as an indication of sexual desire, we can see some stark contrasts between men and women. About 1/3 of the women list their masturbation frequency as “Not in the past year” between the ages of 18 and 50. After 50 that percentage jumps to 50% and on up to 70% for our elder ladies. Now comparing that to men who show the same tapering off with age, but look at the men listing masturbation over 4 times per week. (PER WEEK!) 19% – 15% of men between the ages of 18 and 50 report masturbating over 4 times per week. Wow.

No wonder my masturbation-related posts seem so natural to me and are kind of icky to some of my women friends. Fascinating. And perhaps masturbation is not the perfect indicator of sexual desire, but the contrast between men and women is fairly dramatic, don’t you think?

The suggestion from a woman for women, was instead of saying no all the time, to say, “Let’s see how you might be able to get me in the mood.”

So we men are walking around with testosterone raging around in our veins and brains at a high level into our fifties. We are constantly driven towards release. And it must be fatiguing for the women in our lives to have to deal with that much aggressive sexual pressure. Thank goodness men (and even monkeys) have learned to release the raging hormones via masturbation.

So what do you do with a relationship between men and women when the request for sex is constant and unrelenting? Well, of course, the man needs to figure out a way to pleasure himself, or he’s going to be frustrated a lot of the time. And it’s really not the woman’s responsibility, even in a marriage, to pleasure us. It’s a dance. We men are constantly asking for, thinking about, and craving sex. Women, not so much.

I read recently about how women need a bit more ramp-up time to get in the mood. Sexual desire is not something that drives their daily motivations. And the suggestion from a woman for women, was instead of saying no all the time, to say, “Let’s see how you might be able to get me in the mood.”

In my experience the imbalance is manageable as long as the relationship is in good shape. If the conversation and trust is still intact in the marriage, the constant pressure from the man can become more of a game, rather than an irritation. When things were working for us, sex was just a part of our play. Sure I was in heat more of the time, and she was able to pleasure me efficiently and quickly in the shower as we were getting ready for work. And it was easy, often involving contact and rubbing rather than penetration.

I was aware that the lack of touch was killing me. There was no amount of masturbation that was going to make up for the distance between us.

But when the relationship begins to go south, the sexual communication becomes more and more strained. And sure, women cannot satisfy our every craving. That’s not their responsibility. But the dynamic is there either way. If you’re not talking about it, or playing about it, it’s getting built up and the imbalance may become more and more painful.

That was the big indicator to me that things were not working at all in my marriage. I was fine with self-pleasure for long periods of time, but ZERO sexual connection over a month, that began to get my attention. And ultimately this is the pain that I woke up to and began expressing in my marriage as complaint and dissatisfaction. Again, I’m not talking about daily or even weekly sex. I’m talking about going a month without so much as an encouraging touch. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Something was out of whack, and my whacking was not going to repair it.

Sex is an important part of any relationship. And for some of us, more “touch-oriented” a lack of sexual connection is akin to starvation. In the last year of my marriage I was not just sex-starved, I was touch-starved. There was so little affection coming from her, that when she said, “I love you,” one night, out of the blue, I felt an immense pain. I realised for the first time how infrequent her expressions of affection of any kind had become.

That was the beginning of my campaign to either have her return to the marriage or divorce me. It wasn’t my idea. But I was aware that the lack of touch was killing me. There was no amount of masturbation that was going to make up for the distance between us.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

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reference: This is how often women masturbate – Huffington Post Women

image: physics is like sex, son of groucho, creative commons usage

Love Is An Ongoing Choice Not a Feeling: Reflecting On My Divorce

love again after divorce

I’ve had a hard time getting around the idea that my marriage and the love that we established actually failed at some point. Even with the best of intentions and with two smart and well-educated people, we somehow managed to mess it up. At least that’s how I used to think about it.

Today I heard, and I mean really heard, a new perspective on what happened in my marriage. I’ve been over it a hundred times, backwards and forwards, trying to dissect the issues and misses that caused us to fall out of love with one another, and I’ve never quite been able to reconcile my own feelings from the feelings that somehow changed on my then-wife’s side.

And here is what I heard today, loud and clear. LOVE IS A CHOICE.

It seems pretty straightforward. But it’s easier to see now in retrospect than it was as our relationship was unravelling.

During the years that followed we struggled as a family with financial stresses and emotional stresses. We kept our family of four, plus various dogs and cats, afloat, but it was with much effort and negotiation.

Here’s how I now understand the choices we made and how we got out of sync and ultimately divorced. In the rush of love and passion or new beginnings we are all in an altered state of mind. Our energies are different, our sexual desire is heightened, and our willingness of overlook or look beyond our differences is easy and effortless. We fall into a drugged state where the world and future together looks so bright, that we’re almost powerless to pullback from the gravity that is binding us together.

In my case, we both wanted children, we were both nearing 40, and we had known each other for over 15 years, and the courtship and negotiations were fast and heightened by our passion and intensity. Within a year we were living together and discussing the timing of trying to get pregnant. Wow, it seems so fast now, looking back, but then, in the glow, we were intelligent and thoughtful in making our leap into the throes of marriage and then parenthood.

And we blazed along, without too much friction, until our second child  moving into the second trimester and the doctor’s alerted us to a very grave medical condition that might alter our lives and trajectories rather dramatically, should things go poorly. And in the darkness of that moment, as the world was still reeling from 9-11, we struggled as a young family to find footing and comfort in each other and in our newborn son.

And I would admit to doing worse at it than my then-wife, who bore the brunt of the invasive medical interventions that we partook of every Monday morning, in order to save the life of our pre-natal daughter.

During the years that followed we struggled as a family with financial stresses and emotional stresses. We kept our family of four, plus various dogs and cats, afloat, but it was with much effort and negotiation. We worked at it. We counseled like we’d never done before. We recommitted to our relationship and our kids. And we struggled on, like you’re supposed to: family first.

However, somewhere along this winding and stormy road, somewhere deep down inside, one of us began to doubt. One of us began to look outside the relationship for comfort and support. And one of us then began to make plans for something other than US.

Many things are different now, as a single parent, and dating father. I still believe in falling in love, and I still want to feel that rush again. This time, of course, there are some very different rules.

And I am not pointing the finger here, but I never questioned my choice at staying married and staying in the relationship. I struggled too. But my foundation, the bedrock of my love for the woman and the kids of my family, was never in question. Perhaps naively, I worked and fought and negotiated for my relationship from a position of strength, of “knowing” that we were solid as a family first, and the relationship would follow.

My ex-wife made different choices. And at some point, along the rocky road, began to imagine her life outside of the marriage. She began to check out the options with an attorney, before talking to me about it. She was making a choice.

And her choice was away from the marriage. My choice was always into the marriage. In terms of the divorce she would be considered the dumper and I would be the dumpee. And while this simplifies the roles a bit, the ultimate decision and process of divorce had to be a joint one. At some point I had to agree to get a divorce. I had to agree to work the process of separating in the most loving way I could manage. “For the wellbeing of the children.”

And all that is true and good. But the decision was made by my then-wife, and other than fight and resist, when it was decided there was very little I could have done to salvage the marriage. So I agreed to get a divorce.

Today, almost four years later, I am still learning and examining what happened to change the course of our lives so permanently. I am still asking, would we have been happier had we worked it out? And I think, as adults, with children, looking to date and maybe marry again, we have to be realistic about what we want and need.

Many things are different now, as a single parent, and dating father. And some of the aspirations and inspirations are the same. I still believe in falling in love, and I still want to feel that rush again. This time, of course, there are some very different rules. We (me and this fictitious woman) don’t want more children, we’ve already got them. We would need to see the benefits of marriage or living together from a different perspective.

But what I have learned to respect is the choice we make with our time and our efforts. If we want a relationship to happen, we have to make choices towards the relationship, towards the dating process. And the choices at this stage of life, are much more considered and optional. We don’t need to be married or even in a relationship.

But we WANT to be in a relationship. And each day we can make choices towards or away from that partnership. And each day, as an older single parent, those choices are a lot more fluid than they were when we were looking for life-partners and procreative opportunities.

I think each of us enters marriage with the idea that it will last a lifetime. I think we also endure pains in a marriage in order to protect our kids from the drama and pain of divorce. And those choices can take us only so far if one of the partners begins to question their decision, or begins to envision a different choice.

As single parents, dating, those choices now are much less dramatic. We can date, decide to continue or not continue dating, and that’s it. No big breakup, no big divorce. Just “we’re not dating any more, maybe we can maintain a friendship.”

I welcome the passionate fire of love with all my heart. But I will choose to keep my head in the reality of the choices, and how they would impact my little nuclear family of three before considering changing that relationship beyond a “date.” The choice of love is an on-going choice.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: love is in the subway, Benurs, creative commons usage