An intimate relationship is not without its problems; follow the fortunes of Sean and Tricia to see how they cope with their relationship challenges; especially in the bedroom and beyond. These two short films explore the issues of communication, sex and the “other woman”. Produced by Better Blends Relationship Institute, Ultimate Prestige and Fresh Productions, these films were shot on location in beautiful Barbados.
Follow the links to watch and please feel free to comment
Let’s picture it. You come in from work feeling a bit tensed and tired. You undress and pop into the shower for a long steamy bath. You step out to dress hoping to unwind to a wonderful movie, magazine or book; you know, some good old me time. Then you sense it. You’re being watched by a pair of hungry eyes but really, the last thing on your mind is making love. So you look for that long snugly tee shirt, make sure you put on a pair of unsexy undies, hall out your dog-eared novel and pretend that you didn’t read those heated signals.
Let’s change the scenario. You and your spouse have not connected in a while and you have a bit of an itch which needs to be scratched. So you spend some extra time in the shower that night. You put on some of that new scented stuff you bought recently and pull out a little sexy number you haven’t slept in for a while. The kids are all tucked in and you give your man that sexy come hither look. He doesn’t need a second invitation but promises to be in, as soon as he completes that urgent, need-to-be-delivered-in-the-morning project on his computer. What begins as a bearable half hour wait begins to feel like two hours. By the time he turns in, your mood is gone and you’re half asleep and angry at the same time.
What each of these scenarios reflects is the reality of mismatched timing and differences in desire; clearly a part of any marriage relationship. What should the response be when our spouse wants to get his groove on but we’re clearly not in the mood? What happens when the tables are turned and our amorous advances aren’t exactly met with immediate enthusiasm? The fact is that in a relationship, our sexual expectations will not always be met. Of course we have a number of response options to choose from when this happens; these responses include sulking, anger, withdrawal or understanding. Getting to a place of understanding may not, however, be always easy since we tend to link our sense of worth, acceptance and attractiveness to our sexual desirability. And the truth is that we don’t usually handle sexual rejection or insensitivity very well. We often take it very personally and if it occurs frequently, we can begin to wonder if our partner is cheating on us or no longer finds us attractive. These notions in our head, real or imagined, can introduce much tension into the relationship.
While unresolved issues, buried anger, hidden affairs, relationship neglect and a failure to communicate will most certainly be felt all the way in the bedroom, quite often, desire differences can be a consequence of other factors. Reaching a place of understanding when these differences occur will be critical to our ability to move our relationship forward. The following reflects some of the common reasons why we may not always connect sexually with our spouse.
1. Contrary to popular opinion, most men are not always sexual ever-ready batteries. Work-stress, financial difficulties and even testosterone levels can all affect a man’s desire for sex. Male depression can often be masked and because men are usually not raised to be emotionally expressive, they bury their feelings and can act out by sexually rejecting their spouse.
2. The female hormonal cycle plays a big part in a woman’s desire for sex. As nature would have it, a woman is horniest when she is most likely to get pregnant; which is usually mid-cycle. Outside of this, her desire for sex will fluctuate but can be positively influenced by her partner’s sensitivity to her emotional needs, the overall quality of their relationship and by how she feels about her sexual self.
3. Our misreading of signals on the sexual radar can also contribute to bedroom misses. Our tiredness or preoccupation with work issues can cause us to miss heated looks. A simple request for a back rub or neck massage, can be veiled expressions of sexual desire which men especially miss because many want direct hits like crotch-grabbing, which most of us women are not inclined to give. A simple request by a woman to talk, can also be a roundabout invitation to pleasure-land, since most of us want to also experience a strong emotional connection. Many men who dread communicating with their women, miss the opportunity to turn talk into great sex.
4. In the general scheme of things where meeting our partner’s sexual needs is concerned, selfishness is perhaps the greatest enemy. Being tuned in only to our own needs and concerns means that we care very little about our partner’s. So focusing on our tiredness, our bad day, our feelings, our sex drive or lack thereof, will cause us to deliberately ignore or see as unimportant, the body language of our partner which is screaming at us “make love to me”.
Ultimately, understanding why our sexual groove with our partner may be out of sync, is the first step in attempting to make it right. Carving out time to relax and reconnect in a non-pressured environment, is a great way to get our sexual groove back. Scheduling dates for sex also ensures that at least in those times, we and our partner are on the same page. Of course I am not suggesting that our sexual desires will always match our partner’s or vice versa. Knowing, however, that we each need to move away from an overt focus on ourselves is the first step in attempting to satisfy each other sexually. While a relationship is about a whole lot more than sex, prioritizing sexual intimacy, signals that both you and your partner understand what makes this relationship exclusive and distinct from all others and indicates your willingness to work at it.
Some of us are fortunate to have made good relationship choices. As a result, we find ourselves with a fairly amenable well-adjusted partner, with whom life is fairly comfortable. Others of us, for whatever reason, may have found ourselves drawn to a stubborn individual who just likes to do things his or her way. All things being equal, although there may be some underlying good qualities which we see, we, nonetheless, recognize that our partner has some serious control issues. A control freak tends to bully his or her way through a relationship. While this article is not meant to dissect the psychology of such a person, it does acknowledge underlying issues like insecurity and fear which feed the behavior of controllers.
Now I know this may be a volatile topic in some quarters because behavior which is overtly controlling can border on abuse or may be outright abusive and even dangerous. If an individual feels physically or psychologically threatened, is physically hurt or is unable to function normally as a result of spousal control, then this is a serious red flag which indicates a need for intervention. In no way should we tolerate or trivialize such behaviour.
For others, the experience of control, while undesirable, may be livable. It may be seen as just a personality quirk of our spouse which we have resigned ourselves to living with. When this is the case, what are we expected to do when we witness such behavior spilling over into the bedroom? When our partner loves to control everything, how exactly does this pan out between the sheets? And how exactly does a controller behave in the sex department? Here are a few likely traits which are applicable to either male or female:
Usually wants sex on demand
Seeks to manipulate in the area of sexual preferences including positions, use of sex toys, and the like
Will only experiment with what they are comfortable with or will seek to re-work a “pet” fantasy
Expects partner to fulfill every sexual wish or fantasy; regardless of how uncomfortable the partner might feel
Pouts and sulks when sexually dissatisfied
Is insensitive to spouse’s likes or dislikes when they differ from controller’s preferences or knowledge base
Uses sex to express dominance and control
Lacks empathy and does not listen to or embrace spouse’s point of view on sexual matters
Will try all the moves learnt on previous partners, while ignoring spouse’s individuality
Will repeatedly do or say what they “know” will turn partner on, even if he/she says otherwise; for example, a husband who repeatedly lunges at his wife’s breasts from the get-go because he “knows” that all women find this arousing
While these examples are not exhaustive by any means, our response to such behaviour is likely to be influenced by our own personality. Are we shy and retiring, a go-getter, a cussing confrontationist, a manipulator or a wise negotiator? Then there is our sexual style which also influences what we want in bed, what we like and how we like it. These factors together are likely to have an impact on what we do in such a relationship.
Those of us with submissive personalities or with submissive sexual tastes will likely enjoy our spouse’s role as a controller. We may derive a sexual thrill from giving in or in being dominated. Where this becomes problematic is where we always sacrifice who we are or what we prefer for the sake of giving in to our partner. This will be a challenging habit to break, especially if we derive our sexual energy and identity from playing such a role. On the other hand, as we mature and our sexual needs change, we may still find ourselves stuck in a rut with behaviour that no longer meets our current sexual needs but is perpetuated because it has become the norm.
This individual understands the power of sex and uses it as a weapon to respond to the controlling partner. This is done by either withholding sex or by simply going through the motions when making love (you know like reading a magazine or writing the shopping list while he’s having a go at it) Because the passive/aggressive does not have the nerve to vocalize his/her concerns about this aspect of the relationship, anger is channeled through the sex act itself. While this behaviour can cause the passive-aggressor to feel in control, they are in essence copping out and robbing themselves of the possibility of a great sex life.
This partner is attempting to hold on to who they are for dear life. While there may be a deep love for the controlling spouse, there is also a deep resentment for the power balance. The result is a fair dose of overt aggression as this partner seeks to assert who she is in the bedroom by countering with her own set of sexual demands. While this may be hard for some men to swallow, there is, for example an entire group of men who LOVE to receive oral sex but who are indifferent about giving it. While assertiveness is great and should be commended, if both partners remain locked into an “I want” mode, then this becomes counter-productive. This stance in fact fuels a lack of sexual fulfillment, as neither partner becomes sold on the idea of “giving” as an integral part of the sex act.
The negotiator understands very well that she has something which her partner wants; and she intends to give him. While she may love sex, however, she is unwilling to sacrifice her sense of who she is without active dialogue and the pursuit of a better relationship. At the same time, she understands that life is seldom ideal and that in relationships, we do not always get everything we want, when we want it. So she’s fairly realistic and does not expect relationship perfection; she is willing to bide her time.
Where she differs from the fighter, is that while she is willing to vocalize her own desires, she is also still interested in pleasing her partner sexually. She tries not to use sex in a “tit-for-tat” style but attempts to break down her partner’s defenses with the type of lovemaking he will never forget. (Guys could well learn from this negotiation style that they can have sensational sex, by themselves being sensational lovers). This is done in the hopes that if her husband is sexually fulfilled, he would be willing to meet her own needs; both sexual and emotional. Like any act of negotiation, there is however a tremendous risk involved as there are no guarantees. Issues like a mismatched sex drive and differences in bedroom preferences are not easily resolved and require a mature approach from both partners and a willingness to compromise.
While admittedly, a controller is who he/she is because of an inherent unwillingness to compromise, we also acknowledge that no individual is hopeless and outside the scope for change. If beneath that desire to control there is any real love and respect for the offended partner, then loving, but firm, non-aggressive confrontation will be needed to move the relationship forward. Withholding sex is a knee-jerk response and the partner who seems more mature, must be willing to model what it means to really give in a sexual relationship without sacrificing their sense of individuality or personal dignity; a delicate balancing act I admit.
I’ve been reading “Who Should You Have Sex With” by Dr. Mark Thompson and have not been terribly surprised by his very masculine take on sexual chemistry. After all, men tend to be very logical and precise in their view of reality. He believes that where sex is concerned, like should always match like. This view mirrors the notion espoused today, that great sex, the chandelier-swinging variety, occurs best in a context where a husband and wife are on the same sexual page.
The idea that a couple needs to be sexually compatible to enjoy a good roll in the hay is not ground-breaking science. And at surface level it seems to make perfect sense. This notion in fact mirrors how we pursue many of our other relationships. From school-days we tend to hang out with those who have similar interests to us. When we enter the world of work this practice tends to continue and we seem to find great comfort in existing in this safety-zone where our points of view and daily practices are not challenged because our close cohorts share them with us. When it comes to our romantic and sexual interests, we understandably apply the same principles. We apparently look for a sexual partner who seems to have similar tastes, values and sexual experiences, even when we are not aware of it.
While this may appear like the safe route, the reality is that sex and our sexuality does not occur in a vacuum. How we experience sex and what we expect of it are heavily influenced by how we were raised, and what we were told about sex. This does not however mean that our sexual style or preferences will remain unchanged. Sex and our sexuality are not static. Our individual sexual tastes can take on a life of their own because they can reflect new sexual information and desires to which we have become exposed. How can a couple then ensure that their sex-life does not suffer because of marked differences in tastes and approach?
I think it is first necessary for a couple to begin on some common ground. Presuming that both parties at least like sex, then, all things being equal, no difference should be so insurmountable as to be the cause of divorce. Perhaps we should examine some of the critical areas where sexual differences could pose a bit of a problem. Because such differences can occur across sexes and are not limited to male or female, we will simply look at them as differences exhibited by Partner A and Partner B.
-Prefers morning sex
-Likes long, slow, leisurely love-making sessions
-Is quite happy with the same-old, same-old
-Sees no need to be a sexual gymnast
-Likes to keep it quiet; mum’s the word, is embarrassed at the possibility of being heard
-Expects partner to know intuitively what to do
-Makes love with eyes tightly closed
-The sexual climax is the goal of love-making
– Enjoys sex, but can go for long periods without it
-Views sex as good and necessary, even if a bit over-rated
-Expects some good loving at night
-Prefers it hot, passionate and quick
-Likes to try the newest tricks
-Abhors the missionary position
-Likes to keep a running conversation going; lots of “ooohs” and “ahs” and perhaps even shouting
-Is not afraid to voice wants and desires
-Likes to see what’s actually going on
-The sexual climax is the goal as well as the fun involved in getting there
-Wants lots of sex, as in several times a week
-Sex is like oxygen; can’t imagine life without it
Although this list is by no means exhaustive, it provides a reasonable example of several of the popular differences which can affect a relationship. These sexual preferences actually reveal a particular sexual personality. Partner A, for example, seems to be far less sexually adventurous than Partner B. The sexual risk-taker (Partner B), or the one willing to experiment, is likely to be reflective of a particular general personality-type which actually spills over into the sex-life. The same might be true of the more conservative Partner A. He/she is likely to be less of a risk-taker and this again is reflected in how sex is negotiated.
Although these are commonly the areas examined when we think of sexual compatibility, are these differences insurmountable deal-breakers? Of course not! At least they shouldn’t be. One of the hallmarks of a successful relationship must be the issue of compromise or flexibility and what better way to test this than in the area of sex. If love is really about putting the needs of another before our own, then surface issues like preferred sexual positions, sexual-pace and the time-of-day for love-making should not be allowed to determine our “compatibility” as couples. The give-and-take of the relationship should take precedence over one individual’s preferred sexual-style. This means that both partner A and B must be willing to give in a little to the needs of the other. At the same time, a willingness to change, to grow and explore the unfamiliar, is a hallmark of individual maturity and should be a goal of both parties. It’s really all about how much the relationship is valued by both individuals.
That having been said, the reality of relationships is seldom as straightforward as we would like. Very often we find selfish, unmotivated, unwilling-to-change individuals who believe that “their way” is the only right way. This attitude is one of the real culprits which can truly foster a sense of “incompatibility” and undermine the success of a sexual relationship. Coupled with this might be significant philosophical differences or differences in values which could affect how the sexual relationship pans out. These real deal-breakers which can affect sex would be issues like sexual exclusivity, boundary-setting with the opposite sex, honesty and openness, views on emotional intimacy and general relationship integrity. These are the real serious issues which need to be discussed and ironed out long before the marriage and the sex begins.
If we are looking keenly for a relationship which will bring us a level of satisfaction, then our radars must be up and running from the earliest stages. We should listen for and interpret all the cues which just might be reflective of the type of partner we are likely to have in our beds. These seven questions should guide this process.
– Is my partner willing to listen to another point of view?
– Is my partner ever willing to try new experiences?
– Does my partner set clear boundaries with other women/men?
– Can my partner be trusted?
– Is my partner selfish or self-focussed?
– Is my partner in the habit of expressing his/her needs?
– Does my partner ever put my needs before his/her own?
If the relationship or marriage is already well on its way, then hopefully the responses to these questions will provide the scope for a fresh new dialogue between the couple who really want to make things work. Sexual compatibility is really not about similarity in technique or experience. It’s really about finding a common-ground and belief-system from which your couple-sexuality can be explored to the hilt.