I’ve been counseling individuals and couples for many years. More than half the time, when couples are having problems or the relationship is dissolving, sex is one of the major issues. There are a number of common scenarios:
- After a long marriage with regular sex, he comes home to discover that his wife has left. He is devastated, and has no idea why. Upon exploration, it turns out that he has expected sex at least three times a week. While his wife complied, he knew that she felt emotionally disconnected from him and needed to grit her teeth to have sex with him. Looking back, he realizes that she tried to express this to him and he had refused to listen. Now she was gone.
- The partners are still together, but the sex is essentially gone from the relationship. This frequently occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. One partner may be more upset about this than the other.
- One partner has clearly stated that he or she is no longer available for sex. The partner states that he or she feels used, and is no longer willing to tolerate this. The other partner is angry and hurt by this.
- Sex is still a big part of the relationship, but one partner states that he or she is giving themselves up to have sex, and is very unhappy about the situation. But the complying partner fears the anger and withdrawal that ensues when he or she says no.
- One partner, generally the woman in a heterosexual relationship, says that she doesn’t feel anything during sex, so is unmotivated to have sex. Orgasm is non-existent or very rare.
- Sex has become boring and routine with little passion, so one or both partners are unmotivated.
There are other scenarios, but these are the most common that I’ve encountered.
Invariably, as I’ve explored with one or both partners, I’ve discovered that the underlying cause of many of these scenarios has to do with WHY one of the partners wants to have sex.
There are two basic reasons that people want to have sex:
- To get something
- To share love, warmth and connection
Sex to Get Something
If you are in a relationship where you want sex and your partner doesn’t, think for a moment about WHY you want or need to have sex. See if you relate to any of these.
I need to have sex to:
- Feel happy.
- Feel that I’m adequate – not a loser.
- Feel loved and lovable.
- Feel connected with my partner.
- Release stress.
- Be able to sleep.
- Feel powerful and in control.
- Feel safe.
- Feel validated.
- Feel whole.
- Release sexual tension.
- Get filled up inside.
When you approach your partner from a place of wanting to get something, you are coming from a needy state. Your neediness is likely not erotic for your partner. Neediness may feel to your partner like you are a child, and that may not be at all attractive to your partner.
Sex to Share Love, Warmth and Connection
Wanting sex to share love comes from a completely different place inside than sex to get something. In order to have love and connection to share, you have to already be connected with yourself and feel filled with love. You cannot share something that you don’t already have.
You cannot share love and connection when you feel unhappy, empty, inadequate, unlovable, disconnected from yourself, stressed or agitated, angry or needing to feel in control of your partner.
If you and your partner are having sexual problems, you each may want to examine the system between you. Is there a control-resist system? Is there a control-compliance system? Is there a compliance-compliance system? Any of these systems may be bypassing the true sharing of love and joy that sexuality between loving, caring partners offers.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process – featured on Oprah.