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“Why does my husband act nice only when he’s had sex? Why doesn’t he behave sweetly and helpfully so that I will want sex?” Probably because sex has lost it’s eroticism and it’s become a chip in the sexual power struggle.
I often ask women who say this – how long did he act sweet after you had sex? For days! their wives answer. Did those days include you initiating more sex? No! their wives answer again. “I was satisfied the last time and hadn’t thought about the next.” Even though they say they would want more sex if the climate of the home were more peaceful, when it is more peaceful, they don’t actually become more sexual. The idea of sex seems to go out the window for them. They have failed to recognize that sex is their husband’s love language.
If sex has becomes part of a quid pro quo, it’s a chip on the bargaining table. Unfortunately when sex is ensnared in the power struggle for both participants – the soul of the experience is dead. No one can behave himself into meriting sex. No one wants to have sex so that someone won’t be cranky.
I’m a woman; I understand how feeling close translates to wanting sex. Relational connection is a necessary component of desire for most women, teaches researcher Rosemary Basson, MB, FRCP, of the University of British Columbia who formulated a modern model for female sexual desire. Women don’t simply move through phases of the sexual experience in the same way most men do, first feeling desire, becoming aroused, reaching orgasm and then relaxing in repose. The impetus for sex comes not often from physiological desire in women but many times from the desire to enhance intimacy and relationship and in response to her lover’s seduction. Body desire flows once the woman is already aroused. She wants it when she’s having it.
I also understand how it could be wrong for a woman to share her body with an angry man or a silent partner. But I wonder about how earlier rounds of the anger cycle have created an impossible dilemma. He’s become angry at the limited sexual touch and feeling starved withdraws from the game. She can’t fathom sex with a man so rageful and withholding emotionally. They point fingers and say, “you started it!” Then as if the act of love could be choreographed, they say I’ll do it twice a week if you’ll do x,y, and z. Neither feels loved from the bottom of their partner’s heart. They know it’s an agreement being measured and marked.
How do we turn the game around? Prioritize the needs of your partner for six months without keeping track. I’m not talking about doing things that feel like they will kill your soul but rather giving love the way your partner likes it. Here are the five love languages that help you think about how your partner likes to be loved:
Sex and Physical Touch – Together, take author of The Five Love Language, Gary Chapman’s test to see which love language is most dominant for you and your partner. Does your partner like casual affection during the day? Find a way to touch them every day with hugs, kisses, hair ruffling, shoulder pats, close couch sitting, foot rubs and back rubs multiple times a day. It costs nothing and is calorie free. Does your partner crave sexual connection to feel like they belong to the universe? Initiate once a week. Not in the mood? Tell him you’d love to feel him inside and relax into a quickie. While not the subject of this post, is she the one who needs more sexual connection? Offer to make her feel good. No performance necessary on your part, just do her. Don’t wait for the mood to strike if you know your partner needs lovemaking to feel cared about. Create the mood for yourself. What do you need to feel sexual? Time to yourself? – organize a babysitter so you can get away? Or take a nap. Too stressed? Hire a one-time housecleaner. Relatives over for the holidays? Ask for an early gift – a night out on the town. Sip a glass of wine and write a list of all the things you appreciate about your partner.
Acts of Service. Does your partner need extra help with the children? Come home a half hour early and make it all hands on deck until every dish is put away and every child bathed, storied and tucked in. Can’t miss work to do that? Think about a life where sex is flowing and peace is abundant and imagine how much more productive you will be. Is your partner tidy? (We’d have been divorced if mine required this!) Designate 15 minutes (and only 15 so you don’t get overwhelmed) of your time every day making progress on a “hot spot” – the dining room table covered in paper stacks, the laundry room’s accumulation of odds and ends that make it hard to use, the junk drawer. Throw stuff out. Google the amazing home organizer FlyLady for help.
Time Together – Have you heard your partner saying she doesn’t feel connected to you? Easy-peasy. Program random phone calls into your calendar. Plan a date night that is the same every week. Hire the babysitter permanently for that night.
Gift Giving. Buy 5 small cards and 5 small gifts all at once and plan when you are going to give on your calendar so you don’t forget. We all have electronic devices – make them work for the marriage too. Order flowers for all the significant dates all at once. No need to remember anything; the florist will keep the dates on their master calendar. Consider your partner as important as a client. Your partner will think you are incredibly thoughtful and mindful of the relationship.
Words of Appreciation. Can you find 5 things to be grateful for that your partner does and say so out loud? Might you notice the special meal, the extra tenderness with a child, the doing of a chore without being asked? I tell clients that when the thank-yous stop the honeymoon is over.
The five love languages are a good framework to think about how we may be different and to give to our partner in the most meaningful way.