Dr J's Sex Facts

Fun sex facts and accurate information from a clinical sexologist for a hotter and more fulfilling sex life.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Desire Discrepancies, Part 1: “We Never Have Sex Any More!”

“Life without sex might be safer but it would be unbearably dull.”
H. L. Mencken, American humorist

There’s a scene from a movie in which there’s a split screen, showing each member of a couple, separately, at their therapist, answering a question regarding how often they have sex. He says: “Hardly ever! Three times a week.” She says: “All the time! Three times a week.”

Inevitably, some of us discover we have different sexual needs than our partner. This is the most common concern among busy, high-achieving professionals who have the expectation that they can simply turn on a “sexual switch” at the end of a 12-hour day and have everything work just like it did when they were dating! Other contributing factors include a discomfort regarding sex, fear, and our old friend—relationship conflict. Let’s revisit the most common factor related to partners desiring different sexual frequencies and illustrate it with the following imaginary dialogue:

A Love Story Featuring Mr. Wonderful and SuperWoman v 2.1

Mr. Wonderful: We met in the Marketing Department of a big deal high tech firm. We worked long hours, but afterwards we’d go home, have a glass of wine and hump like rabbits for hours. After the first couple of years, we weren’t doing it as much, but we still continued to have a great sex life.

Then, four years ago, little Josh came along, followed two years later by Brittany. She decided to stay home and take care of the kids, and she still does some consulting from home. I’m fine with being the major financial support for us, but now she always seems to be tired, and she’s definitely let herself go.

I know childbirth is hard on a woman’s body, but I’ve seen lots of women on TV who have kids and still manage to look great! She never even bothers to dress nice any more—just sits around the house wearing old t-shirts and jeans. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, but I really miss my girlfriend! And she always seems to have a reason why we can’t have sex: she’s too tired, or the kids will hear us, or she’s just not “in the mood.” I’m fed up with it and getting very lonely. Meanwhile, those online hotties are looking better and better every day.

SuperWoman v 2.1: Yes, it’s true. We had great sex in the beginning, and I had lots of energy. But the stress of those long hours did begin to wear me down, and I realized I wanted to have a nice home for us, so I began telecommuting more and more. After a couple of years, sex was still fun, but it started to become routine. It didn’t help that I also felt I had to always be sexually “on” for him and I guess I began to resent that. Then, after the kids came, everything changed for me. I mean, nobody can take care of their babies’ needs and those of their husband, too. It’s just too much for one person. He only has one job, and I have seven: nanny, cook, housekeeper, chauffeur, companion, therapist and sex partner. No wonder I’m so tired! All I’m asking for is not to feel like I have to have sex just to keep him happy. Maybe if he’d back off a little, I’d get a chance to actually want it. But instead, he’s always pushing it, and then I just get resentful and pull away.

What’s happening here?

Differing needs.

Mr. Wonderful is under the double influence of cultural expectations and testosterone (what many women half-jokingly refer to as “deadly testosterone poisoning”). Sex is a priority for him, because not only does it make him feel good, but it’s the only time he lets himself relax and become intimate with his partner. That puts a lot of pressure on sex, because it’s not only providing pleasure, but also carrying the lion’s share of intimacy. His other friendships tend to revolve around work, sports or other achievement-oriented activities, leaving sex as the only time he allows himself to have feelings. Plus, he’s also been programmed by our culture to believe that women are only sexy when they look like Victoria’s Secret models.

SuperWoman v 2.1 has fallen into the Baby Trap, but to be fair it’s both an instinctual and a cultural imperative that her children are her priority. However, having two kids in four years hasn’t only taken a toll on her body, and spirit, but also on her desire. She desperately needs some recuperative time to figure out how to integrate her new identity as a mom with being a sexual being. In addition, she never realized that if she didn’t look the way she did in her single days, he wouldn’t consider her attractive.

This story is by no means confined to woman/man couples; in fact, these issues arise just as frequently among same-sex couples as well, particularly when one partner stays home and the other goes out to a job. This situation can also arise for couples when one person’s relationship expectations aren’t being met; thus, sex can become the balm that’s expected to salve all other problems. Or maybe sex just isn’t a priority for one partner—at least not in a long-term relationship. Remember that for some of us, once sex becomes regular and familiar, it can lose its sizzle. And let’s face it; sometimes turn-ons are temporary, or situational. Ever find yourself totally obsessed by someone, only to become bored once you got to know them? It happens. Maybe sex was what attracted you, but now it’s no longer the glue holding together the relationship.

Here’s another scenario that’s the result of both cultural and biological differences between women and men: When you men wake up (mostly in the morning), what’s usually the first thing you notice? That’s right, an erection! And morning wood feels so good that you’d like to do something with it. If your partner is a woman, she may have a whole different sexual script—one that definitely doesn’t involve sex while she feels frumpy and unattractive. She hasn’t even brushed her teeth yet, and he wants to play! Doesn’t he know by now that she has a whole regimen to take care of before she can feel sexy? That reminds me of a great song: “Boys Like (Sex in the Morning)” Check it out.

Can we assume that a male couple might both want sex in the morning, whereas a female couple would avoid it? Who knows? (I wonder if anyone has interviewed same sex couples about their morning sex preferences?)

As always, communication and negotiation skills are needed – and just what the Doctor ordered. If you want sex more frequently than your partner does—or at a different time, talk about it. But make an effort not to sound like you’re nagging or whining. Think how you can present the subject in a positive way, as an opportunity for both of you not only to work on problem-solving together, but to also take the time to learn something new about each other. It might go something like this:

The fire is lit, the wine is poured, the lights are low, and you say: “You look so great. I’m so turned on by you. How do you do it?” (Always start with a compliment.) Then you say: “I’ve been noticing that sometimes when I want sex, you’re not interested. I don’t want anything to get in the way of our happiness, so I wanted to hear about your feelings so it doesn’t become a big deal.” (Bring it up in a non-confrontational manner so that your partner doesn’t feel attacked.)

Now sit back and listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t attack and don’t defend.

Next Week: Part 2 of the dialogue: Your partner’s response and where to go from there. AND: Part 2, in which our Mr. Wonderful/SuperWoman v 2.1 Love Story resolves itself.

As always, the doctor is in and welcomes your comments and questions.

With Pleasure,

Dr. J


  • At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I found this blog listed in a magazine and thought I would look it. I sure am glad I did. In this post you stated "Remember that for some of us, once sex becomes regular and familiar, it can lose its sizzle." This is so true for my relationship. I have been married 12 years and my wife is not interested in trying anything new or anything that she has to work at. For our entire relationship sex is about pleasing her and to hell with my wants.

    I have a question for anyone who reads this. I always here of guys waking up with moring wood and I never wake up with it. Is there something wrong with me?

  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger Dr J said…

    Dear Anonymous. I'm so glad to hear from you. Here are my comments:

    Not all men wake up with an erection in the morning, so stop worrying. Morning erections are the result of Rapid Eye Movement sleep (when most dreaming occurs), but not all men experience them just before waking.

    About your wife not having an interest in trying anything new: see my post of March 22 for some ideas. She may be uncomfortable with talking about the issue, but it’s important you bring it up. In addition, she may have some unresolved issues/discomforts about sex from before you two met. There’s only one way to find out: ask! If it’s scary, try introducing the subject in an email—or even leaving her a voice message asking for a date to talk. And remember to state things in the positive. I’d like to hear more from you, so please write back and let me know how things are going. Dr. J

  • At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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