I received a bit of feedback on my Letter, Sex and Divorce. The essence was that the state of sexual harmony was a long-term concern. To that end, let me continue into the discussion with thoughts on how to develop the relationship away from the chasm that leads to divorce.
The stereotype is justified – Men have a fundamental requirement of sexual intimacy. It’s not just a desire, it’s a requirement. What gets lost with the early marital conflict is the reasonableness yet unending aspect of this requirement. Let me assert that it is reasonable to have sex 10-12 times per month and adventurous sex 1-2 times per month. This perspective of reasonableness does little to help the situation if a man is unable to articulate a harmonious vision of mutuality and can only express the desire for more sex. Merely quoting my assertion of reasonableness will do you no good.
A harmonious path must be the mindset – which means a man must have a vision of what harmony looks like for both participants, a commitment to the relationship, an openness toward understanding her needs and perspectives, yet maintain the resolve towards that vision in the face of conflict, and a willingness to make compromises along the way.
Let’s start with understanding. Below is not a comprehensive view towards a woman’s sexuality. It’s generic at best. A woman might not feel “sexual” for large portions of the month due to hormones. She might not think a sexual thought for days and days and not realize that a man might not think a sexual thought for dozens of seconds at a time. She might have been abused or been in a situation that made a deeply negative impression on her about men. That’s not something you just get over, rub some dirt on it. She may have negative thoughts about having to compete against a porn star’s body and aggressive style. She may not prefer the smell or the mess. A woman doesn’t turn on the juice like a man can. Her daily schedule of kids and work, meal prep and chores, may leave her empty of amorous energy. It may be as simple as having eaten too much dinner. Where a man is like a microwave, a woman is like a crockpot. Where she must get her ducks in a row in order to have meaningful sex, a man can have sex and in doing so gets his ducks in a row.
All the above leads to the understanding that sex is highly psychological, more so than a man’s. This idea that a woman can bring herself to the marital bed regularly and fully if something is amiss in her life is naïve at best. Here’s where a man must recognize that when there’s marital conflict around the quantity of making love and the quality of the engagement, the gap of perspectives is not permanent but a God intended opportunity to create intimacy. And because the man is the one that wants change, he must take responsibility to evolve things to bring about harmonious and therefore permanent change.
For example, when a man touches a woman, it sends a message. Does it send “I love you” or “I desire you”? Certainly, those ideas are correlated, desire and love, but a woman can feel objectified. If every time you touch her and it sends a sex message, then a woman man come to feel that that’s all you want her for. Now, if it’s been 4 days, then her perception may be largely accurate. But if sex were more regular, then you could normalize a loving touch without sexual intent. Or if touch were more normalized, then you might be able to have sex more regularly. Conflict starts in small ways and calcifies through miscommunication and frustration. If by your very act of expressing love she misinterprets it as your selfish need to get physical release, then it’s up to you to deal with her whole set of needs.
What are her needs that will lead to her feeling whole so that she can meet you along the harmonious path? First, you need to understand that there is a difference between intellectual understanding and visceral psychological understanding. You can’t just express yourself, have her understand, then expect that things will be immediately and permanently different. It doesn’t work that way. Verbal I love you’s and physical I love you’s don’t get you that far if she wants non-sexual quality time, some acts of service, and overall engagement. For example, if on the nights you don’t make love you get in bed while she’s brushing her hair and are snoring away by the time she gets to bed; whereas on sex nights you’re wide awake, then that sends the message bedtime isn’t about intimacy. Same subtle message on sex nights that after sex while she’s cleaning up, you turn over and are sound asleep when she returns – What’s the message? If giving her a bedtime back rub is only a ruse to explore her body, then touch is a taking and not a giving. If doing the dishes and cleaning up is considered by you to be foreplay and you expect a quid pro quo once the kids are in bed, then you’re sending the message that you don’t care about the house as much as she does. These messages are received – she is an object for your desire not an object of your desire.
What does she want? She wants to be safe. She wants to know that you want her, not just her body. She wants you to care about her desires and are willing to respect the fact that her rhythms are delicate, that she can be delicate. She wants you to lead in many ways. She wants you to figure her out, help her navigate life’s difficulties, and create an environment where her loving efforts are rewarded. If you do these things, you will get your harmonious sex life.
There’s more to this topic. Ha, yeah, there’s more. But we’ll have to take it next time.
To your fulfilled harmonious path,