Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.
This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie helps a man who feels rejected by his wife.
QUESTION: I feel like I need to improve my sex life as it’s become stale and predictable. I’ve been reading up on how to make it better and was advised to use sex toys and maybe introduce some role play. The thing is, I tried to bring it up with my wife and she dismissed me right away saying she’s not interested in things like that. I felt a bit silly and now I’m reluctant to suggest anything else. What can I do to improve my sex life while also making my wife feel comfortable?
ANSWER: It’s really challenging when you have different desires around sex – whether that be in regard to the frequency, or variety. It becomes even harder when our partner struggles to talk about it.
I really want to acknowledge your courage in trying to address this. I can hear that you want to improve this because your relationship – and your wife – mean so much to you.
What science says about having great sex
Over the last 40 years, there have been several studies of couples who have thriving sex lives – and there’s a lot we can learn from them.
What’s clear from these couples is that great sex starts outside the bedroom.
Couples who have intimacy and passion in the bedroom also have a strong connection and friendship. They:
• Consider themselves good friends
• Say ‘I love you’ every day
• Cuddle with each other regularly
• Enjoy physical touch – without it leading anywhere
• Continue to play, laugh and have fun together
• Kiss passionately for no reason at all
• Have strong trust between them
• Go on regular dates
• Pay attention to each other’s needs
Research also shows that couples who maintain great sex lives also have things in common inside the bedroom – and it has little to do with sex toys, role play or different sex positions.
Couples who have incredible sex report:
• Being present and embodied during sex
• Being able to be authentic and uninhibited
• Having a strong emotional connection
• Feeling in-sync with each other in bed
• Feeling safe to take risks and have fun together
• Having great communication during sex
• Seeing sex as a transcendent (sometimes spiritual) experience
Variety and pleasure are also important, but they’re best added to a strong foundation.
Sex is vulnerable
Trying to raise this with your wife and being shut down is a painful experience that I think many others will relate to.
Sex is vulnerable.
I often hear people tell me that they feel:
• Shame at feeling rejected around sex
Shame at not being ‘good enough’ around sex
• Guilt that they’re not pleasing their partner
• Fear that they won’t be able to get it right
• Worry that differences in desire will ruin their relationship
• Embarrassment in even talking about sex
My guess is that’s why you feel ‘silly’ having raised this. And, your wife probably felt a whole mix of these emotions when you made your suggestions.
What you can do
You didn’t do anything wrong by trying talk about this.
It’s actually helpful to talk about sex, but you might need to do this gently and sensitively with your wife.
Based on thousands of conversations I’ve helped couples have about sex, there are a few things I imagine your wife needs to hear to support her to feel more open and comfortable about this:
1. You love her aside from sex
She needs to know that sex isn’t the only reason you love her and want to be close to her. I know this might seem obvious to you, but it probably isn’t for her. (Trust me on this.)
2. You want to be close to her without it needing to lead to sex
Again, it might be obvious to you, but not to her.
3. You enjoy your sex life as it is right now
Hearing that it is enjoyable right now can help reduce the shame and guilt she might feel.
4. You want this because you want to feel closer to her
5. You’re happy to take it slow and only do things she’s comfortable with
It can take time for you both to feel comfortable addressing this. You can also consider writing this in a letter to her or asking if she would be happy to see a therapist to help guide the conversation.
Isiah McKimmie is a couples therapist, sexologist, sex therapist and lecturer. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her on Instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy. If you have a question for Isiah, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read related topics:Isiah McKimmieSex Advice