Let’s talk about the differences between men and women. Yes, we all know the stereotypes. Men want sex to feel close. Women want to feel close in order to want sex. Is it true? Are there things we can learn from studying our own sexual pressure and our own sexual proclivities? I think so.
Let’s open up the feedback loop for
sexual attraction and sexual attention.
Let’s not confuse affection for
some sort of sexual demand.
Who Doesn’t Want Sex?
Let’s start here. When I had been married for a number of years, there was a critical mismatch in our sexual drives that began to get painful at around year 7. (Hmm. Why is it called the seven-year itch?) I still wanted to share intimacy with my wife. She was okay if we didn’t have sex again. Well, at least, that’s how it felt.
Maybe there was something going on that resembled the stereotype above. She did not feel close to me emotionally, thus, she did not feel attracted to me sexually. Perhaps she did not feel attracted to me at all, but that’s a different matter.
When sex dries up in a relationship there may be more going on than just an imbalance in sex drives. When we first started dating, and even after we got married, my wife was into sex. Frequency and passion were never an issue. But something changed over the course of the first seven years of marriage.
- We had two lovely kids
- She began to work part-time again
- There were a lot of chores
- The financial situation continued to be stressful post 9-11
- Sex never seemed to be a welcomed discussion
Intimacy at all appeared to be nonessential to her happy life. I, meanwhile, was starving to death, while sleeping right next to the woman I adored. I still desired her and only her. I kept all of my passions restrained within the marriage and even agreed to the reduced connection, for a while. And then I grew tired of the alienation. She didn’t want to be touched by me. There was very little affection coming in my direction. Even as I tried to up my romantic and responsible husband game, my then-wife continued to grow distant and cold. Even colder. I was freezing to death in my relationship.
Here’s a different experience of the same issue. I was in a long-term relationship and sex was good, frequent, and intoxicating. But, my partner was getting mixed messages from her interpretation of my affectionate personality. At one point we had a very important conversation. She said, “It feels like every night when I come to bed that you are disappointed if we don’t have sex.”
“What?” I said. “There’s no way we could have sex every night. And, that’s not really what I’m thinking. I’m feeling appreciative and happy about being with you. Every night. Each night, I just want to adore you, and this does not always involve sex.”
“But I feel a pressure.”
“I believe you. But, I’m telling you my intention and my desire are not to have sex every night. If sex happens, great. I am certainly happy with our frequency and intensity. So, I’m happy right now. I don’t need to have sex all the time.”
“So, you’re saying it’s me?”
“I’m saying it might be something worth looking at. I’d love to have sex, tonight, for example, but I’m not pressured to have sex. I’m not anticipating sex. Sure, I’m watching for signs that you might be up for it. But at this moment, I’m just happy to be in the bed with you.”
Sleeping Well Together
Another complication that I’ve experienced in the past 11-years as a single dad seeking a relationship with a long-term partner. Sleeping well together is an essential skill. Let’s say, one or both of you snore. That’s an issue. For someone who doesn’t sleep well, or who was experiencing a period of troubled sleep, this is a deal killer. I was in a long-term relationship with a partner who was furious when anything woke her up at night. No 3 am sex. Okay. But the way it manifested in our relationship was I would have to sleep alone in a different room.
It was heartbreaking. But I was up for the challenge. So, we sailed along together for a year and a half in this configuration. Now, that I’m back in a partnership with a deep sleeper, I’m blessed to be connected to my lover through all cycles of sleep.
I tried to explain to my light-sleeping friend, “Some people, when they are awakened in the night, don’t look to blame someone. I mean, you wake up all the time, even when I’m sleeping in the other bedroom. What, some people, like is to wake up next to someone, reach out a hand and touch them, and then fall back asleep secure and lovingly connected.”
It’s true, I love to touch my partner while sleeping. I love to spoon and be spooned. And since she snores too, I’m getting to see how my former partner’s frustration played out. But, I’m not frustrated at my lover’s snoring, ever. See, I snore. So we both snore. The more important part is this, we value sleeping in the same bed together, more than we’re worried about who or what woke us up.
Might be an ambitious thing. And, for me, it takes a little work to make it happen. But when it happens, it’s often part of awaking with your partner adoration thing. If you never wake up in the same bed, it is a different process. Since I never woke up with my former partner, the idea of heading into her bedroom was always fraught with fear. If she was still asleep she was going to be pissed when I opened the door. If she was already awake, in the other room, she was probably already engaged in her day, emailing, or texting about scheduling for her kids.
For me, I prefer sex that takes time. I luxuriate in my sexual connections when possible. I’m not all that good at quickies. I’m willing to learn, but, it takes a bit more intimacy for me to be ready to jump right to the sex part of sex. I love foreplay. My partner loves foreplay. I’m ambitious that I can learn to get it on with less prep and planning. Morning sex is the perfect example of a chance encounter, that I think countered my previous partner’s worry about never-ending sexual attention.
I want to wake up next to my lover. I want to bring her coffee. I want to luxuriate with her in bed, both before and after we sleep. And, in my perfect world, I’d be sleeping with my partner all night as well. And when she snores, I just do what I imagine would work with me as well, I reach out and touch her, kiss her, puller her closer. And luckily, we both go right back to sleep, with a somewhat deeper smile on our faces.
Sometimes, with partners who are busy or ambitious, planning sex is a bit more of an art. One of the things I’ve noticed is this, my partner taking a shower is a potentially arousing event. I will never tire of looking in on my partner, cascading water and steam. I don’t always initiate sex at this point. But I do always adore them. “Wow, you’re so sexy,” is always a nice thing to hear. Especially, if there is no sexual demand behind the words.
I think my former partner who felt the sexual pressure was tuning into something from her past, or her cultural programming. Yes, it was true, if sex was offered I was usually pretty quick to accept and get into the mood. And, yes, I understand sex is different for men and women. But why were my flirtations and affections always interpreted as a demand for sex? When a light kiss as you are in the shower feels threatening or demanding, there might be a conversation that needs to happen.
I’m my past relationship it was a healthy and illuminating conversation.
“I feel like you always want to have sex when I come to bed.”
“Okay, tell me more.”
“It feels like pressure. Like I’m disappointing you when we don’t have sex.”
“Hmm. I can assure you that I’m not expecting or asking for sex every time you come to bed. I’m just genuinely happy to see you at the end of the day, and the bed happens to be the place where we end up.”
I don’t think I was overly demanding about sex. I’m certain that I was being flexible when I agreed to sleep in the other room, even if leaving the bedroom at night was a moment of sadness. It wasn’t about sex at all. It was about companionship. It was about my wolf pack sensuality. I wanted to touch my partner continuously, all night long. Of course, I was not seeking sex with every touch, but hey…
Let’s Find Our Sexual Feedback Loop
When partners are together and in sync, their sexual requests don’t require words. Show me you’re interested with a kiss and a snuggle. Or, jump into the shower and invite me in. If you’re not in the mood, I might peek in on you, with permission, and give you a quick kiss. I promise to admire you without needing anything from you. I promise I will keep my own sexual demands to myself unless I sense you are open and interested.
Let’s open up the feedback loop for sexual attraction and sexual attention. Let’s not confuse affection for some sort of sexual demand. That would dramatically curtail our ability to give and receive affection. And when sex is on your mind, show me. Just give me a nudge in the direction you want to go. I’m open, I’m flexible, and I’m 100% happy with our sex life. If I’m not, it is up to me to talk about it.
Let’s make more affection and have more sex in the new year. But, let’s make sure both of us are feeling safe and loved, rather than pestered and bothered. I want you. I want you to know I want you. And I want to know when you want me as well. I am going to show you when I’m in the mood. You will know the difference. And I will continue to listen for your signals as well.
More love. Less unspoken and thus unfulfilled expectations. The only way to achieve satisfaction is to let your partner know what you want and then be flexible in how their answer unfolds. When it comes to sex, let’s be more direct and more intentional, and more playful about how we ask, how we cajole, how we entice and arouse our partners to have sex with us. Don’t ever give up the courting rituals and the mating dances. We all love being courted, especially when we’re open to being ravished.