I’ve done over 40,000 sessions of sex therapy with women, men, and couples. In some ways I know less about people now than I did when I started back in 1980. But after 40,000 hours—half before broadband internet, half since—there’s a lot of things I know for sure.
Here are some Sex Laws of the Universe:
~ The solution to your partner’s lack of sexual enthusiasm is NOT more sex, and it’s rarely more exotic sex.
~ Infidelity? People who felt powerless or ignored BEFORE their partner was unfaithful are going to hold on to the issue of their partner’s infidelity for as long as they derive power from it. People with only a tenuous sense of their own desirability or lovability will also hold onto the pain of their partner’s infidelity—it’s valuable data supporting their own low self-esteem.
~ When should you talk to your under-18 kids about sexuality? If you haven’t done it in the last 6 months, it’s time—regardless of their age.
~ People who respond to their body’s aging (wrinkles, unwanted flesh, stiffness, etc.) by losing interest in sex should realize that that’s a one-way strategy. It’s not like your body will at some point start to look younger, and you can resume feeling sexual desire. The challenge is to realize that your sexuality isn’t dependent on looking or moving like you used to.
~ Everyone wants their sexual partner to enjoy sex, of course, but insisting that your partner climax every time you have sex together is a guaranteed way to reduce sexual pleasure, desire, and frequency.
~ Emotions affect everyone’s interest in sex. Every single person, and every single feeling: anger, sadness, self-consciousness, confusion, fear, humiliation, stubbornness, competitiveness, regret, eagerness, gratitude, pride, appreciation, hope. And more.
~ Here in Silicon Valley I work with a lot of couples who are in arranged marriages. Almost all were virgins on their wedding day. I have no quarrel with this—except that such people are almost never adequately prepared for marital sex.
The resulting shame, confusion, self-criticism, and emotional alienation typically makes the Arranged Wedding Night a painful disaster. Worse, this launches the couple on a lifelong story of inadequacy, sexual mismatch, blaming, and isolation from which they rarely recover.
~ When people don’t want sex with a partner they love, here are a few questions that can help explain why:
^ What are you angry about?
^ What are you afraid of?
^ Are you concerned about disappointing your partner in bed?
^ What do you need to talk about?
~ The idea that masturbation ruins sexual relationships is simply silly. No one would abandon great partner sex for the privilege of self-stimulation. What does frequently happen is that a couple’s sex life collapses (due to kids, career, aging, or resentment), the couple doesn’t work together to repair it, and then one or both turn to masturbation as a reliable source of comfort, stimulation, excitement, etc.
~ Many men do not climax during intercourse. Both they and their partners may see this as failure, with accompanying criticism. It would be easier to enjoy sex, and to express preferences, if our culture—and therefore we—didn’t have this very unrealistic expectation and pathologized everything else.
~ There is nothing wrong with open marriage, consensual non-monogamy, or polyamory—IF all involved parties are self-aware and enthusiastically onboard. But abruptly informing a partner “we’re both now free to do what we want” and getting involved with someone else five minutes later is NOT in the consensual spirit of open relationship—and it rarely works well.
~ Say you were getting occasional massages with Happy Endings (and lying about it). Say your wife found out. Say you stop the massages permanently, and answer a lot of questions about this secret infidelity, in conversations that always end in her tears. Say she wants you to promise you’ll tell her whenever one of these masseuses texts you (they can be pretty aggressive marketers). And say that when you do tell your wife you got an unwanted text from Maria or Shemika, she gets really angry—even though you didn’t invite the contact and don’t want it.
How many men would keep telling their wives “Oh, I got a marketing text today from someone asking if I want a handjob”—if they knew it would be followed by tears and accusations? That’s why I discourage such promises: they don’t build trust, they simply provide more options for someone to feel bad about their spouse or their relationship.
~ For many adults, the bonding that results from sex is more important than the pleasure they have during sex (even if they have a lot of pleasure). If so, people wanting “better sex” should focus on creating sexual experiences that feel more relaxed and intimate, not more intense, exotic, and porn-like.
~ I frequently see women for therapy whose husbands have labelled them low desire—women who really LIKE sex if it’s gentle, warm, comfortable, and light-hearted. These husbands are typically surprised when I point this out—and often get angry, as if it’s some kind of bad news. To create a better sexual relationship, these guys have to change their ideas about who their wife is, which can be quite challenging.
~ Say you didn’t like your body very much. And say your partner liked your body a lot. And say you didn’t quite understand how that could be. You’d have to decide who’s the more important reference point—your partner who finds your body arousing, or the general public who you imagine would reject your body (as you had).
Rejecting your partner’s desire for your body because you hate it is foolish. Justifying that with “You only desire my body because you love me” trivializes the alchemy of love, and wastes a precious connection that eventually may fade. Why would you argue with a partner who insists they find you attractive?
Do you like short videos? Check out my Sexual Intelligence channel at www.YouTube.com/c/DrMartyKlein1