The following letter came to me via my website. It reflects such a common issue that I’m sure it will resonate with many of you. Here’s your chance to ‘listen in’ and examine a sexual issue. Feel free to send me your own questions. Even if your letter doesn’t make the Hot Topics column, you will get a personal response.
Please Note: All identifying information in this, and all other, articles has been modified to preserve confidentiality. You can always count on this.
Dear Dr. Ren,
I am totally embarrassed by this question.
My wife and I have been married for 10 years. We are both relatively fit and able-bodied. The marriage is great and we have 2 wonderful children; it’s just that most of the time we only have time for quickies (dodging the kids) and I would rather use my penis. I can really only pleasure her orally or with different types of devices because my penis very small fully erect. The width of it, along with the length just isn’t enough, I guess, to me more personally than my wife. Although there is no problem with my erections, my wife gets no pleasure when I’m inserted. It would be great if I could finish the job with just my penis.
We have tried many different positions and have bought many books showing other sexual methods. I have never tried any product I see advertised. Is there really anything out there that enhances the penis?
Let me begin by assuring you that anything over about two inches in penis length is wasted as far as vaginas go. You see, women don’t have nerve endings except in the outer third of the vagina (it’s why we aren’t aware of tampons). The pleasurable sensations we experience from deep penetration are from pressure on the cervix, which can be accomplished quite well with fingers and dildos. I suspect your wife’s lack of pleasure is far more psychological than physical…we are sold such a bill of goods (women as well as men) regarding the ‘bigger is better’ myth.
You are correct that girth is more important than length. And your comment “to me more personally than my wife” reveals much insight, too. If she is dissatisfied, experiment with positions, toys, different touching techniques, etc, and above all, keep talking and listening. And try to believe her when she tells you she wouldn’t trade you in for anything in the world. As to wanting to “finish the job with just my penis”, you may be looking at an ego issue rather than a sexual issue…and that’s a good thing because you can control that. Please believe me when I tell you women are far more satisfied with a caring, attentive lover with a small dick than an insensitive lout with a big one.
I see from your letter that you are comfortable using toys (and, I presume, your hands), since there are many options that you can try, for example I went to this site online where I read a Fleshlight review and decide to give it a try. I suggest you continue to intersperse intercourse (which, again I’m presuming, YOU enjoy) with oral sex, penetration with dildos for that full feeling your wife likes, and digital manipulation.
As to your question about whether there is actually anything that will extend penis length, yes, there is, but they are imperfect. Check with your local sex store, or contact Good Vibrations. They carry a condom-like sheath that has an extension included, providing extra length. It might be just what you are looking for.
As for creams, lotions, etc…it’s all snake oil. There are penile extension surgeries, but they are very high risk and many men rue the day their egos convinced them to agree to them. There is also a technique (much less dangerous) in which the suspensory ligaments are severed so the penis hangs lower from the body, giving the effect of being longer. Problem? The suspensory ligaments anchor the organ…cut them, and you have no control of the penis, so you must hold it in place during sex or you keep missing your target while thrusting. What a bother.
The fact that you usually have time only for quickies is certainly as much of your problem as the size of your penis. My bet is that if you and your wife set aside time each week for nothing other than creating a safe and comfortable environment in which sex and intimacy can happen, you will both be far more satisfied. I do understand how ‘quickies’ become the norm in a busy household, but your letter cues me that this may well not be affording you what you are seeking. Have a look at my article ‘Mate Dates’, and call the babysitter.
I hope this helps. If you are enjoying a good marriage after ten years, you’re doing something right! Apparently, you and your wife are communicating and problem solving together. The enjoyment of sex is much more between our ears than between our legs. Still, I hear your anguish and hope that these suggestions will bring you some welcome relief from concern.
If you need more information, just ask.
– Originally published on WebOfCare.com
Men and boys have long enjoyed ejaculation as their exclusive domain. Popularly considered a bastion of male sexual expression (indeed, a benchmark of masculine sexual fulfillment, the visual exclamation point for ”successful” coupling, and an expression of fraternal competitiveness a la the circle jerk), ejaculation has been the symbolic differentiation between those of us who are done to, and those of us who do.
But now women are telling stories of their own ejaculatory experiences. In fact, they’re positively crowing about it, and rightly so. For years we have been complicit in denying our ability to experience the many forms of orgasm available to us. We have a long history of being told we needn’t worry our pretty little heads about things like sex. We’d be told what we needed to know.
And ‘told’ we were! The Victorians pronounced that women were innately uninterested in sex, an unfortunate legacy that still influences our attitudes and behaviours. Freud upended that theory, but proclaimed the clitoral orgasm ‘immature’. The sexual revolution of the Sixties won us permission to have more sex, but not necessarily better sex. In the last decade or so, there has been much learned about female orgasm, including ejaculation. Is this a sexual entitlement about which women are just now talking, or is it another hurdle in the sexual Olympics? Now must we grade our sexual performance with wet answers to the weighty question, “Was it good for you?” Can’t we just relax and have a good time? Must we be always striving to do it right? And who’s right, anyway?
Have those few women who fiercely claimed their full sexuality, regardless of whether or not they were messy and wet, discovered a sexual secret that could benefit scores of us? Many women, research suggests, sometimes feel the urge to urinate just as they are reaching orgasm, and instantly react by clamping down the PC muscles and forcing the liquid back into the bladder (the female counterpart of men’s retrograde ejaculation). This accomplished, they continue the experience of orgasm, with little loss of sensation. Sex completed, they rush to the bathroom to empty their very full bladders.
But those of us who do not hold back, who lean into the feeling and push against the delicious pressure, know the ecstasy of forcing that sexy fluid out into the world, of holding back nothing, of being big, and expansive, hot and wet, demanding to be noticed, insisting on being heard. These orgasms shriek independence and pleasure and carnal knowledge. Our husbands and boyfriends have long understood the focal significance of ejaculation. Now we learn that some of us have that power, too…heady stuff, this.
We’ve actually known about the G spot, named for Ernst Grafenberg, a German gynecologist and sex researcher, since the 1940s, but this information was largely ignored. In the early 1980s, another team of sexologists, Alice Kahn Lada, Beverly Whipple, and John D. Perry, published The G Spot, explaining the anatomy and physiology of the G Spot and how it produces fluid during orgasm in some women. We know that the size of the paraurethral glands (the G spot) varies greatly among individuals, as does the tone of the pubococcygeal (PC) muscle. It is when women with sufficiently large glands and well-toned PC muscles become highly aroused that the phenomenon of female ejaculation can be expected.
And it is for these women that this information is so welcome. As we have been reclaiming our sexual privileges, many of us have come to anticipate that rush of fluid that marks particularly powerful orgasms. Now that we understand that we are not ‘misbehaving’ (how quick we are to accept such censure), we are free to embrace the thrill of our bodies’ completion of this particular orgasmic script. Make no mistake about it: this orgasm is different from the others we experience. It is not like the fast hot vibrator-induced quickies that mark the beginning (or end) of our days, nor like the long, hard won climaxes when cunnilingus is done just right and long enough (“Ohmigod, whatever you do, don’t change anything now”), nor like the slow, delicious, sensuous climbing of a long evening with nothing to do but our lover. We each own an individual sexual script, and female ejaculation is just one more treat to add to the wondrous menu of sexual delights available.
This is all relatively new information. It is only in recent years that women have been talking about ejaculation, and indeed it is from within the lesbian community, where sensitive fingers have probed and encouraged unbridled sexual release, that the ‘secret’ has been shared among women. Dr. Perry still lectures about the phenomenon, as does Beverly Whipple, and Dr. Gary Schubach has produced research that proves we are not ‘peeing’ on our partners, but releasing a clear, odorless, and colourless liquid saturated with the chemicals of arousal and strikingly similar in makeup to males’ prostatic fluid. It has shared sources, in that some of it is released from the paraurethral glands, some from the bladder (in a chemically altered form of urine), and some from the Bartholin’s and Skeene’s glands that routinely produce vaginal lubrication. Doctors Schubach and Perry have each done independent research determining that the fluid is not urine, and there are still unsolved questions about just what it actually is. A hormone called aldosterone is produced when we are flushed with endorphins, as happens during sexual arousal. This hormone sets in motion a series of chemical changes in the body, one of which is a significant increase in fluid saturating the genital area, a sensation known as ‘vasocongestion’. Simply put, some of us fill up and spill over (a tip of the hat to singer/songwriter Chris Williamson). And it feels divine!
Others don’t experience this, and there need be no pressure to meet some other-imposed standard. The point is to enjoy our sexual diversity and abilities in whichever forms they appear. If we’re having fun having sex, we’re doing it right. Not all women have the anatomical structure necessary to produce a substantial amount of liquid, and they by no means suffer. But how does a girl know if she can ejaculate? How is this accomplished, anyway?
It’s actually fairly simple. The hopeful ejaculator lies on her back, her lover sitting between her legs (let’s make the lover male so we can differentiate the players). Proceed to do whatever turns you on. During your lovemaking, ask your partner to put one or two fingers into your vagina and stroke and rub the upper surface, which will be slick and wet and may swell with your arousal. It will feel good. Tell him how to touch you and direct him to just the right places. Experiment with different pressures and rhythms. When you discover something that feels delightful, ask him to continue the action. Can he feel that spot swelling even more? It might feel like a bunch of miniature grapes, or a bag of tiny marbles. Can you feel yourself wanting to push into his fingers? Do so. That familiar feeling of impending orgasm may well follow this phase. Go with it. Let yourself feel as good as you can. Hold nothing back. Push into it. Allow yourself to explode into the feeling. If it feels like you are beginning to pee, push past it, for this feeling precedes the release of the fluid. Continue to ride the sensations, and you may very well feel the warm and powerful gush of liquid pushing against your lover’s hand. Surrender to these urges, these sensations. Allow your body to behave in whatever way it wants. You may very well experience your first ejaculation. If not, you will still have had a memorable sexual experience.
Some report that female ejaculation happens easily during fisting. Perhaps the extra containment and the determined stroking aid in the process. In any case, if you enjoy being fisted, do not be surprised if this triggers an ejaculation. And don’t forget to be prepared. There can be a lot of liquid, from a teaspoon or two up to almost a litre, giving new meaning to ‘sleeping in the wet spot’. Flannel-backed sheeting sold in baby supply stores can save your mattress and keep everyone more comfortable. Of course, it means more laundry, but this is a small price to pay for such extravagant sexual excitement.
It really doesn’t matter if you ejaculate or if you don’t. Sex is supposed to be fun. It’s important that we enjoy our bodies and the delight they can bring us. If that includes ejaculation, celebrate it. We no longer must fear the embarrassment or shame that we will pee on our lovers (some body fluids are good and others not? How silly!) Ejaculators can now proudly come out of yet another sexual closet and rejoice in this unique and yet so universal experience.
No, it’s not just for boys anymore!
When we meet someone new and are all fired up with anticipation and trepidation, it is easy to make sex rapturous. In the early stages of courtship, we spend long, languorous hours in bed, fascinated with our new lover and the magic we are making. Sex is a priority and a thrill. And you have to know how to spice up your night.
Fast forward a few years. At this point we either can’t remember his/her name (or wish we couldn’t) or are still waking up next to each other. If our relationship has survived the limerence stage and we’ve established a long-term relationship, chances are we wistfully remember that initial period but are no longer experiencing it. Sex moves to the back burner, overshadowed by daily commitments and responsibilities. Sometimes in the choice between sex and sleep (an easy vote in the early days), sex loses. How could sex have become boring?
Sexual boredom has many faces, and none of them smiles. Though we enjoy the consistency of our long-term relationship, predictable sex robs us of the opportunity for erotic exploration and removes the titillation of anticipation and longing. We need to shake things up. I understand it can be intimidating to introduce a sex toy, for instance, if we have never used one before. How do we slip even an innocuous toy like the Fukuoku into foreplay gracefully? Baby steps.
We can start with exchanging full body massages eroticized with warm oils. When that goes over well is a good time to suggest further exploration. Surely we can banish fear about taking a risk with our most intimate friend.
Look at a sex store website together and each choose one item for yourself and one for the other. Then talk about the choices you’ve made. Voila! Sexual communication! Make it fun…it will banish sexual boredom.
Another passion killer is a consequence of knowing each other’s bodies so well that we become efficient at moving from a ‘come hither’ glance to orgasm in ‘quickie’ time. Quickies can be great fun, but a steady diet of them is not. Unlike efficient sex, hot sex demands time and attention. Target sex, a close relative of efficient sex, develops when each partner does the absolute minimum to get the job done. When we just want to get it over, we are merely sexual robots. Women often describe this as feeling like a receptacle; men must feel similarly. Target sex impresses neither side. It is very different from what sex can be if we refuse to get lazy.
Speaking of lazy….it does us all good to remember how it used to take us three hours to prepare for a sexual date. It’s a long slide to simply turning over! When we are in the throes of lust, we overlook little flaws in our beloved, choosing to be amused rather than annoyed by (an excellent perspective to maintain!). Years later, softened by time and familiarity, it does a relationship good when we keep ourselves in the best physical shape possible and doll ourselves up for a night of romance.
Regardless of how we get lazy, the cure is rekindling the erotic sizzle of days past. Plan an evening of languid bathing one week and don stockings and a garter belt for a night of dancing the next. Hint for guys: send your honey a bouquet of flowers with a hotel room key attached or invite her to a sexually based seminar …kissing, perhaps? Be creative.
The big cost of sexual boredom is the loss of the mutual connection that new sex inspires and long-term sex manifests. If we find that sex lacks deep emotion, admiration, and appreciation, it is time to take stock. Sexual excitement can be easily reignited by changing behaviours and attitudes, given the fertile soil of love and commitment. If your relationship is solid and you are just stalled, get to it!
If you are out of touch with your lover’s body, or with your own, this enchanted evening may initially feel embarrassing and awkward. Just accept that this will be so for most of us, and push through it. The rewards are worth it.
Here’s the plan:
1) Decide your roles:
One person is the do-er tonight; the other the do-ee. Next time you switch.
2) Set the stage:
Begin by designing an environment in which intimacy can thrive. Remove distractions (phones, pagers, kids, TVs) and set aside a few hours to luxuriate in each other. Choose your mood music, light candles and incense, turn up the thermostat so the room stays comfortably warm. Heat some coconut oil (greaseless, stainless, inexpensive, and slippery) or massage oil and cover the bed with flannel-backed rubber sheeting (available where baby supplies are sold) or an extra sheet so you needn’t fret about housekeeping. Look around. Have you created sensual surroundings?
3) The Bath:
Gather your supplies together. You’ll find a plethora of treats at the dollar store and the drug store. Collect sponges, pumice stones, soft net scrubbers, brushes, soft (and scratchy) cloths….anything that imparts a tactile sensation to the skin. Don’t forget scented bath bombs, oils, and bubble baths. Collect the bath towels and your lover’s robe and pop them into the dryer to heat.
Begin by bringing your lover into the bathroom, where all is prepared, and tell them how happy you are to be indulging them (and yourself) in this sensuous experience.S-l-o-w-l-y undress the do-ee, appreciating each newly revealed bit of skin. Bury your nose in neck hollows, trace the line from chin to navel, cup the buttocks, stroke shins… Resist conversation—just coo.
Now help your lover into the tub and bathe them caressingly, paying attention to each body part. Be responsive to feedback, and try different sensations and toys as you move along. Think ‘romantic’ (watch the shampoo scene from Out of Africa for inspiration). Move slowly. Observe how you feel.
When you’re done (you’ll know), leave your mate to shower off while you fetch the towels and robe, hopefully toasty warm from the dryer. (This also affords your partner some private time to attend to any erotic needs that may interfere with the sensual nature of the evening. Orgasm is not on the menu, so suggest that this can be accomplished now if desired.) Enfold your swooning lover in the warm cloth and lead them to the already-prepared bedroom.
You are now ready for the massage portion of the evening. Settle your lover on the bed and anoint them with the warm oil. Feel your own skin slide over theirs and revel in the communication between your bodies. Memorize the geography of this body before you, reading by Braille the nuances of folds and hollows. Surrender to the sensuality of it all. Do all body parts. Do not skip…or concentrate…anyplace specific. Attend to genitals as well as elbows, and accept erections as a natural reaction to such sensual pleasure. You may tarry at these delightful junctures, but remember that orgasm is not the point. Keep your caresses gentle and tactile.
When the first side’s done, roll your partner over and do the other one. By this time expect them to be a jelly-like mass of low moans and satisfied smiles. Make sure they are comfortable while you disassemble the room—extinguish candles, close the music, lower the thermostat, and undress yourself. Roll the extra sheeting off the bed and climb in behind your lover, like spoons nesting in a drawer.
Place one hand on their chest and match your breathing to theirs. This ‘mirrored breathing’ is one of the most simple and intimate of gestures. Give yourself over to the sensations of togetherness and mutual comfort and drift off to sleep together.
That’s it, folks. With these simple steps you can create an atmosphere in which resentment, hostility, and worry cannot flourish. It is enormously healing for estranged but loving pairs. Give it a try whenever you feel the need for a dose of pampering and intimate connection.
S0 you’re wondering how to do a threesome? Sex research tells us that the most prevalent sexual fantasy among heterosexual males is a threesome with two women. Fortunately, many women share this flight of the imagination. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a position where this dream might be actualized,, regardless your orientation, you are probably wondering how to make it a positive experience. It is certainly a question I am frequently asked as a sex therapist.
There are a few basic guidelines for establishing a successful encounter. The first, of course, revolves around clear and honest sexual communication. Each couple must review and renegotiate their sexual exclusivity (or inclusivity) contract. Have you always had an open relationship? Has that been successful and gratifying…or not? If you’ve heretofore been monogamous, why do you now want to alter the arrangement? Are you both desirous of including others in your lives sexually? Is one of you doing this only to please the other? How do you make other important decisions in your relationship? Is your bond strong enough to risk the emotional backlash that may occur? You must take the time to explore these questions and agree upon the answers before bringing another person into your bed.
Once this renegotiation process is complete, and you have agreed that you are both desiring a sexual encounter with another person, you need to decide how you choose that lucky someone. Then you must renegotiate all over again with him or her. Because of our culture’s pervasive homophobia regarding men being sexual with other men, this article will assume that the third person will be a woman. It is important to determine what each party expects and wants from the encounter. You must all be on the same page, or you are inviting disaster.
Let us suppose that these steps are accomplished and you’ve made a date to meet to have sex together. How do you go about ensuring that all three people have a good time? This brings us to the etiquette of threesomes. The basic rules are as follows:
– Person A and Person B discuss how they can best pleasure Person C. They set about to be a team of two dedicated to making sure that Person C’s needs are met and that her emotions are safeguarded.
– Simultaneously, Person B and Person C get together to form their own team, planning how to give Person A the best possible time.
– And Person A and Person C also collaborate to guarantee Person B’s enjoyment of the activities.
What this system strives toward is everyone’s feeling connected, integral, and pleasured. It virtually eliminates jealousy because all parties concerned are meeting another’s needs in conjunction with someone else, while having both other people concentrating on them. With two folks responsible for, and responsive to, one other, everyone wins.
This is of course a distillation of the process. We do not move from zero to 60 quickly, at least not the first few times. Sex, intimacy, and trust get all mixed up together, and we’ve not even mentioned interpersonal tensions and personal apprehensions. Then, too, there are issues of body image, performance anxiety, and feelings of potential inadequacy.
So if you’re hoping to turn this common fantasy into a reality, plan well and plan well in advance. Be specific about how you hope your evening will progress and set up for success. Threesomes are memorable occurrences, and those privileged to share such encounters successfully recognize a bond that leaves a glow long after the actual sex has faded. Be careful, be fearless, be open-hearted, and be brave. The rewards can be enormous!
– Originally published on DrKoop.com
Some of us are smart and lucky enough to have coupled with partners with whom we live comfortably. Seldom do we argue about who does which chore. Our interests coincide or coexist amicably. We agree on most of life’s important issues, and we maintain similar values. We could not find a better room mate, and we are content.
Sometimes, however, these easy relationships suffer from lack of care surrounding sexual activity. Content to be living with our best friends, we slip into a pattern of benign neglect regarding our physical encounters. It is not long before we can’t remember the last time we felt passion or consuming desire. Before too much longer, we realize that we would feel awkward making a sexual advance, as though that part of our interpersonal vocabulary has been erased through disuse. We tell ourselves that since nothing is really wrong with the relationship, we’ll just wait out this erotic hiatus. Sometimes the wait is very long indeed, as our spouse may well be feeling the same hesitation and embarrassment about sexual initiation, meaning that no one makes the first move.
Sometimes this sexual shyness can appear rapidly. If our lovemaking frequency is once a week, for instance, and we realize that we’ve not been sexual for three or four weeks, we commonly begin analyzing our recent interactions. How quick we are to worry and to blame, wondering if this interruption in our status quo is an indicator of trouble within the relationship. We ask ourselves questions like, “Am I not a good enough lover?” and “Does s/he no longer find me attractive?” We begin to identify the length of time since we’ve made love as a problem, and before we know it, it becomes one. Now we find ourselves tongue-tied and worried.
The easiest solution, of course, is to give our heads a shake, take our mate’s hand, and say, “I’m still as crazy about you as I was when we first fell in love. Let’s go to bed.” This course of action usually results in a therapeutic reunion on both physical and emotional levels, and in the afterglow of sexual communion we can reiterate our desire and devotion. This is a prime opportunity, as well, to note how easily the time slips away when we aren’t paying attention to the importance of sexual connection and to commit anew to making time for sex consciously. We can set up our next date in the near future, agreeing to do something we both consider fun and ensuring that we will be unhurried and uninterrupted.
Sounds easy enough, you say, but what about spontaneity? Doesn’t planning for sex make it clinical, sterile? Actually, romance is based on planning. Remember when we were still courting, when each date brought a quickening of the pulse, an unsettling and seductive wonder of whether our affections and excitement were reciprocated? We spent hours getting ready, ensuring that we made the best possible impression. The planning is exciting and arousing in its own right. To borrow a line from the movie Cross My Heart, “It must be getting serious – I’m shaving above my knees.” Planning for a sexual encounter is not the problem; often not planning for it is! And the anticipation of an upcoming night of sexual abandon heightens our arousal and can let us feel giddy with desire again.
Perhaps germane to this discussion is the effect of boredom and complacency. Boredom occurs when we allow the dynamics of our relationships to lose their priority in our daily lives. We become complacent when we do not recognize, or do not respond to, the need to revitalize a flagging connection with our mate. Is it difficult to risk the vulnerability necessary to initiate intimacy after an extended absence? Yes, it can be. Still, when we stay on our toes, checking regularly the ‘pulse’ of our commitment, we are rewarded with fresh perspectives and new experiences on an ongoing basis. Relationships are much like gardens in that they each require care and tending to grow. Like gardens, our marriages are dependent on what and how we plant, and how much time we spend working in them. External forces (like weather in a literal garden) can affect our personal gardens, but so long as we protect them and nourish them, they will reward us with blossoms of magnificent beauty. Sex is perhaps the most magnificent of these flowers. We can rejoice whenever we take the time to appreciate them.
I’ve found myself speaking a lot recently about the early stages of courtship. We are all fascinated with this period. We love asking couples how they met, and we love telling others our own story. We remember the bliss of those first months, filled with the thrill of new love, dampened by nothing at all. These early months, which we like to call falling in love, really have nothing to do with love, and that’s the part I’ve found myself explaining. It seems to fascinate everyone. So pull up a chair, boys and girls, and listen to my tale.
When first we meet someone new and our eyes lock across a crowded room, our attraction signals a myriad of chemical reactions. Biology claims dominance and we embark on a set of behaviours as old as primordial ooze. These are quite unconscious, although some part of us registers the signals. The pupils of our eyes dilate, for instance, which makes us appear more interested and interesting. The tilt of our head changes, as do inflections in our voice. We get high on attraction….actually, we get high on chemical endorphins triggered by our attraction, but that sounds so much less romantic, doesn’t it? And we love romance.
If our initial encounter goes well and we see this captivating person again, we continue to feel as if we’re floating on air. The mixture of desire and uncertainty makes a heady cocktail, and our sexual urges impel us to get and stay closer to our new object of desire. We are fascinated by everything they say, insatiable hearing their life stories and telling them our own. We can’t believe our luck at finding such a perfect person. We can think of nothing else. We become deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid. Our feet barely touch the floor. Our enchanted grins alert the world that we are ‘falling in love.’ Never before have we found such a match. Never before has the romance been more sweet, the anticipation more electric, or the sex hotter. We seem to agree on everything, and our few differences are all complementary. Perfectly mated, we are.
This intoxication marks the beginning of almost all of our romantic endeavors. Each time we make love, each time we gaze into each other’s eyes and melt with emotion, each time the excitement of sex bonds us again, we feel closer and more fulfilled. Surely, we vow, this love will never fade.
But there’s the rub….fade it does. The first six to eighteen months of a relationship are defined by what Dr. Dorothy Tennov called limerence (Love and Limerence, 1979), and what social scientists are now calling NRE (new relationship energy). While we are drunk with fascination, we spend as much time as possible with our new love. We learn all we can and judge how that knowledge melds with our own lives. Our rose coloured glasses distort our view, it’s true, but though we maximize the good news and minimize the bad, we still filter the evidence as to the fit of our new couplehood. If the fit is good, we continue on; if not, we break up.
It is at this point, if we continue, that we begin to see the beloved as a real person, another imperfect human being. Our vision becomes clearer and we see them warts and all. We weigh what we can forgive. We decide if we are amused or annoyed by their foibles. We decide how well we can accommodate our differences, and how well our commonalities mesh. We feel less compelled to spend every minute in bed making love, because now we are drawn to venture out into the world together, to announce our union, to establish our circle of mutual friends and to recontact our friends we’ve ignored for the past months. Life becomes more normal, more daily, and our original heat cools to an abiding and comforting warmth. Eventually, we realize this other person has built an irreplaceable nest in our heart, and we joyously fold our lives into each others.
THAT’s love. It offers it’s own rewards and sports its own features. As limerence burns itself out, love builds on itself and becomes stronger as our intimacies grow. Limerence is the magnet that pulls us together while love is the glue that keeps us so.
Too often we mistake NRE for love, and our society promotes that confusion. If, as time passes and we learn that our ‘limerent other’ isn’t nearly as funny, bright, or sexy as we originally imagined, we are filled with disappointment and long for the good old days when the sun always shone on us and everything was effortless and perfect. We bemoan the fact that ‘love’ has betrayed us, when actually we just consumed all the available limerence.
Or our long term relationship hits bumps and we miss those uncomplicated, heady months. We believe that the two people who danced so seamlessly could not now feel such pain at exercising our different selves. We need to realize that limerence/NRE, as beautiful and unforgettable as it was, lacked the substance we have now developed. Like childhood and adulthood, each stage is necessary and different, each has value, and each brings great gifts. The trick is to recognize each for what it really is and not try to make it anything else.
In thinking about the issues that routinely come up in my therapy with clients, I realized that there are a few recurring themes. Disparate desires – when the partners have different sexual appetites – is a common problem, and one that can destroy an otherwise happy and healthy relationship.
Having disparate desire is a difficult problem to address because there is so much pride and vulnerability involved. Both parties truly believe the other is acting intentionally, that the other is wrong. The core of the issue, aside from the obvious sexual negotiation, is power.
Whoever wants less, has more power.
I understand that this sounds backwards. Let’s tease it apart and it should become clear. If I want to have sex once a week, and you want to have sex once a month, then I am going to be horny and frustrated three weeks a month. You, on the other hand, let me know when my advances will be accepted, or perhaps you even initiate sex, but on your terms. I am usually, by that time, grateful if not downright desperate. I begin to wonder if you want me at all, or if you are bestowing ‘mercy sex’. Still, having sex with you, believing that everything will be all right now (we humans are a hopeful lot) encourages me and re-connects us. The problem is that the cycle gets repeated, and repeated, and repeated. I feel…
Powerless, which eventually leads to Resentment.
Now let’s view it from the other side: When we first got together, you were so romantic, attentive, and sexy. I couldn’t keep my eyes off you…or my hands. We fell in love, and this process was fuelled by long sessions of look-into-your-eyes lovemaking. We became a couple, and the importance of life crept into our fairy tale romance. A trip to Home Depot became more practical than passionate. If kids came along, you can bet our sex lives changed along with everything else. But I know in my heart that we are solid and safe and I love it when you cuddle with me. Trouble is, every time we touch each other, you want to have sex. I’m beginning to wonder if you even notice who I really am anymore. I know you want sex (I’m not so sure if you really want me), so I can’t risk approaching you because I’m afraid you’ll interpret it as a green light for sex again. Why can’t you be satisfied with leisurely lovemaking a couple of times a month? What’s wrong with you?! I feel devalued and objectified, which in turn makes me feel…
Powerless, which eventually leads to Resentment.
For those of you who are nodding your heads in recognition, I regret that I have no magic elixir, no snappy psychobabble that will ‘fix’ either one of you (you see, there’s nothing wrong with either of you). This is truly a thorny, complicated, and sensitive issue. There are solutions, but not every couple are able to make the necessary changes and accommodations to ease the tension. Sometimes, the problem is just plain temperament.
Some of us like sex (or classical music or hockey) a lot; others don’t. Different, not right nor wrong. But when we mate with someone whose sexual desires vary greatly from ours, we easily have a problem on our hands we don’t know how to address. There are some things you can do to assess your differences and hopefully bring them closer together:
– take turns initiating sex and monitor the intervals
– establish regular ‘date nights’ (for more, see “Mate Dates” article) where thoughtful, indulgent lovemaking can occur
– inject sex with something new: toys, positions, costumes..
– evaluate, separately and together, the role of sex in your relationship
If, after trying to address the disparities in your desire levels, you are still stalemated, consider getting the help of a professional sex therapist. This is a difficult problem and sometimes the perspective and skill of another person that you don’t have to live with can help to clarify the issues and create options you’ve missed or not thought of at all. We all deserve to feel loved, cherished, and appreciated by our mates. It’s vitally important to stay clear about the value of sex and love and to try every avenue to regain and maintain that magic that helped us find each other in the first place.
– Originally published on DrKoop.com
Take two loving people with demanding jobs and divide them into a typical month filled with obligations, expectations, family, and friends, and you often find a couple who rarely find themselves in a relaxed and sensual environment enjoying passion and intimacy. How often do you and your spouse plan time together for the sole purpose of mutual enjoyment? If you are like the typical harried couple, the answer is often seldom or never.
Given the choice between sex and sleep, your exhaustion casts the deciding vote. Of course you care about your marriage and would love to enjoy an unhurried, indulgent interlude; you just can’t quite fit it into your schedule. And after all, you see each other daily, share all your news, and sleep in the same bed. What more is expected?
Why is it important?
In fact, it can be that same domestic comfort that can threaten or extinguish the desire and intrigue that glues a marriage together. Successful couples insist it is a matter of prioritizing. Busy lives require careful planning. Putting time for dating near the top of your list is life insurance for your marriage. Remember how, in the beginning, you thrilled at the sight of one another? Your time together was precious, decorated with dancing slippers and fireworks. You longed to see more of each other, never to be separated again. A few years later, perhaps, those dancing slippers become house slippers, and fireworks get translated into power bills. Somehow, you’ve become roommates. “Oh, well,” you shrug, “the honeymoon can’t last forever.”
And yet we know that long-term happy couples do retain some of that heat year after year. They do so by sustaining their courtship throughout their marriage, by dating even though they are mates. They tell us they design time to caress and explore one another, to laugh, and to luxuriate in the lust and love that initially drew them together. Each ‘date’ codifies the bond between them, supports and nourishes it, and guarantees the twinkle in the eye we sometimes glimpse when watching them interact.
Where do we find the time?
Regularity is the key. You may want to choose a particular weeknight and block it out in your daybooks as immutable. You may prefer a weekend morning, Sunday perhaps, when the phones and pagers can be shut off and you are inaccessible to the outside world. It takes a surprisingly short time before others realize that you are simply not available during this time. You set up for success, hiring the babysitter or delegating the duties on a regular, long-term basis. Your time together becomes inviolate and precious, stolen from your day-to-day existence because of its importance and value.
What do we do with this time?
The actual activities are not of much importance here. What matters is that you assign this time to luxuriate in your mutual regard, attraction, and passion for one another. You do not have to make love, but you will surely
want to create an environment in which sex can easily happen. Avoid discussing external issues and concentrate on your feelings for each other. This is your opportunity to appreciate and augment your bond, to revel in the good fortune of finding each other, to build and strengthen your alliance, to coalesce your physical, emotional, and mental connections.
As with any endeavor, practice makes perfect. You may feel a bit awkward at first, unsure of how you can decompress and move to a place of stressfree interaction. Preparing the environment is helpful. Light candles and incense, adjust the lighting, choose mood-setting music, warm some massage oil. Perhaps you will want to begin with a bath or shower, together. Make eye contact before you make skin contact. Coo and smile. Relax. The time is yours to experience as you wish. It is an opportunity to refuel your personal, as well as your interpersonal, resources. It will not be long before you wonder how you ever managed without these luxurious, restorative interludes.