Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
This gendered behavior is extremely common and totally, well… WEIRD.
Here’s the picture:
The woman is the higher desire sexual partner. The man’s desire is lower than hers.
Early in the relationship, the sex was great, because without effort, the woman initiated.
It was spontaneous and sincere. She didn’t think about it, she just did it.
The guy loved it.
And the sex was frequent and enjoyable.
It was so easy, it didn’t even look like she was initiating, as the man eagerly responded to her.
Then what happened was time.
As her ardor waned in intensity, she began to notice that his did too.
And she noticed that when she initiated sex, he was sometimes less than enthusiastic.
Men have been conditioned to expect this, when they are the higher desire partner.
Women have not.
So she begins to “test” him:
Then she begins to wait for him to show interest:
And she starts to get more sexually frustrated and feels more hurt and rejected.
Meanwhile, “back at the ranch,” the man is totally oblivious.
Oh he notices that his wife or girlfriend is not initiating sex with him, but he figures
she’s stopped wanting sex so often.
But then she becomes more hurt and rejected. And critical of him.
Then she emotionally withdraws.
“What did I do?” he’s asking himself…“What’s wrong with her?”
Then, after an extended period of time, she lays her own internal worldview onto him.
HER: “Why aren’t you interested in sex with me?”
HIM: “I am.”
HER: “Then why don’t you initiate sex with me?”
HIM: “I do.”
He says: “I do.” because to him, she just was kissing him and embracing him, and
HE was the one who made it sexual.
That’s HIS reality.
Or maybe he was making the slightest reluctant move sexually, and she scoffed him. Or didn’t notice.
She scoffed him NOT to reject him. She scoffed him to see if he was “really serious.” And he
failed that “test.”
But when he says: “I do initiate sex…” she gets furious.
She’s upset because she’s carefully been watching him, and waiting for him to reach over and start kissing her, just like she does to him.
Except he’s been waiting for her to reach over and start kissing him, and she hasn’t.
He’s learned in from their past interactions that if she doesn’t initiate it, she probably doesn’t want to have sex with him. And besides, she wants sex more than he does, and that’s not a problem for him.
So both have been playing “the waiting game” and it can get pretty ugly from there.
But what’s important to remember is that THERE IS NOTHING SEXUALLY WRONG
WITH THIS COUPLE.
They are suffering, but it is from gender stereotyping. And they are depriving
each other of the “social lubricant” of sex to improve their relationship.
If sex were a small deal with couples, both could ignore it. But sex is only a small part of a relationship when it goes well.
It’s a huge deal when it doesn’t or its absent.
And relationships get messed up by this sort of dynamic, when they can be set straight with a little intervention.
Such a shame.
Dr. K is the President and CEO of Couples Therapy Inc. She maintains her online couples therapy and sex therapy practice for couples in Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona and California. She is a Gottman Certified Couples Therapist, has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and has been a AASECT board-certified sex therapist from 1982-2017. She continues to work as a sex therapist.