Effectively Coping with the Bedroom Battles

9:22 AM

If you like to be intimate more often than your spouse, there is nothing wrong with you. If you don't like to be intimate as often as your spouse, there isn't anything wrong with you either.

This is totally normal.

In fact, one prominent sex therapist went as far to say that there is a low desire partner (LDP) and a high desire partner (HDP) in every marriage. And I haven't observed anything that would lead me to believe otherwise. I would suggest that differences in sexual desire are as common as marriage itself. However, for most couples, the differences are not as dramatic as they may seem.

Your Sexual Desires May Not Be As Different As You Think
Although couples enter marriage with different levels of sexual desire, I believe that most of the time these differences are not terribly significant. Certainly, there are exceptions because some people really do have abnormally low or high levels of sexual desire (this is the exception rather than the rule). But in general, I believe that most spouses start out with similar levels of sexual desire. Kind of like this:
Notice, you still have a higher desire partner and a lower desire partner; but the difference isn’t major. (Side note: the higher desire partner may be the husband or the wife. Most people assume that the high desire partner is always the husband, but that is not the case.  In many marriages, the wife is actually the high desire partner.)

Sexual desire is not a fixed variable and can change for a lot of different reasons. It can be influenced by stress, fatigue, emotional and physical health, biological changes, relationship dynamics, and so forth. Because desire can fluctuate so much, there will be times when a husband and wife feel like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. If couples get stuck on different ends of the spectrum, it can cause major marital issues.
The main reason couples get and stay polarized with their sexual issues is because they handle their sexual differences very poorly.   

Unfortunately, many couples don’t handle these differences very well and live out much of their marriages feeling like this:

Whether or not this is an accurate reflection of their sexual desires, many couples feel this way. People most likely feel this way because of how they handle their sexual differences.

5 Things That Will Kill Your Love Life 
Any one of these 5 things can really damper your love life and put a kink in your marriage. These are the types of things that will increase the sexual issues in your marriage, so if you do any of these, make a point to try to stop.

1) Turn everything sexual. If you are the high desire partner (HDP), you've got to stop doing this. In particular, you've got to make sure that flirting and kissing are not only utilized as a gateway to sex. If kissing and flirting is only ever associated with sex, kissing and flirting will take a nosedive in your marriage. When that happens, say goodbye to a good portion of the fun and romantic excitement that makes marriage so enjoyable.  

2) One partner doesn’t initiate. This may work for some couples, but I think this is problematic on a number of levels. First of all, if the LDP never initiates, it is hard for the HDP to feel that they are sexually desirable. Feeling sexually unwanted will inevitably fuel hurt feelings and marital conflict. Second, from an economic perspective, if the LDP never initiates, it is likely to increase scarcity (less sex). The greater the scarcity, the greater the demand. When it comes to sex, increased demand and scarcity will breed a power struggle and increase marital conflict. Lastly, if the LDP never initiates, they are only ever responding to sex. This is a lack of ownership over our sexual selves. If this lack of sexual ownership continues into their sexual activity, it will reduce both the enjoyment and meaningfulness of sex. Low desire partners: you don’t need to become the HDP. You don’t need to initiate sex all the time. But you need to initiate sometimes.

3) Treat sexual fulfillment as an end in itself, rather than a means to a higher end. When sex is used as a means to greater marital unity, increased marital love, deeper emotional intimacy, and the procreation of children, sexual fulfillment and marital satisfaction improve. When sex becomes a selfish end in itself, then climax (or orgasm) becomes the sole purpose of sex. And there is so much more to sexual fulfillment than the physical sensation that climax produces! You should strive to enjoy every part of the sexual process. If you utilize your sexual relationship to reach the higher ends mentioned above, you will find greater sexual satisfaction and a much stronger marriage.

4) Exercise selfish control over sex. Who do you think typically controls the sexual relationship, the HDP or the LDP? In general, it’s the LDP. They determine much of the when and the what. Whenever anybody has power or control, they have the responsibility to use that power and control for the betterment of those around them, not to use it selfishly. One way that low desire partners use this power selfishly is by withholding sex to "get back" at their spouse and punish them. This inevitably backfires because going out of your way to withhold sex will naturally increase the power struggles between you and your spouse and your own misery.

5) Throw temper tantrums when sex doesn't happen on your timetable. I don't think there is any other way to put it: many HDP's throw temper tantrums and act like children when they don't get sex. They yell, pout, withdraw, and maybe even stomp their feet. If you’re guilty of that, stop it. It's killing your love life. Now, in defense of the HDP who may throw an occasional temper tantrum, this can be a tough spot for them. It can be really hard to not have much control over something so meaningful (remember, the LDP typically controls this part of the marriage). When the HDP initiates and gets turned down, it is easy to feel totally rejected. Feeling rejected rarely inspires outstanding behavior. Instead, it usually triggers the bad behavior we discussed in a previous article. So, to address the feelings of rejection, let me make two suggestions, one for the HDP and one for the LDP:

High Desire Partner: don't assume that your partner is rejecting you. If you realize that getting shut down for the evening probably has nothing to do with you (unless you've been a jerk, then it probably does have something to do with you), it will be easier to not take it personal. If you can swallow your pride and refrain from whining, guilt tripping, or emotionally withdrawing, things will get better. You can take heart in a little bit of research done by John Gottman that suggests that spouses who reward their partner for saying "no" end up having more sex. It’s not going to hurt to give it a try.

Low Desire Partner: Sometimes, even when you are not in the mood, you just need to go for it. The truth is, for many LDPs, they don't feel in the mood until they start engaging in sexual activity. Arousal happens after they start having sex (whereas for the HDP, arousal often happens before they start having sex-that’s why they initiate more sex). I know that puts low desire partners in a tough position, because having sex might sound repulsive until after you start engaging sexually. That means that sometimes you will have to “just do it.” Doing this on occasion will make it easier for all the other times it's just not gonna happen. And when it's not going to happen, let your spouse down easy. Tell them that even though you’re not in the mood, you still find them sexy and attractive. You might even ask for a rain check, so that you have something to look forward to. This will send the message that you are saying no to sex, not rejecting them.

A healthy sexual relationship with your spouse can be both enjoyable and therapeutic. It can soften hearts, heal wounds, and increase the compassion and love you feel for one another. Both partners need to make sexual intimacy a priority in their marriage, and you can start in a small and simple way…

If there were a quick fix to your sexual desire problems, this would be it: #savekissing 

Before marriage (or before a couple becomes sexual), non-sexual touch comes naturally. We often can’t keep our hands off of each other and push any boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. For those not involved sexually, non-sexual physical touch is easy and mindless. It just happens. However, that changes after marriage (or after you’ve been sexual for a while). You have to become more deliberate and intentional in your physical touch, and most couples don’t do this. Couples who stop kissing passionately (outside of sex), become much more like roommates than lovers. How often do you and your spouse kiss passionately when it isn’t directly related to sex?

So here is my invitation:

If you are married, #savekissing in your marriage. You can do this by kissing daily. Not just the simple, basic, “Honey I’m home” type kisses (although these are important too), but long and passionate kisses. If you are out of practice with your kissing, make it a point to kiss each other passionately for 15 seconds each day.

Also, get creative; linger for a moment, have fun with it. If you will do this, and make sure that kissing passionately isn’t just a segue to sex, you will find that sexual tension and excitement will increase in your marriage. Kissing passionately on a regular basis can address a lot of your sexual desire issues. And even more importantly, your marriage will improve. Kissing is really powerful. Think about it: how far can your marriage drift down the rivers of boredom if you are kissing passionately on a regular basis? I don’t think you’ll drift very far. Instead, you will be well on your way to establishing one heck of a marriage.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I came across your articles at exactly the right time to find both comfort and an invitation to do better in my marriage. Thank you for helping me understand that my struggle is normal and that the solutions are not as hard or unreachable as I had imagined.

    1. Liz: Thanks for reading! It is nice to hear that you found this useful. Even though some of these issues are normal, they're still unpleasant to go through. Hopefully what you read helped!

  2. My friend and I were just discussing this today, and to see the answers in print was timely! Thanks so mush for explaining a situation in marriage the points out both sides fairly and without guilt. It does make me want to do better!

    1. Dianne, thank you for reading and commenting! I am glad to hear that what you read provided a little motivation to be better. We can all use some of that motivation at times :)

  3. I had to read this for 1 of my classes. It was very insightful, even though I have been married for over 20 years. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. Are there symposiums on this topic or firesides or webinars?


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