I’m fascinated by the psychology of sex. Wait, un-nerds. Hang in there with me. I find that we don’t pay enough attention to what good sex may mean for a relationship’s survival. And we pay even less attention to what NO sex may mean for the relationship’s survival.
There is a phenomenon that people in my practice tell me about quite often. Although this does happen with both genders, typically I see more men expressing frustration when their female partners turn them down for sex.
Ladies. What if I asked your male partner, “How long has it been since you had sex?”
If he answered something like, “Since honeys was wearing Sassoon,” please keep reading.
What do you think happens when you turn your partner down for sex? And I don’t mean the occasional friendly, ‘Not tonight honey,” but rather the consistent denial to his advances. When you turn him down more than accepting the sex request.
I know. Holidays, stress, extra pounds, kids…the list of your responsibilities is lunacy! And sometimes, let’s face it, sex feels like just another responsibility.
But listen, if he is interested in having sex and you just “can’t even,” we need to have a quick chat about the outcome of that choice. It may help explain why saying yes more often can drastically improve your relationship.
I want to tell you a story of two women, Petunia and Daisy.
Petunia and Daisy both have a dream of someday visiting the Maldives. They have both created beautiful Pintrest boards full of Maldive beach pictures, lovely swim suits and life-affirming-inspirational-travel quotes. They talk about their dream trip to anyone who will listen and you can often find them scouring resort websites and flipping through their favorite travel bloggers for inside tips on traveling to the Maldives.
Petunia and Daisy both want a trip to the Maldives. They are both passionate about getting to the Maldives. They both have fond feelings of longing for the Maldives.
But there is one small difference between Petunia and Daisy. Petunia has an airline ticket and a hotel booked for her trip to the Maldives. Daisy does not.
Petunia experiences the feeling of ANTICIPATION about her trip to the Maldives, because she knows that it will happen.
Daisy experiences the feeling of ANXIETY about her trip to the Maldives because she is unsure if it will actually happen.
This is what happens when sex is desired but hardly ever delivered. Some partners experience a delightful amount of arousing anticipation when sex is desired and then delivered. However, if sex is desired but rarely delivered, at least one of the partners often experiences anxiety that can cause a deep rift in the relationship.
Two identical desires. Two very different results.
Let’s take this one step further. So your partner experiences a little anxiety because they don’t get a ton of sex. So what, right? The rest of our relationship is fine, right? Let me share one more example with you of what it is like to live with chronic anxiety.
Imagine with me that you are driving in the middle of the desert with a friend in the passenger’s seat. All of a sudden, you look down and realize you are completely out of gas. The gas light is on and your needle is quickly dropping south of E. You haven’t seen a gas station or any civilization for miles and you are harrowingly unsure of how far you will still need to drive before you reach a gas station. Suddenly you find yourself with a sweaty grip on the steering wheel, eyes wide and peeled for any signs of a fuel and you are throwing it into neutral on the downhill to save what little is left in the tank.
Your friend in the passenger seat however, is oblivious of the situation and keeps on chatting to you like nothing is wrong, despite your obvious stress and constant requests for to keep her eyes open for a gas station. She keeps asking your opinion on her work project, the struggle she has with getting her kids to eat broccoli and could you just please help her come up with a name for her new knitting blog?!
Gas. All you can think of is getting gas. Before you are stranded…in this desert. It is difficult to give your friend sympathy about her work drama (gas.) or help her with her blog (gas!) when you are feeling incredibly anxious about what may or may not be on the horizon. Soon you start to detach from what she is saying. Gas. Gas. GAS!
That is what it is like to have chronic anxiety about sex. The more that the desire for sex is denied, the more anxiety increases about ever getting it. This anxiety can wreak havoc on a relationship and throw it into a tight, insidious cycle.
She denies sex. He becomes anxious and detaches from the relationship. She becomes resentful of his detachment and denies sex. He becomes more anxious.
And then you end up in my office, trying to hold together the pieces of your relationship that have somehow dwindled to shreds over the years.
This new year, commit to developing anticipation instead of anxiety in your sex life. Commit and follow through, don’t just promise. Be Petunia. Buy that airline ticket, and watch the anxiety fade away while the excitement and anticipation grow. There are understandable times when you simply cannot have sex. But consider branching out a bit when you can (and flat out rally, if you must) to discover the beauty of consistently fulfilling your partner’s desires and building erotic anticipation within your relationship.