This article discusses why having a good sex life is important for a marriage, and some ways someone who doesn't have much sexual desire can still work up to feeling more in the mood. Then it explains about how some physical problems and psychological issues can lower sexual desire, as can relationship problems; and it suggests things that can be done about it.
Skip past the following quotes if you'd like to get straight down to reading the article contents and self-help article.
The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.
Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.
--Sir Arthur Pinero
What the world really needs is more love and less paper work.
Conservatives say teaching sex education in the public schools will promote promiscuity. With our education system? If we promote promiscuity the same way we promote math or science, they've got nothing to worry about.
Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love.
To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals.
To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.
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It's written slightly differently to most articles. It begins with a very short story about someone finding out information to help people improve their sex lives, - not a real person but a representative of others like her - and the article's presented as if it's what she's found out.
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Nicola is taking a course in marriage counselling, but she's not all that satisfied with it, so she decides to do some extra reading in the hope of finding extra information she can use to help people.
She finds a book that she feels could help her counsel couples about their sex lives, since it gives ideas about how to persuade people who aren't all that keen on having sex with their husband or wife to be more enthusiastic about it, and how people who want more sex in their marriage can entice their sexual partner to want more. It's by an author who's been doing marriage counselling for years. Nicola reads it.
This seems an interesting book. I'll read on and see what it says.
The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.
Husbands are like fires. They go out when unattended.
--Zsa Zsa Gabor
The author says it's very common for one partner in a marriage couple to want more sex than the other, and to think of not getting enough sex in their marriage as a problem. She says it can lead to feelings of hurt, anger and rejection, and even to divorce! This is obviously an important problem.
She says that when one half of a couple doesn't want much sex in a marriage but the other one does, it isn't just the problem of the one who wants more sex. It's a problem for the relationship, that the one not so interested in sex should take seriously.
She says one reason is that if one half of the couple isn't getting enough sex for their liking, it can make them feel rejected and hurt. It can make them feel unwanted and unloved.
She says a good sexual relationship, on the other hand, not only gives couples physical pleasure, but it can make them feel more emotionally connected and close. It can make them feel more like a couple.
She says that when a couple stop having sex, they often tend to stop showing other forms of physical affection as well, and they can distance from each other emotionally, so they carry on their lives without the closeness they used to have. In fact, they can even stop feeling friendly towards each other. Anger and resentment can build up. The author says she got a letter from someone who described his wife as being cruel to have stopped wanting sex with him, saying he felt as if she couldn't love him any more, and so he'd divorce her if it wasn't for the little daughter they had together.
She says she got another letter from a woman who said her husband hadn't wanted sex in ages, and she felt hurt at having been deprived for so long. She said she felt that in a normal marriage, couples could argue about anything, but then making love could soothe them and it would be like a forgiving ritual where they could make up. But she felt that without it, bitterness and resentment and desperation built up.
The author gives another example, of a couple who came to her in therapy who complained about each other for weeks, and though both wanted to stay together, they seemed more interested in blaming each other for the marriage problems than getting on and solving them. When she finally asked them why they wanted to be together still, the husband said he kept hoping they'd one day be able to recreate the old feelings they had at first where they had a really good love life. Since his wife had had their first child, she'd lost interest in having sex with him. She'd been too tired at first, but the rejection had gone on for years. His wife took the view that he was just being selfish wanting sex when she was so tired and he didn't do much to help with the things she was coping with.
The author says she thought that helping them improve their sex life was the key to them feeling more goodwill towards each other and being willing to solve their problems rather than continually showing bitterness and anger about each other's behaviour.
She says that when one marriage partner wants more sex than the other, the one whose advances are being rejected can jump to the worst conclusions about why their husband or wife doesn't want sex with them. They can wonder if their husband or wife is having an affair, or think their spouse can't be attracted to them any more. They can assume the children have replaced them in their husband or wife's affections so their husband or wife doesn't care about their needs and feelings any more. So they can start feeling suspicious of their spouse, and hurt, angry and rejected. They can feel they aren't loved any more. They can lose their sense of self-worth, because they can lose confidence in their ability to satisfy their wife or husband. So they can become very depressed.
The author says things can be made worse because often, if they try to explain their feelings to their marriage partner, their marriage partner doesn't take them seriously. They might just dismiss what they're saying and think it's only an excuse for them wanting more sex, thinking they must be just putting their own selfish desires first and not caring that they're tired or not in the mood or whatever. They might not see why sex is so important to the other one, thinking they're making a big fuss over nothing.
But the author says that the reason sex is so important to some people is because it's much more than a physical thing; it makes them feel close and emotionally connected to their spouse; it fulfils their desire for affection; it makes them feel desirable, and that boosts their self-worth. It makes them feel as if they feel more of a bond with their husband or wife and more loved and in love.
She says that because people who don't desire sex much don't feel the same way about sex, they can't identify with the way their marriage partner feels, and so they don't treat what they say with understanding. But that can lead to trouble if one partner keeps on feeling rejected, because they can feel increasingly bitter and angry, so they can become unpleasant. And at other times, they can distance themselves, feeling that they're better off doing their own thing since they aren't loved.
The one who wants less sex tends not to understand that this stems from underlying hurt, so they aren't sympathetic, and instead get annoyed with them for their unpleasant behaviour, and arguments increase, each partner blaming the other for the problems. At first, the arguments might be mainly about sex, but as partners feel more and more annoyed with each other, they're less sympathetic to each other all round and so arguments become common about lots of other things.
Because the unpleasant behaviour of the person who wants more sex is making them even less desirable to their spouse, the one who didn't feel like having sex with them much before wants sex with them even less.
So the marriage can get into more and more trouble, and divorce or an affair can seem more and more attractive.
The author says it's important that a marriage partner who isn't that interested in sex cares that the other one wants more, for their own sake as well as for the sake of their marriage partner. She says that after a while, the one dissatisfied with the sexual relationship may well be tempted to have an affair, since it can give them a feeling of emotional connection to someone who cares for them, as well as giving them more physical pleasure, and it can build their confidence by making them feel desirable once again. The person they're having the affair with might compliment them a lot and make them feel good, and listen to their concerns and make them feel wanted.
The author says an affair is among the worst things to bear in life for the husband or wife of someone who's been unfaithful. It can cause a loss of trust, and feelings of shock and intense sadness. People can take months or longer to get over it.
The author says she only thinks people need to know this so they know it's important to care about their marriage partner's feelings, in the hope that they'll be spared from unnecessary upset in the future.
She says she also thinks it's unfair for people who don't want much sex to have an expectation that their husband or wife won't get their sexual needs fulfilled elsewhere, while at the same time knowing they're unhappy with the sex life in the marriage but refusing to do anything about it.
The author says that often, when one marriage partner loses their desire for sex after having wanted it much more than their husband or wife did before and having spent some time trying to get their husband or wife to have more with them, the one who wasn't interested in it before finds their sex drive is going through the roof all of a sudden. She says that that's typical of relationships, where if one partner's always doing something, the other one doesn't have to bother. For instance, if one does the washing-up all the time, the other one will just take it for granted that they don't have to bother. If the one who was doing it all stops doing so much of it, the other one will feel obliged to do more.
Actually, I would have thought that with sex, it might be more to do with realising what you might be about to be losing out on, since she says that often, when a person who used to want sex a lot loses interest in it, by the time their partner who used to have low desire for sex wants it much more, the other one has lost their will to stay in the marriage altogether because they're so upset at the way things turned out and so they might have convinced themselves they're not in love any more, or they're having an affair.
She gives an example of a woman whose husband said he'd fallen out of love with her a couple of years before. The woman was desperate to bring them closer together again, and felt sure sex would do it. But her husband said he didn't want sex with her any more and told her not to touch him, even pulling away from her. That upset her a lot, especially since he used to be turned on so easily. She started longing to have more sex with him, and discovered that she'd started being turned on by even little things. But he still didn't want to be touched by her. And then he filed for divorce.
The author warns people not to leave it too late in their own marriages, but to do something about it while they can.
The author says that at times when a marriage partner doesn't feel very emotionally attracted to their partner, they're unlikely to feel like having sex with them.
But she says that people who feel sexually satisfied can begin to feel happier. And when they do, they can become more fun to be around, kinder and more thoughtful, more loving and affectionate, and better at communicating. So the bad feeling in the marriage can fade. So if the partner who isn't that keen on sex starts off by having sex with their husband or wife even though they don't feel like it, it may be that relations between the two partners improve so much that the one who didn't really feel like having sex at first feels like having it more, because their partner's become more attractive to them.
She says that because the one who feels they're having their sexual needs satisfied again will feel as if they're being cared for again, they'll feel like being more caring towards the person fulfilling their sexual needs, since they might appreciate their efforts. They might start sending love notes, or stop what they're doing to pay special attention to their partner talking about something their partner finds interesting. They may well become more interested in their partner as a person, noticing the good things about them more and becoming less critical. They might be more willing to do things they were never keen on doing before to please their partner, like helping around the house more. It'll begin to feel more like it did earlier in the relationship when the marriage partners were much closer.
The author says there's a traditional belief among "experts" that sexual desire happens when someone has a sexy thought or sees, hears or smells something that turns them on, and that puts them in the mood for sex. But she says that some experts are beginning to realise that it can actually work the other way around. People can have no desire for sex to begin with, but then after they've been sexually stimulated and have become sexually aroused, they want to continue. Even if they have lots of other things on their minds at first or think it's the wrong time of day for them and so they're really not in the mood for sex at first, they can really have fun once they've started.
She says that lots of people have told her in therapy that that's happened to them. So instead of going into great detail analysing with new clients why they don't have sexual fantasies that turn them on or whatever, she's started encouraging them to just start having sex and see what happens, even if they weren't in the mood at first because they were thinking of other things or whatever. She says some couples weren't sure it would work at first, but she's heard many people say that they ended up enjoying themselves even when they didn't feel turned on before they started having sex.
She says that when people who were never in the mood for sex before they started but who would enjoy it once they started began to realise that there wasn't anything wrong with them because they were hardly ever in the mood to start with, they began to think of themselves as more sexy and desirable, and that made them feel like having sex more, which led to greater satisfaction all round.
She says that sometimes people might have to slowly relax before they get going, making efforts to put themselves in the mood and clear their minds of every-day chores, but she says that lots of people have said that when they do, they enjoy themselves. She says lots of people with low sexual desire can still really enjoy themselves once they get started.
So she advises that those who think that could be true for them ignore little reluctant thoughts about how they're not in the mood for sex and go for it. She says reluctant thoughts and reactions can just become a habit after a while. People can be so used to them that they happen automatically. People just get into the pattern of refusing sex. She says that people can get into the habit of refusing sex so automatically without even really realising it's become habitual that even their partner's touch puts them off. But they can train themselves to override the habit, if they ignore the thoughts telling them they have reasons not to be interested and let the physical sensations entice them into enjoying themselves. The more people do this, the more they'll unconsciously train their brains to replace their old negative thinking habits with new enthusiastic ones. The more they start to think of the pleasure they'll have when they're having sex each time their spouse makes advances to them, and enjoying the way their spouse's touch is making them feel, overruling their usual reluctant thoughts about the reasons they're not in the mood, the more that will come automatically, till the thoughts about not being in the mood just disappear a lot of the time, and they automatically think of pleasure every time their partner wants to have sex with them.
She says another thing that can make people feel more sexy and change their image of themselves from people who aren't particularly sexual to people who are is listening to their bodies more. She says while some people seem to get turned on strongly when they start having sexual thoughts, other people don't have strong sexual urges or sexual fantasies on a routine basis, but they might experience little flickers of sexual desire, just little sensations. She says the more people begin to try to spot them, the more they'll notice them. And they can use those as the cues for deciding it would be nice to have sex. She says that when people do that, they often start to think of themselves as more sexy people.
The author says that one reason people don't think they're that sexy is that they compare the way they're feeling now with the way they felt when their hormones were raging at the beginning of their relationship, or with the way their spouse feels. And they think that because they don't feel the same way, they can't be that into sex. But just because their desire isn't rampant any more, it doesn't mean it can't be aroused. So if they decide to make time to get romantic, maybe thinking of things they can do to put them in the mood, or relaxing with the physical sensations caused by their partner stimulating them or caressing them affectionately, they might find that they end up just as aroused and keen to get going as they always used to be, or as their partner is.
So she advises that people act on even little fleeting sexual thoughts they have, such as feeling turned on even for a second or two because they like the look of their partner in certain clothes, or if they've just read something that made them think of sex, or whatever. And they can take those little delicate urges or thoughts as signs that their bodies are primed to get ready for sex if that's what they want, and act on them as soon as is convenient.
The author says another thing that can help is if they have a good think about any times when they're more in the mood for sex than usual. Even people who aren't usually in the mood for sex are likely to have times when they're more in the mood than normal. So she advises people to have a good think back to when they've been most in the mood, so they can work out what they can do more of that will put them more in the mood more often.
For instance, she says some people are more in the mood for sex at certain times of the day or month, at weekends, after a bath or a good conversation, on holiday, when the children are asleep, when they're feeling good about the way they look, when they've just spent some leisure time with their partner, and so on. She says some people have told her they're more in the mood for sex after a glass of wine or a hot relaxing bath, or later in the day, or at weekends.
She recommends that people try to work out why they prefer sex when they do, so they get more idea of what to do more of. For instance, if they want sex more at weekends, it might sometimes be because they feel more relaxed then. Listening to soothing music in the evenings and taking time to unwind with their marriage partner alone after having got the children to bed earlier might do just as good a job of relaxing them, so they could try to get into the routine of doing that.
She says another tip for feeling more sexual is to act more sexual. For instance, she says that a middle-aged mother of three children told her that what boosted her interest in sex nowadays was to do the things she used to do when she was feeling more sexual. She realised that she'd stopped putting effort into looking attractive when she'd stopped feeling sexual when she had her children, so she started again, wearing sexy lingerie and perfume, and more attractive outfits. She discovered that when she made efforts to do this, she began to feel more sexy.
But the author says that things like that don't work so well for everyone, since there are a number of reasons people might not be interested in sex, including certain types of medication that affect sexual desire, the balance of hormones in a person's body and several other things.
But she says that once a person's worked out why there sexual desire is low, it's important for the health of the marriage that they do something about it. She says that in every relationship, after the first stages of infatuation have worn off, sexual desire is something the marriage partners have to work to keep going, not something that just happens. She says people have to work to be creative about how sex is going to remain interesting and satisfying. They have to choose to keep their sexual relationship alive, rather than just hoping the enthusiasm for it will just always be there. So that means adapting it to changing life circumstances. But she says that those who have the will to do so can be pleased with themselves for being caring enough to do so.
She says that when a person who hasn't felt in the mood to have sex with their marriage partner for some time pushes themselves to have more sex with them, it can turn their marriage partner into a much nicer person.
She gives an example, saying she led a support group for women once where one evening, they were all being extra critical of their husbands, putting them down with feeling, complaining that they didn't do much with the kids or didn't talk much or help around the house, or they were always angry, and things like that. She surprised them by asking how they'd rate their sex lives on a scale of 1 to 10, and the scores were all extremely low. She suggested they all try an experiment, and they agreed. She told them that for the next two weeks, they should pay more attention to their physical relationships with their husbands, being more sexy, more affectionate, attentive and responsive to their husbands, and passionate. She asked them to initiate sex more often. Then, without telling them what she hoped would happen as a consequence, she asked them to watch closely for any changes in their husbands. She then immediately dismissed the group. They were surprised by what she'd told them to do, but no one questioned her.
She says that two weeks later at the group's next meeting, they came in all giggling. She asked them how the two weeks had gone, and they told stories that explained why they were feeling so merry. One said she hadn't felt like doing what the author suggested, but she initiated sex with her husband several times in a week, even though they had guests staying with them. She was amazed at what happened after that. When the guests left, her husband got to work on several projects around the house that she'd been begging him to do for months with no result, putting up wallpaper, grouting between the tiles on their dining-room floor, and making plans for them to go out to dinner, when it was normally her who had to suggest they went out. He'd been a lot more caring and considerate towards her and the children.
Another woman in the group said she'd often been angry with her husband in the past for not talking with her about his day and his life. But she bought some new lingerie and was a lot more forward with him sexually, and for the next few days, he talked so much it was difficult to get him to stop!
Another woman said she'd been wondering how to approach her husband differently, but since he'd been due to come home late the evening she'd left the group, she thought she'd have a bath to get herself in the mood. She made the room fragrant and romantic-looking. Surprisingly, he came home much earlier than she'd expected, found her in her romantic bath, took his clothes off, and joined her. She said they had an enjoyable sensual experience, and it seemed to change him somehow, because after that, he was a lot more caring towards her. He made her dinner several times, which he wouldn't normally do, and though they'd been arguing almost every day beforehand, they hadn't argued once since.
Other women told similar stories. It became obvious that there must be a strong connection between a more active sex life, and goodwill and a good mood on the part of their husbands.
The author says it's common for a cycle of increasingly considerate behaviour to start once one person starts. When one partner takes more care of the sexual needs of the other, the other is likely to become happier and start being more caring in return. This will make them more attractive to the one who started the process off, so they'll feel like being more sexy with them and nicer to them, and they'll feel like being nicer back. And so on.
She says the women in the group noticed that once their husbands started wanting to be more close to them emotionally after they'd started being more sexy with them, they actually began to feel more sexy and amorous towards their husbands. They realised that their sexual feelings hadn't disappeared, as they'd assumed; they'd just been pushed into the background by all the hurt and resentment they'd felt. They'd come to the fore again now they were getting on better with their husbands.
Sometimes it's better to put love into hugs than to put it into words.
Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself.
The author says that even people who usually have high sex drives can go through phases where they're not in the mood for sex. Sometimes it can be because they're stressed or have a lot on their mind, or want to be alone for a while. As long as it doesn't go on beyond a few weeks, she says it's nothing to worry about.
But she says that even if it does, it might not mean anything serious is wrong. Sleep can become a much more attractive option than sex for busy people. Arguments and criticism can put people off having Sex with their Partner. There are various reasons why people might not feel like having sex nearly as much as they used to.
The author says people ought to seek ways of remedying the problem either if they're unhappy with their lack of sexual desire, or if their marriage partner is unhappy about it.
She says that some people don't think of themselves as having low sexual desire, but think their partner's just over-sexed and that's what's causing the problem. And someone with high sexual desire can think the opposite about their spouse. They can look at statistics about the average number of times couples have sex in a week or month to see if they're right. But really, it doesn't matter how much sex anyone else is having; she says that what's important is that each couple is satisfied in their own particular relationship.
She says that often, people who want more sex in their marriages say that what they find most hurtful is not that their husband or wife doesn't want sex in itself, but that they're so dismissive and uncaring about their feelings when they try to explain why they want more, and unwilling to have a go at doing anything about it. She says some people have told her about the feelings that can cause. She says she's been told that what can be the most threat to a marriage when one partner doesn't want sex is if they don't take the feelings of the other person seriously and don't see why they should do anything about it. People have said they feel rejected by their partners when they don't want to have sex. She quotes one who said it made him feel unloved, unattractive, incompetent, unworthy, and other things. He said it didn't make him angry; but what did was his wife's unwillingness to do anything to try to remedy the situation. He said he didn't just want her to have sex with him more whether she wanted to or not. But he wanted her to look into behaviour changes that would make things happier for both of them, to love him in other ways when she didn't feel she could physically, to put more effort into making things good when they did make love, to read and discuss books that could help, maybe to go for counselling, or even just to discuss the matter in a loving way. He said he didn't understand how anyone could refuse to care about something they knew was causing their spouse a lot of unhappiness.
She says that people with low sexual desire can often think that whether they choose to have sex with their partner should be entirely a matter of their own personal feelings and preferences. But in order to keep the marriage healthy, they should seriously consider compromising and having more sex for the sake of their partner's happiness.
But there are things the partner who wants sex can do to make that prospect more appealing for the partner who doesn't want so much. She talks about those later.
And she says it isn't just a case of the person who wants less sex deciding to have more to please their partner, since if they don't like it, the relationship will suffer. So it might take a whole new outlook on the marriage and their attitude to their spouse.
She says that desiring a partner sexually isn't always to do with desiring sexual gratification. There can be several different reasons for having sex, to do with a desire for emotional closeness, to please the other one, to have children, to relax, to feel attractive, to soothe away bad feeling after arguments, and other things.
She says it's the same with marriage - it's often assumed that people get married and stay married for love. But actually, they can get and stay married for a number of different reasons, including the desire for a companion who'll be a friend and keep them from being lonely, the desire to have someone they can raise children with, and a number of other reasons.
So she advises people to contemplate whether they do, or would like to, have sex for other reasons than sexual gratification, such as how it might bring them emotionally closer to their spouse, how they might feel emotionally rewarded when they know they're pleasing their partner, whether the affection could be a way of showing forgiveness and care or saying sorry, and other things.
She says that couples who have a good sex life often show a lot more physical affection, like caressing and touching; and being touched affectionately can give people a sense of security and being cared for. Gentle caresses can soothe people and reassure them. In fact, she claims that touch is so important that people wouldn't get nearly so depressed, angry, stressed or anxious if they had more of it.
She says it's sad that she's found in therapy that people who don't have good sex lives also tend to stop snuggling up together, rubbing each other's backs, holding hands or hugging when they say goodbye, or showing other little signs of physical affection.
She claims that it's easy to spot couples who have good sex lives, because they're emotionally close, and you can tell the signs: the warmth when their eyes meet, the gentle touches, and other such things. She says that although not every sexual encounter will make couples feel like soul mates, a generally good sexual relationship can create a very powerful bond between a couple that keeps them feeling close.
She says another reason to have a better sexual relationship is that when people are having good sex, their bodies release "feel good" chemicals, hormones that can put people on a high, and make them feel more relaxed, and increase their sensitivity to touch. One of the hormones is called oxytocin, and is sometimes referred to as the "bonding hormone", because it gives people a feeling of emotional connection to the person they're with.
She says the most important reason for couples to improve their sex life if one of them is unhappy with it is that marriages just don't work when people in them are only concerned about their own happiness. It's essential that they care about their partner's happiness if the marriage itself isn't going to end up miserable. So if the marriage can be made happier by compromising and being willing to have sex sometimes for the sake of the relationship when people would say no if they were only considering themselves, then they should be willing to consider their partner's needs as equal with their own, defaulting to saying yes to sex rather than to saying no at times when there isn't a compelling reason to say no.
She says that that's an example of what real giving is.
She says that some people can go into marriages assuming their marriage partner will want to be loved and treated in the way they themselves like to be loved and treated. For instance, they might assume that because they think the kind thing for another person to do when they're upset is to be around them listening to them talk about what's wrong, other people will want to be treated like that when they're upset. So they might hang around their partner asking what's wrong when their partner feels upset, when really, their partner might not like it because they prefer to be alone when they're upset. So learning to be really loving and giving means learning to love people in the way that makes them feel most loved, even if it conflicts with a person's own ideas about the most loving thing to do.
So sometimes, even when someone does lots of things they themselves would consider really loving, like taking responsibility for most of the childcare, bringing their marriage partner breakfast in bed, and performing lots of little acts of kindness, the one thing that will make their partner feel loved, way above all other things, is physical affection, being touched and held and made love to. For someone like that, if that isn't happening, they won't feel really loved no matter what else is going on. So real love will involve their partner loving them in that way, rather than just in the way they like to be loved themselves.
The author says that loving a partner in the way they most like to be loved can bring its own rewards, because people can feel gratified when they know they're pleasing their partner. She says that even if a person doesn't understand or agree with the way their partner likes to be loved best, it shouldn't matter; if it makes the relationship more healthy, they should do it. And when they do, they can feel pleasure in knowing they're giving pleasure.
She says another good thing to come out of giving a partner what will make them feel most loved over time is that they will usually become more loving and generous in return, doing things to please the one pleasing them. So it can be well worth it.
The author says that the marriage problems that can cause loss of interest in sex are usually caused by bad attitudes and behaviour on both sides, so the marriage partner who wants more sex has to take some responsibility for the fact that their partner hasn't been interested. But there are things they can do about it. She says they may have upset their partner by becoming resentful because they feel hurt, so they've been saying unkind things, pushing their partner's affections further away from them rather than bringing them closer, being defensive instead of wanting to work with the other one to find solutions. So she advises that the spouse who wants more sex in the marriage should have a think to try to work out any things they've been saying and ways they've been behaving that may have put their partner off them. Then they can resolve to change.
The author says it'll be easier for them to do that if they understand possible reasons for their partner's lack of desire for sex. She says that often, people think their partner is refusing to have sex with them because they don't love them, or because they want to hurt them because they're being mean-spirited. But she says that a husband or wife can love their marriage partner dearly and yet still not want sex; and when people don't want sex, it isn't usually because they're being nasty.
The author says that once a person has taken these facts to heart, they can become a lot less resentful of their marriage partner and so relations can improve. And also, once they've stopped feeling so angry, they'll feel more clear-headed, so they can take in the real reasons for low sexual desire more, so they can grow more understanding of their partner, and then more compassionate and wise in the way they approach them.
The author says there are many, many possible causes of low sexual desire. She says she explains some of them, so people will know that there are a whole range of possible solutions.
She says that low sexual desire is often brought on by a mixture of biological, psychological, cultural and relationship issues. She goes into detail about some of them.
First, she talks about biological reasons for low sexual desire.
She says that a very important thing to bear in mind is that people don't have to be experts on why they're experiencing a lack of sexual desire before they try a solution. If one doesn't work, they can move on to another one. But often, chemical and emotional issues are interlinked, so that if something improves in one area, it improves in another area as well. Low sexual desire can be caused by a whole combination of things, but changing one can cause others to change. For instance, an increase in emotional well-being caused by something good happening in the marriage can boost the feel-good chemicals in the brain, just as an increase in the feel-good chemicals can boost the mood. So she advises people to just try something and see what happens, going for the simplest-sounding solutions first to see if they work.
She says that the solutions she suggests are mainly to do with relationship issues, simply because that's what she specialises in so that's what she knows most about. Still, she knows a little bit about the others.
She says people are more likely to feel sexy when they're in good health, so although it can be more of an effort, especially for people with busy lives, it's important to eat healthily, get enough sleep, take in enough fluid, and exercise well. In fact, she says that vigorous exercise increases the circulation of the blood around the body, including to the genital areas, so that makes people more likely to be able to have good sex. Also, exercise can lift the mood, giving people more energy and helping them feel more cheerful, so they'll be more in the mood for sex as well.
She says psychological health is as important as physical health when it comes to having a good sex life, so people should look after that as well.
She says smoking and drinking can lower the sex drive, so it's as well to stop. She advises that people get help if they haven't managed to stop on their own before.
She recommends that one thing people do is to visit their doctor. She says that boosting sexual desire could be as easy as altering doses of medication or something. She says not all doctors will be trained to deal with sexual problems, and those who are won't always feel comfortable talking about them. So people should inform themselves about things that commonly cause low sexual desire and possible solutions before they go, and describe their problems as precisely as they can, describing exactly what's happening rather than just saying they don't feel like having sex. For instance, if sex is painful in any way or arousal is difficult where before the exact same actions made it happen easily, people should say so. She says it might be uncomfortable to talk about such things, but for the sake of the marriage, it should be worth it.
She says doctors won't necessarily have a good idea of what to do - she knew someone who told a gynaecologist she didn't have much desire for sex any more, and the gynaecologist asked if she could still have orgasms and when she said yes, told her not to worry because in that case, her problems were all in her head! The author recommends that if faced with an ignorant response, people find another doctor, preferably one recommended by a friend.
I would have thought getting a recommendation might be difficult if talking with friends about sexual problems is embarrassing, and since the likelihood of them being able to recommend one they know is good at helping with sexual problems is quite low. So she suggests people contact a licensed sex therapist and ask for a recommendation.
She says doctors can do blood tests to check for low testosterone levels, and for other things that could be causing low sexual desire, like hypothyroidism, anaemia and other things.
She says it's actually quite common to have problems with sexual arousal.
She says sometimes, a woman's sexual problems can be caused by lack of sexual stimulation, either because her partner doesn't know how to touch her in a way that'll make her feel aroused, or because she doesn't know her body well enough to instruct him on what to do.
Or it can be because of problems with the mechanics like inadequate blood flow to the genitals or the body not lubricating properly.
The author says that lack of blood flow to the genital area can be caused by several different things, but one is that sometimes after a hysterectomy, nerves and blood vessels in the area can be damaged.
She says that often, people need to be sexually stimulated more in order to achieve arousal as they age.
She says that sometimes though, an inability to become sexually aroused can happen because of emotional or psychological issues like depression or resentment that's being harboured. She points out that it's difficult to relax and enjoy yourself when you have ill feeling towards someone or you're upset.
The author tells a story about a woman who came to her in therapy, worried that there was something wrong with her or her marriage, because she'd had a satisfying sexual relationship with her husband for nearly thirty years where they'd had sex on an average of three times a week; but in the last four months, she'd had orgasms a lot less often, and it was putting her off sex.
The author asked her several questions about the health of her marriage, her own personal health and lifestyle habits and the way they made love, but the breakthrough in understanding came when the author asked her what was different about the times in the previous four months when she had had an orgasm. She said that on one occasion, her husband had sexually stimulated her for a lot longer than usual, and the other time, she and her husband had used a vibrator to bring more variety into their love making.
The author realised that what both things had in common was the extra amount of sexual stimulation she'd got. So she said that could be the solution to the problem, explaining that people often need more sexual stimulation to become sexually aroused as they grow older. But she also talked with the woman about how she could focus more on the pleasure of each step of the sexual encounter, rather than thinking orgasms were all-important.
The author says the woman was relieved for several reasons: She realised that having far fewer orgasms than she used to wasn't due to a problem with her marriage after all; and she was glad she knew how to get more orgasms back in her life. This knowledge made her feel more relaxed, which made her sex life even better.
The author says problems with arousal can be dealt with by things that can increase blood flow to the genital area. Viagra may be able to do this; and there are mechanisms people can use to stimulate themselves mechanically.
The author says that when women can't achieve orgasm after a lot of sexual stimulation and excitement, they can technically be described as having an orgasmic disorder. Women who could be described as having an orgasmic disorder could range from women who've never had an orgasm in all the time they've been having sex, to women who are upset because they used to have much stronger orgasms than they do now.
The author says that some people experience pain in the genital area during sex, or difficulty having sexual intercourse because the muscles of the vagina go into a spasm of tension that makes penetration difficult.
She says pain during sex can sometimes be caused because the vagina isn't lubricating enough. She says oestrogen hormones can help with that, or just products like K-Y Jelly.
She says people with the muscle spasm problem - called vaginismus - can be taught to relax the muscles effectively by a sex therapist. Actually, I heard somewhere that the muscle tension thing can happen when the man tries to have intercourse without having stimulated the woman much as well, so it can sometimes ease when he learns to arouse her more.
She says infections of the vagina can also cause pain during sex. But they can be treated by a doctor.
The author says the most common sexual problem in men is premature ejaculation, where they can't perform for long enough during sexual intercourse because of it. She says that since men's masculinity is often thought to be so linked with their ability to keep their erections and do a good performance during sexual intercourse, when they can't, they can feel ashamed, so it can put them off sex altogether.
She says another problem is being unable to get an erection, or keep it for long enough to have good sex. She says most men will have the problem for a while at some time during their lives, but if it doesn't last very long, it isn't usually considered a big problem. But it can become more of a problem as people age. In fact, she says that half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 have the problem, and it's even more common in older men. But that doesn't mean people have to worry about getting it.
She says that some men with the problem have never been able to get or keep an erection, but most develop the problem after having previously been able to have them. She says there's usually a biological cause at the root of the problem, like hormonal problems, a problem with circulation, the results of drug use, and other things. But she says that when men discover they can't perform sexually as they once did, they often become depressed, anxious and lacking confidence, so they can avoid sex altogether.
She says that sexual problems in general are rarely caused by biological factors alone. They will be mixed with emotional issues, which will need to get sorted out before a person can have a good sex life again, even if the issues only came about because of the biological problems.
She says that Viagra can be effective for men's problems such as difficulties getting erections as well, since it increases blood flow to the penis, even if the cause of their difficulties is a disease they have. But she cautions that if a couple haven't had sex for months or years, starting again so soon may cause relationship issues that it might be as well to talk over with a sex or marital therapist. She doesn't say why that is.
She says sex education can also help men get over erectile dysfunctions, but she doesn't say how.
She says people who have premature ejaculations can learn to control when they ejaculate.
The author says that rising and falling hormone levels can affect the amount of sexual desire a person feels. She says that one of the most significant for men and women is testosterone. She says that when people have a lot of testosterone circulating around their bodies, they often feel vibrant, sexy, and they have sexual thoughts throughout the day, and find themselves wanting to have sexual fantasies sometimes. When levels of testosterone fall, sexual desire can fade or become non-existent. Unfortunately, people this happens to sometimes worry that their sexual desire has faded because something's wrong with their marriage or their life.
She says it can often happen that in the early stages of a relationship, the couple's infatuation with each other causes hormones to be released that increase sexual desire. So if someone who typically has high testosterone levels gets together with someone who typically has low levels of it and so they don't usually think much about sex and aren't particularly interested in it, their sex drives can match each other for a while, because the feelings of love will raise the level of sex hormones including testosterone in the one who usually has low levels of it. So the one who usually has low levels of it might assume they've finally found the person who turns them on so they'll be more interested in sex from then on; while the person with high testosterone levels can feel pleased because they imagine they've found a partner who likes sex as much as they do. Hormones inevitably settle down to normal levels once the infatuation has worn off, so the person who usually has low testosterone levels will lose interest in sex again. They'll often wonder what's gone wrong with the relationship, while the one who still has high testosterone levels will think they must have been conned by the other one, who must have only been pretending to like sex a lot.
She says testosterone supplements can be prescribed that can increase a person's sex drive and interest in sex. They can also increase the intensity of a person's orgasms. Blood tests can be done to find out if people's testosterone levels are lower than normal. If they are, supplements can be taken in the form of injections, pills, patches, creams and other things.
She cautions that testosterone does have side effects: Women taking even small amounts can get things like the growth of facial hair, acne, and a deepening voice.
She says that testosterone supplements shouldn't be taken by pregnant women, or people who have a whole range of things like high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, liver disease, acne, male pattern balding, or a history of breast cancer. She says it's very important that people only take the hormone under the guidance of a doctor.
But she says that some experts think that the more sex a person has, the more testosterone their body produces. She says it's been found that women who remain quite sexually active after childbirth have higher levels of testosterone in their bodies than women who don't. She says that might be because their levels were high to start with, and that was what made them want more sex. But she says that some experts believe that the more sex a person has, the more testosterone their body produces. They think sex stimulates the production of it, so the more sex people have, the more they want.
Actually, I heard something on the radio once about how testosterone levels in football fans were measured before and after a game, and it was found that it went up in the fans whose team won and down in the fans whose team lost.
The author says there are other hormones that have to be in balance for people to have a robust sex drive as well. Several things can disturb the balance and so lower sexual desire. These include:
The author says that although after childbirth, women don't feel like having sex because of the tiredness they feel while looking after a baby who might wake up and cry at any hour, and any discomfort they feel in after the birth, something else that happens is that a hormone called prolactin that stimulates milk production in women who breastfeed also lowers levels of oestrogen and testosterone. A drop in oestrogen can cause lubrication problems that can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. So women are likely to lose their sexual desire for a while.
Well, perhaps that's the body trying to protect against another baby being conceived too soon - two babies under a year old would be quite a handful!
She says many women experience a drop in sexual desire when they go through the menopause. Oestrogen levels drop, to such an extent that the vaginal walls can become thinner, as well as lubrication difficulties occurring again, which makes sexual intercourse more uncomfortable. Also, blood flow to the genitals can be reduced, making sexual arousal more difficult. Some women find it more difficult to have orgasms, or their orgasms are less intense than before. Testosterone levels can also go down, decreasing sexual desire and the likelihood that one will have sexual fantasies. Lowered testosterone levels can also sometimes lower the mood, cause people to have headaches and a loss of a general sense of well-being, which will also lower sexual desire.
She says that the menopause comes on gradually, so many women can start to lose sexual desire even before it really kicks in.
She says many experts now believe that men go through the equivalent of a menopause where hormonal levels drop and so sexual desire goes down.
The author says a number of other things can cause a drop in sexual desire, such as side effects of commonly-prescribed medications, including some types of antidepressants and tranquillisers. Even birth control pills can lower it. And the side effects of chemotherapy are also known to make it decrease.
She says a doctor can assess whether any medication a person is on could be lowering their sex drive, and if it is, it can be changed, since a doctor will often have a choice of several different types of medication they can give people for the same thing.
She advises people to discuss any medications with their doctor, whether they're prescribed or over-the-counter. She says a variety of them can dampen sexual desire, including some antacids, antibiotics, anti-epileptic medication, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, and hypertension medications.
She says that chronic illnesses can cause a decrease in sexual desire, including liver and kidney disease, diabetes, anaemia, arthritis and a number of others.
She says that alcohol and tobacco use can lower sexual desire, as well as the use of illegal drugs such as cannabis, heroin and cocaine.
She says that chronic pain can also cause a drop in sexual desire, as can physical disability.
She says it's important to give the doctor a medical history, since any significantly life-changing or life-threatening illness can dampen sexual desire. If the illnesses are dealt with, sexual desire can return.
But she says again that some of the medications used to treat them might themselves cause low sexual desire, so it's important to discuss concerns so the doctor will know to choose one that doesn't.
But she says that often, psychological factors will be working with the biological ones to cause the low sexual desire.
Be a love pharmacist: dispense hugs like medicine - they are!
To love deeply in one direction makes us more loving in all others.
The author says that some people say their partner would be interested in sex no matter what, but they themselves have to be in a good mood to want it. She says there are a number of emotional conditions that can put people off sex:
The author says that feeling down is normal, but when it goes on for more than a few weeks, it can be classed as clinical depression. It's actually quite common, and one of the symptoms of it is often a drop in sexual desire, along with a general loss of interest in everything. She says that unfortunately, depressed people often don't like to admit that they have a problem; but if they acknowledge that they're depressed and are prescribed antidepressants, many of those cause sexual problems themselves, such as problems with arousal and getting an erection. So the side effects of such things ought to be looked into before a person agrees to take them. But it is important to get some kind of help, for the sake of the marriage as well as the depressed person themselves.
The author says that people who've had traumatic experiences as children often carry the feelings into adult relationships. For instance, having sex can bring back the same feelings they had when they were sexually abused because the sensations remind them of it, or intimacy and trust can feel threatening. Some people can have flashbacks where they relive the past because a memory gets triggered off during sex. Some people don't enjoy being touched, or don't like to let their guard down. Some people don't realise how much their past has affected them.
The author says that sexual, physical and emotional abuse are common, and it's common to experience feelings of anxiety, shame, guilt and anger as a result.
But she says things don't have to continue that way. She advises people whose sex lives are being damaged by memories of past abuse to seek help.
But she says that people shouldn't assume that if they're not interested in sex, something must have happened to them as a child, since there are lots of reasons people can lose interest in sex; and also, even if a person has been sexually abused, it doesn't mean their lack of interest in sex will have anything to do with that. She says it's important that they don't get the impression they might be scarred for life by their experiences or anything. Some people totally come to terms with them and move on, enjoy sex and have a good sexual relationship. Any sexual problems they develop can be to do with other things entirely.
She tells the story of a man who came to her for therapy because he sometimes became so anxious about his performance during sex that he lost his erection so he couldn't perform. He'd been to a therapist before, but she'd made him go into great detail about his childhood with his alcoholic parents to see if that would reveal the root cause of the problem. Focusing so much on the miseries of the past just made him miserable. So he stopped that therapy and went to a renowned sex clinic. They told him that his problems must be related to his relationship with his wife. The only thing he could think of was that she wasn't that experimental in bed. As he thought more and more about it, he became angrier and angrier with her, and then their sex life went into a definite decline! So he gave up going to the clinic.
He realised that he was a lot better off than many men, because at least his wife had wanted to have sex with him a lot. So he began to think well of her again.
When he came to see the author, she commented that despite his harsh childhood, he clearly still had the determination to find a solution to his problems and the confidence to reject therapies he knew weren't working for him. She asked him who'd been the influence in his childhood who'd given him those qualities of determination. He thought for a while and then began to talk about how his grandparents had loved him.
He realised he could be proud of his achievements, and thinking of himself as a confident and determined person changed his attitude to his sexual problem. It turned out that the majority of the time, he could maintain erections, and he and his wife both had orgasms. The other therapists hadn't wanted to know about those times, dismissing them as flukes. They'd only wanted to examine the failures. This had made the man focus on his failures until he became obsessed with them. But the author told him it was common for people not to be able to maintain an erection sometimes, but they just tried again.
When the man started thinking more about his successes again, he became more confident that he could sort things out himself when he failed to get an erection. The change in his attitude about himself made a big difference to his confidence, and his marriage and sex life improved a lot as well.
The author advises that people who actually do have problems coming to terms with the past that are affecting their sex life get help, but that if it isn't working, they move on and find a different style of help.
She says some people criticize themselves all the time, comparing themselves to people who seem to have achieved more in life and thinking of themselves as failures. She says if people are constantly dwelling on bad things, they're not likely to have much energy left for sex, and that people who don't feel good about themselves tend not to feel good about anything else either, including having sex.
She says that though it's doubtful that anyone is entirely happy with the way their body looks, some people can get so self-conscious about it that they feel disgusted with their bodies, too ashamed to be naked with their partners. And then their self-consciousness makes them feel embarrassed and anxious all the way through a sexual encounter, worrying about whether they're too fat, perhaps, or whether parts of them are too big or too small, so they won't want sex very often. She says it's important that people like that do something to lower their self-consciousness or change their opinion of themselves.
She says that often, though spouses may say they'd like their partners to be slimmer or better-looking in other ways, the person who has the body shape they're not happy with can be their own worst critic, while their spouse isn't complaining about it at all. So she recommends that people learn to accept their bodies, focusing on their good points and flaunting them, but learning to feel more content about the rest. She suggests that most often, worry will be causing them far more of a problem than their body shape. She asks people to spend time imagining how much happier they'd feel if they stopped worrying about their supposed imperfections, how freeing it would be to stop. She advises people to make a decision to give up striving for perfection and use their energies enjoying themselves in the present instead.
She tells the story of a husband and wife who came to her in therapy. They had noticed what they worried could be the first signs of danger in their relationship. They still got on well, but they'd noticed that in the evenings, they did their own thing. They didn't often spend time alone together any more. It was the second marriage for both of them, and having been through all the problems their previous divorces had caused, they didn't want that marriage to end in divorce. So they had become concerned at what they saw as possibly the first little signs of relationship breakdown.
The author says that partway through the therapy session, the wife told her she'd like to spend more time with her husband in the evenings. But when the author asked her what she'd like to be doing with him, she said that actually, though she sometimes thought she wanted to be with him more, she was glad really that he left her alone, because she didn't have much energy left after work. The author had an idea that she might be hinting about not having much sexual desire, since she was used to people using vague language about that. So she asked her about it. The wife said they hadn't often had sex for years. She said her fading sexual desire was partly to do with having had a hysterectomy and the menopause; but she said something else was significant. She said she felt too fat. She was unhappy with her body. She'd put on weight in the past few years like many women her age, and she felt sure her husband couldn't find her attractive any more.
Her husband's reassurances that he was still attracted to her didn't have any effect on her. The author tried to help him explain that he was still attracted to her, but that didn't work either. She was just convinced she couldn't look attractive because she didn't think she did.
Instead of carrying on trying to convince her, the author asked her what, in that case, she intended to do about it to make herself feel better. She said she was going to go to the gym a few times a week. The author said that sounded good and asked her when she was going to start. Then she said that actually, she'd often planned to do that, but never got around to it.
The author suggested that in that case, maybe there was something completely different she could do to start off with, maybe something less ambitious.
The woman said that something she would like was if her husband would go walking with her in the evenings. Her husband agreed to do that, especially because he wanted to do more exercise himself.
When they came back to see the author three weeks later, she says they were much happier. They'd been walking every evening. Although the wife hadn't lost much weight, the fact that she had done something she'd set out to do gave her a sense of achievement that gave her more optimism. And during the walks together, they'd had more intimate conversations, which made the wife feel closer to her husband. That and her brighter outlook on life made her want to be with him more sexually. The author could tell they were being more intimate together because they held hands throughout the whole therapy session.
The author advises people to work out what parts of their body are changeable and then set goals for themselves to find some enjoyable means of changing the parts of their body they can if they're unhappy with them, and resolve to accept the other parts as they are.
The author agrees that physical attraction is important, but says that changing one's body shape takes time, and a marriage may be falling apart by the time it's happened. So people ought to compliment their partner every little step along the way, being affectionate, and encouraging them every time they notice they're doing something that'll help get them more in shape. Then, their partner's more likely to feel like doing more of it.
She says the person who wants their partner to change their body shape may be pessimistic that their partner will stick to a plan long enough for it to succeed, because they might have started them before and given up. But people often have setbacks before they achieve something. Criticizing them will only discourage them; but the more encouragement they get on the way, the more likely they are to want to continue. And physical affection can boost their ego and encourage them even more.
One thing that can make exercise more enjoyable is companionship. So doing some kind of exercise together can also be encouraging and good for both spouses.
The author says that for people who've suffered the loss of a loved one recently, or even the loss of a job or important relationship, the emotions they feel at first and the thoughts they have about their loss can be so intense that they block out other feelings, so they lose interest in being sexual.
She says that that's natural in the early stages of grief, but sometimes, the emotions can carry on so long that they seriously interfere with a person's joy and functioning in life, including desire for sex.
The author says that apart from any hormonal changes, women often feel that becoming mothers has changed how they feel about themselves; they feel like mums, with their attention all focused on their children, rather than sexual beings.
So she says that women ought to make efforts not to neglect their husbands, and to try to think of themselves as both mothers and wives.
She says she can understand that it can be difficult. She says that part of the reason women can stop thinking of themselves as sexual beings is because their bodies can lose their shape; their breasts fulfil their function as containers of nourishment for their babies rather than as sexual objects; and some women find that after being in physical contact with their babies for much of the day, they feel like having a break from being touched, so being touched by a husband just isn't so appealing. And they can feel less sexy and attractive because people don't look at them the same; so they can feel a bit depressed about that. The author says these feelings are common. But they should fade as women grow more comfortable with their new identity and learn to value themselves as mothers more.
But she says one mistake women make is to forget about their husbands because they're wrapped up in their new responsibilities as mothers. They believe their husbands can look after themselves. So much so, that they can stop showing them affection. They no longer do little things to show they care for their husbands like phoning to say hello or looking after their little needs like making their lunch; and they stop being interested in doing romantic little things with them. It's as if they switch roles altogether and devote all their attention to their babies and expect their husbands just to be happy to get on with things without them.
But she says men often feel very upset and abandoned by this. They can even feel jealous of the baby. If they protest, their wives just think they're being selfish to want attention when they're so busy looking after their babies and so they focus even more on the baby.
The author advises women not to neglect their husbands, but to show they still care for them. She says that'll be a good way of improving the health of the marriage, and that can only be good for the children. She says the more important a husband feels to his wife, the closer they'll generally be. The more he feels loved, the more there will be a bond between the two of them, and the more emotionally connected he'll feel to his wife and children. So she advises women to take time for their husbands, maybe getting close friends or family members to baby-sit once in a while so the two of them can go out and enjoy themselves together. She says that when a woman feels emotionally close to her husband, it can be an aphrodisiac.
She says both men and women can have them. They're where people realise one day that they aren't going to live forever and time is steadily ticking away for them, and they become stressed, questioning whether they're missing out on things they want to do before they regret not having done them because it's too late. They start questioning whether they're getting the most satisfaction they could be out of life or whether being in other circumstances would fulfil them more and they'll lose the opportunity to go for them if they don't soon. It's at times like that that people can start questioning whether they actually want to be in their marriage. And while they're questioning that, they tend to lose interest in having sex with their spouse.
And when people fit a lot of things into their lives, like working overtime, involving themselves in local activities, doing all the housework, looking after children and visiting relatives, they can feel so tired that sex just seems too much of an effort. People can feel as if they're too tired to give anything else, so it just seems like an obligation.
The author says that stress doesn't just affect the mind; it weakens the immune system, lowers energy, disturbs sleep, causes aches and pains, and can produce other physical symptoms of illness. It can be as if nothing's enjoyable any more, not even sex. When sex stops being fun, it can move right down the list of things to be done, as if it's just one more chore that has to be got through.
The author says that some people find it more difficult to enjoy sex because of attitudes they took in from parents, religious training or elsewhere. For instance, some people are given the impression that sex is dirty, or told they're bad people for thinking about sex. Children tend to believe what adults say, so attitudes like that can be carried over into adulthood, with people having accepted things about themselves that they've never really questioned. They have to challenge and dismiss their assumptions about sex to start enjoying it.
The author gives examples of the types of things people might have come to believe without question because they accepted them as the conventional wisdom when they were younger, such things as sex only being for procreation, how women who appear too interested in sex will be thought of as having loose morals, how sex is only about the actual act of intercourse, and how a man's sexual prowess has to do with the size of his penis.
The author says that sex is a wonderful thing that should feel relaxing and enjoyable, and that anyone who feels ashamed or bad about themselves during it may not have shaken off unfortunate misconceptions about it that they picked up in their past.
But she says people can unlearn such attitudes.
She says anyone experiencing lack of enthusiasm about sex because their mental health isn't on top form for some reason should make a commitment to do something about it. It's important to face awkward issues and find solutions. She says it may be that the issues aren't as daunting as people might think to deal with, because when people are feeling down, things always seem worse. People can dwell on the bad things and forget the good. And they can think they're bound to feel the way they do forever so there isn't any point in changing, when in reality, once they do make an effort and see change happening, they'll develop a more optimistic outlook and realise change is possible after all.
So she recommends that people make a commitment to change whatever mood they're in, if not for themselves, for their children or their marriage.
She recommends that the first thing people do when they make a commitment to change is to write down a few ways in which they'd like to change. These can be like goals to work towards. She says if they're written down, they'll be easier to remember, and it might be encouraging later to look at them and think about how much progress has been made in the effort to work towards them.
She says it's important that the goals are very specific, so it's easy to work out what needs to be done to reach them. So, for instance, they couldn't be things like, "I want to be happier", because it would be difficult to know how to achieve that. If, on the other hand, one goal was, "I'd like to have a job where I have more interesting things to do so I don't come home in a bad mood every day like I do now because I'm bored", then people have a lot more idea of what direction their thoughts need to go in to try to find a solution to the problem.
She says it's important that goals are forward-looking, to what needs to be done. People have to stop simply brooding on what's wrong. She says it'll be easier to think of how things can be changed if people ask themselves questions to help them imagine what things could be like when they have, or how they can best get there.
So, for instance, someone who was a bit depressed could ask themselves, "When I'm not depressed, what will I be doing differently?" That'll help them think about what they have to work towards. Or someone who hates their body could ask themselves, "When I start liking it better, what will I be doing that's making me like it better?" And so on, asking the same types of questions whatever the issue. That'll give them ideas on what they need to do.
She says people should be as detailed as they can be about what actions they'll be taking when things are different. So, for instance, instead of a depressed person thinking of a goal as being to feel better or have more energy, they can imagine what they might do when they feel better. They could contemplate the question,
"When I'm feeling better, what will I be doing that I'm not doing now?"
A useful answer would be something like,
"I'll get up quite early, have a shower and go for a brisk walk. I'll think more about my achievements in life to encourage myself."
She says another useful question people can ask themselves is,
"How will my friends, work colleagues, children and other family members know when I'm not depressed? What will they notice me doing differently that will make them realise I'm not?"
It might not be depression, of course, but it could be to do with what a person's family will notice them doing differently when they're not so stressed, when they're more relaxed, or a whole range of different things.
She gives examples of possible answers, like, "My children will notice I'm not shouting at them any more", or, "My partner will notice I'm having a laugh with him more and wanting his company more."
Then, people can think about how to work towards those ideals.
She says another important thing is that goals should be broken down into small steps forward, or they might seem far too ambitious to be achievable soon. That'll be discouraging, because it might seem that not much progress is being made at any one time. If they're small, however, people can notice them being achieved week by week, so they get encouraged that progress is being made, and that makes them think that trying to change is worthwhile and motivates them to continue moving forward. They can make more and more little goals that should be achievable soon as time goes on.
For instance, if someone who wanted to lose weight resolved to go running every day from then on, they might start, but then find the sudden change in their level of exercise so much of a strain that they felt they just couldn't carry on, so they might give up altogether. But if they started off slowly and gradually worked up to running every day, they would find it easier to start with, and that would hopefully encourage them to continue. She says the first goal can even be something as small as, "I'm going to buy running shoes". Once they've achieved that, their next goal could be something like, "I'll go for a brisk walk around the block this evening". They can work up to running every day in gradual little steps like that.
They can do the same with other things, thinking through how they could gradually get closer and closer to what they really want.
She says a woman came to a therapy session with her who said her husband had threatened to leave her because he couldn't stand the fact that there was so little sex in the relationship. They only had sex about once a month. The woman said that once they started making love, she enjoyed it; but she often rejected his advances because she was so stressed about all the things she'd meant to do that day but hadn't got around to doing that she had a lot on her mind. She said her husband wasn't the problem; he was good at helping around the house. It was just that she was so disorganised that she somehow never managed to do the things she wanted.
The author asked her what would have to happen to make her less stressed, and she said she'd thought about an idea before but had never put it into practice, but she thought that if she made a 'to-do' list every day and crossed items off when she'd done them, she wouldn't get nearly so stressed about things. She'd have a sense of accomplishment about what she'd done, and know exactly what she still had to do so she could just get on with it, so she thought she'd get more done.
The author asked if there was anything else she thought she could do, and she said it would help if the children were in bed earlier so her and her husband could have more time together. She said she thought her husband would be willing to help her put the children to bed earlier.
She said one more thing that would make her feel more comfortable about having sex was if she wasn't worried that any of the children might come into the room while they were doing it. She felt sure her husband would put a lock on the door if she asked him.
So she went away much more optimistic that things could improve.
The author says that when people make their list of goals and first ask themselves what they would like to change about their lives, it'll be best if they only mention three things at most at first that they're hoping to change, or their list will become discouraging because there's so much to achieve at once.
She advises that people get started writing their goals right away. She says that when people have worked out what they are, they should have a clear idea of one or two things they can do immediately to get started.
She says that as people do more and more things over the weeks, they'll become more and more encouraged. They can encourage themselves more if they make a point of reflecting on their progress. They can get a rough idea of how well they're doing by asking themselves questions like:
She says people can be encouraged if they're several points up from where they started. If they'd like to be further up the scale, they can ask themselves: "What could I do in the next week or two that would take me another point or half point up the scale?" That'll be one way of gradually planning how to move forward.
She says it might be easier for people to make progress if they have the support of family and friends. Many would be very willing to help if they knew one of their loved ones was going through a hard time.
She recommends that if people feel they need support but can't get it from people around them, they could consider seeing a therapist. But it should be a therapist who's experienced in their particular difficulty, one they feel comfortable with and respected by, and one who helps them move forward and solve their problems rather than one where they just talk about the past. The therapist should be willing to agree to setting goals of progress for the things the therapy is meant to achieve week by week. And good therapy should start getting results quickly.
She warns that it ought to be a therapist who believes that it's important that couples stay together except in cases of serious abuse like domestic violence, and one who realises that even the best of marriages can go through rough times and take hard work. Otherwise, if people complain about their spouse at all, they could find their therapist talking them out of staying in their marriage, by asking questions about why they stay and put up with such behaviour, instead of talking with them about ways they can try to change it. The author says that people who stay with marriage partners during times when there are marriage problems are often very glad they did.
She advises that people don't stay with a therapist just because they're nice; if they're not actually helping, people should leave and find one who does.
If you're angry at a loved one, hug that person. And mean it. You may not want to hug - which is all the more reason to do so. It's hard to stay angry when someone shows they love you, and that's precisely what happens when we hug each other.
--Walter Anderson, (The Confidence Course, 1997)
The author says that most people have to feel good about their marriage to feel turned on. She says when people are upset with their marriage partner for any reason, they're less likely to feel like having sex with them. She says that anger, resentment, disappointment, hurt, and a feeling of betrayal can be among the things that put people off sex with their partner.
She suggests people ask themselves several questions to help them work out whether their emotions could be getting in the way of them wanting sex:
The author says that the feelings of anyone who answered yes to any of those questions are probably preventing them from wanting to become closer to them. So the issues need to be resolved. She gives some ideas on how this can be done.
The author says that conflict is bound to arise in every relationship, because there's no way that people can agree on everything all the time. But it makes a big difference how it's handled. If it's handled well, a couple can still have a close and loving relationship. But things can go wrong when people either try to avoid conflict, or argue about every little thing that annoys them.
She says that some people always keep their bad feelings inside because they want to avoid saying anything that might make their spouse angry. They might think they're doing the best thing for the marriage. But when they don't express angry or upset feelings and get them resolved, the feelings don't go away, but stay there below the surface making the person miserable and constantly resentful. An unhappy and angry person won't be in the mood for sex, or for any kind of emotional intimacy with their partner. So the marriage will tend to become closer and closer to the brink of ruin.
She says that some people don't talk about their feelings because they've given up trying, after having mentioned them early in the marriage but having had them dismissed, not taken seriously, or disagreed with, and their efforts didn't result in the other one changing their behaviour. So they stopped bothering to say how they felt. They kept their anger and unhappiness to themselves. It may be that one day they couldn't hold it in any more and one little thing sparked off a tirade of complaints about many different things. But their reaction to the small provocation seemed so extreme that their spouse didn't take it seriously; so they vowed not to show their feelings again. So all the bad feelings are stored inside, and they prevent a close relationship developing.
The author says another thing that can happen is that because one person's opinions aren't being expressed, the other person has no choice but to do everything for the marriage their own way. Then one day, the one who's given up talking about their feelings thinks they just don't like the other one any more because they're just so controlling, insisting on doing everything their way. They think that they themselves have lost their own identity in the marriage and they're not sure they even want to be married any more.
The author says that people who feel like this should understand the part they played in making their spouse the person they are. If they never object when their spouse is controlling and bossy, it's as if they give them permission to be like that. But divorce doesn't have to be the answer. Being more assertive, being more forthcoming about opinions on important issues will allow a person to take more control of their life.
But she says something that can cause just as many problems is the opposite behaviour, where one partner tells the other about every little thing they're annoyed about, as if, for example, they think arriving ten minutes late from work is equally as serious as flirting with a neighbour. Being that critical and intolerant is yet again a way to ruin a marriage. It's likely to lead to constant arguments, and anger on both sides. And when people are angry, again, they're not going to be in the mood for sex or emotional closeness. So it can help if people decide what's worth mentioning and what isn't sufficiently serious before raising the issue and risking an argument.
She recommends that people resolve to take a new approach, and ask themselves, "Of all the things upsetting me, what are the top one or two that will have to change for me to feel closer to my marriage partner?"
She says that when people have worked out which issues they are, they should think through exactly what would have to change for them to feel better. If they can outline a course of action they would like their spouse to take, they should contemplate how they could tell them about it in a way that sounds practical and appealing, rather than complaining about what they're not doing. Then, they could tell their spouse they want a serious talk with them and discuss with them how they'd like things to change.
Being willing to discuss opinions and feelings in this way should boost the confidence of the one doing it. And if they notice it's improving their marriage, they should keep doing it.
The author tells the story of a couple who came to her when they were on the brink of divorce. The wife had wanted to move back to where she'd lived as a child, and they separated while the husband sold their house. It was quite a while before it sold. During the separation, he discovered he liked being free again, working long hours, not having to be responsible for anyone but himself, doing what he liked. He began to wonder whether he really wanted to stay in his marriage and went to see a therapist.
His therapist helped him to feel that he'd lost his identity in his marriage. He'd grown up in a family that was in constant conflict and wanted his marriage to be different. But he'd been so wary of conflict that he didn't speak up for himself at all. And as he began to feel in therapy that his wife was too controlling, always doing things her way whatever he wanted, he began to feel more and more resentful towards her. When they met up during the months he was waiting for the house to be sold, he didn't want to even talk to her let alone be physically intimate.
He felt like divorcing her, but decided to give his marriage one more try for the sake of his little son whom he loved. He and his wife came for therapy with the author, and the husband said he'd fallen out of love with his wife, complaining that she always wanted to control things and not give him a say in what they did.
The wife tearfully protested that she'd like to give him a say, but when she asked him for his opinion, even in little things like whether to get a takeaway meal, he would always just say he'd go with whatever she wanted. She said she'd been begging him to express his opinions more for years, but he never did. So she had to be in charge of everything. She said she'd like it if he expressed more of his opinions. She wouldn't be angry with him. She'd be willing to have disagreements with him.
The author recommended they have a go at behaving more like that, and that they made efforts to notice everything they liked about their marriage. She warned the husband he might find it difficult breaking free from a long-held habit of not expressing his views, but said that for the sake of everyone in the family, it was very important that he tried.
Several weeks later, they came back, looking a lot happier. The wife had found somewhere for them to live and they'd moved back in together. The husband said he'd expressed views that ran contrary to hers on several occasions. For instance, he'd objected to things she'd said to him. Instead of getting angry or upset, as he feared she would, she thanked him for his honesty. She said she liked him being more open and honest about things. He was surprised by that, but he liked it. He was relieved that he didn't feel he had to hide his feelings and go along with whatever she wanted any more. He felt it gave him a sense of freedom and took a burden away from him. They both liked each other more than they had before, so that was a definite step in healing their marriage.
The author says that for anyone who's been pretending to be happy and hasn't really been themselves, just going along with things, expressing more views might be good for the marriage.
But she says that sometimes, people talk and talk, but their husband or wife just isn't listening. So she recommends that in situations like that, people think of other ways of getting through to them.
The author says that even in marriages that are going badly, there will be times when things go better. That will mean the couple is doing something differently then. It won't just be a fluke. Even if they have to think about it before they can work out what they're doing differently, they should be able to work it out, even if it takes time, because they will be doing something differently at those times. So once they've worked out what they do differently at the times when there are less problems, they can make a deliberate effort to do those things more often.
For instance, she says a woman came to her in therapy who had found she was distancing herself from her husband and tended to be resentful towards him. He would go away on business for long periods at a time, and when he was home, they just seemed to argue. The woman said she didn't think they ever had enough time to catch up on each other's news and become closer. She didn't feel like having sex with him in circumstances like that.
The author asked her whether there were times when her husband went away but it didn't seem to damage their relationship so much.
The woman thought about it for a while, and then she said that things were better when her husband phoned her at least once a day when he was gone. It made her feel closer to him because it made her feel as if he was thinking of her. So when he came home, she wasn't so angry.
The author says the solution to the problem was obvious from there. If her husband phoned her once a day, perhaps late in the evening to say goodnight, she'd start missing him instead of resenting him for staying away and not keeping in touch, so relations between them would be better when he came home each time.
She says another woman came to her in therapy, saying that serious conversations between her and her husband always either went very well, or they led to ferocious arguments. No in between. She couldn't work out what made them more likely to go one way than the other.
But during discussion of them in therapy, she realised that whenever they went well, it was when she told her husband she'd like to talk and left him to decide when the conversation would be. The times when they went very badly were times when she bullied him into talking when she felt like talking herself.
The author recommends that people work out what makes things go better in their own marriages, by thinking over the times when things have gone better, and working out what happens differently at those times, and then doing more of it. If it helps, they can think in turn about what they themselves do differently, what their spouse does differently, and about what they do differently as a couple.
She says that some people don't think it's fair that they should be the one to change their behaviour first, since they think their spouse has created most of the problems. Or they don't feel like changing, because they don't feel very loving towards their partner. But she says that once one partner begins to change, the other one will as well. So then relations will improve. She says some people don't believe that it's possible that simply changing their behaviour could cause the other partner to change. But she says that she asks such people in therapy to imagine that things were going really well between them and their spouse, and then for some reason they wanted to ruin the day by annoying their spouse. She asks them if they know what they would have to do, and they always chuckle when they think about it and say they do. So she says that just as it's possible to influence a partner negatively, it's possible to influence them positively. She gives some ideas on how that can be done later.
And she says to people who don't feel in the mood to do anything nicer for their spouses that research has clearly shown that the quickest way for a person to change how they feel about something is to take an action. So instead of sitting around waiting to feel more like reconciling with their spouse, doing something nice will make them feel more positive and more in the mood to reconcile.
For instance, she says that many couples say they feel better when they spend time together. If they've been arguing and feeling resentful towards each other, they might not feel like being together. But avoiding each other can make things worse, because the more they avoid each other, the more distant they'll feel from each other. But if they ignore their feelings, motivate themselves to be together and do some things together that they both usually enjoy doing, the feelings of enjoyment and greater friendliness between them will probably make them feel better about each other.
So she suggests that people think more about what makes things run more smoothly in their marriage during the times when things aren't so bad, and do more of it.
The author says that since conflict is bound to happen from time to time in every decent marriage, a skill that everyone needs is being able to make up and forgive. She says that some people hold grudges for years and years, and whenever their spouse does a little thing wrong, it opens the floodgates and they pour forth a whole river of accusations that have nothing to do with the current offence. She says that in all her years as a marriage therapist, she's found that holding grudges is one of the most effective ways of squelching sexual desire there is.
She says that sometimes, getting over the pain of something especially upsetting, such as having had trust betrayed by a partner's affair, can be difficult, and it might take a bit of outside help to get to the stage where one is willing to move on and become intimate again.
She says that sometimes, sex might be boring or not pleasurable because partners don't know how to turn each other on much, so one of them may well stop wanting sex. She says people assume that sex comes naturally to people; but while the sexual urge does, people have to learn how to have good sex as they go. She says that unfortunately, because people often don't realise this, when they don't want sex, they think something must be wrong with their relationship or health.
She recommends that before people get too worried about problems with sexual desire, they read a book or two about how to enjoy sex.
She says that some people aren't interested in sex because their partner doesn't touch them or kiss them in a way that turns them on. But that won't necessarily be the partner's fault, since they might not know what to do for the best either. She says people who don't find their partner's sexual technique particularly exciting should learn to instruct their partner on what to do that will turn them on. But she says that when she asks people in therapy what their spouse would have to do to turn them on, they don't know. She recommends that people experiment with different things till they find something they really enjoy. She says if masturbating will help them learn more about the way their own bodies work and the way they like being touched best, they should do that. Or she says people can get ideas from sexy books. Or sex toys like vibrators can help.
She says different people can prefer to be touched in different ways, gently or with more pressure, and with fast or slow movements, or all of those things, depending on whereabouts on the body their spouse is doing it and when. Experimenting with different positions can also sometimes help.
She recommends that people read as much as they can about the different ways people like to make love, and then experiment with different ways of doing things. She says if they're not enthusiastic about the first few things they try, they should keep trying new things till they find something they enjoy. Then, they should make sure their spouse knows how much they enjoy it so they can do it more often. She recommends people find several different ways of having sex that they'll enjoy, so it'll stay interesting.
She says a man once told her in therapy that he was disturbed because he didn't seem to be turning his wife on sometimes, because although she had an orgasm when he stimulated her clitoris by hand, she didn't have an orgasm when he had intercourse with her. His wife had assured him that she still enjoyed sex with him even though she didn't have an orgasm at the same time as him. He felt like an inadequate lover, and that made him feel bad; but When he understood that she still enjoyed sex with him but in order to come during intercourse she just needed more direct stimulation of her clitoris, he felt much better and their sex life improved.
The author says one important thing to bear in mind is that something that excites a person at one time might become less exciting as time goes on, and other things might seem more exciting instead. So she advises people never to give up looking for new things to make sex enjoyable when one thing begins to seem less interesting. And as always, they should tell their marriage partner about the new thing that's turning them on. She says it's important to discuss these things together so people can do what's best for each other.
She says it's a common experience for couples to begin to find sex boring after they've been married for some time, because it becomes routine. So things that used to be stimulating don't have the same effect, so people can be less likely to reach orgasm. But interest in sex can be revived when new things are tried. New things can seem exciting. She says both partners have a responsibility to dream up or discover new things to do, not just the one who wants more sex.
She says there was a woman who came to her in therapy who wasn't interested in sex but decided to do something to change that. She read several books on sex, and discovered that women have what's called a G spot, and when it's stimulated, they can have strong orgasms. She hadn't known this before. She resolved to find her G spot and let her husband know about it. Their sex life improved after that.
The author says she's amazed by how many couples are embarrassed, ashamed or even scared to talk about sex with each other, even after years and years of marriage. She says it can really help if couples get over that and talk about what they want out of sex, their likes and dislikes with each other. She says when people start talking, misunderstandings get resolved and goodwill can come back into the sexual relationship. She says it's especially effective at boosting sexual desire if the two of them commit to learning together about how to make their sex life with each other more enjoyable. One thing that can help a lot is if they read and discuss books on how to make sex more enjoyable together.
She says men and women often have different styles of becoming close. She says that though not everyone's the same, for many, women like to become emotionally close before they really feel turned on to sex, by talking with their husbands about issues that mean a lot to them. They like to feel they've been paid a lot of attention so they feel important before they get really interested in sex. Sometimes, their sexual desire can fluctuate according to how much their husbands are willing to engage in conversation with them that makes them feel valued.
She says that men are often the opposite, preferring to get close by doing something rather than by talking. This might mean leisure activities with friends; but what really makes them begin to feel close to their wife is having sex with her, or being touched, kissed or petted by her. After that, they tend to be more willing to talk with their wife as she wants.
She says it's unfortunate that people don't understand this, so the husband will often wait around for the wife to become more sexual with him before he feels like getting closer to her emotionally. But because he isn't getting close to her emotionally the way she wants, his wife isn't responsive to his sexual advances. So he can become less communicative, watching television instead of being with her, becoming less caring, not bothering with the children, and emotionally distant.
But because he isn't talking to her, she feels even less like having sex with him. So she can become depressed and resentful and less inclined to make efforts to look attractive. She might cry and eat too much or too little. She might lose sleep and even have panic attacks. She might nag and criticize. And she can stop feeling like having sex altogether.
The author says things can get better if each one in the couple comes to understand why the other could be behaving in the way they are, and they start making efforts to meet each other's needs regardless of how they feel at first. Or it can move the relationship on if one starts first.
She says that women she's told about this say they can't understand why their husband would be interested in sex when they're not close emotionally. She says that many women probably think it's because sex is just like a purely physical release for men with no emotional component at all, just a bodily function. She says many women assume sex is like that for men, but actually, men do attach emotional significance to sex a lot of the time. She says that though it can be a mere physical release sometimes for men (and also women), men often value it as much more than that. She says men in therapy have told her that when they have sex with their wives, it makes them feel loved, accepted, appreciated and cared for. They can feel the need for physical expressions of love in order to feel loved. They can allow themselves to feel tender emotions that usually hide just below the surface. Their wives' touches, caresses and kisses can give them a feeling of emotional connectedness and vulnerability that gives them a boosted feeling of love for their wives.
She says that when their wives don't want sex, men can lose their confidence and feel less manly. They often feel that they themselves are being rejected by their wives, rather than just sex, and they feel hurt by that. They can feel ashamed because they can feel that they aren't good at satisfying their wives sexually. Women can assume that men are only really interested in getting satisfied themselves during sex, but it's often important to men that they feel they're satisfying their wife.
She says one reason women continue to misunderstand men's attitudes to sex is that men often don't tell them how they really feel about it, because they see letting others know about their feelings of inadequacy, vulnerability, insecurity and other feelings as a sign of weakness. Their hurt turns into anger. And men's anger is one of the major reasons women want even less sex with them!
But the author advises women that it may be that if their husbands are being angry, nasty or unusually critical, it might really be a sign that they're feeling hurt. She says it certainly isn't an excuse to behave like that, and they should learn healthier and more useful ways of expressing their feelings, but in the meantime, women can test out the idea that behind the way their husbands are behaving is actually a strong need for both physical and emotional closeness with them. Their husbands may be behaving angrily because it protects them from feeling hurt. So women can see if a more sexual approach soothes their husbands.
She says that sometimes, it can be the other way around, with the man being put off sex by the constant nagging, criticism and ridicule of his wife. She says men long for the approval and appreciation of their wives. It can build their self-esteem and confidence. But when instead they get nagged and condemned all the time, it can put them off sex with them and make them withdraw emotionally. But she counsels men in this situation that their wives might be behaving like that because they're so unhappy, not understanding why their husbands don't want to touch them, make love to them or be physically close. It can be especially upsetting for women because the cultural expectation is that men will always want sex.
So she advises men that even if they're feeling hen-pecked, nagged, belittled or misunderstood, they have a go at rising above the feelings of resentment and frustration it's bound to have caused them, and be more physically loving towards their wives. She says that the nagging and criticism might have been their wives' idea of a good talk, an attempt to get their husbands to do what they want, and behind their nastiness, there might be hurt and a longing for physical closeness.
She says that lack of physical responsiveness from men can damage their wives' self-esteem, pride and sense of femininity. When their wives seem at their worst, having temper tantrums, it may be that they just don't know how to get through to their husbands and they're upset, because they want to touch them and be touched and loved physically. She asks men to try to stop being defensive or distancing themselves from their wives, but to try to see the hurt their wives are feeling and meet it with compassion, which may well improve relations in the marriage and bring closeness back into it.
The author says that it's important to look to the future and plan what changes to make in the marriage to bring more closeness into it and improve the sexual relationship. She suggests some questions people can ask themselves to help them begin to plan and clarify in their minds what needs to change, and suggests they write down the answers to remind themselves later:
She tells the story of a couple who made a lot of progress in solving their sexual relationship problems once they'd clarified in their minds what they actually wanted from each other.
She says the husband preferred having sex in the morning, every morning, but his wife preferred having sex in the evenings, though not every evening. He would tease her about how he had to ask at the precise time of the week she was interested, otherwise she wouldn't be.
The wife said she wasn't fully awake in the mornings so sex wasn't any fun for her. Their arguments about the timing of when they had sex led to bad relations between them and they had even less sex, and it was less satisfying when they did have it.
The author asked them in therapy what they would each like to change. They both jokingly said they'd like to change the other one. But then the wife said she wanted her husband to understand that she wasn't making excuses; she really was less sexually aroused in the mornings; so she'd like him to stop pestering her. The husband said he'd like his wife to be more adventurous like she used to be and less rigid.
That was a start, but it didn't give either of them real information about what they could do differently.
The author reassured them that their sexual preferences were typical: It's normal for men to want sex in the mornings because that's when their testosterone levels peak; but it's normal for women to prefer sex in the evening, because their testosterone levels are at their highest then.
Then the author asked each of them a question to help them move forward.
She asked the wife what her husband would be doing differently when he became more understanding about her sexual needs.
The wife said he'd stop teasing her about having to get the time of the week exactly right before she'd have sex with him, because she wasn't that bad. She said that actually, she would be willing to have sex with him in the morning sometimes if he stopped belittling her. But it would be nice if he would stay up a bit later at night sometimes so they could have sex when she wanted it, and go to bed at the same time as her, since she liked that.
That was an improvement on what she'd said before, that she wanted him to be more understanding and to know she wasn't making excuses. That didn't give him any real ideas on how he could go about improving things. But now he had some ideas about what he could do differently to improve matters.
The author asked the husband a question to find out more about what he meant about his wife not being so rigid and adventurous, so his wife could also have some clear direction about what it was exactly that he'd like her to do differently so things would improve. She asked what his wife would be doing differently when she became less rigid, more adventurous and responsive to his feelings.
He said it would be nice if she could have a cup of coffee to wake herself up in the mornings sometimes, not every day but maybe once or twice a week, so they could have sex then, or even just be together then. He also said that in the old days, she had regularly suggested sensual things like dressing up and trying new positions, and he missed that.
Now, his wife had a clear idea of what he would like her to do differently. Instead of just accusing her of being rigid and inflexible and not adventurous enough, which didn't give her any idea of what he really wanted, he was giving her some clear ideas on what she could do that would make him happier.
The two of them then became more hopeful that they could resolve their differences and become more happily married again.
The author suggests people follow the couple's example in being specific about what they'd like to happen.
The author suggests that if people really don't feel in the mood for sex, and it's understandable that sometimes they just won't, they can offer an alternative. For instance, they could say they'd be willing to have sex after they've relaxed and maybe had a bit of a doze for a while, or suggest that they get romantic together once the children are asleep. And so on.
She says they ought to try to be enticing about what they're offering as an alternative, since their spouse's feelings will probably be hurt by an offer that sounds reluctant, since they can feel rejected and think it's a rejection of them personally, not sex in itself. So people should try to be loving in what they say. Then their partner is more likely to be understanding of their wishes.
She says people can also offer sexual alternatives to sexual intercourse if they're really not in the mood, things they can do for their partner that won't tire them out as much as sex will. So perhaps they could sometimes offer oral sex or offer to stimulate their partner by hand, explaining that they're tired, but because they love their partner, they still want to please them, but they'd like to do it in a way they'll find less draining. Obviously, they shouldn't do it simply because they feel obligated to or if they feel resentful, or their hurtful attitude will weigh far more with their spouse than the fact that they offered to do something sexual.
She suggests people ask their partners what they'd prefer, and then do it for them. That's provided, of course, that it isn't something they dislike doing. People shouldn't force themselves to do anything they find unpleasant. She just suggests they try to be more considerate of their partner's sexual needs.
Note that if you choose to try out some or all of the recovery techniques described in this article, they may take practice before they begin to work.
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Feel free to add this article to your favourites or save it to your computer. If you know of anyone you think might benefit by reading any of the self-help articles in this series, whether they be a friend, family member, work colleagues, help groups, patients or whoever, please recommend them to them or share the file with them, or especially if they don't have access to the Internet or a computer, feel free to print any of them out for them, or particular sections. You're welcome to distribute as many copies as you like, provided it's for non-commercial purposes.
This includes links to articles on depression, phobias and other anxiety problems, marriage difficulties, addiction, anorexia, looking after someone with dementia, coping with unemployment, school and workplace bullying, and several other things.
The articles are not meant to convey the impression that they're giving personal advice to you. They are meant to be taken as they are represented - someone's thoughts on how they might solve their problems, based on the self-help books and articles they have come across.
The author has a qualification endorsed by the Institute of Psychiatry and has led a group for people recovering from anxiety disorders and done other such things; yet she is not an expert on people's problems, and has simply taken information from books and articles that do come from people more expert in the field.
There is no guarantee that the solutions the people in the articles hope will help them will work for everybody, and you should consider yourself the best judge of whether to follow their example in trying them out.
Go back to the contents at the beginning.
If after reading the article, you fancy a bit of light relief, visit the pages in our jokes section. Here's a short one for samples: Amusing Signs.
(Note: At the bottom of the jokes pages there are links to material with Christian content. If you feel this will offend you, you're advised not to go there.)
To the People's Concerns Page which features audio interviews on various life problems. There are also links with the interviews to places where you can find support and information about related issues.