Author’s Note #1 – This is intended for men focused on long-term monogamous relationships. It’s NOT for “pick-up artists,” who I’m confident know WAY more than I about how to succeed at having cheap sex with many strangers they’ll never see or speak to again.
Author’s Note #2 – Hey mom! Maybe you should skip this one.
Talking about sex is uncomfortable for some people.
I think it’s because many of us grow up only hearing about it as this naughty, taboo thing we’re not supposed to be doing or thinking about until we’re married.
Some people grow up avoiding sex in an effort to do what they’ve been taught is the right thing. Most of that group is probably doing so out of fear. They might be afraid of eternal damnation, moral judgment from others, disease, unplanned pregnancy, or something I haven’t thought of. Another group might not be afraid at all, but rather are deeply committed to living according to their moral code.
Maybe we succeed in our individual pursuits of avoiding sex or sex-related activities and enter marriage as shy, awkward and intimidated virgins.
Or maybe we failed in those pursuits, and spend our lives carrying a bunch of guilt and shame around like painfully heavy and oversized luggage without wheels.
In EITHER case, we’re suddenly supposed to shut off 25 or whatever years of psychological conditioning the moment we enter marriage because A. It’s totally okay to have sex now!, and not only that, but B. You better be kind of awesome at it, because no matter how much someone might want to deny it, a healthy and active sex life IS ABSOLUTELY one of the structural foundational elements of a marriage that lasts.
Or, put another way—failing in your marital sex life has a few different eventualities, and all seem bad: Divorce, Affairs, Miserable Marriage, or a total psychological disconnect from one’s sexuality in order to cope in a life devoid of physical intimacy.
I’ve been putting more effort into not categorizing things in terms of the gender divide, but sometimes the evidence is so strong that something is true for MOST people, that efficiency demands it:
While men and women both crave sexual satisfaction, the things that create feelings of arousal in men are often not the same things that produce sexual arousal in women.
Men’s sexual cravings tend to be more—I don’t know… superficial? Men’s arousal is often tied to visual stimulation. Body parts. Images of women in the throes of sexual ecstasy. And unfortunately, from novelty—something new or unfamiliar. Men are more prone to view an orgasm as the end game in and of itself. The research shows that sharing the experience with a partner is typically less important to men than it may be to women.
Women’s sexual arousal is much more psychologically rooted than in men. In fact, women often experience a civil war of sorts between their physical and mental responses to sexual stimuli.
Put more simply, a male erection is a virtual guarantee of sexual interest and arousal. But a female exhibiting physical evidence of stimulation can be 100-percent detached from the experience psychologically and emotionally.
In other words, a good female actor willing to lie can convincingly fake sexual pleasure, while men sort of can’t.
How to Make Your Partner Want You
Sometimes I look at the search terms people used to find this blog.
Last week, I saw this one: “magic potion to make a woman crave for sex.”
I laughed and made a note of it. But then I found myself thinking about it because it’s a conversation topic with merit.
I think this is a critical component of healthy relationships, and fits neatly into the overarching We Must Learn Empathy conversation.
If men assume (as I naively did for years) that their female partners generally experience sexual thoughts and activity in the same ways they do, it’s no wonder there’s so much dysfunction, cheating and crappy relationships happening.
Put another way, your wife or girlfriend leaving you because of your inability to understand how leaving dirty dishes by the sink can inflict severe emotional harm would be essentially the same thing as her leaving you because of your inability to satisfy her in the bedroom. (Hint: It would have almost nothing to do with your bedroom skills or the quality of your performance.)
My anonymous friend stumbling on MBTTTR during his digital quest for magic sex potion is highly unlikely to ever read this. But maybe someone else will.
Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services
I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.
The Recipe for Magic Sex Potion
1. Wake up each day, and intentionally think and feel: I choose to love my partner today. No matter what happens or how my mood swings, I love her. I am grateful that she chooses me despite my flaws. I appreciate the many things she does for me. Think of those things. There are A LOT. Pick one of those things and then, by speaking face-to-face, writing a note, sending a text, making a phone call or maybe some other really cool way, communicate to her that you appreciate something she does. There’s nothing too small to notice.
2. When you hug her (daily), do it for six seconds. Not four or five. Six. That’s how long it takes for important brain chemicals to kick in and boost our emotional connection with the person we’re hugging. Six-second hugs. Be mindful of stuff like this. These things matter.
3. When she tells you stories about her day, or wants to include you in a life decision she has to make for herself or your household, LISTEN attentively to her stories, and be engaged enough to provide feedback if (and only if) she requests it. Because I have bad news: Your penis WILL NOT make it all better for her. However, if you actually sacrifice just a little bit of time each day to actively listen to your partner, she will be infinitely more interested in touching it.
4. Become an empathy expert and practice demonstrating it. I’m serious. It will change your life. You can actually FAIL a little bit at empathy and still improve the health of your relationship simply through your demonstration of TRYING. Empathy Wizardry. That should be your new thing. So much sex, potion seeker. Or I should say… empathy wizard.
5. Avoid at all costs anything which forces her to do something your mom would have done for you. It’s okay if she WANTS to. I’m talking about the things she doesn’t want to do. Cleaning up after you. Reminding you of that thing you have to do this week. When you put her in a mother-like position, then she starts to feel like your mom and doesn’t want to bang you. This isn’t discussed enough.
6. Be kind. I don’t mean “nice.” Nice is bullshit and it’s not enough. BE KIND. If you don’t know the difference, this might be a good time to figure it out. Not being a prick should be a given. It might be time to learn why she gets upset with you even though everyone else in the world thinks you’re such a nice guy.
7. Exercise, but not because you think she likes toned arms and a flat stomach (even though she probably does). That’s gravy. Exercise demonstrates and results in a few things which women do respond to sexually: A. Self-respect, B. Discipline and follow-through, and actively doing those things breeds within you C. Confidence. These are important ingredients.
There are many other ingredients you can add to your cauldron while you brew future batches of Magic Sex Potion, and I’d love to learn other things I can add to improve this recipe.
People hunting for magic sex potions want a shortcut. A life hack. That’s what Pick-Up Artistry is for. If you love the idea of dying old and alone with herpes, feel free to explore some of those ideas.
But if you’re someone who craves companionship, contentment and connection every day for the rest of your life with a partner who genuinely derives pleasure from satisfying you sexually and from your touch, I think you’ll find this concoction to be an effective tool.
Order your Magic Sex Potion today and I’ll throw in a nice bonus gift:
A guarantee that you’ll literally be a better man every day for the rest of your life, reaping countless riches in the process and helping others do the same.
Go kick ass, potion seeker.
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228 thoughts on “How to Brew Magic Sex Potion”
The warning to mom is priceless 🙂
It ended up not being a particularly edgy post, but I didn’t know that when I first started. 🙂
Well, there was that one line about inspiring your wife to wanna “touch it”.
And should my mother have ignored my warning, she may have been aghast.
But perhaps not. She surprises me sometimes.
Well, to be fair, in order for you to be here sharing your wisdom, she would have had to touch one at some point.
Immaculate Conception does seem unlikely in my case.
(Don’t pay any attention to Travis, mom. He’s a rabble rouser.)
I noticed, I think you only used the word “penis” once. *high fives*
I can’t formulate a response which isn’t rife with immature double entendre, so I won’t bother trying.
Puts a whole new spin on “must be this tall to ride”. Okay, sorry, I weren’t growed up right. I’ll stop, I promise.
I’m pondering what perverse phrase to search for your blog that might show up on a post. Something involving Cheetos perhaps?
All good advice, Matt.
Thank you, Leslie! I do think this is an infinitely better approach than whatever failing techniques most of us used in the past.
Hopefully we learn from our mistakes.
Matt, I should send a link to your blog to my brothers and many male and female friends saying it’s not too late! Sadly, I’m afraid in many of those cases it is. Anyway, I appreciate your hard-won insight.
Once upon a time, I didn’t believe in “too late.”
I think I might today, but everyone’s circumstances vary.
Regardless, thank you very much for reading and considering it worthy to share with people you care about.
You get it … thank you for spelling it out …
This was nice of you to say, Sue. Thank you!
OMG…. I thought you were done with your best posts ever. I was wrong. While some points apply equally to both husband and wife, point # 5 should be yelled from the top of Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower. Not even because of sex. Because of a general loving and not feeling that I have one more child (a stubborn teenager at that!). I know you wrote about it once in the past but all these points concisely combined together – love it!
I second that vote for number 5. Everything else is a waste of time and effort if I feel like his Mom 😉
Me 3 – when he’s acting like a surly child the only banging I can contemplate is a pan against his head. I cannot remember the number of times I told him – I am NOT your mother dude.
Excellent stuff. This may be my favorite thing you’ve ever written.
Here is a summary of the number one post from Dr Samantha Rodham (Dr Psych Mom). She has a hilarious and informative blog. The link for the full thing is at the bottom.
Can anyone relate to any of these? Maybe I’m just the most direct person in the universe but I don’t understand why men just don’t ask. So I’m voting for number 10.
Top Ten Fixable Reasons Your Wife Won’t Sleep With You
1. You don’t smell good.
2. You don’t act aggressive enough.
You are always just kind of laying around. Women like get up and go! They like energy!
3. You don’t help with housework.
4. You are boring.
Every conversation is small talk, interspersed with rote entreaties for sex. If you want your wife to undress on purpose, for you, ask her some deep questions.
5. You engage in frat house type behavior.
Here are some things that disgust women, especially the ones I see in couples counseling: burping, farting, grabbing their boobs out of nowhere, making scatological, misogynistic, or dirty jokes, and drinking till you throw up (more than than let’s say once every year or two). B
6. You don’t notice anything.
If your wife changed her hair color, lost 10 pounds, or started dressing up, and you didn’t mention anything, she secretly begins to resent you. Women would even prefer you say what you don’t like, as long as you’re nice about it, rather than saying absolutely nothing.
7. You are really negative.
If people always call you a “devil’s advocate,” and your wife has ever said anything like, “I just shouldn’t even tell you anything,” then you can infer that your clever ability to find the crap side of any situation is actually not as charming as you think. Try to focus on the positives.
8. You don’t support her in public.
This is a really bad one. Never make fun of your wife in public. Hey, also, don’t make fun of her in private. Unless she herself has gushed over how hysterically funny you are when you comment about her to other people, assume that she would rather you just don’t make funny jokes about her messiness, lateness, tendency to yell at the kids, spending patterns, or anything else.
9. You don’t care what your wife is attracted to.
You were running five times a week and wore nice clothes when you were dating, now you’re 20 pounds overweight, wear clothes your wife hates, and you ask, “Do you like beards?” and grow one anyway when your wife says no. Where did women get this reputation as the deeper gender? Everyone likes to be physically attracted to their partner.
10. You don’t actually ask your wife why she doesn’t want to have sex.
You’ve never had a sit down discussion where you actually ask about the reasons for your wife’s constant refusal. You just assume she’s tired or being difficult or something, but you have no real clue. It could be one or many of the aforementioned nine reasons, or something entirely different, including just “monogamy.”
True, true, ALL of this is TRUE! Also if you leave you black sweaty work socks on the floor or on, I’m going to throw up in my mouth and never have an orgasm.
ifonlymommy – you so made me laugh “if you leave you black sweaty work socks on the floor or on, I’m going to throw up in my mouth”! thank you!
I think that is another difference. In general, women can’t relax and enjoy sex in a dirty environment. Knowing there are stinky black works socks laying about. 😉
The aroma is all wrong for “getting it on”.
The visual doesn’t help much either. Throwing up in my mouth again ??.
Funny how everyone is different but if you’re Ina sexual relationship long enough you may eventually see why one thing is a big deal to others that was never a thing for you when you finally have to deal with it more like number number 1 for me, several months into the heavy booze years that nick alley whino thing was getting really old, but would have never occurred to me for years and years before that. Or you ,at still have something that’s not much of thing, may be because it never would be for you or maybe because your partner always excels in that area, number 9 for me. Number 10 strikes me as related to the problem I can identify of not listening/squashing safe, open, and honest conversation about sex (and/or getting too defensive and/or over overlaying your own hang-ups over what was said instead of being able to hear what’s really been said.)
My top thing would be the similar or combined number 7 plus Matt’s point he’s made in the past about women needing to feel safe emotionally! But several others registered as mattering some or having mattered situationally or some such. Maybe if I’d been blessed with emotional safety and real love I would have noticed other things more. After all, I know I’m far from perfect. lol
You are perfect in my eyes 😉
And the BIG one…you have a personality disorder and your gas lighting and total jackassery isn’t making me feel good.
No sex for you!
ifonlymommy – I would say in the case of “you have a personality disorder and your gas lighting and total jackassery isn’t making me feel good” divorce is more in order than sex.
Your are correct as I am currently working towards a divorce. We’ve been separated for a while but before then, all of the bad behavior was keeping me out of the bedroom. I also didn’t know what I was dealing with. Now I do.
I was just venting ?.
And on number 5, tuning in to Tokyo is only allowed once a year when both of you are wasted after a fun event. Otherwise, not funny ??….unless I’m the one tuning.
I’m so old I have no choice but to google that.
Mobile-friendly – Now the boy puts his hands on the girl’s breasts and twists them as if they were radio knobs saying “Tune in, Tokyo!
?ridiculous, but funny.
Freak yeah! Especially the men not bothering to look and smell attractive, whatever that might be, for whoever they have a thing with. Hint hint, be sexy, get sex, not need to abuse, manipulate and be pathetic/whingy about it.
I agree with 1, 3, 4, 5. 6, and a hard yes on 9!
9, be attractive, you want sex, turn your woman ON so that she wants to have sex with you, whatever that may be for your particular lover.
Ten is so obvious, so so obvious, so so so obvious, like, I have no words for how obvious it is.
5, and 2 depend on the woman, I think, I tend to feel things for attractive sweet men, some woman can stand and are attracted to that that Frat Boy mediocrity.
“10. You don’t actually ask your wife why she doesn’t want to have sex.”
“You’ve never had a sit down discussion where you actually ask about the reasons for your wife’s constant refusal”
Actually, I did just that. I sat down with her, not once but several times, and straight up asked her what she would like, why she turned me down weeks or months on end, and if there was something, anything that I or we could do differently to try and improve or remedy the situation.
Her exact reply was “I don’t know. Women just has a lower libido or desire for sex than men. It is natural or biological so there’s nothing to do about it!”.
At the same time on the occasions when we finally got around to do it, she would be panting “Oh, that was so good! Why don’t we do this more often…?” afterwards.
Trying to tag a quotation with Italics, sorry if it doesn’t work:
“ Men are more prone to view an orgasm as the end game in and of itself. The research shows that sharing the experience with a partner is typically less important to men than it may be to women.”
What do you mean with “it may be” to women?
If the research shows anything, it should show that either it is, or it isn’t. And if it doesn’t show, why bring it up as a subject in the first place?
And FWIW, my own admittedly limited experience shows that a woman reaching orgasm before the man during sex, is probably just as prone or eager to speed up the rest of the process and “just have it over with” as a man, when the situation is reversed.
Any woman I’ve been with, I could give them all my attention, going slow, caressing, stroking, massaging, oral sex, you name it, for an hour or more. 3 minutes after she had peaked, she would be like “Are you done yet?!”
PS. I am sorry if I am spamming old threads. I have a lot of free time for the moment and I just found your site, so I’m reading up on it. Lots of good stuff but also quite a lot of stuff that just doesn’t rub me the wrong way but also strictly contradicts my own experience as a man.
Here’s another big different in the difference between men and women’s sex drives (in general). (Let me just throw in my annoying fact thing that in somewhere around 25% of relationships, the woman has the higher sex drive. Ok thanks for letting me throw that in, it’s like an OCD like thing)
Here’s the simplified rule, it’s not exactly true but has a lot of truth in it.
Men see sex as a way to release stress, women need to be stress free to enjoy sex.
Heres a summary of the concept from Dr Psych Mom (aren’t you guys glad I’m quoting someone other than Gottman today?)
“One major key to understanding why your wife won’t sleep with you is this: When women are stressed out, they can’t relax enough to have sex. For women, relaxation is necessary (but not sufficient) to feeling sexual. Men think of sex differently, as a way to release stress. But this doesn’t work in reverse. Men, with higher testosterone levels and higher sex drives, can’t imagine sex being stressful. To them, it is like chocolate, back rubs, or reading this blog: always pleasurable, anytime. However, women, particularly in monogamous relationships, often have a low sex drive to start out with. When they are stressed, particularly if the stress is constant, their sex drive evaporates.”
Lisa Gottman – love your annoying OCD thing “(Let me just throw in my annoying fact thing that in somewhere around 25% of relationships, the woman has the higher sex drive. Ok thanks for letting me throw that in, it’s like an OCD like thing)”. So true.
And yes – nice to see you quoting someone else, ;-).
I have challenged myself to limit my Gottman quotes like I’m attempting to limit my Doritos consumption. (starting tomorrow) 😉
Lisa – tomorrow is a great day to start! 😉
Do you agree with the stress rule? Just curious if people related to that.
Stress isn’t sexy.
Lisa – yes. I definitely agree with the stress rule. The only time whey it might not be that strict is masturbation (just to add to Matt’s edgy search vocabulary). Then I think it might be for some women also a stress release/pleasure to alleviate sex. But other than that – definitely. The thing is however, that I found that my husband also needs to feel relaxed. If he is stressed out he is far less likely to think about sex.
It’s so true, Lisa Gottman! I think in retrospect it may be impossible to tell honestly whose was higher in my situation because everything manifested so differently between us. But I certainly thought mine was a lot higher in our first several years together! And not without reasonable evidence even if I did learn a lot more about it all much later!
Maybe I need an OCD thing to go around telling all the men of the world that women really do suffer from lack of sex too! Even in situations where said man (who is in desperate need of some relationship skills) is determined to believe she never wants it and always rejects him!
I think because it plays against gender averages and stereotypes, it is hard for people to talk about openly. Women think there might be something wrong with them because aren’t all men supposed to want sex any time you offer? And men feel like a man fail because aren’t men supposed to want sex any time you offer?
And since men are penalized for being vulnerable by threatening to take away his man card, he often ignores it or drowns it in alcohol or work or video games. It is a very hard thing to talk about with anyone, friends, doctor, wife.
Also, as I said in a few other comments. There are more differences within the group than between the group. So, there will be many perfectly woman with higher sex drives than perfectly normal men.
But because as a group men have higher sex drives we think that all men (except those with a problem like low testosterone or depression) have a higher sex drive than a individual women.
Like a “normal” man might be 5 foot 7 and his wife might be 5 foot 9. So she is taller than he is even though on average, men are taller than women.
But of course it is helpful to talk about big groups because that is the most common experience even when there is a fairly big subset of people who do not experience it the average way.
Of course women have a higher sex drive, we bring the natural lube to the occasion. Men should wise up and do whatever it takes to make us happy and we’d be more than they could handle in the bedroom. Also if I have to shave my legs (which I totally want to) they need to shave their backs. I’m not sure a big hairy back will bring out the best in me. Its only fair ?.
In other times, women were considered to be the randier gender. http://www.alternet.org/when-women-wanted-sex-much-more-men
“We’de be more than they could handle in the bedroom”.
Honestly, if people were so inclined, who could take on more sexual partners in a day (I’m talking about heterosexual, consensual and mutually enjoyable sex here), a woman or a man? I know who I’d place my money on. :p
Fear of external and internalized slut shaming and all of the consequences, fear of rape, can beat a lot of the sexual appetite out of women. I often see studies sited about how men want more one night stands than women and say yes to women offering casual sex while women turn men down, and this is taken as some kind of truth about men and women’s different sexualities.
I say: let’s put those same men and women in a culture where rape and violence is unheard of, where how many sexual partners you’ve had is truly a non-issue for both genders, and I think the results would be very different.
But I definitely agree with Matt’s premise, if a woman doesn’t feel that she’s treated well by her man, she often looses her sexual desire for him.
SO TRUE! And great points about the power of cultural framing and fear of rape.
No question that affects things a LOT!
I was really surprised when I was doing research on gender theology that for centuries it was WOMEN who were considered to have out of control sex drives.
Greek and Roman cultures thought of it in the reverse way we do now. Men were the more refined, thoughtful ones and women were controlled by their animal drives.
Of course, there was a lot of mysogeny involved in coming up with these constructs.
There still is now. We just have reversed it and decided that women don’t really want sex that much and those who do are sluts.
But it does show that it is not simple biological differences.
(It seems like some words are coming back to me. 8))
Yes! So many things we take as truth really…. aren’t. Or, maybe they’re true in one situation but not in others.
One more thing I forgot to add, in addition to fear of rape/harm, external/internalized slut shaming there’s also the orgasm gap when it comes to casual sexual encounters (there is an orgasm gap in committed relationships too, but it’s less). Most men get orgasms from hook ups while most women don’t.
….I’m sure Matt’s smarty pants readers can connect these dots in some meaningful way. 8)
I have nothing intelligent to reply to this at the moment, it’s just your name here is Donkey! Cracks me up, Donkey! Love it!
And let me just add so Matt doesn’t get mad at me for my OCD addition, that he did not AT ALL say that men have a higher sex drive all the time.
I added that fact just because it is a commonly held belief when this topic is discussed and my hands were shaking until I typed the 25% stat. Then I felt better so thanks for understanding Matt. But irregardless of Travis’ hatred for my OCD fact weakness he has that weird grammar thing going on so we’re even. 😉
So much subtle awesome in this comment.
I think thats the first time anyone has every called me subtle!
Virtual duck lip for you. But a subtle one, of course, cause I don’t want Tina to get all up in my grill. 😉
Unfortunately, as with the few other times Matt has chosen to focus on sex as a topic, I have nothing to contribute to this thread. A) my wife and I are not religious, so we had no weird hangups about sex instilled in us as youths that we had to drag into adulthood, and B) my wife’s sex drive has always been every bit my equal (truth be told, usually even higher), even when her feelings toward me weren’t in a rosy place. All this said, thanks for name-dropping me so that I at least feel like I’m part of the discussion, even if it’s in just a meager way! 🙂
I think your thoughts (in addition to those about Matt’s mom) would be a great addition. Especially as someone who doesn’t have weird religious hangups.
You would be a perfect person to reflect on the messages that media and the general culture gives to men about sex. Or how you and your wife talk to your kids about sex and relationships. But, I understand if that annoyingly theoretical 😉
“I think your thoughts…would be a great addition. Especially as someone who doesn’t have weird religious hangups.
You would be a perfect person to reflect on the messages that media and the general culture gives to men about sex. Or how you and your wife talk to your kids about sex and relationships.”
Again, I’m just not sure what I can offer of value here. In my marriage, sex just rolls along without much concern, issue or frustration in my house. I mean, for instance, what can I say to someone with religious hangups about sex that would be helpful to them? “Get over it, sex rules! Go get’cha sum’o’dat!”? I’m certainly open to contributing, but guess I would be best prompted if I was asked specific questions. Otherwise, it’s not an issue I feel particularly passionate about (well, I mean I feel plenty passionate about it (*lecherous Frenchman laugh*), but you catch my drift) because it’s never one that’s presented any complication in my marriage (thank heavens!).
OMG yes – like I was waiting for you in bed naked dude and you were more interested in playing your video games so I went to sleep and you think your going to get some NOW?
Tina, all I can say is, preach it sister!
I’ll raise my hand as someone who feels that (mutually enjoyable!) sex can be a way to release stress. 8) Not in all cases obviously, but I have felt that way many times. :p
But, I do not imagine it would work like that if I felt that the partner I was with was a long term source of my stress (obviously no one’s perfect, so some bumps in the road are to be expected and probably wouldn’t hurt my libido too much). No, no, no, no, no!
If I had felt unfairly treated/burdened, ignored, hurt, unloved, disrespected and so on for a while? I’m stressed because I’m running after the kids every night after work while he relaxes playing Nintendo wii? Yeah, my…err, treasure chest would not appreciate having the source of my stress and hurt as a visitor! 8) That would feel a little or a lot: degrading/violating/like sleeping with the enemy/like self betrayal. And I say this as someone who more often than not feels pretty… warm blooded. 8)
Lisa, I really appreciate you speaking up about how men’s sexuality isn’t always so simple. If someone always want sex no matter what’s going on, well great, bless you all and your robust libidos. But many guys don’t always want it. Maybe THEY feel disrespected or hurt and unfairly treated by their partner, and frankly, they don’t feel like sleeping with the enemy. :p Maybe they’re exhausted, sick, stressed, sad. Or they just don’t want to for whatever reasons. I think this is perfectly normal.
I saw you say something about women being the high desire partner in 25% of hetero couples? I’ve seen higher numbers too. If I remember correctly, David Schnarch says that with the hetero couples he sees, it’s pretty evenly divided between the genders who want sex the most. Sheryl Paul says in about 55% of the cases she sees, it’s the woman who wants sex more often. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18523/debunking-the-myth-of-the-highly-sexed-man.html
Yeah the 25% number is from Michelle Weiner Davis as I remember. It’s not an area I’ve done a lot of research in so I’m not sure what the number is. Scnarch and the other person were talking about their patients? If so that wouldn’t be representative of big populations just who goes to therapy. As I said I don’t know but I do know it’s more common than the myth.
Samantha Rodham (DrPsychMom) writes a lot about how women’s sex drives are just as strong as men in the beginning but take a nose dive when in a long term monogamous relationship. Monotgamy she calls it. 😉
And I know there’s research that sex takes a nose dive after the birth of the first child. So maybe that’s where the bigger differences show up. Because marriage satisfaction tanks too.
What I meant to say is that because women tend to be the ones who initiate marriage therapy it would make sense that a higher percentage than the average would have a higher libido and be unhappy enough to see a counselor.
Hey Lisa, you’re right, the numbers could be skewed if they’re clients in therapy.
Name of your next article….Ways to make women want to touch “it”. Ha!
Exercising with her is a total turn on too. That way you’re caring about each other and spending time together getting sweaty….then you want to to work out together in other ways. Just saying, it’s a great idea.
Yes it is. And it’s particularly valuable if quality time (shared experience and cooperation) is in her top two love languages…or even her third for that matter.
I was totally thinking the same when I read the #7. Womens bodies (especially after children) NEED to get exercise. The pelvic floor is very ignored in todays ages. (Women AND men included)
We spend numerous hours sitting at our desks or standing still. It’s a HUGE problem that is only now being recognized in the medical industry.
A crucial area for ongoing awareness…
I am nominating an annual week on Matt’s blog for Pelvic Floor Power. Right after Hitler week.
I legit snorted again.
Now I’m feeling bad about that joke because I know pelvic floor problems are a legitimate medical issue. So maybe two weeks!
Don’t feel bad Lisa, I legit snorted at that as well.. 😉
But it’s true. The pelvic floor issue is HUGE!
Child birth can be very destructive. Physically as much as emotionally. Men are often oblivious of this. Once the green light of that 6 week postpartum elapses, they think we SHOULD be ready to go! It’s not always that simple. I read Matts post of when his wife was suffering with Postpartum depression. I think he understands now how much he was needed in those difficult times. How her mental and physical health was suffering and he didn’t recognize it when she needed him most. I cried A LOT reading that post.
In this article Matt mentions how women can “fake it”. I don’t completely agree with that Matt. Just because we have a “hole” doesn’t mean it can be penetrated at will (or at their partners will).
I’m going to get a bit descriptive here, but the only way I can explain it is for men to TRY to imagine “anal sex”. There is much evidence that men CAN enjoy anal sex because of the prostate gland, but that does NOT mean that they could “fake it” at any given moment.
I don’t want to get gross and descriptive here, but if you click on the Psychology Today report I linked to in a couple places, it gets into it.
The premise of the quoted study’s findings is that physical evidence of arousal in men (an erection) tends to correlate nearly 100% with that man being sexually aroused mentally.
But that same study found a total disconnect between the PHYSICAL sexual responses of women relative to their MENTAL response. They found that naturally occuring lubrication produced by women’s bodies frequently occurs from physical stimulation, and that it can occur even when women don’t desire the stimulation, like (and please forgive me for even bringing it up) in instances of sexual assault.
I’m having trouble remembering whatever point I was attempting to make when I wrote that. Probably making the empathy parellel.
Probably just wanting to hammer the point for the millionth time that other people (in this instance, your partner) experience life much differently we do, and when we aren’t mindfully aware of that AND lack the ability to empathize, we go through life making a bunch of shitty choices based on false assumptions because we project our crap onto other people instead of doing our best to learn who other people are through honest and empathetic curiosity.
I wouldn’t want a man to think because his wife or girlfriend got wet during a sexual encounter that that alone is enough evidence of it being a positive experience.
There’s so much more going on than just the physical evidence. It’s matters of the mind and heart that really make this stuff work.
Yes, I agree! I don’t think many men understand that to just lie there are fake it often involves pain. Which then sets up an association of sex with pain. Which can then lead to vaginisimus because of the association of pain with sex which involves spasms preventing penetration.
Not to mention previous sexual assault which is horribly common.
I don’t know the stat off the top of my head but it is a substantial number of women who have PAIN with sex for a variety of reasons.
It is estimated that about 20% of women experience pelvic pain at some point in their lives.
When I had my daughter, she was 9 lbs, it was like I bomb had gone off! 4th degree lacerations. I’m a tiny lady. 5’5″, 120 lbs. Some tiny people CAN give birth without issues but for me, it was devastating. Then I had my son. 10 lbs.
I still suffer. I could get into the entire story, but it may not be appropriate here.
So, I try to explain for men to TRY to imagine giving birth to a watermelon. Then with the emotions, hormonal changes, exhaustion of nursing, sleepless nights etc.
If a women CAN fake it (accept penetration), I guarantee for the most part it’s because they just want to get it over with… trying to be supportive of their husbands needs maybe, but there is that whole mental connection of it as well that you can feel pretty shitty about it. This can build up into major resentment.
And the opposite can also be true, just because the woman doesn’t get wet doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to have sex. There a variety of hormonal and psychological reasons for that as well.
That’s why I say you need to have some serious vulnerable discussions about what is really going on. Don’t assume on either side.
And, also don’t fake stuff. It is a form of lying in my humble opinion.
The need for honesty and vulnerable discussion regarding sex cannot be overemphasized.
I lead this post with the discomfort some people have discussing sex, and it’s rooted heavily in what I grew up with:
Small-town, conservative, Christian roots.
NONE of which I’m condemning or believe to be “bad.”
I simply think a natural consequence of children being raised in that environment is the development of uncomfortable guilt/shame complexes about sex that make it really hard for some people to have the open and vulnerable discussions with their partners that would probably save a lot of relationships.
I wrote it in that one post which was the most vulnerable and scary thing I’ve ever put out there (for me):
I was afraid — legitimately — to speak pure, unfiltered truth to my girlfriend/wife about sex, because I projected all of that guilt/shame stuff (Sex is a sin we shouldn’t be thinking about our talking about, so even if we do it, let’s not make it worse by talking about it! AND If I tell her the full truth about my sexuality — about what I think about and how often, maybe she’ll think I’m a freak and reject me because it doesn’t align with what I was taught was “good,” so I better just keep it to myself).
Once she DID leave regardless, it took away a lot of my fear.
Keeping those things to myself didn’t help. And also, the shittiness felt because of divorce was WAY worse than the shittiness I guessed I might feel by having an honest conversation with her.
Moving forward, when the time is right, I don’t anticipate having trouble laying it all out there.
If there isn’t alignment on bedroom things, it’s never going to last anyway. So, put it out there, and deal with it.
That, to me, is the way.
“And the opposite can also be true, just because the woman doesn’t get wet doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to have sex. There a variety of hormonal and psychological reasons for that as well.”
That’s some super powerful and important stuff there, Matt! Thank-you!
Before I thought of the “faking orgasm” issue that couples sometimes run into huge issues with where men feel offended by having been lied to or some other incomprehensible to me thing, which is also an important area for men and women in an intimate relationship to be able to discuss openly and honestly. (A particular expert on lying has found that men lie more often to boost their own image or ego and women lie more often to save someone else’s feelings.)
But this is deeper and more complex and I’m so glad you brought it up! A woman can even benefit from a man “getting her there” when she wasn’t originally in the mood depending on circumstances and her outlook, personality, etc. BUT it’s isn’t always going to work purely from the physical stimulation. AND if that’s all there ever is or if that’s the circumstance the majority of the time because the rest of the intimate connection and safety she needs is never there then that can become extremely damaging in the long term!
You said: “But that same study found a total disconnect between the PHYSICAL sexual responses of women relative to their MENTAL response. They found that naturally occuring lubrication produced by women’s bodies frequently occurs from physical stimulation, and that it can occur even when women don’t desire the stimulation, like (and please forgive me for even bringing it up) in instances of sexual assault.”
This is true for boys and men. Sexual predators use biological responses to confuse young victims. Because it feels good on a biological level, because your body can respond to stimulus to orgasm regardless of if it’s rape or not. It’s even more psychologically damaging if your body is responding pleasurably to something your brain understands is violating.
That’s why CONSENT is the most important part of a sexual relationship. Just because a make responds to a woman with an erection does not give him the right to sex without her full consent.
Biology is just biology.
“There’s so much more going on than just the physical evidence. It’s matters of the mind and heart that really make this stuff work.”
Yes! And the only way to make it work is with open communication and the magic potions!
Vive le sex! 🙂
You said: “The premise of the quoted study’s findings is that physical evidence of arousal in men (an erection) tends to correlate nearly 100% with that man being sexually aroused mentally.”
Ok this is probably my OCD fact thing but I have read that study before. I am wondering if this study was on collage age men as they usually are.
My point being that young men have biology strongly in their favor in terms of erections. I’ve never been a 19 year old guy but I hear you get erections early and often. For biological reasons and also visual and other stimuli.
This changes somewhat with age. You had a heartbreaking post recently about your ex wife taking a shower and not being able to have sex because of the crushing sadness. All this stuff is common for men.
They can’t get erections because of stress, or relationship issues, or job pressures, or midlife crisis or depression, heart disease or whatever. But it is very common for men to have premature ejaculation of erectile dysfunction.
I don’t think you think this Matt. I just get so upset at the messages we send about men. That they need to be strong and invulnerable. And it most especially applies to sex! Men should want sex everytime it is offered, men respond with an erection easily!
When it doesn’t work, as it doesn’t for many, many, men. Men feel such shame! I can’t even get that right! And it is so hard for him to even talk about. I feel for men with all these expectations we put on them from a young age.
Ok, I’m done with my rant.
It’s not a rant. It’s an important, thoughtful response.
You make a great point. I didn’t read the research itself, nor look for any research that might contradict it. I just read one article which referenced it.
It is in no way scientifically valid.
I just thought it was interesting and illustrative of our macro Empathy conversation, but in a physically sexual way that guys might understand.
There are always several vantage points one can take to view something.
I LOVE that you present different perspectives than I have and give me an opportunity to come out of these conversations with more fully developed thoughts, and more objective viewpoints.
It’s important, and appreciated very much.
Your comments are very appreciated here! 😀
Thanks for bringing up this important topic of women and painful sex! (there is also a small subset of men who experience pain during sex but they are not well studied).
I’m not sure if it is how the definitions are drawn but I found this reference that says that up to 40% of women experience sex as painful at sometime in their life.
“Many women suffer from dyspareunia, or painful intercourse, but they may not realize the condition has a name and more importantly treatments.
Women “often feel like it’s their fault,” Dr. Lynne T. Schuster, a physician at Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Health Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said to CBSNews.com. “There could be so much less suffering.”
Dyspareunia — which can occur just before, during or after intercourse — can be caused by many physical and psychological conditions. Schuster estimates that the condition is so pervasive that at least 40 percent of all women will experience it in their lifetime.”
Just my uneducated guess but I bet the number is actually higher if we’re talking over the lifetime of a woman considering pain after childbirth, menopause etc.
By the way, Bygeorge, I can’t imagine having 9 and 10 pound babies! Did you have gestational diabetes or just naturally freakishly giant babies?
Oh my goodness, it is painful just to read your comments much less experience it. It makes me grateful I had C-sections. Give me abdominal surgery anytime over a 10 pounder!
You message is a needed one. There are so many women who don’t realize they are not alone.
You said: “You make a great point. I didn’t read the research itself, nor look for any research that might contradict it. I just read one article which referenced it.
It is in no way scientifically valid.
I just thought it was interesting and illustrative of our macro Empathy conversation, but in a physically sexual way that guys might understand.”
I think your post was great and had some really thought provoking ideas.
I understand you weren’t advocating the research. I’m not even disagreeing with the research because I just read it casually a while ago. I think that it highlights several key ideas. That was what I was trying to say. Here’s a little more detail.
1. Biological responses in women are not a good indicator of sexual interest. (and here my caveat would be this is also true for boys and girls. Very young children masturbate with no understanding of sex.
Also, as I said, a victim (boy, girl, man, or woman) can experience pleasurable biological sensations even when being violated. It is simply a biological reaction not reflective of the actual event or the psychological horror experienced.
2. The male response in this study can be read (and I don’t think you were saying this) as feeding the harmful stereotype about men’s sexuality being simple.
I think the general research shows the BIOLOGY is often simpler than females as evidenced by the 1 billion, billion dollars Viagra and similar drugs make.
3. But the psychological responses underlying sexuality is very complicated for BOTH men and women. And those psychological responses often affect the biological response for BOTH men and women.
4, So that is the harmful idea that often gets perpetuated. (not by you here).
That men can get an erection at any time with the right visual input, and men want to have sex at any time. If he wavers from these strict standards he is a man-fail. Psychological factors are for girls. Like emotions are for girls. Like empathy is for girls.
5. It’s all part of the same, sad stuff that makes us not be able to have healthy relationships. You know why I think all this matters in terms of stupid divorces?
6. Because we give such strong messages about the centrality of sex to a man’s identity. And then we combine it with all those messages that say that emotions are for girls. So we end up with a lot of men who give and receive love to their wives primarily through sex.
7. And if for either biological or psychological reasons, he can’t or doesn’t want to have sex, he feels shame but doesn’t even understand it in these terms because you know introspection is for girls too. So he turns it outward into video games,sports, work, alcohol drugs or cheetos. Because he can’t be vulnerable with his wife becsue thats for girls too.
8. Often a man will turn to online porn. Because that is a way to have invulnerable sex. No chance of rejection or disappointment. Constant novelty. But its really just another form of deflecting the real issue like any of the others. And his wife is going to not understand this but see it as yet another way he is causing her pain and making her feel not good enough.
9. If on the other hand, a man has a high libido, his investment in his giving and receiving love primarily through sex will be yet another way to cause a stupid divorce because if they are average, the wife’s libido is going to be naturally lower. So he is going to want sex more than she does. But because he cannot give and receive love in other ways, he will feel unloved when she doesn’t want to have sex with him.
10. So she will then agree to have sex with him and maybe even fake an orgasm to keep him happy. This might be ok for a while. But she is going to want sex even less now because it will not be fun (and maybe even painful). So eventually it will cause resentment.
11. But he can’t feel loved another way (cause emotions are for girls, sex is for men) so he feels resentful that he doesn’t get all the sex he needs to feel loved. And then he starts to think she is using it as a weapon. And that is the combination that can lead to a stupid divorce.
Just a few thoughts. I’m not sure if agrees or disagrees.
I am trying to find a way to write my rants against the ideas involved a topic even if I totally understand that you or anyone else is making that point. I think I’m getting a little better but I need to keep at it. So let me say these thoughts are just a rant against all the decades of stupid crap I have had to listen to about men and their “simple” sexual needs. 🙂 I don’t think men are simple at all.
Many many women get treated for things like ‘yeast infections’ etc. when they don’t even exist. It’s quite insane!
There are so many pelvic issues that are disregarded! The medical system puts women (AND men) on the merry-go-round of specialist, all giving them different diagnosis’s (including the favourite – it’s-all-in-your-head – diagnosis).
Here’s a fantastic site for women if anyone is interested. Amy Stein is well known in the pelvic pain community.
Haha! No, I was perfectly healthy! No issues whatsoever. I worked up until my last days of pregnancy with my daughter. My kids were both overdue and had to be induced. They waited 8 days over with my son. I was in “false labour” they said and kept sending me back home. Finally, one doctor said “This poor woman is going to burst! Let’s get this baby out of her!” He sucked every ounce of fat off me while pregnant. A week after delivery with him, I was 115 lbs. Weak as hell and had no energy whatsoever to keep up with a new born and a 20 month old.
If I had known about the following issues, I may have demanded a c-section.
Regardless of my issues though, I still LOVE sex! 😉
I must say, my husband was very understanding in that domaine. He may have pouted a few times, but generally pretty understanding.
One thing I was/am very open about is my sexuality. It’s an important topic for me!
Lisa Gottman, you are right on track. In my experience all of this is incredibly damaging. Even the man in the increasingly tragic and ugly situation will often do and say a ton of stuff to cut himself out of the areas of life and connection as well as to make it look like he is just sexual and that nothing else matters to him and even to make it look or sound like its all about the visual and that not much will be required or desired outside of that. Porn is often a primary perpetrator in that issue. I want visual stimulation and if it is available and good enough then I am good to go is the obvious and really pretty logical message of porn use.
There is a reason why women in divorce are frequently felt sorry for. These things hurt them and then the men still say things to make themselves look like cretins and to further hurt this woman who has been hurting all along for ages anyway. I’m not sure if it is possible for a woman to help a man be loving and well-rounded and emotionally intelligent if he is committed to believing that sex is everything and that he is justified in making himself that way and in operating the way he operates.
But the good news is that some men are actually far more emotionally intelligent than that. I do know of a decent number of older married couples who have made it and are enjoying their golden years together.
Lisa Gottman, I think men also somewhere within themselves know that a true intimate connection in marriage is more than sex. It includes sex, but should not be limited to sex. Therefore when the whole thing falls apart after they have operated in a way that, in many ways, made it only about sex they have to either become belligerent and all the more unreasonable or they feel shame. They may or may not learn and grow as humans are capable of doing as the only healthy reaction to shame. I think, in a culture as full of dysfunction and divorce as ours is, that’s a further part of why men and women alike tend to sympathize with women in divorce…except for the wildly belligerent men.
You said: “I think men also somewhere within themselves know that a true intimate connection in marriage is more than sex. It includes sex, but should not be limited to sex. Therefore when the whole thing falls apart after they have operated in a way that, in many ways, made it only about sex they have to either become belligerent and all the more unreasonable or they feel shame. They may or may not learn and grow as humans are capable of doing as the only healthy reaction to shame.”
I think you’re right that men understand that marriage is more than sex (or most men anyway).
But I think like Drew said, they think that men and women think about sex so differently.
I agree with that. Some of it is simple biology.
But I am asking how much of the difference between the ways men and women view sex is dysfunctional because of the many, messages we have been given our whole lives.
There is dysfunction on both sides that has nothing to do with biology. And often we are told that these dysfunctional differences are normal differences between men and women.
Men are simple sex creatures, women don’t care about sex etc.
At least that’s why I think. What do you think?
Lisa Gottman, I think that there is definitely a little bit of both, the nature and the nurture! The tricky part is in realizing how much of which, or even figuring out which one is effecting you in what way in a particular thing that you are trying to figure out. I am pretty sure my libido going down or disappearing at times as I was feeling less and less safe, less and less loved, and having to adapt to a lot of hostility was a natural and healthy response on my part. I believe it to the point of thinking that a guy who has an anger problem and blames his wife saying that if she had given him more sex he’d have been less angry is just making himself into an abuser in an insanely obvious way. If you have an anger management issue, you need to own it and deal with it before you expect anything from anyone. No one else in your family is going to be OK emotionally with you as long as your anger management issues are there to be a barrier.
But there are a lot of other things besides that to figure out of course. So I know that I did have ‘nurture’ issues such as how quickly and to what extent I became paralyzed and had a problem from someone else’s hostility may have been because of having had an emotionally unavailable dad or from the fact that I have a childhood history of molestation or some other thing that I haven’t even realized was also a part. And I think that he was definitely effected by his environment growing up as well which in some ways would appear to have been more healthy but in some ways I know was actually very unhealthy. He had a lot of bad relationship modeling from his parents and maybe some hang-ups from religious problems in his families way of being religious.
Weirdly where he and other people out of his particular religious group that he grew up in joke about the guilt and shame and other stuff of growing up in that group, I was far more religious and grew up in a pretty strict tradition and I never had any of that from my religious beliefs or from stuff I heard from other religious people or even from my dad who had some but I just knew he was wrong. I hate when people won’t talk openly and honestly with their kids or when they have no EMPATHY for their kids needs! My mom was awesome to talk openly about sex and emotion and reality and belief and reasoning. My dad was NOT healthy like my mom. And had it not been for him I’m sure I would have gone to her about the molestation problems when they happened. But there is another oddity there. My dad had also grown up in a different group and even so the hang-ups I know he had that specifically effected his sex life with my mom (from adult conversations later with my mom) don’t seem at all related to anything religious and in fact seem only like a pretty severe form of cultural ego/macho problems.
Nowadays, I still benefit from my mom’s way with all of that. I usually feel pretty free to talk about all of sex, and life and religion and reasoning and nearly anything else under the sun, with nearly anyone who hasn’t yet given me reason to see them as unsafe. I have a great and open way of relating with my daughters about all that. And until he started squashing communication in the bedroom and everywhere else early in our marriage, the only thing I had that was a bit of a barrier to bedroom communication was worrying about the stereotype of trying to be very careful of his ego, probably way too careful for clear communication on the one hand and not nearly careful enough in light of what I know now: He had low-self esteem, few coping mechanisms and few communication and relationship skills to help make that kind of conversation workable. That one is most definitely effected by what our culture tells us. But on the other hand is it a natural need of men too? And maybe that is partly why its built up to a crazy level in our culture? I really don’t know. But it is OK with me if it is partly natural. I don’t mind at all building a person up. I love it. I just need a person who can appreciate it when that positivity and appreciation come in their direction and can be loving enough to return the favor.
Matt – seriously, like where do you live and are you currently in a relationship?
That’s the top phrase used to find this blog!
I seriously think some variation of “my husband is an asshole” is the primary driver of random search traffic.
Me <— synonymous with "asshole husband" on the interwebs. ??
It’s your calling man, resistance is futile. Embrace your destiny as the go to guy for asshole husbandry.
Plus, now you’re extending your brand into sex tips so that should expand your search phrases nicely 😉
Lawd Tina’s trying to get up in your junk, Matt. Sorry Tina. I seem to be full of myself tonight. All good fun. All good fun ?.
Hey you are just calling it like you see it – no worries. If I were in the market for a relationship again I would totally be sending Matt duck lip selfies and stuff.
Hilarious, Tina! Nothing like a duck lip selfie to get people feeling all randy! Hahahaha!
Duck lip selfies! Rad.
This made me smile. Thank you.
Please don’t trick yourself into thinking I’m particularly awesome. In real life, when you know and deal with me all the time, my occasional oblivious or thoughtless behavior is every bit as frustrating as every other person’s you’ve ever met.
Greg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs basketball coach) is fantastic at understanding strategy and helping basketball players win games. But as a 67-year-old man, it’s safe to assume he’d get his ass kicked if he actually played in an NBA basketball game.
I think I have a good high-level understanding of these things we discuss here. I’m confident that being aware of these things will help men be better boyfriends and husbands.
But I’m no more likely than any other guy (who has the same information and interest level) to be fun to date or marry.
It’s something I worry about all the time. 🙂
Yeah, but you’d have all us women giving you coaching tips for dating 🙂
I’ve been staying away from this one, as men’s and womens thoughts and attitudes towards sex are often quite different.
But the Greg Popovich comment has pulled me in (damn you for a Spurs reference).
I’ll leave this to basketball and avoid the sex talk, but I really think that basketball can often be a metaphor for life. And things you need to do to be successful in one totally apply to the other.
In basketball you are part of a team, and in a relationship you are part of a team. And although the individual members of the team are important, for the team to be successful there always has to be a vision of where the team is going, and what the team wants. And team has to take priority over individual.
Any time one person gets too focused on what THEY need or want, the team suffers. The only way to be successful is to position the players so that they see how they can have personal success while in pursuit of the team goals.
If they don’t buy into the team, then they are never truly willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary in order for it to succeed.
I see the spurs philosophy as being one that will lead to successful long term relationships. Whereas a lot of other teams may be fun for a while and may have a few good years, but will never truly have long term success.
Matt – we all have our down sides so I’m not putting you up on any pedestal. But you are the only guy I “know” that seems to be thinking about and talking about this stuff. Don’t worry – I’ve pretty much sworn off relationships period so you don’t have to fear me getting all stalkerish and such.
Great post as usual! Only thing i would add from female perspective is notice things about hwr appearance sometimes – make her feel beautiful but not for the purpose of just getting her clothes off. If a woman feels attractive and sexy in herself shes far more likely to want to explore that side of herself in the bedroom.
Nice addition, becko!!!
And I forgot! EYE contact!
One thing my husband could not do for some reason. He could not look at me in the eyes. Have no idea why?? He could only glimpse in my eyes for a second. This would bother me immensely.
Now THAT should have been my eye opener from the beginning! 😉
bygeorgeithinkyou’vegotit, what you’re describing is a key indicator of autism. I don’t know how they may or may not apply to your husband, but something to consider.
I’m not sure if I could call it Autism, but there is definitely something there.
It’s not just with me, it’s with any social contact. He is very uncomfortable with people in general.
This played a HUGE part of our demise. I NEED every day social contact, where as he never ever wanted anything but me. Control?
My need for social interaction was a jealousy for him. Even contact with my family became a constant battle. I eventually regressed from society WITH him, OR was living a separate life with my kids away from him.
Travis, I thought I had posted something else here but it’s not there anymore.Maybe I didn’t post it at all…
I looked into the Autism thing a bit, (I only know of a few children in our community that have it), and I’m astonished at the statistics that 1/41 males have Autism while 1/129 females do. Wow! And sad… They think a lot of it may be the Western diet and environmental factors. (I personally think it has a lot to do with diet, but that is a whole other topic with my brother’s mental illness and his suicide. Something I looked into a lot was bacterial factors, which ironically my mother was dying of a severe infection when she gave birth to my brother). Like I said.. another topic entirely.
So my husband has really awful social insecurities. Like I said, the eye contact thing for me was very difficult. I didn’t understand… but then noticed over the years he had insecurities with everyone, even children. His body language (the way he sat, walked, stood… ) His voice would also change (especially in the presence with children). He was even uncomfortable with our children when they were very small. Almost “afraid”… afraid of judgement? I could never really put a finger on it. Even when they were new born, his dis-attachement was very strange to me.
So my question is… could this be Autism? Or does it really need a label? Could it just be social anxiety? Could it be just that he had just lived in a dysfunctional family and never learned ways to be comfortable with others?
He told me stories of how he was often alone. Played alone. His (much) older siblings had moved out and he was left behind with the parents who were never home and when they did come home they were usually drunk and ended fighting throwing dishes across the room…
Other than his obvious social anxieties and not knowing how to treat others properly, there is nothing really “abnormal” about him.
I think Lisa mentioned that in an earlier comment. Simply, as a matter of habit, NOTICING things.
I have never written about this in any great detail but I’m going to send myself a note to do this, because this was definitely a major failing of mine.
Thank you for reading and commenting, and reinforcing something that’s clearly important for guys to keep in mind.
becko42 – you wrote “make her feel beautiful but not for the purpose of just getting her clothes off. If a woman feels attractive and sexy in herself shes far more likely to want to explore that side of herself in the bedroom.” – YES YES YES
I was going to add that the “hugs” and “kisses” should be given without intent to get her clothes off either. Theres nothing worse than only being touched when there is intent.
6 second hugs! That is beautiful!
And simple kisses. Not just those tiny pecks (which are great too) But nice thoughtful soft kisses… the ones that are connecting without the “I want to get off now”.
I just wish there was an Upvote or Like button here, so I’ll just have to add +1000. As well to joannainamsterdam. You aren’t going to make someone all up for sexy time if you don’t make her feel special any other time.
Absolutely, I was about to point that out. Complimenting your wife’s appearance, notice when she’s put effort into her outfit, hair, makeup. If anything is magic sex potion, it’s this. Every woman longs for her partner to tell her that she’s beautiful/attractive/sexy.
In all serious, what does your ex wife think of your post? Is she like, who is this guy. Just curious.
We get along very well today. It’s friendly, kind, cooperative and mutually respectful.
One of the things we don’t talk about is what I write here. I have no way of knowing how she feels about it, and am not inclined to ask.
If she feels about it the way a lot of other wives and ex-wives do, I imagine it must be extraordinarily frustrating for her.
She still does A LOT of reminding me about upcoming calendar things or about something our son might need for school or whatever.
It sometimes falls squarely in the “Stuff My Mom Would Do” category.
It’s safe to say she doesn’t find me quite as charming as the occasional blog post reader.
But, post-divorce? We have about as good of a relationship as I imagine two divorced co-parents can have who, just three years ago, kind of wanted to kick each other in the shins.
I’m glad that you both are co-parenting so well. That alone speaks volumes. I was really just curious. I’m sure she calls bs on some of your posts (if she reads them) because of just the history you share. I was just curious. Thanks for answering. Do all that you can to be the best father you can be and you will have women throwing themselves at you ?. Keep up the good work.
And it looks like, “I was just curious.” Haha. Love it.
I’ve been following your blog for about a month and wish every husband who is fortunate enough to have his wife still putting his dishes from the sink into the dishwasher would read you. I get wet eyes regularly from your hard anguish-fought sagacity.
Your insights, Sir, are a masterclass in not only saving a marriage, but making it flourish.
Thanks for taking the time to write this nice note.
“Masterclass” feels like a generous overstatement, but I do believe this stuff can help men experience their relationships much more fully and without all the fussy dysfunction present in so many of them.
I’m grateful for the encouraging feedback.
It was nice of your mom to drop by and read your sex post.
My mom promised me she’d reserve her commentary for private conversation. Let’s hope she didn’t make a fake profile just to break said promise.
Hey, it’s all downhill after the masturbation post anyway.
That’s totally one of the three recommended posts at the bottom of this one.
You can imagine how comfortable it is imagining my mother reading it. Fortunately, my denial and self-delusion skills are strong.
Seriously, though you have a lot of guts to be so vulnerable writing under your real name. As I learned in my accidental group therapy that I thought was a Brene Brown book club, admitting our imperfections are what make us able to experience true intimacy. So you got a LOT of it headed your way man.
Make sure you give out a fake last name on the first date.
Hi, my name is Matt Gottman…
Virtual duck lip to you for that Gottman joke!
My mother would freak if she found out how often I write shit here. SHIT SHIT SHIT
It has been an intentional exercise in grace. I never curse in real life. Seriously, never picked up the habit. But now I’m enjoying the extra vocabulary power of saying shit. Not in real life yet.
Matt, I’ve had super fun with all these comments but in all seriousness, this was a great post/read. Good job, buddy ?.
Since I am a woman, let me see if I can help you with this magic sex potion. Here’s the secret ingredient: effort.
I think that every man should add GIVING oral sex to that cauldron.
Certainly if he ever wants it, asks for it, or even enjoys it then he’s in a world of hurt in so far as having a clue how to love another human being if he’s not also willing and able to give it, to some extent or another enjoy giving it AND to some extent or another appreciate it as a gift when he gets it as if it’s only and totally a one-way street of selfless love and service being given to him, although of course that’s not always the case.
[I suppose it’s probably possible and fine and good for any couple to have worked out between then a total “no” to it and just not have it going either way. But I seriously doubt it can ever be worked out in any healthy fashion as only going in one direction or the other. And it definitely comes up for a LOT of relationships as an area that needs some more reasonably loving and “fair” attention to how it goes, how it’s handled, and what the attitudes/communication/cooperation involved are. It’s tragedy to see what was or what could have been a beautiful mutually beneficial sharing turn ugly in our lives, but that’s unfortunately true of a few different sexual issues of marriage for many women.]
You know, it’s 2016. Every model should come standard with oral sex enhancements on BOTH ends.
Good post 🙂 love reading
I think moms and sons should be able to talk about sex. I never asked my teen son if he wanted to have sex with his girlfriend. I started the conversation with, of course you want to have sex! You would be abnormal if you DIDN’T! And we went on from there, with “it’s normal for teen boys to want to have sex” as the baseline. Now he doesn’t have to hide feelings of shame/guilt/am I the only one who feels this way? Without any of that baggage, we can talk about (hopefully wise) ways to handle his sexuality.
I have actually used many of your posts as a springboard for good conversations. For example, “Son, you are strong, handsome, smart and funny. I now all the girls have crushes on you. Now, I hope this doesn’t offend you, but I don’t want to have sex with you” and we talked about how of course moms don’t want to have sex with their sons-it’s gross and unnatural. And then how, when he is married, if he acts in certain ways his wife will start to feel like his mom, and since moms don’t want to have sex with their sons…
You sound like an awesome mom!
How does your son respond to the talks?
We don’t have these conversations all the time. Usually in the car, so it’s even more comfortable because we are not sitting there staring at each other. I talk more than he does, usually, but I can tell he is taking what I have said and mulling it over based on his responses in the next conversation. I think he appreciates me making it easy for him-he doesn’t have to make “scary” declarations-I am interested in sex! He just has to say, yea, I am interested, just like you said.
I try to keep it short and hit on one area. We have talked about when things didn’t work out with his girlfriend, it started out all unicorns and rainbows, but when the issues started, the relationship deteriorated. And suddenly he’s noticing the girl sitting in class next to him, who is all smiley and happy and funny and fun to be with-and then I say, oh, you mean like Suzy used to be, when you first met her? And then I tell him that this is what always happens, and if he’s not careful he is going to end up jumping from girl to girl to girl because at the start of every relationship, everyone is all happy, smiling, fun to be with-and they are changing due to interacting with you! So don’t discard people when you get to this point-learn how to work through it.
Stuff like that. And because I am trying to keep it short, light and factual but matter of fact, I think he feels comfortable. Because I am only sharing my thoughts, he doesn’t have that “don’t tell me what to do” wall up-he can really take the time to listen to what I say and think things through for himself.
Thank you for being part of the solution, Lissy. This is awesome.
I’ve been having conversations (in the car) as well with my son. It’s true that it’s a great place to have these conversations.
He VERY much appreciates them. He’s only 13, but he often thanks me for the conversations telling me how much he is relieved and that it is so easy to talk to me about this “stuff”.
I strongly believe that these conversations will have great impact on how he will be able to communicate in his relationships. Generations of past have suffered this greatly. (just like Matt said).
Yes, I do the car thing too!
I think it works because I read somewhere that men find side by side talks less threatening. Women turn and face each other and look into each others eyes more.
The car thing is good too because it keeps it casual and time contained. Hey, we just happen to be driving together so let me just throw out some comments.
I also tell stories about me (non-sexual) when I was his age. So we can discuss the concepts in a more impersonal way for him. And, of course, I throw some research stats at him. But he likes that so it’s good.
Any advice for my teenage daughter? She’s the one I really struggle with because she finds ANY talk of relationships or sex super embarrassing. I have given her books, I try to talk when I can.
But, she literally runs screaming from the room and locks her door. She’s not a research person so I can’t approach it that way. She hates all my stories too. Sigh.
My youngest daughter is the screaming from the room variety. I swear she goes beyond blushing. I use the car trick on her. She is a captive audience and oddly is works IF I have her older sister in the car to tease her a bit about the blushing and funny faces as if that is a good distraction. So I teach them both the same stuff at the same time and they distract each other a bit from having to take it too seriously. Because of these discussions stretched out over a long period of time the two of them are kind of hysterical teasing each other about being too hot and goofy things like that. And now that their sister-in-law lives in our area they are cracking her up too. Sadly, they are both currently determined to live a celibate spinster life. UGH. It is just one more aspect that tempts me to be out of bounds angry with their dad for his wrong choices. Having an emotionally unavailable father and a poor relationship modeling situation was bad enough and already straining them. Now the abandoning the commitment thing has really pushed it all right over the edge. I have literally prayed for more growth for myself and for a truly good man in future literally for that extra purpose of being able to model what a healthy relationship would look like!
I struggle with my teen girl as well. She’s 15 this week. Struggling with issues with friends at school. The constant bombardment of “image”. Girls constantly talking behind each others backs. Boy issues…
I’m looking for suggestions for books.
It’s hard to be a good model for even “friendships” when I’m struggling myself with the separation, isolation for years… etc.
Fabulous post, as always, Matt. You get it right in my world. Thank you.
Thank you very much!
I would add, do some of the dirty work in dealing with the kids – without being asked!
A while ago one of our kids was sick all over the place and my husband helped clean it up, even though I said I would get it. I was very appreciative of his efforts.
I would generally categorize that and all housework into the #5 – Don’t Make Her Your Mom thing, but I don’t think I commuted that particularly well.
I’m often reminded of little moments in my marriage that led to its end from what people share here.
My wife could have left me for 10 reasons.
One of the biggest, and a MAJOR fundamental shift in our relationship occurred once our son was born.
Unfortunately, I messed up so much during the ACTUAL birth, AND in the early days of having a baby at home, that I have no idea which of those things served as the major trigger.
Men must always support their wives. (And the other way around.) But there’s an observable change when we introduce children to the mix and the importance of partnership really comes to the forefront.
More than three years later, and there’s still so much reflection to do.
Thank you for being part of the conversation.
Hello Matt & everyone else! Been reading this wonderful blog for a few months now (currently separated from partner of 7 yrs, trying to figure it all out blah blah blah) but I absolutely NEEDED to comment today!
I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend Matt & anyone else who’s interested to check out the book Come As You Are by the wonderful Emily Nagoski (her credentials are paragraphs long, so I’ll skip that here)!!!! Please, please, if this post resonated with you, READ THIS BOOK.
In brief, she supports the theory/analogy that women’s sex drives are like a car w/brake & gas pedals. Gas pedal is anything that gets her thinking & ready for sexytimes. Brake pedal is anything that kills it – stress, work, the kids, too little sleep, partner, really anything! So many women/couples try ‘fixing’ her sex drive by mashing the gas pedal, but (here’s the key) haven’t let up on the brakes yet!
I have a research science background & thought I was pretty familiar w/sex stuff, but this book really blew my mind. Please read it, or check out her website!
And Matt, thank you so, so much for sharing your lessons learned, your wisdom, and insight. It has been incredibly validating to read posts from a man who gets it, knowing it’s just not all in my head. Thank you so much, keep ’em coming!
Thank you very much for A. Reading and caring, Kate, and B. The fun book/website recommendation.
There’s no such thing as too many must-read books.
Thank you for being here.
Hi there, the gas/brake idea makes a lot of sense – and I think it’s also where the real challenge comes in. In theory it’s pretty easy to try and hit the gas. And the car analogy really works, because if you hit the gas while the brakes are down you not only won’t get anywhere, but you’ll actually do some damage.
The person with the higher sex drive frequently understands that they need to let up on the brakes, and so they will often do the things that should help. Help more with the kids and around the house, try to ensure their partner gets enough sleep, do things to reduce stress etc. And when they are doing this it’s often not being done with sex as a goal, it’s more that they want their partner to be in a better place (and the sex is a nice benefit too). But life is complicated sometimes, and no matter how much you do there is always more to be done.
So although helping and reducing stress is part of being a good and supportive partner, sometimes the issues lie more with the ability for the lower drive person to actually manage their own stress.
This goes back to a theme that’s been in this blog for a while now – each person is responsible for dealing with their own stuff.
Sexless marriages are a reality that damages many otherwise strong relationships. And the lower drive person generally always has valid reasons for why they don’t want to, or aren’t in the mood. When “no” becomes a recurring pattern though I think it’s really important that people look deeper then the reasons given (tired, too much going on, stuff with the kids etc), and try to find the underlying issue.
Is it a problem with their partner, and resentment from something? If so the couple can hopefully deal with that.
But it’s an issue with coping mechanisms and stress management, then although the higher drive partner needs to try and be understanding, the lower drive person is the only one who can actually deal with the issue.
(Hey Lisa, I referred to them as higher and lower drive without any stereotypical gender references just for you. And now I’m off to eat Cool Ranch Doritos)
Thanks for the higher/lower thing. A virtual duck lip for that!
I totally agree with you that each person must take responsibility for their issues. And, unless mutually agreed, it is not ok to ask a spouse to live in a sexless marriage.
Where I might tweak the argument a bit is to say that it is both the higher desire and the lower desire person’s responsibility to own their desires and figure out how to find ways to work together to find a solution.
I love David Schnarch’s framing of this. It doesn’t just apply to sex but ALL issues with a difference in desires.
There is always a higher desire and a lower desire person. It could be about a higher desire for travel or to move to a different city, or more conversation, or to spend more time with extended family. Or in this case a higher desire for sex. The other spouse is the lower desire person.
They might not objectively even be a low desire person compared to many other people. But they are compared to the person they are married to at this moment. Because it changes sometimes and the positions can flip.
So what do you do to find a way to navigate all these often perpetual frustrating differences? Where the spouse’s needs and your needs to do not naturally align?
Well, I think it is a combination of three things.
1. Understanding it is not personal, it’s just that you have different preferences and desires around this issue.
If you can both approach it like that and not label each other as “selfish” or “needy” or some other version of a character defect it remains just a situational difference that allows you to remain empathetic to the desire differences.
2. As you said, individual responsibility is also important. We can’t depend on our spouse to emotionally regulate our needs in an unhealthy way.
We should expect love and support and empathy and help in distress but not everyday emotional regulation. That is our individual responsibility not to be pushed on our spouse.
3. This is the best part of Schnarch’s framing for me, the higher desire person has the responsibility of making it easy for the lower desire person to give him was he/she wants.
Because of their position as a higher desire person asking for something the other person doesn’t want or need. It requires stretching on both sides.
The higher desire person must ask in an empathetic, non judgmental way. Not entitled, not angry, not whiny.
The high desire person must do every reasonable thing to make it easy for lower desire person to give them what they are asking for.
And, of course, the lower desire must do every reasonable thing to try and give the higher desire person as much of what they need as they can.
If we approach things this way, it makes it much easier to work together to find win win solutions. To be a true partnership rather than competitors to get our needs met in a zero sum game.
Because, the positions constantly switch and tomorrow I will be the higher desire person on something. And the day after that it might switch again in a different issue.
What do you think of Schnarch’s framing?
Hi Lisa, I like Schnarch’s framing. And as you said, 3 has some important stuff in it. Key parts for me are:
“the higher desire person has the responsibility of making it easy for the lower desire person to give him was he/she wants” and “the lower desire must do every reasonable thing to try and give the higher desire person as much of what they need as they can”.
The way I see it, there has to be a willingness to meet 1/2 way (or at least somewhere in the middle). The higher desire person shouldn’t expect to have things the way they want all the time, but the lower desire person also has to be willing to stretch, and not have things the way they want all the time.
But that stuff becomes infinitely more complicated when it comes to sex.
Because that notion means the lower desire person would sometimes have to have sex when they don’t want to. And for people with lower desire, that can cause sex to become a major issue and can lead to resentment. So commonly the lower desire person “holds the keys” to the sexual relationship – which really isn’t fair to the higher desire person. I would argue that’s JUST as unfair as the higher desire person expecting things to be how they want.
And really, there’s no other outlets. Pretty much anything else in life, if I want to do something that my wife doesn’t want to it’s not a huge deal – I can probably find someone else. Sex though? Not so much.
I do believe in monogamy. And I think it’s pretty sad when sexual issues rip marriages apart. Especially when it’s supposed to be a form of communication and sharing, and something that enhances the relationship. But instead it turns into a source of stress and conflict.
My belief – if the lower desire person is trying, and is going out of thier comfort zone a bit then that is something the higher desire person should be thankful and appreciative of. If the lower drive person is saying “I shouldn’t have to do anything I don’t want to do” then they are a huge part of the problem. I do agree that no one should have to do anything they don’t want to, but when it’s a source of conflict in a relationship the question should be how do we change the dynamic so the lower desire person sees that it’s a valuable part of a relationship, and have them start to want to again?
“The way I see it, there has to be a willingness to meet 1/2 way (or at least somewhere in the middle). The higher desire person shouldn’t expect to have things the way they want all the time, but the lower desire person also has to be willing to stretch, and not have things the way they want all the time.
But that stuff becomes infinitely more complicated when it comes to sex.
Because that notion means the lower desire person would sometimes have to have sex when they don’t want to. And for people with lower desire, that can cause sex to become a major issue and can lead to resentment. So commonly the lower desire person “holds the keys” to the sexual relationship – which really isn’t fair to the higher desire person. I would argue that’s JUST as unfair as the higher desire person expecting things to be how they want.”
I largely agree with you except for the part about sex bring that different than many other issues. Let’s just the the stereotypical examples. The man is higher desire for sex, the woman is higher desire for romance. (although I know you said you want romance but we’re going with stereotypes here where the man doesn’t need it).
I would say that these are comparable. The msn and woman both made vows to ONLY have their experiences with their spouse.
If the woman has intimate conversations that lead to romantic feelings with another man that is really a form of an affair. Just like the man could have a sex with another woman to get his needs for sex met.
So I don’t think the higher desire person for sex has it easier than the higher desire person for emotional intimacy. Of course, the man can masturbate and release his sexual needs or the woman could talk to her girlfriend to get some of her needs for intimate conversation met.
But they will both be left unhappy and their needs unfulfilled. Because both want to feel intimately connected with their spouse not far lower second best options.
In the sex example, the husband needs to do thing like finding out what the spouse would like to make sex as pleasurable as possible for her to look forward. He also needs to make sure her relationship needs are being met.
It’s a lot of work for him because he is the higher desire person.
But she needs to do reasonable things to reduce her stress levels, and work on the relationship health, and take efforts to increase her desire for sex through biological and/psychological means. I am not advising just laying back and taking one for the team because that will reduce her libido in the long term.
If there is still a desire descrepancy, both of you can get creative for sexual release that is less than full intercourse. I am also not advising that the man walk around frustrated.
The woman is the higher desire person in the conversation need so she needs to make it interesting for her husband to talk.
Don’t complain for 2 hours about your coworkers and expect him to be thrilled when you say “can I talk to you?” She has to find out what he would find pleasurable to talk about and make it easy for him to give her what she wants.
And he needs to stretch on his end. To learn better listening skills, better empathy, better eye contact etc. Learning to be deeply attentive to her and be “romantic” to get her intimate needs met.
Because both of them promised to meet each other’s intimate needs. And they can’t get turn met by another person without having an affair.
Yup, totally agree.
I like that you brought up emotional affairs, because many women and men refuse to treat them as affairs. They just say they have a “friend”. And because they may not be actively having sex with that friend they say it’s alright – even though they know they are developing feelings for that person, spending a fair bit of time and energy on that person, and likely imagining and *feeling* sexual around them. But hey, no harm done as long as they haven’t acted on it physically right?
I love that you continue to focus on the promise made to each other. It’s so easy to blame and focus on what you want your partner to be doing for you without taking ownership on your own part in something. The fact that you consistently recognize that is awesome.
You said: “If the lower drive person is saying “I shouldn’t have to do anything I don’t want to do” then they are a huge part of the problem. I do agree that no one should have to do anything they don’t want to, but when it’s a source of conflict in a relationship the question should be how do we change the dynamic so the lower desire person sees that it’s a valuable part of a relationship, and have them start to want to again?”
If the lower desire person has the attitude of “I shouldn’t have to do anything I don’t want to do” then they are not emotionally mature in this area. Of course, we’re talking consensual sex here).
That is an understandable but not healthy attitude that will inevitablly lead to unhappiness or divorce. That attitude is all about not being willing to accept influence from your spouse.
Because you don’t need the same thing, or understand the need for it, or empathize with the higher need person. But accepting influence doesn’t have to do with any of those conditions.
It’s just about hearing your spouses needs and trying to meet them in a reasonable way that also takes into account your needs.
How do you deal with a spouse who won’t accept influence from you?
Well I did it the wrong way. But the right way is to set boundaries and not accept and adapt to the status quo but in a empathetic, non judgmental attitude. It is normal to not to want to accept influence sometimes. We all have blind spots.
But there is a sequence of conversations and actions to get the spouse to understand how serious it is. But in a non judgmental attitude.
I wouldn’t advise a man to live in a sexless marriage, I would advise the escalation until she is able to see the need to accept his influence (not his way but working on a compromise).
If she refuses, even after all that has been done, well then a hard decision needs to be made on whether to stay in the marriage.
Just my take though, what do you think?
Yeah, I agree. Relationships are all about compromise and boundaries. If someone has something they aren’t willing to compromise on then that’s totally fine. However if it’s something that’s important to the other person then maybe that means that relationship is not the one for them.
When one person essentially says “we’re doing this my way, or not at all”, then it’s really up to the other person if they can accept that or if it’s time to move on.
“I like that you brought up emotional affairs, because many women and men refuse to treat them as affairs. They just say they have a “friend”. And because they may not be actively having sex with that friend they say it’s alright – even though they know they are developing feelings for that person, spending a fair bit of time and energy on that person, and likely imagining and *feeling* sexual around them. But hey, no harm done as long as they haven’t acted on it physically ”
I totally agree. The problem with emotional affairs (in addition to the betrayal) is that once you cross the line of comparing your intimate needs being met by another person and find your spouse lacking that is toxic for your marriage.
Because then you always have a “better person” out there to compare your spouse to. And find him lacking. Hard to be happy in your marriage with that going on in your head.
Yeah comparison is a major killer (I blogged on that two posts ago). Lots of reasons for it, but a big part of the problem is it’s impossible to make fair comparisons.
When comparing we are always comparing the part we don’t like about our partner to someone else who we perceive to be better in that area. In the process we tend to overlook all the positives about our partner, plus the fact that the negatives tend to be more noticeable over long periods of time. So when we are looking at someone else (who we don’t see all the time) we can imagine them in an unrealistic light.
Affairs are really just a form of escapism into an imaginary world, and many affairs end after they realize that the affair partner has a lot of problems and issues – just the same as the person they are with.
Lisa & zombie, this is some great stuff. I really appreciate y’all contributing all of these comments.
I’m not sure I can add much that really applies to the heart of what y’all are discussing, since I’m not naturally a lower sex drive woman and only manifested as one for significant periods of time because of real hostility and anger that was coming my way regularly on top of all sorts of normal life issues that would have most likely been far more easily manageable if not for the toxicity problem in the relationship.
But I just wanted to mention that sometimes the issues that are effecting people are fairly different than what they think they are. And sometimes they are fairly deeply hidden. I can’t help but wonder if libido issues not meeting in the middle well enough might be a good reason for both people to really commit to both self-improvement and couples-improvement through separate forms of professional help. I know, sadly, there’s a lot of “professional help” in the world that is anything but helpful. But maybe that just means that part of the initial commitment to seeking help should include some guidelines about moving on and trying again if at first you don’t succeed.
Maybe I’m off-base. I guess it would take a lot of low-drive commenters to establish if low-drive can really be a normal healthy thing, that would truly be that low no matter what else was a factor.
You said: “Maybe I’m off-base. I guess it would take a lot of low-drive commenters to establish if low-drive can really be a normal healthy thing, that would truly be that low no matter what else was a factor.”
You aren’t off base. I think you recommendation to see professional help was excellent! Doctors, therapists, marriage counselor etc. Yes!
From my readings though, some of the libido differences between average men and women are due to testosterone. Not all of the difference, probably not event most of the difference but testosterone levels do impact libido.
Even that is not straightforward though because hormones are weird. They don’t really understand why but the same amount of testosterone will not cause the same effect in individual men. Men aren’t simple either. 🙂
And you are exhibit A that the general rule means nothing for individuals. There are many, many, women who have a higher libido than their husbands.
And it’s perfectly normal. But because it goes against averages it can be harder psychologically.
But that true if a lot of things that go against average and you’re the high desire person. The woman who wants the more dominant career? The man who wants to be a stay at home dad? The man who cares greatly about how his home is decorated? The woman who is the remodeler?
You have to “fight” not just the lower desire spouse but often the whole culture.
Yeah Emily Nagoski’s book is essential reading
haha I have to say when I started reading your post my first thought was….and some of us have sex before marriage and are shocked when all of a sudden we are expected to only have sex with one person the rest of our lives but don’t realize the impact of that shock until several years into the marriage hahahahahahaahah. sigh. thanks for your post!
I am joining the chorus of (mostly female) voices who are singing the praises of a self-proclaimed “ordinary guy” who “gets it”. I’ve been reading your blog and the comment section for several weeks now and I’ve been awed by the level of talent shown by the contributors, also by the sincerity, sensitivity and EMPATHY shown. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “…it’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness….”; it seems to me that you, Lisa, Travis Antivan, Donkey and many others are “candle-lighters” and your space has become a shelter/platform for all the unintentional heroes and heroines who help light the way for those of us searching for “HOME”. Many, many thanks Kudos and Kisses for ALL!
Here are a few sources of information that I have found helpful in my search for answers:
“THE WILL TO CHANGE” Men, Masculinity and Love by bell hooks(intentional lower case letters)Atria Books, “How To Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo, Shambhala 2002 and “How Can I Get Through To You” (Reconnecting Men and Women) by Terrence Real 2002 Scribner. I think these are currently out of print and still available at AMAZON.com.
Many thanks, Marilyn. I sent all of these book recommendations to myself to check out later.
I haven’t read any Terrence Real, but his is a name that has come up several times as people feed me book recommendations.
I assume that’s a sign I need to familiarize myself with his work.
Thank you for reading and contributing here. It’s much appreciated.
Thanks for your kind words and for the list of book recommendation. I want to second the Terry Real recommendation.
I have found Terry Real’s books so helpful for me to be empathetic to men. Why they often think being avoidant is normal. Why often they can’t be emotionally intimate even when they want to be. The ways that we force them to suppress their emotions and vulnerability or be labeled a failure as a man.
We all need to try to approach our spouse asking for change from a place of empathy. It is so easy to blame men for just being shitty because they want to be and they can. And sometimes that’s true.
But as Matt points out, most of the time they really just don’t understand. As Terry Real helped me understand, often it’s because they’ve been TAUGHT not to understand.
Thank you for your kind words, kudos and kisses, and for the book recommendations! 😀
I posted a few comments to you in the Einstein post. They’re all over the place since I have trouble putting comments on the right thread. 🙂
Marily Sims, thank you for your kind words, kudos and kisses, and for the book recommendations! 😀
This is not just for you, but for all those with brightly lit candles. I’m about to enter a minefield and I need your guidance. The subject is human sexuality! I think some levity at the start might help. Zsa Zsa Gabor supposedly said on late night TV many years ago, after being asked her views on the topic, “I don’t know anything about sex, I’ve always been married.” A bit less funny, and more poignant is this: When a young newly wed couple prepares for bed, they are not alone in the room. There is the groom’s mother and father, the parents of the bride, perhaps grandparents or member of an extended family and maybe even a past lover has chosen to make her/his presence felt. Given the size of the crowd, Should we expect things to go smoothly? Should we be surprised if there is some shyness, maybe even some lingering feelings of guilt/shame? Was either the bride or groom given compassionate, accurate information about what to offer the other? Did the couple ever have a frank discussion about likes, preference and dislikes?
Now, if we ever get honest and enlightened answers to those questions , can we then discuss “socialization”.? Can we ever agree on questions of the predispositions of each brought on by genetics, if there actually are any?
How do we ever form life-long connections when the ground beneath us shifts because of tragedies like the onset of disease, accidents and death? I have at least fifty other questions that I’ve never found help for and all of this leads to the last. Should we assume that there is a “magic potion” for our distress, our quandaries our most cherished hopes and dreams? This was brought on by Matt’s blog about the wrong diagnosis which is sometimes fatal
Super-relevant, powerful and important ideas and questions here.
Love (or rather shudder) at the image of all of the “people” couples bring to the bedroom with them.
And the questions afterward really get to the root of why so many people suffer from “dead” sex lives in their marriages.
I think many of us never really KNOW how our partners think and feel. The trickle down from there can be the difference between making it, and not.
“Should we assume that there is a “magic potion” for our distress, our quandaries our most cherished hopes and dreams?”
I don’t think there is a magic potion that will be simple, easy and effective in solving all the difficulties you bring up.
I do, however, believe that people can overcome harmful/unhelpful/awkward conditioning and have a good sexual/sensual life with someone else.
But, I believe the “magic potion” that will lead to a satisfying sexual life, will often involve hard, complex, no-size-fits-all work. Like, being aware that you have your own biases, your own childhood/life stuff. Being willing to work at your stuff for as long as it takes, being accountable for your own blindspots, mistakes, selfishness, wanting-a-mommy 2.0-or-daddy 2.0 to help you deal with what you don’t want to/think you can deal with on your own. Like Lisa says, intimacy with another involves difficulties and vulnerabilities.
Growing up, basically. And a good sex life will be easier for some couples than for others, and maybe some people have difficulties in other areas that would require a similar-but-details-may-wary magic potion of growing up.
And I think the further we come as a society, the more people will absorb the good and true knowledge through osmosis kind of, so it will be easier. I read something by a (male) philosopher/doctor/something-else from way back (150-200 years maybe?). I don’t remember the details, but he thought something truly obnoxious and mistaken, that female orgasms results in infertility or something like that. Sigh. At least we as a society have jumped across THAT hurdle you know? :p We individuals no longer have to need to figure this particular thing out for ourselves.
But of course, there are more complex hurdles, and I’m repeating myself here, like both men and women learning to be accountable for their stuff and finding effective ways to heal/grow and connect.
I am so glad you appreciate Terry’s insights. Too often in the past I have been insensitive and judgmental about men’s behavior and quick to label all of them “unrepentant Jerks”. Now Terry’s words haunt me, ..”Recent research tells us boys from all walks of life evidence decreases in expressiveness and connection by ages three, four or five. By the time most boys hit kindergarten they show significant drops in their willingness to express strong emotion, openly demonstrate their dependency. Before our sons learn how to read, they have read the stoic code of masculinity. TRAUMA encountered at age three, four or five has very different consequences than TRAUMA met at eleven, twelve or thirteen”.
Yes, his book on men’s depression I Dont Want TO Talk About It was so poignant.
Since I have both a boy and a girl I was able to see the difference in the messages and the very narrow band of emotionality and choices that is “acceptable”for boys at an early age.
Man-fail comments and jokes should be considered a form of hate speech. It damages the soul and keeps the cycles of broken relationships continuing to the next generation.
I’ve often wondered where young men get their information/ideas about human sexuality. The reason being that I am old enough to remember the intense and heated discussions on TV talk shows between the icons of the feminist movement and the “professional” male therapists who wanted to define what was “normal” for both genders. Some of the ideas on both sides of the gender divide were truly radical for the time ; solutions were offered about what ailed performances in the bedroom, etc. That kind of information has been in the public domain for more than thirty years; yet I hear, over and over again the same questions about what’s appropriate or manly do with wives/girlfriends and what’s too “kinky”. I read in the social media pleas for help about sexual health i.e. sexually transmitted diseases.
etc. I read in those same spaces discussions about who is allowed to do what to whom etc. What gives?
I wrote a comment and probably typed in the wrong name or something so it may show up later. You ask a good question. I think there are a lot of factors but I think one factor is the easy Internet access to unlimited porn.
Nice, link. Thanks for that.
I should have added more with my comment. Porn, like most everything else, is a complicated subject. I read that 30% of porn users are women. There are various opinions of whether certain types of porn used in certain ways are harmful or helpful. Dr Samantha Rodham (DrPsychMom) for example says porn can be helpful for marital sex.
In this comment I’m just trying to look at how the massive amount of porn easily available has changed how sex is viewed in relationships. And here, I agree with the Gottman’s that it has been a big negative.
It is clear that the consumption of all these images from very young ages has changed expectations for what “normal” sex is. And those expectations have changed our already complicated sexual relationships.
And brain science has shown that we rewire our brains through the constant novelty and escalating intensity that porn provides.
Real life is boring in comparison. Real people have their own wants and needs and are not there simply for your pleasure. So real sex is much more disappointing than porn masturbation from a purely physical standpoint.
Real sex in a relationship should also be about intimacy and connection. And that is just much, much harder than masturbating to porn. It REQUIRES sacrifice and vulnerability.
It requires dealing maturely with rejection and disappointment. It requires us to care about our partner’s feelings and needs as much or more than my own.
And porn makes our brain think sex isn’t about these things at all. It’s just about getting off with someone who should make it easy for us. It’s easy in real life to blame your spouse and think there is something wrong with them because they are not making everything easy for you.
So that why I think porn adds to the many factors that make it hard for us to understand what REAL LOVE EVEN IS and leads to stupid divorces.
One more thought in this topic. Romance novels are over a 1 billion dollar industry. That is 90-95% bought by women. This can also be destructive to knowing what real love really is.
Because often real men (as Terry Real helped me understand) do not respond in romance novel ways. And it’s easy to get the wrong messages about what we are supposed to do to respond to that in healthy ways.
Because in romance novels the formula is the usually stoic guy is won over to express vulnerability by the strength of her love and vulnerability.
And that formula is part of the reason wives don’t set healthy boundaries early in the marriage when their husband doesn’t accept her influence. She just keeps trying and adapting waiting for him to understand.
That leads to stupid divorces but she doesn’t even understand her part in it was partly based on stupid romance novel formulas.
I used to generically refer to this as The Romantic Comedy Effect in private conversation with guy friends.
It’s a topic I’ve avoided as part of the overarching strategy to keep anything resembling criticism toward people whose shoes I’ve quasi-walked-in before.
But yeah. This is a problem.
How we feel every second of every day is mostly predicated on our expectations.
We guess what is likely to happen next. Constantly. Whether we’re brushing our teeth, or flipping a light switch, or driving to work or school.
When our expectations are met, which is probably most of the time, it’s an emotionally neutral thing.
When are expectations are exceeded, we are pleasantly surprised, and I consider pleasant surprises to be among life’s most-awesome things. Like when I have zero expectations for a book or movie and it ends up being amazing. That’s always great.
Sometimes we think something is going to be great and it’s even better than we’d thought. That’s pretty much the best stuff in life.
But finally, we get to where we expect good things to happen, but then when reality takes place, it’s actually a negative experience for whatever reason. That’s always the hardest to take.
I think most divorces (and I mean this quite literally in a statistical way as at least two out of three divorces are filed by women) happen because of wives’ expectations not being met on matters big and small.
I’m inclined to defend wives a little as I’m sure a too-common male response might be the whole “She’s never happy! There’s just no pleasing her!” refrain which alleviates them of any and all responsibility in a crappy relationship.
I’m sure there’s a pretty major component of that. And maybe that’s hitting pretty close to home on the great modern-day challenge of women who desire or plan to marry. Managing the psychology of expectations, and the emotional swings that go along with that.
Even still, as a simple matter of pragmatism and wanting to ensure a long-lasting marriage, I wonder why such a high percentage of men resist putting in the extra energy into trying to pleasantly surprise his spouse regularly.
Of those two out of three wives who are filing for divorce, I assume (rightly or wrongly) that the vast majority are ultimately ending their marriages because of expectations not being met that most of us would sit around thinking are totally unreasonable.
Usually, it’s just keeping laundry off the floor, holding hands during a movie, and the willingness to listen patiently to a story about her day, even if it doesn’t affect him.
I think that’s 9 out of 10.
I guess I pick 10 out of 10.
Not saying I am a saint here. But I get tired of the pick your socks up trope.
My bride has been away for a week. The house is in better shape than when she left. Been cracking the whip on the 24 year old step son too. One has to be careful as stepdad, as the rules are different.
The bottom line is, I do address what is shitty about me, and yet I could make the same complaints as many of the wives do about not being heard, or being controlled. The last, just as she was leaving was not to take anything out of the back of “her” car while she was gone.
My life has degraded to the point that my biggest thrill was to be drivijg “her” new 2017 car instead of my 14 year old Mazda with spaceship mileage during the week.
Just venting. I try to fix my crap, but when I look, I was, and still do all the stuff my mom was “supposed” to do because mom didn’t do it. I could pay bills, live within a budget, save for my retirement, and so on. Heck, I even survived testicular cancer.
But I have not figured out how to have a real partnership with my wife. Heck, I can’t even park the car correctly. I can drive five hours to some destination, without drama and when we get there, I’ve chosen the wrong parking spot.
Who is going to keep trying when that is the “grateful” attitude you are facing?
So I guess I take some exception to this, or I am the exception. Who knows.
One last thing, I read The Generous Husband and a couple of months ago, Paul suggested that maybe your wife wants to be “taken” in a sexual manner. Imthougyt, maybe, so when she returned from on of her girl gangs, I met her in the garage, closed the garage door, opened the car door and stared kissing her. Just said stop, wouldn’t hang up the phone with mom.
No, wait until later, or, this is what it takes to get me i the mood, nothing.
Well, it’s time to go to the gym. A habit I returned to about 5 years ago. Can’t get her to go, even though the membership was her idea.
At least I’m healthier than the typical 50 something, but probably no less frustrated.
P.S. maybe men are not worse relationally, just different. If we can be differently sexual and one not be superior to the other, is it possible, maybe even likely that we are not inferior, just different. That our skills and perpsectives when it comes to relationships should not be discounted and denigrated like we are told to value what our wives and daughters say, share and feel.
I find that I agree with 100% of everything you said in this comment. 😉
A couple little points of not disagreement but elaboration.
You said: “I think most divorces (and I mean this quite literally in a statistical way as at least two out of three divorces are filed by women) happen because of wives’ expectations not being met on matters big and small.
I’m inclined to defend wives a little as I’m sure a too-common male response might be the whole “She’s never happy! There’s just no pleasing her!” refrain which alleviates them of any and all responsibility in a crappy relationship.
I’m sure there’s a pretty major component of that. And maybe that’s hitting pretty close to home on the great modern-day challenge of women who desire or plan to marry. Managing the psychology of expectations, and the emotional swings that go along with that.”
I think it is really as simple as both women and men don’t understand what being a healthy adult is or what being in a healthy relationship really looks like.
Women for nature/nurture reasons often need and expect emotional intimacy. They often don’t understand that men for nature/nurture reasons will often find this difficult or even unmanly and unnecessary.
Women don’t understand the skills necessary to help and/or insist that their husband learn both the need and the skills for emotional intimacy and accepting influence.
But its all so very confusing because we see that some men can do this (Gottman’s 35%) and we don’t understand what is happening that our man can’t. We don’t understand it as a relationship skill deficit and mostly not a character defect or a reflection of the amount of love he feels for us.
The emotional swings you mention have to do with trying different ineffective ways to make sense of this. Should I accept it and concentrate on the good things? Should I just get angry and not put up with his shit? Should I cry and see if that helps him understand how much I need him to change? Should I just ignore him and do what makes me happy? These responses just confuse her husband and reinforce the idea that she is just too emotional and she just needs to learn to chill.
So, i think it is not so much that most women have unrealistic expectations that need to be adjusted but that they need to understand the WHY of what is happening correctly. Because as you said a correct diagnose is 90% of solving the problem.
If she understands the problem correctly, she can set healthy boundaries early in the relationship and the marriage will likely go on to be a happy one. Or at least she can know it will be unhappy and get out before there are children involved.
But of course most of don’t know or understand any of this shit so we just do the best we can and later become unhappy or divorced. At that point, having the experience of a baseball bat smashed into your head, we have another opportunity to learn from it. Like you and I and many other people here are trying to learn now.
You said: “So, i think it is not so much that most women have unrealistic expectations that need to be adjusted but that they need to understand the WHY of what is happening correctly. Because as you said a correct diagnose is 90% of solving the problem.”
I have to disagree with you here a bit. Women DO have unrealistic expectations that need to be adjusted. We sometimes either consciously or unconsciously expect men to be attuned and respond to us in ways only seen in romantic novels or movies. That often aren’t even reflective of two healthy adults in a healthy relationship.
In real life, it doesn’t work this way. Just like in porn, we expect that our partner should make it easy for us.That they should always act in ways to help us regulate our emotions. If I’m sad, he will hold me and know just the right thing to say. If I’m angry he will respond lovingly to calm me down. if I act immaturely, he will respond maturely to help me calm down.
This is not being a healthy adult. And that expectation will lead to stupid divorces where I blame him for his lack of emotional connection. When really I was expecting him to regulate my emotions in an unhealthy way.
Expecting emotional connection and intimacy is healthy and necessary. Expecting external emotional regulation is unhealthy and prevents me from becoming a healthy independent adult capable of being in a relationship with emotional intimacy.
“Women for nature/nurture reasons often need and expect emotional intimacy. They often don’t understand that men for nature/nurture reasons will often find this difficult or even unmanly and unnecessary.”
But there’s another layer of difficulty for men here that’s not being addressed. We men have been told all our lives that women find big, burly, strong “men’s men” attractive. A capable man who knows how to MacGyver a whole house out of toothpicks, identify any part of a car blindfolded, and swiftly kill any home invader with precision assassin skills. Women are turned on by the Jason Stathams and the Mike Rowes of the world. And yet, somehow, we’re also supposed to be comfortable and expressive with emotional intimacy. We’re paradoxically supposed to be “men’s men” and “emo” all in one package. As someone who leans much more along the emo, “in touch with my feminine side” end of the spectrum, I don’t see how women can reasonably expect to have both. Maybe it’s an ideal that my gender might one day be able to evolve to in the far future, but during our lifetime? I can’t fathom how we’re supposed to be both the rugged lumberjack and the tortured artist that women desire in one package.
We lured you into commenting on the sex post! 😉
I agree with you that there are unrealistic expectations on all sides. Often coming from unhealthy understanding what being a healthy adult really is.
I don’t think it is unrealistic for a man who is into traditional masculine things like hunting or building houses or being in the military to also be emotionally literate. To be emotionally literate is the definition of a healthy adult. It is dysfunctional that we think otherwise as I’m sure you agree. I think Mars/Venus approaches continue this idea that manly men are just not good at emotions by their nature. So the idea persists.
She Johnson uses Emotionally Focused Therapy with military (often men) develop emotional skills. These programs have reduced divorces and suicides.
Women have unrealistic expectations for men. Often based on a lot of misunderstandings of what it means to be a healthy adult woman as I said in my other comment and emotional regulation.
To me, the first step is to have a proper respect for men and women’s differences while also asking and understanding which of these differences are healthy and which are dysfunctional as I’ve said in other comments.
When that diagnosis is made, cures can then be discussed. But so often, I hear the wrong diagnosis over and over. For example, blaming it all on men and the cure being to be more like women instead of to be more like healthy men.
We’ve instituted the six second hug (I told him I read it somewhere on the internet, which is true.) And I’m adding the intentional affection on my part (#1.) Because these are things everyone needs to do, whatever the gender or the relationship.
Just thought you’d appreciate it.
I do appreciate it, Mrs. Groeber. A lot.
The six-second hug thing is awesome. I’m so glad you’re thinking about it. 🙂
Knowing How to Brew Magic Sex Potion is really important “for men focused on long term monogamous relationships”. In other words “sustainability” is a MUST HAVE. Your recent blogs on the need for men to develop EMPATHY — not as a feeling– rather, as a skill is an important first step in achieving that goal. In the same vein comes realizing that LOVE is not so much a feeling, but as a daily practice of expressing gratitude, awareness, kindness respect and of course empathy. It is also a daily commitment to “BEING PRESENT”. PRESENT as the opposite of ABSENT; PRESENT as in being “aware of”; PRESENT as in making sure your SO receives your ATTENTION, ACCEPTANCE, APPRECIATION and AFFECTION and allowing them the freedom to live in accordance with his/her deepest needs and wishes. If this comes off as a rant, its because I think as a culture the emphasis on achieving sexual nirvana is critically misguided and the source of immense sadness and depression. Being PRESENT in all your interactions with SO may not get you want every time and under all situations, yet I cannot help feeling it is probably the only “magic” we need to build lasting and loving relationships.
If I was only allowed four words to express my most deeply held beliefs about relationships and marriage, I would use:
Love is a choice.
Terrence Real says an important relationship skill is what he calls “scanning for the positive”. It is an elegant response to what might be felt as passive aggressive behavior. Thank you !
Thanks for the link. I am soooo glad that there is finally some definitive research that shows the negative effects of pornography. There were efforts many years ago led by feminists to outlaw/curtail the use of porn. They failed in the effort because issues of freedom of speech were involved. Maybe this time using “threats to public health as the reason for limiting its use we may be successful.
Thanks so very much for the positive feedback . I forgot to add one more very important element to the toxic cauldron –EXPECTATIONS!! What happens to that precious young couple and their life plans if “white knight” fantasy and “the naked woman on horseback” dream evaporates during the honeymoon? How can they manage the disappointment? How do they even admit to having such “wild” desires?
I absolutely agree with your response to Lisa wherein you said, “We’re paradoxically supposed to be men’s men and “emo” all in one package. Maybe it’s an ideal that my gender might be able to evolve to in the far future, but during our lifetime?”
So the logical next question would be, “How do we get there from here?” I really don’t think there’s a plan available that would not entail, “re-planting the whole (universal) forest in one day.” Talk about unrealistic expectations, yet hope dies hard. I absolutely know men are capable of astounding acts of idealism and courage.
All that said, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna care about carpentry, lawn care, cars, sports, video games, guns, self-defense, hunting, MMA, cigars, outdoor grilling or any of that other stereotypical dude shit that bores me to tears. I’m either sexy with my STAR TREK geekdom, robust Stephen King library, extensive rock music catalog of CDs, encyclopedic knowledge of films, inclination to find the humor in everything and, oh yeah, eagerness to talk about feelings or I’m not. Personally, I’m going to assume the market for my kind of male sex appeal is limited (the anecdotal evidence is substantial); that’s yet another reason why I’ll move Heaven and Earth to keep my wife. I don’t know that her tastes are shared by the female masses, LOL!
To those who would find you some how “limited”, please assure them that although you may not be perfect, parts of you are EXCELLENT!!!! You might invite them to explore those regions, of course with permission of your very lovely wife. LOL!
Is your wife a Star Trek geek too?
You said: “All that said, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna care about carpentry, lawn care, cars, sports, video games, guns, self-defense, hunting, MMA, cigars, outdoor grilling or any of that other stereotypical dude shit that bores me to tears”
This is why I hate all that stereotypical crap being equated with masculinity. I have no problem with any of it, I have no problem if people say that a lot of men, maybe even most men like that stuff. But to say that there is a list of masculine approved stuff? Not cool.
I have a question for you. Your list is very typical of a lot of men’s interests. Star Trek, Stephen King, rock music etc. The only thing “non-manly” is talking about feelings. But you still feel like you’re not approved of because you don’t like the things on the first list?
Another question, I think much more of the msn card policing is done by men. (Just like women do the mommy wars policing). Do you agree? I’m wondering because you seemed to think women aren’t attracted to men unless they like things on list 1.
“Is you wife a Star Trek geek too?”
She is a fan of the show, yes, but a full-blown “I can tell you what the NCC in the ENTERPRISE’s registration number of NCC-1701 stands for” Trekkie like me? No. She’s a normal everyday fan. I’m the geek. But I must say, the day my not-yet wife, who’s a tall drink of water, if I say so m’self, told me she liked STAR TREK, I about soiled myself. It may sound shallow, but let’s just say she doesn’t fit the type, LOL.
“I have a question for you. Your list is very typical of a lot of men’s interests. Star Trek, Stephen King, rock music etc. The only thing ‘non-manly’ is talking about feelings. But you still feel like you’re not approved of because you don’t like the things on the first list?”
I don’t see those things as manly. They’re, in effect, gender neutral. According to a few studies, there are actually more female STAR TREK fans in the world than male. Stephen King is one of the best selling authors in history, with a massive female readership. Rock music also is something with broad cross-gender appeal. So on and so forth. The more stereotypical male stuff I mentioned earlier tends to be stuff more exclusively associated with just men. I am interested in almost nothing that is considered the unique domain of men.
“Another question, I think much more of the msn card policing is done by men. (Just like women do the mommy wars policing). Do you agree? I’m wondering because you seemed to think women aren’t attracted to men unless they like things on list 1.”
I fully agree with that, but I also believe that women commonly vocalize a desire for traditionally male characteristics of “manly”, “burly”, “makes me feel safe and protected against the world”, “can swallow me in his arms”, “rugged”, “chiseled”, “fixer-upper”, etc. Are there women who dig an alternative vision of masculinity? Inarguably. But who’s on the cover of every romance novel ever written: Big Biff Burly or Chandler Bing?
I grew up on Star Trek classic reruns and have seen the movies so I’m a fan but I could never beat you at trivia. It sounds like you’re a superfan. I love a lot of nerdy stuff like Star Wars, and Superhero movies, Lord of the Rings.
One of the fun things was to reexperience them with my son. I tried with my daughter but she just thinks Star Wars is boring. Sigh. The irony of me being a dance mom never ceases to surprise me. ;( But I do my best for her cause they like what they like.
Ok as far as your comment, I have no doubt that you are right that there is gender equity for Stephen King or Star Trek or rock in reality but the general perception is these are more popular with men and so are coded masculine. (Subset nerdy masculine maybe).
Would you agree with that? I will tell you that people always assume that I don’t like nerdy things or action movies (even though I am far much more knowledgeable than my husband) because I am female so the reverse is true. And in this stupid stuff, it’s perception that rules not facts.
Regarding the romance novel covers, those are the ridiculous equivalent of porn images of female unrealistic images for men. It doesn’t reflect real tastes. Since you’re a movie buff, let’s talk movie stars. George Clooney and Brad Pitt have long been a objects of desire for many women. Handsome but not crazy buff in most roles.
Of course, there’s someone like Channing Tatum or Dwayne Johnson to fill that segment. But that isn’t the only body type. There are a wide variety of body types and levels of handsome leading men. The leading women are far more stereotypically beautiful and much younger.
I think most studies show that women are more open to what a man looks like than the other way around. The one exception is height. Women discriminate terribly against a short man. It’s really shameful that studies show a woman will pick a tall convicted felon over a 5 foot 4 inch man.
But, I really think some (or a lot) has to do with woman’s obsession with their weight. Short men make a woman feel bigger and most woman don’t find feeling bigger makes them feel good about themselves or sexy.
No surprise here but my favorite was always Spock over Kirk. I thought Kirk was reckless and I don’t find reckless sexy. Now Spock whispering sweet logical things to me…very sexy.
“Ok as far as your comment, I have no doubt that you are right that there is gender equity for Stephen King or Star Trek or rock in reality but the general perception is these are more popular with men and so are coded masculine. (Subset nerdy masculine maybe). Would you agree with that?”
Not really, though the issue may be one of semantics. They may be coded ‘nerdy male’, but I don’t believe there’s such a (recognized) thing as ‘nerdy masculine’. In other words, the majority of women (or at least the image of the ideal male promoted by media and hardly eschewed by the general female public) seeks a more rugged and chiseled form of man (the modern Adonis figure) and George Clooney and Brad Pitt certainly qualify. The nerdy male–bookish, interested in flights of fantasy, fanboy of TV, film, comics, music, et al–is normally considered little more than an overgrown boy, a poor soul with arrested development. Throw in a bit of talent with comedic timing, or artistic inclination, along with being more in touch with one’s so-called feminine side may move you up from a status of “basement dweller” to “friend zone”, but for this kind of male, though there is a subsection (sub-culture?) of women who do gravitate to them, there is nothing in society’s conception of “masculine” that includes him in its estimation. In other words, according to other men, women and the culture at large, we are men, but we are not masculine.
“No surprise here but my favorite was always Spock over Kirk. I thought Kirk was reckless and I don’t find reckless sexy. Now Spock whispering sweet logical things to me…very sexy.”
Funny. Kirk is my all-time favorite character of any TREK incarnation. Kirk is passionate and fearless, the former or which I relate to and the latter of which I aspire to. Spock’s my dude, too, though, but I’m pretty sure there’d be plenty of times I’d have a Dr. McCoy reaction to him if I had to deal with him on a daily basis, LOL.
I see what you mean about nerd interests. They are defintely not top of the food chain. But nerds peak later ;). That’s what I tell my computer science nerd son.
Since you love Kirk, what do you think of Chris Pine as Kirk? Or the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies in general?
One example of nerdy masculine is Benedict Cumberbatch. I heard him on an interview talking about what an adjustment it was to be considered a sex symbol now after his role in Sherlock. He was never considers that before that role.
By the way I loved that movie The Imitation Game.
In short, they are wholly unnecessary and the very last place I wanted the overarching TREK narrative to go (it’s not really boldly going where no man has gone before if you’re, well, going exactly where we’ve been before). On the other hand, they’re far, far more entertaining than they had any right to be. And I like Pine as Kirk more than Quinto as Spock.
I enjoy the new movies but I didn’t like how they made Spock more human with emotions. That was the interesting part of Spock and his relationships with Kirk and McCoy. You knew the emotions were there but it was even better that it was not obvious and he was struggling to suppress his human side.
I relate to the old Spock more than the new Spock. So I don’t know if Quinto would be better if the script was different.
I found this of interest. According to Webster’s , “romance/romantic” is defined as “something that lacks basis in fact”; to exaggerate or invent detail or incident.” So, perhaps, ladies, be careful what you wish for.
The conversations about unrealistic expectations that lead to fractured relationships and/or stupid divorces sadden me a great deal, sometimes “keep me up at night”. Please indulge me for a moment while I find some relief in humor, I promise I’ll get back to the subject promptly. “How did you go bankrupt?” one character asks another in Ernest Hemingway’s
‘The Sun Also Rises’. “Two ways,” is the response. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
If I wrote “How did your marriage go bankrupt?” to an acquaintance, Would/could the answer be the same. Could unrealistic (romantic/sexual etc.) expectations cause gradual declines in marital satisfaction that end in ‘sudden divorce’?
If DISILLUSIONMENT is the culprit, what is the cure? I found this in Terrence Real’s “How Can I Get Through To You?” DISILLUSIONMENT is a kind of relational purgatory (hopefully) leading back to restoration and even transformation. Most couples … have not found the (skills) means to push all the way through… couples who don’t make it through disillusionment tend to get snared by one or all three phases of intimacy’s erosion — control, retaliation and resignation.”
There are SKILLS we CAN/ and MUST learn if we are ever to leave “relational purgatory” Terrence calls control, retaliation and resignation “LOVE’S ASSASSINS!”
I totally need to read this stuff.
That’s not a word I’ve ever typed on this blog, and reading it here, it seems obvious to me that it’s a major factor in how our relationships break down.
Thanks for this, Marilyn.
Great comment disillusionment. I am working on Ellyn Bader’s program and find it very helpful as I try and figure out what normal love is. Her framing was helpful to me and is somewhat similar to the Terry Real’s.
After you fall in love with all the chemical and romantic enmeshment you enter the next normal phase of a relationship with your first disillusionment usually around 6 months to 2 years. It is the time when you move away from emphasizing your similarities and see your true differences.
How you deal with that phase will determine if you have or are willing to develop enough individual and relationship skills to go on to be happily married and through that next steps toward being both independent and interdependent. If you can’t (as my husband and I couldn’t) you get stuck in a lower phase or relationship maturity (purgatory as Terry Real calls it) until you either divorce or can work out the skills to proceed to the higher levels.
God knows Im doing my best to figure it out so I can finally get out of purgatory. 😉
Anyway, disillusionment is a normal part of a healthy relationship, it’s similar to that moment when you realize that your parents are just flawed humans. It is terrifying to let go of fantasies and deal with the challenge of growing up as both an individual and in a marriage.
Its related to women and romance, I think romance is good, it’s fantasy that is a problem.
It is important in a marriage to work to maintain some kind of romantic spark or otherwise you become co-parents and roommates. But the problem with believing all that stuff in romance novels is it feeds a fantasy that marriage will not enter the disillusionment phase. When it does, you think the problem is him and not a normal part of moving into a mature relationship rather than fantasy enmeshment.
Just a few random thoughts.
And by romance, i mean things like rituals of connection like celebrating anniversaries, holding hands, a good sex life, date nights, things like that that maintain the difference between friends and lovers.
I’m going to call this response, “In Defense of Romance” it’s a rather lengthy quote from “How To Be An Adult in Relationships” by David Richo.
“Romance is one of the high points of a human life. It is a deeply moving experience of joy, to be cherished and appreciated with gusto…. The trick is to enjoy it as Ulysses enjoyed the siren’s song, with full pleasure yet safely. We want to be thrilled but not wrecked as we sail into it… Romance is real and temporary. We are in love but only with a projection of ourselves, not with a true other….Most important, IN ROMANCE, HOWEVER BLIND, WE ARE BEING SEEN IN OUR FULL POTENTIAL FOR LOVEABLENESS. Romance gives us the chance to be appreciated in all our
“There are two ways to approach romance. I can meet you in love while we both remain standing or I can fall for you. To fall is to get hurt or be in danger. ..To speak of falling in love sounds like falling into quicksand; it implies powerlessness, permission to go out of control, to be foolish, to become a slave of emotions, to be carried away as if no longer in possession of one’s faculties. LOVE IS A CONSCIOUS TIE NOT A BEWITCHING TRANCE.”
“Yet real love does not happen by accident. Neither are we its passive victims. It requires A CHOICE in response to an attraction. Granted we have no control over the attraction or our initial reaction to it. …BUT THEREAFTER WE CHOOSE ONE RESPONSE AFTER ANOTHER, AND FOR THOSE CHOICES WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE.”
Marilyn, you quoted: “Yet real love does not happen by accident. Neither are we its passive victims. It requires A CHOICE in response to an attraction. Granted we have no control over the attraction or our initial reaction to it. …BUT THEREAFTER WE CHOOSE ONE RESPONSE AFTER ANOTHER, AND FOR THOSE CHOICES WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE.”
I think this is so important. Just to tie it in the Spock Star Trek conversation above, both emotions and logical choices are involved in love. Both are equally valuable and to be respected and managed. If you favor one over the other it will cause problems.
It is important to have romantic feelings especially as foundational relationship bonding. If you don’t it’s easy to drift into the friend zone (and later the enemy zone). It’s important to understand your spouse’s emotional world and how you can make them feel safe and loved and respected. If you neglect these things, unhappiness and stupid divorce will likely follow.
It is equally important to know that love is not just feelings but is a choice of attitude and actions. For richer or poorer, in sickness and health. If I overemphasize emotions, it’s easy to give up when things get hard and look outside myself to either blame my spouse person and/or look somewhere else for those emotions that I crave like delicious Doritos.
Both are equally important in a marriage as well as holding myself accountable to own my shit.
I (kind of)understand all this now in ways I did not a few years ago. I tend to favor the actions over the emotions so I’ve had to learn to change and pay attention to emotions more. More safety and emotional love, safe body language and tone of voice for example. More romance and appreciation. I used to undervalue all that stuff.
Thanks for those excellent quotes!
I am so very pleased that you found this helpful. I would only add that Terrence has been a family therapist and lecturer for more than twenty years. He is the author of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.”
I hardly think your comments about disillusionment are random–they are well-crafted and full of intelligent self reflection, courage and soul. Your path seems ( to a degree) to mirror Matt’s — the common thread being the determination to find a more sane, sustainable way to live peacefully with the “yang energies” of the world while he searches for the “yin”. I am sorry for the pain your loss of SO has meant to you and your children. I hope relief is near and lasting.
Thanks for your comment! I love that you quote Terry Real!
Luckily, my husband in working through purgatory with me. I am grateful that he has been willing to recognize his shitty husband ways that combined with my shitty wife’s ways made for a miserable marriage for a while because we didn’t understand what was really happening and blamed each other.
We have made a lot of progress and are at a much better place. We are still working on it. One of the reasons I like to read this blog and comments is to be challenged to understand which of the things I am absolutely sure of at the moment is a pile of shit.
I disagree with myself more often than I disagree with Matt or anyone else here. 😉
One thing I have learned along this painful process is to constantly question what I and anyone else thinks is absolutely true. So much of what I was convinced was true two years ago was absolutely dysfunctional and made me the shitty wife I was.
So here’s to constantly reading new perspectives and being open to question and learn. Matt’s favorite word is hope, mine is learn. Combine the two and everything can change!
Can you stand just one more quote pleeeease! I love this one because it is straight out of a Hallmark romantic movie. “I know he can be affectionate and close because he was that way at the beginning” Yeah!!! and guess what, that is ….”a statement that fails to take into account the power of romance to suspend our fears of closeness and occlude our shadow side so that NOTHING GETS IN THE WAY OF SEXUAL UNION”!!!!!
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ALL. OF. THIS! Especially the Mom thing – I HATE feeling like he needs a parent more than a wife.
I’ve just copied and pasted this and sent it to my son. Every mother should be teaching their son’s this stuff, it is an invaluable life lesson. I hope your mum did read this. I’m sure that id she did she’d be very proud of you indeed. X
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Followed this post from your most recent. This is a frustratingly antiquated way of viewing sex based on gender. It reminds me of the marriage classes they taught when I used to go to church. But based on other things I have read of yours – your target audience seems to be the stereotypical toxic masculine personality that dominates our culture. The potion list itself is great for any partner, regardless of gender. But to believe that only females benefit sexually from having this thoughtful of a partner is ridiculous. Peddling these ideas just perpetuates the gender norms created by our patriarchal culture. I was sure there would be a second list for women with things like – don’t talk too much when he gets home from work, make yourselves sexually available and make sure he is satisfied or he might go looking elsewhere…blah blah blah.
It’s too bad we aren’t all taught more about female pleasure from the get go. I suspect things would balance out if more people understood female anatomy and pleasure.
Also. Big oof on the language around people choosing causal sex. Casual, non committed sex works for a lot of people. It doesn’t make them less moral or likely to “die alone with herpes.” Yikes. Plenty of people die “alone” in long term monogamous relationships. That has more to do with how you behave as a human than whether or not you choose commitment and monogamy.
And just a bonus thought for you. A man could do all of the things on that list up there to incite “arousal” from his partner. But if he doesn’t understand female anatomy (which is a shockingly pervasive issue) and know how to pleasure her – she still isn’t going to be excited to have sex with him. It just emphasizes this ridiculous notion that women care more about the emotional connection than the physical. It seems like – if people want to have more sex they should prioritize the pleasure of the person they want to have sex with. There’s some great science about the happy hormones released with an orgasm (or two or 5).
Including female pleasure on a list of ways for men to get more sex might just bring your list into this century.
We do get a lot of mixed messages. After all, it’s hard for men to fake pleasure, but not so much for women. Those who are faking their pleasure are not doing themselves any favors.
I don’t disagree, we should focus on pleasure. Honest feedback and ample opportunities to learn help.
Faking it and/or relatively few sexual encounters are ways of ensuring he will not learn.
I don’t know of any men who do not want their female partners to experience pleasure. But then maybe I’m the oddball who thinks if it’s good for her, she’ll want to do this pleasurable thing more often.
I suspect more think like me than don’t.
We have to receive accurate (not faked) feedback and be given opportunities to practice until we get it right.
I agree, a basic understanding of anatomy is also helpful. My experience (as a man) has been that different women have different responses, and they don’t like it if I think I already know what will “work” for them. It goes best when they are willing to explain what they like, and I am willing to listen.
Your insights in marital problems are invaluable to me. Thanks dude, reading your stuff might just save my marriage.
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