8 strategies for managing some common sexual pitfalls in long-term relationships
Dr. Michael Karson bellow article is talking about helping couples to see the importance of teamwork in meeting each other’s sexual needs. This is one of the many areas in couples therapy that Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale Behavior Therapy exceed in working with their clients. Whether they had devolved into a pursuer of sex and a distributor of sex, or whether they were using sex as a bargaining chip or a power play, or whether they were using disinterest in sex as a protective strategy, couples often needed to wrap their minds around the necessity and benefits of meeting each other’s needs. The single step of establishing teamwork is probably more important than all the other ideas on how to implement teamwork.
1. Curtail the resentment that is bound to infect any two people living together by actively appreciating the fact that your partner is not a robot. Further, acknowledge that many of your partner’s apparent faults might stem from traits you love. Just as no one can be assertive and reticent, or relaxed and driven, no one can make a great space to live in and not get upset about how the space is treated, and no one can accept the role of primary earner and not be sensitive to concerns about not making enough. Remind yourself how lucky you are to be with a real person.
2. Stop having (or, at least, dreaming of) spontaneous sex. Of all the images that haunt couples from Hollywood and from their own early days, spontaneous sex is the worst. At the beginning, like teenagers, you’re just trying to get each other alone, and you’re pawing each other whenever possible. But seriously, what are the odds that both members of a lasting couple will be in the same mood at the same time? By outlawing spontaneous sex, you open the door to more sustainable practices. I’m not completely against it any more than I am completely against spontaneous dinner, but planning a time to eat works better.
The single most important reason to give up spontaneous sex is that it opens the door to physical affection. In many couples, an expression of physical (or even verbal) affection worries the recipient that it is actually foreplay. Both parties can offer and accept caresses, compliments, and kisses if they know it won’t lead to sex.
3. Issue rain checks. One way to keep spontaneous sex on the table (so to speak) without letting it kill displays of affection is to adopt a policy with respect to saying no. If you hit on your partner and get told no, your partner has 48 hours (or 24, or whatever) to make good. This gives the couple a way to try and fail without feeling “shot down,” and it gives the less avid member the needed space to get in the mood or set aside some time. While you’re at it, if neither of you is particularly interested, make sure you schedule sex at least once a week (or whatever).
4. Take turns. Perhaps no perfectionistic sex standard is more useless than the quest for the simultaneous orgasm. Besides inviting simulated orgasms, and besides—along with the quest for spontaneous sex—making a perfectly enjoyable sexual experience seem to fall short, simultaneous orgasm robs you of the chance to enjoy your partner’s orgasm. In my opinion, people hunt for the simultaneous orgasm not because of its inherent pleasures but because they are too self-conscious about pursuing their own sexual pleasure unless their partners are distracted by their own. But simultaneous sex makes no more sense than simultaneous massage. Of course you can massage each other’s feet at the same time, but isn’t it better when one person fully enjoys the massage and then the other does in turn? And when it comes to massaging the back, it’s not even possible, by which I mean to suggest that taking turns during sex opens the way to doing things for each other that can’t be done all at once. Taking turns allows you to concentrate on your own pleasure when it’s your turn. If you have trouble doing so in front of your partner, buy a blindfold for one of you. If you are prone to lose interest after orgasm, you’ll need to go second. Taking turns also allows partners to skip a turn if they’re feeling generous but not sexy.
5. Choreograph sexual activity that works for both people. There are two kinds of sexual sessions to choreograph for, one where both people are in the mood and one where only one is. Each couple has to balance the wishes of one party and the reasonable limits of the other. Whether the limits are reasonable is usually clear but can be a topic of discussion. Physical pain, physical ability, moral qualms, and distaste or disgust can all create limits, although it is important to recognize how often open discussion of sexual preferences tends to push back moral qualms and distaste, especially when the subject at hand is fantasy and not enactment. (People can usually find a way to embrace their partners’ fantasies of including a third person, for example, even if they remain adamant against actually including a third person.) Given how pleasurable sex is to humans, it is always possible to find an activity that is gratifying to both people, analogous perhaps to finding a restaurant in a fairly large city that will satisfy both people. Sometimes, though, only one person is in the mood. In that case, activities need to be choreographed that can satisfy that one person without overly inconveniencing, annoying, or intruding on the other. Each partner must always have the option of saying yes to sex while declining to take a turn, whether immediately or when the rain check comes due. Depending on the two people’s preferences, a variety of acts can satisfy the one in the mood while not overly intruding on the other one, rather like the way one person might give the other a shoulder rub after a tense day—as a kindness or as a teammate in achieving satisfaction.
6. Masturbate. Take some pressure off your partner, discover new fantasies, and acknowledge your sexuality and your ability to satisfy it to some extent. Don’t build up resentment toward the Good Humor Man for not always being available when you can keep some Nutty Buddies in the freezer under your own control.
7. Date your partner. I don’t just mean having date nights; I mean dressing well for the love of your life, not just for relative strangers. Don’t repeat stories to friends that your partner has already heard. Don’t stuff your anger all day long and snipe at your partner; instead, stay tuned to your partner and snipe at everyone else if necessary. And stay in shape (proportionately to your age and overall health) and keep your hair clean and styled in your ongoing effort to make yourself appealing to the one person who really matters. Get better underwear. Pick your nose in private.
8. Expose yourself; get kinky. Nearly everyone harbors fears of sexual rejection, whether stemming from repressive punishment for sexuality, from developing a sexual identity as a child and therefore as an incompetent, or from associating sex with the body and knowing that it is always the flesh that disappoints the mind and not the other way around. Showing your sexuality to another person is an extraordinarily intimate act, and it can bring with it the fears and the reliefs that mimic or perhaps reproduce the feeling of falling in love. Exposing your fantasies to your partner will give sex an edge that is otherwise lacking in ongoing relationships. No matter how accepting your partner is, you know you have details whose revelation would make you feel you are flying without a net. This strategy is the cure for any concerns raised by all the other strategies that sex will be routine and mundane. If you do this gradually, you will get plenty of information about whether a particular brand of fantasy puts off your partner before you reveal something you can’t take back. Or even better, you can start a discussion about which variations your partner can’t stomach, so you can avoid these. Conversely, as your partner reveals sexual fantasies to you, encourage any avenue that doesn’t repulse you by suggesting details yourself.
Regular sex with your life partner is a picnic and a brass band. You don’t really need the fireworks, too.