"No sex, no love" - "No love, no sex".
This is perhaps the most stereotypical stalemate around. Husband and wife sitting back to back on the bed. He says he needs more sex to love, she says she needs more love to have sex. So who's right?
I personally don't care who's right so I won't attempt to answer that question. Why don't I care who's right? Because it doesn't matter. It doesn't help the marriage when one of the two are deemed to be right on this issue. What absolutely does matter is the stalemate caused by this vicious cycle that someone needs to break. It is on this that I will focus today, within a marriage as well as dating. Let's begin.
What is sex?
Well, I'll assume that most of us know what sex is. For the purpose of this discussion, I will consider anything sexual within the realm of sex.
Sex has many levels. Sex in it's ultimate state is fully naked, penetrative, finishing insider her, kind of sex. This is called intercourse. There's non penetrative sex which some like to call outer-course. There's non orgasm sexual gestures, touches and flirtations of all kinds. All this is part and parcel of human sexuality.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is a deep connection you have with another person. In a previous post, I explained the difference between the intimacy of friendship vs sexual intimacy. Just like there are various levels of sexual contact, so too, there are various levels of intimate connections.
It is the hope and dream of many people to have a sexually and intimately fulfilling relationship with their spouse. The only question is what comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Men and women - sex and intimacy
Men and women tend to approach this topic from opposite directions. While it's true that some men may fit better with the description of women that I'm about to describe and some women may fit better with the description of men, the descriptions which I will describe here speak about the majority which are what can be considered masculine and feminine character traits even though masculine women and feminine men do exist.
In life in general and sex/intimacy in particular, the masculine way is to see a picture first and then focus in on the details. To see the forest first and then the trees etc. The feminine way is to see the details first and build up to the picture, to see the trees first and then realize there's a forest. This often happens within a split second and isn't always noticeable. Neither approach is right or wrong, they're just different.
When it comes to sex and intimacy, this works in the same manner. For a man, it all starts with full on penetrative sex and from there it trickles down into all the smaller details. The more quality/quantity of sexual activity, the more love, kindness, patience, caring and attention to all the little details he will be motivated to engage in. For a man, sex leads to intimacy.
(Of course, I don't speak here about people who have one way relationships. I speak only about relationships where both parties sincerely wish to invest 100%)
For a woman, it's the opposite. You start with the small gestures and connections and build your way up all the way to the big thing. Many women need an emotional connection to have sex at all, even more women will have difficulties maintaining full sexuality if there is a lack in intimacy. For a woman, intimacy leads to sex.
How to break/avoid the stalemate in dating and marriage
Dating first - in dating, the female approach needs to be taken. What do I mean by this?
When dating a person for the purpose of building a home, a family and a life together, you must establish a certain level of intimacy way before you take off your pants. It's utterly crucial to work your way up from the smallest intimate connections all the way up to eventually having sex when your relationship is already solid and you're both firmly committed to one another. This method of starting from the small things and working your way up, is the female way as mentioned above. Doing this the male way would mean sex on the first date and we all know how good that is for a LTR....
In marriage, it's the opposite. Most of the time. When he complains about not enough sex, what he may be really saying is this - "I really want to be very intimately and deeply connected to you, but I need sex to make that happen". This may sound ludicrous to many women but it's true nonetheless. Many women will counter with - "what does that even mean?!?!? You need to have sex to have an emotional connection? I need an emotional connection to be interested in sex!!!" While this is true from her perspective, it won't help him nor will it change his perspective. Yelling at him or pointing out how wrong his perspective is will only alienate him further. This will likely cause him to withdraw and no one wins.
Truth remains that he needs frequent and meaningful sex to maintain his deep intimate connection with you. It isn't only about sex. If it was, he would have never married you, he'd have stuck with pump and dump girls. He married you because he needs something more than just sex. He needs intimacy. He obtains intimacy through sex, but the sex is just the first step for him even if it's the last step for you. He starts at the top and comes down from sex to all the smaller forms of intimacy, she starts at the bottom and ascends up from small intimacy all the way to sex.
Within a marriage, each person needs to continuously invest 100%. In this case - he needs to continuously invest in the little connections and she needs to continuously invest in the bigger, sexual connections. It may be just as challenging for him to keep his engagement in the little connections on the up and up as it is for her to keep her sexual connections on the up and up. If you and your SO are never challenged with any of this, good for you. If you are (sometimes) challenged with any of this, read on.
What happens when life happens and things get out of sync. One day you wake up and he's not happy with the quantity or quality of sex. She counters that she doesn't feel intimately connected. How do you break the stalemate? Contrary to dating where it's crucial to start with the female way, here, in marriage, it's crucial to start with the male way. This means starting with an increase in quantity and quality of sex, thus allowing the intimacy to follow. If done with an open mind and an open heart, you will succeed!. Here's why....
Sex is more quantifiable than intimacy. If you want things to change, the more you can quantify, the better.
When you begin with sex, you covered something big. The result will be a big increase in the bigger elements of intimacy even if the smaller elements will take more time. OTOH when you begin with the small elements and work up to sex, it may take a really long time to get anywhere meaningful. This can lead to burnout.
Being sexually active often leads to an increase in sexual desire. It's a win win. OTOH investing more in intimacy without the sex can come at an emotional cost. The more he invests (as making the first move to break the cycle), the more he's likely to resent.
If she has responsive desire, it's a good idea to allow him to turn her on. Again, it's a win win.
We try not to be tit for tat in our marriages but there's a point where we will all begin to feel that we're investing a lot and receiving very little in return. This point is toxic.
A man will feel used when he invests too much emotionally and it's never enough to get her in the mood for sex.
A woman will feel used if she invests too much in sex and doesn't receive the emotional connection she craves.
The way to break the vicious cycle is to begin with a higher frequency and quality of sex. Why, is explained above.