She Said, He Said: How can I unlock more robust sexual connection?
November 20, 2017
Dear Jeff and Lori:
My wife and I have been together for six years. I was open with her from the beginning about my high sex drive and specific interests, and was hoping over time she would come around and open up more sexually. When we have sex, it's good and she has, from time to time, been open to trying new things. But it's still not really what I want it to be. I'm starting to realize it bothers me more than I thought it would. I love her and don't want to mess up the marriage by saying the wrong thing, but she's noticing that something's up. What should I do?
You portray your wife's penchant for vanilla as a roadblock to your fulfillment; if she were more like you, there wouldn't be a problem. It's common for lovers to look to their partner as the source of problem and solution. But her inflexibility only exists in the face of your rigidity. You knew early in the relationship that your erotic styles were different. We're curious if you ever discussed the trajectory of your sexual journey together.
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We commend you both for making compromises in effort to discover a working middle. You've shown flexibility by converging in her preferred placidity, and she has ventured out of her comfort zone to periodically take a dip in your more rousing waters.
However, after six years you may both be holding onto unrealistic expectations that can only be fulfilled by the other changing, and in a very specific manner. While she may also benefit from exploring her role and expectations, we're going to focus on answering your ultimate question, "What should I do?"
The best way for you to find that vibrant and fulfilling sex life you seek is to shatter your own blinders. While you may be very clear about what turns you on, the world of erotic pleasure is so much bigger than behaviors, acts and positions. Based on your question alone, we suspect you haven't come close to fulfilling your full sexual potential. Play your cards right and the best sex of your life is the horizon. And yes, it's with your wife.
Lori: It's true that for some, great sex happens through novelty or a certain behavior repertoire. But for everyone, mind-blowing sex happens when partners are deeply emotionally bonded and erotically free with one another. It sounds as though you're more sexually open in regard to acts or positions, but how open are you really to your partner during sex? Are you preoccupied with touching and being touched in specific ways, or are you actually feeling your partner? Do you feel her breath, heartbeat, warmth, vulnerability and sensuality? Do you step out of performance mode to be fully immersed the raw experience?
Jeff: Often, for men, a partner's willingness to adopt our sexual agenda (frequency and menu) is a powerful indication of their acceptance and approval of us. So a partner's reluctance can have a direct impact on our sense of value and worth in the relationship. Through gender stereotyping media and modeling by our fathers, brothers and peers, men have been taught that sex is a vehicle for creating emotional connection. I would invite you to explore whether you have hinged your ability to emotionally connect to your partner on her acceptance of your specific sexual preferences. Sexual approval through your wife's acquiescence or submission is not the answer to your needs of emotional safety. As a man wanting more sexual fulfillment, you'll have to enter into sex with a stronger sense of value and self-worth, freeing you to openly enjoy your partner without the burden of an underlying emotional agenda.
Lori and Jeff: Rather than encouraging her to become the female you, find opportunities to enhance the sensual energy in your relationship as a couple. Eroticism relies on a strong foundation of trust and is rooted in your senses. Explore sensually provocative activities together that arouse your ears, tease your tongue, and titillate your toes: music, art, food, movement. You can do this through new experiences or by immersing yourself in your current world with fresh eyes.
Lastly, realize that women often need to feel emotionally safe and connected to be free in bed, let alone on the kitchen counter. Take all the energy and time you've been spending on getting her to do what you like, and pivot. Invest instead in deepening your connection to your own emotions, creating space for her to explore, and indulging your senses together.
Lori and Jeff are couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Coaching. Submit your relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and your query may be selected for a future column.