Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Men, When It Comes To Sex, Less Can Mean More

January 20, 2003

Here is a common marital complaint I encounter in my counseling practice.

"My husband misinterprets my hugs and caresses as an immediate invitation to the bedroom. I deliberately have to withhold my affection and loving warmth from him to protect myself. It's not what I want but I don't know what else to do."

"At other times he is 'all hands.' He tries to fondle me while I'm busy in the kitchen or wherever. If I allow any degree of intimacy, then he gets turned on and expects more than I want or am in the mood to give. He has no sense of timing nor awareness of what I'm doing or how I'm feeling.

"I fight off his advances and he thinks I'm rejecting him. He's hurt, angry and frustrated. We don't communicate well on the subject. Gradually I see he is pulling away from me. How do I get through to him that it doesn't need to be this way?"

Sex as a relationship barometer. Sexual activity is a sensitive barometer of how well things are going in the relationship. Marriage needs a dynamic, vital, mutually satisfying sexual life to be really happy.

Whatever frequency of lovemaking is mutually agreeable should be dependable. Generally if the frequency is less than every three weeks to a month, then problems develop. On average, married couples make love on the order of once a week.

If you’re not getting along, are too angry or too indifferent to one another, then lovemaking becomes difficult and falls off. It is a sign that the relationship needs work.

Sometimes there are physical reasons for inadequate arousal or sexual dysfunction. These problems should be discussed with a medical doctor.

The difference between sexual fulfillment and affection. The advice I give to men is to pay attention to the total relationship. Daily love makes a difference. Sexual fulfillment and affection are different needs.

Affection is the expression of love and care through words, hugs, tender touches, cards, gifts, expressions of endearment, romantic surprises and countless courtesies. These expressions communicate interest, the value of the relationship, and concern for a partner's well-being. Showing affection is another of saying, "I am crazy about you."

Being loving, considerate, thoughtful, kind, helpful and giving has more to do with female sexuality than trying to arouse her physically. These are habits that can be learned.

Ask what your spouse wants in the way of affection and find out what to avoid. If she knows you know what she wants and you don't do it, it will be taken as a sign you don't care. Her "wiring" isn't as direct as a male mistakenly thinks or hopes it is. Her mood, energy level, worries, schedule, privacy and if she is feeling loved and cherished all figure in.

Showing love on a daily basis makes a big difference. What happens before the bedroom door closes is what counts. It's big turnoff to a woman if her husband expects to make love despite what has happened that day or evening.

Declaring love off limits. Some males feel that if they aren't continually pressuring their wives, they won't have any sexual intimacy at all. Their logic is that this is the time they might get lucky so it is worth the hassle or the rejection.

They don't realize what a turnoff their pressure is. Their wives feel like sexual objects rather than human beings with rights and feelings. When a woman says she doesn't like something (being pestered by unwanted sexual touch, groping), take her at her word. Repeating the intrusive behavior also tells her that you don't care.

If men could back off and allow sexual relations to occur naturally and in concert with their wife's mood and interest, intercourse would occur more often.

With trust that lovemaking will happen on a fairly predictable basis, then advances aren't necessary. By understanding when and under what circumstances are appropriate, constant "hustle" can be dropped out of the relationship.

It is helpful and quite powerful when the woman occasionally takes the initiative and communicates her interest. To turn things around, I suggest limiting intercourse to once a week.

The wife is committed to seeing it happen. She is given control over the timing and circumstances either through her receptivity or initiative.

Sexual holiday. This is the key. The rest of the time is a guaranteed sexual holiday where flirting, hugs, kisses, hand-holding, touches, caresses, back rubs, etc. are enjoyed for their own sake. Sexual foreplay is not affection. There should be clear communication between an affectionate gesture and a sexual overture. Don't blur the two and the amount of affection will jump astronomically.

A couple can enjoy affection without tension of pushing for or parrying off lovemaking. A woman can turn on her warmth and friendliness and receive the non-sexual affection that is important to her. It doesn't take men long to figure out that the friendliness, love and warmth are well worth the restraint they show.

The emphasis on non-sexual affection and playfulness adds to the total relationship and creates loving marriage - and in the long run, a better and a more loving sexual relationship.