People have it all wrong about married sex. Somehow many Americans have created a fantasy that sex in marriage should look like sex when you’re dating or sex in movies—the type of sex that is urgent, quick, spontaneous, lustful, and passionate. Sure, it can happen, and it’s wonderful when it does, but this is certainly not the norm. As a sex therapist, I see time and time again that expectations are part of the issue when it comes to low sex drive and sexless marriage. People come to my office all the time and say that when they have sex they enjoy it, but they rarely seem to desire it.
Successful couples have realistic expectations about what sex should look like. They set date nights or schedule sex so that they make time for one another. They set aside time to try to get in the mood. They make intimacy a regular part of their relationships by knowing what to expect and when to expect it.
Are you one of those people who think scheduled sex is boring or cannot be pleasurable? Allow me to persuade you that if you change your thinking, not only will you and your partner likely have more sex, but you will enjoy it more as well.
1. You Don’t Need Desire to Precede Intimacy
Do you always feel hungry for breakfast? No, but you eat it anyway because it’s an important meal.
Are you often dirty and “in need” of a shower? Probably not. But you likely shower daily, or every other day, anyway.
Do you feel utterly exhausted every night when you go to sleep? Maybe. But you might just go to bed around the same time because you know that rest is good for your body and so you won’t be tired the next day.
Do you always feel the urge to exercise? Many people would say no, definitely not! But people do it because it’s healthy.
2. Dating Is Not Spontaneous
The idea that sex when you’re dating is spontaneous is simply not accurate. When people are dating and live apart, they make time to see each other. They often dress up, do their hair, apply perfume or cologne, or wear more flattering clothes. You planned sex when you were dating, but you didn’t realize you were planning for sex because you tricked yourself into feeling like it was spontaneous. It was anything but. All these steps you took helped your brain anticipate sex at the end of the night.
3. Planning Sex May Make You Happier
Why is spontaneous good and planned bad? Do you enjoy a vacation less because you planned it and looked forward to it? According to a recent study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, participating vacationers were happier before their trips, in anticipation. Other research shows, as well, that people derive happiness from anticipating a positive experience.
Anticipating a sexual encounter may make you more responsive in, and happy before, the actual act.
4. For Many Women, Desire Comes after Arousal
According to Rosemary Basson’s model of female sexual response, desire more commonly occurs in women after arousal. In contrast, the male model of sexual response dictates that desire generally comes before arousal. Women are not men!
If you, like many people, can enjoy sex and feel connected during intimacy but have a hard time initiating, try these steps:
- Plan one night per week to try to get in the mood. This doesn’t mean you should have sex if you are not in the mood. This means you are open to the idea of trying to get in the mood. You are open to kissing, hugging, or caressing in order to attempt to get aroused. Intercourse should happen only if you have desire and arousal.
- Welcome spontaneity on the other six nights. If being spontaneous is so important to you, then be open to that.
- On the night you “planned” to get in the mood, do things that help you become aroused. Some women like to shower or bathe in order to feel relaxed and clean. Some women feel that lingerie helps them feel sexy. Some feel that setting the mood with candles or fragrance is helpful. Do what moves you.
- Extend foreplay. Since desire comes after arousal for many women, foreplay may need to be extended. Try foreplay for 30 to 45 minutes before considering intercourse.
- Initiate if you are interested in getting in the mood. Initiating does not need to mean you are in the mood. It means you would like to get in the mood.
If you enjoy sex with your partner but never seem to find the time or occasion to be intimate, it might be that you are waiting for the stars to align. Shift your perspective to a more functional and realistic point of view. You can have passion and desire and perhaps even orgasm, but initiation is the first step.
- Kumar, A., Killingsworth, M.A., and Gilovich, T. (2014). Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological Science. Vol 25, No. 10. Pp: 1924-1931.
- Nawijn, J., Marchand, M.A., Veenhoven, R., and Vingerhoets, A.J. (2010). Vacationers Happier, but Most Not Happier After a Holiday. Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life. Vol 5, Issue 1, pp: 35-47.
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