By Dr. Phil Lee, author of the ARGUMENT ADDICTION
The first and most obvious sign that your partner isn’t enjoying sex is your partner is not having an orgasm. This may be clear to Captain Obvious, but it eludes Captain Oblivious.
Therapist: How’s the sex?
Dave: It’s getting so much better. Last night she gave me a blow job!
Dave thinks this is a positive sign, but it is not. This becomes clear when the therapist asks what happened then. Dave says he felt so good he drifted off to a wonderful sleep.
Dave, who thinks he is on the highway to happiness, is in fact speeding down a dead end street. He has been complaining of not having enough sex, but he has forgotten or never learned the cardinal rule. If you want to have more sex, you have to make it fun for your partner; and this certainly at least includes making sure your partner has an orgasm.
“We had intercourse; she didn’t come but she felt really good and enjoyed it.”
Polite is not the same as positive, and sat still for it does not equal satisfied by it.
Polite wears down, polite doesn’t last.
Another sign that your partner isn’t enjoying sex is the timing argument. Here the sex itself may be “fine,” but that won’t matter if the romantic encounter never occurs.
In our book Argument Addiction we write that couples differ over how frequently they want to have sex. There are many variations of this argument. Here’s a typical story we hear. Dave comes home from a business trip. He walks into the kitchen where Jen is preparing dinner and grabs her ass.
Dave: Are the kid’s at hockey practice? Let’s do it!
Jen: God! Is that all you want from me?
There is a ‘chicken or the egg – which came first?’ quality to this argument. Dave is saying “First we’ll have sex, then we’ll feel close.” Jen is saying, “Not so fast: first we’ll feel close, then we’ll have sex.”
If you are having this argument, the antidote is to appreciate rather than resent a fundamental difference between the sexes. Men often achieve emotional closeness through sexual intimacy. When they have sex, they feel it is a way to be closer to their partner. Women, on the other hand, often need a sense of emotional closeness, understanding, appreciation, and connection in order to feel interested, in order to feel ready for sexual intimacy.
How to talk to your partner about sex:
People have trouble talking about sex because there is so much self-esteem tied into sex. Neither partner is comfortable with the idea that they might not be the best, not only the best in the present but also better than all who came before. A tall order!
The trick is not to be defensive, and not to attack.
Attack is basically telling the partner they’re no good. “Other guys last longer,” “my high school girl friend gave better head,” “you take too long to come.”
Many avoid attack by being silent. Partners who are more than free with feedback in other areas (“Is that any way to stack the dishwasher?”) are curiously silent on the subject of sex.
The fix is to be steadfastly curious, while giving helpful rather than critical feedback.
The default position is “What can I do to make this the most fun possible for you?” Of course you can only make it easy for your partner to give feedback, you can’t waterboard them. On the other hand, if they summon up the courage to give some actual feedback, (“Right there is better” “Slower” “Like this”) then you had better be happy to hear it. If you are resentful or defensive, this will be the last feedback you get!
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