It happened again today.
I saw a patient who is in a long-term relationship with a man she loves very much. He is warm and caring and gentle and loving. Their sex life is good… (it wasn’t when she first came here, but now it is). She and her husband have sex 1–2 times a week. She gets turned on and has orgasms and for the most part enjoys it, except…. Except that there is a part of her that doesn’t really want gentle and loving sex all the time. There is a part of her that wants to be grabbed and thrown on the bed. There is a part of her that wants her husband to tie her hands above her head and push her against the wall and take her from behind. There is a part of her, the part that got turned on when she was reading 50 Shades of Grey, that wants something different from the gentle, loving sex she is currently having. And she doesn’t know what to do.
This is not a unique problem. Believe it or not, I see it fairly frequently. It doesn’t always go this way. Sometimes it goes the other way. A woman wants gentle loving sex and her husband is aggressive and more demanding than she likes and that’s a big issue also. And men get stuck in this dilemma as well. But more often than not, the problem I’m presented with is that a woman wants rougher sex than she is currently having. I suppose it makes sense on a number of fronts. We choose a partner for many reasons but hopefully a part of that is to find someone who can support us, love us and take care of us. Partners who are loving, solicitous, and gentle often rank up high in the relationship department. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they rank up high in the rough-sex department. Also, I think we live in a society that assumes that women want a certain kind of sex. Your partner, one of the enlightened, egalitarian set, might assume that rough sex is just not kind enough, supportive enough or romantic enough. He might think “of course she wants gentle, loving sex”. Isn’t that what every woman wants? That is our cultural assumption.
In the end, we make our decision to marry (or get into a long term relationship) for a myriad of reasons and great sex might not necessarily be at the top, or a certain kind of sex might not necessarily be at the top. And let’s be honest, our lovers might not naturally understand what we want and it may be quite different from what we want out of the bedroom. So what’s a person to do?
As far as I can tell, you have two options:
- Talk to your partner and see, if they are open to the change. They may just be waiting for you to say the word. Alternatively, they may be taken aback that you want things that feel non-too- PC and that may take some negotiating. Or, it is possible that they like, or are more comfortable with, calmer, less “rough” sex and it may be difficult to change style. In any event, it’s worth a try.
- Or, if your partner really can’t/won’t consider a change in sexual direction, you always have the option to have sex in your head when you’re with them, and that can be a different kind of sex.
Okay, let’s look at the first option — see if you can talk your partner into getting with the program. This seems like the more obvious of the two approaches and it is the optimal choice. It also might prove to be the more difficult option. Talking to your partner about this means coming clean as to what you really want, even if you are a tad embarrassed to admit it. Women seem to have an awfully hard time admitting to themselves, let alone telling their partners they want them to be dominated or that they want to dominate. It’s so culturally frowned upon that it takes an unusual person to recognize a desire to be thrown on the bed and controlled. Admitting it out loud is twice as difficult. But if you want this to work you have to own that part of yourself, understand it is normal and natural.
And now you have to communicate to your partner concretely, not in generalities. Saying “I’d like you to be rougher or take charge more,” might not get you anywhere. I suspect you’ve probably even tried that already. What you probably need to do is describe, in graphic detail, exactly what you want them to do to you, when and how. And I know, that’s a bummer, because part of the charge of this kind of sex is letting go and letting someone else take charge and here you are feeling like you are back to controlling everything again. Conversely, if you would like to be more aggressive, own that and talk about it. Or, if you want to role play, dress up as an alien or tie your partner up, own it.
It’s also important to accept that you might not get exactly what you want, but you will get a closer version than you might be getting now. And who knows? If you’re really lucky, you may unleash something in your partner that allows them to run with it. Maybe they will find a part of themselves that, until now, they’ve kept wrapped up. You’ll never know until you try.
And unfortunately, “really trying” does not mean one vague, theoretical conversation. “Trying” in this case means passing along books, DVD’s, raising the issue while you are having sex, making specific suggestions and keeping them coming. And all this means you need to make sure you are comfortable with this part of yourself and don’t start backtracking and back-pedaling. “You know I didn’t really mean it when I said I would get a kick out of sex in the parking lot.”
And another small warning. When you are having this conversation make it absolutely clear that there has been nothing fundamentally wrong with you love life until now. That you do really and truly enjoy the other kind of sex, the kind that you have more regularly. It’s just… this is something new that you really want to try and build in.
The second option, having a different kind of sex in your head, is much easier and definitely more comfortable and I’ve seen it work for a myriad of couples. This is the option where you say, tonight I really need a different kind of sex, so while my body is definitely on the bed with my lover, my brain is in my car where I’m trying to get out of ticket with a controlling and angry cop.
Before I get jumped on by a host of angry sex therapists who are horrified by my suggestion that you don’t always have to stay present in your body with your current partner each and every time you make love, let me clarify. Yes, it is likely your love life might suffer if, every time you are with your partner, your brain goes on vacation with someone else. You may find yourself having a difficult time staying with your body and its normal reactions and at some point your lover is likely to catch on if you are “away” during every sexual encounter.
But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m suggesting that sometimes, using your brain to access a different kind of sex than what is actually happening in your bedroom can be a liberating and erotic experience. And even though your brain is hanging out with dominating aliens, a stranger you just met in the bar or the brother of the guy in 50 Shades of Grey, your body is safely at home with a loving partner. What I’m saying is that there is nothing at all wrong with you, or your relationship if you sometimes fantasize about a very different, erotic encounter somewhere, far, far away, while still enjoying the tactile sensation happening right now in your very own bedroom. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s not having an affair with your imagination, and it is definitely not disloyal. If anything, using your brain to spice up your love life and keep you coming back to the same person and the same bed every time — that’s the important part.
So there you have it. Own the kind of sex you really want to try and then make it happen in reality or make it happen in your head. Either way you don’t have to give up on the kind of sex you want!