Many moons ago, Psychologist Samantha Rodman wrote an article for the HufPo telling people that they should be having sex – even when they don’t want to – for the sake of keeping intimacy alive in their long term relationships. Today that writing made it’s way into my newsfeed, and despite being pretty tardy to the party, I wanted to write on this topic because it’s something people in long term relationships express to me often – a mixture of shame, guilt, and frustration all swirled up in this idea that they should be having sex (or more sex) with their partner. Because that’s what wives, husbands, partners do right?
First of all, I want to be clear: I have sympathy for the message of sometimes the relationship is more important than the individual. I get why ‘suck it up’ can sometimes feel like the right action to take in our partnerships. But as a standalone, that message is riddled with problems, and at the end of the day you shouldn’t be forcing yourself to have sex out of an outdated idea of obligation to a partnership. You never owe anyone sex – and beyond that, it’s way too easy to slip into a pattern of obligation sex without ever looking at the root of your sexual disconnection. This often leads to further disconnection and even resentment of your partner.
What that truth doesn’t mean though, is that you’re going to wind up in a sexless long term relationship either. Often there are a number of factors at play and getting to the root of that is paramount to moving beyond what you’re feeling challenged by, either as a couple of as individuals within a relationship. Even becoming aware of the whys behind your actions can make a huge impact on the choices you make next , and in my work as a coach I often help people do just that.
Rodman hints throughout her article article that if you aren’t feeling the sexy right now you should press on and given what we know about spontaneous vs responsive desire (that is sexual desire pops up seemingly out no where vs. sexual desire that pops up in response to erotic things happening) there’s some serious merit to that point. Sometimes we need context to get our libidos revved up – it’s true for most women and many men. So if you’re willing to have sex with your partner, but not yet feeling aroused enough to do it, try one of these:
- Ask your partner to read you some erotic or tell you about the place they want to lick, kiss, and suck on your body
- Have your partner put on some sexy music and light some candles while you start touching yourself in ways you really like. Let your partner know when you’re ready for them to join in – or invite them to touch themselves and indulge in a hot and heavy mutual masturbation session!
- Grab a couples shower and spend at least 15 minutes washing your partner down without touching their genitals.
Shifting the focus away from penetrative sex can also ease some of the uncertainty engaging in sexual activity with our partners when we aren’t feeling the connection to desire we want. By shifting away from insert penis/toy/Tab A into vagina/ass/Slot B routine into an exploration of intimate touch – that you both can opt out of if you wish – can give everyone more freedom and breath some much needed freshness into our intimate connections. If you want to explore that, try any or all of these:
- Slow dance to your favourite sultry playlist
- Set the timer for 5 minutes and for that time your partner will only touch you in the ways you directly asked to be touched
- Trade full body rub downs (you can switch right away or next date if you want to revel in that ooey-gooey feeling for as long as possible)
- Five Words: Old School Make Out Session (just keep it to third base!)
- Make a conscious effort to talk to your partner about what you’re up for and not up for right now with regards to sex, what parts of your body are ready to be engaged, and which ones are we going to hold off on? What parts of their body are ready to be engaged and which are we going to hold off on? This must be a two way conversation.
I really don’t think we should be having sex when we don’t want it. It’s not staying true to our authentic sexuality (which, you should know by now is kinda my shtick), and it leads down bad roads, but that doesn’t mean we have to opt out of sharing intimacies. Don’t make your life more complicated by creating false dichotomies when there are so many options out there!