I recently attended a professional coaching seminar offered by Tracy Heyland. One of Tracy’s main points was that when our values are in conflict with our goals, we procrastinate. She illustrated how we can reframe our experiences to shape the way we feel about circumstances, and I, of course, began applying the principles to the topic of sex.
The dialogue went something like this: one participant spoke about how she seemed unable to finish her doctoral thesis, despite the fact that she had finished her Master’s and other degrees without incident. She said that each time she approached the successful completion of the work, she stalled. The speaker asked her about her core values, which were independence, generosity, and free will, and their opposites – obligation, insincerity and duty.
Further questioning led to the discovery that the woman felt that earning her PhD would commit her to a demanding position in which more people relied on her (probably true).
Tracy asked her to consider how she could use her value of generosity to overcome her resistance, which led to this: that even though others may impose their expectations, she derived great pleasure from her profession and was indeed personally hampered by her lack of credentials.
The issue was not with others’ expectations but with her reluctance to respond to those expectations – to act out of duty. She realized she need not sacrifice the joy she experienced in her work to avoid meeting the needs of others.
So what does this have to do with sex?
Many couples complain that sex has become duty, and has lost its joy. Women particularly chafe at duty sex, and men wither with performance anxiety, so both miss out on their own potential enjoyment.
What can we do to change this pattern?
The answer is simple: if we can view the potential for our own pleasure as rewarding regardless of the expectations of others, we can free ourselves to give generously and freely.
This does not apply if someone callously and selfishly demands sex, but if the problem rests with artless initiation skills and/or poor communication patterns (as is often the case), this fresh perspective can change the routine. Why do we withhold gifts when the recipient is eager? Are we demanding appreciation rather than revelling in the delight of simple giving? And really, how often have we half-heartedly attended some requisite function only to experience a fine time? Might we be able to enjoy ourselves regardless of the other person’s motivations?
I think we sometimes get lost in the routines of coupledom. Boredom or fatigue can suddenly seem malevolent. What I am suggesting is that we can free ourselves from the self-fulfilling prophecy of sub-standard sex by changing the way we approach the problem. The joy of giving is one way to reframe duty sex, but it may not work for those who are frustrated and angry at their partners. Duty sex can also be experienced as a naughty quickie – for some, a more enticing prospect. Whatever method of reframing works, use it. The important thing is to avoid losing touch with ourselves and our patners. Stop demanding that everything be perfect to venture forth sexually. Independence, generosity, and free will are worthy values regardless of the context.