Many people experience this type of good relationship for 1 month to may be 4 or 5 years. When you are in this space of total acceptance, appreciation and joy for all aspects of your person, naturally sex will be great. Sex is a form of communication, a space to express oneself as well as receive the pleasure and joy the other person brings. For many couples it does not last forever.
At some point, people are no longer able to ignore the differences between themselves and their partner. They may have had the (false) belief that “when we are in love, love makes us one and therefore, we want the same thing.”
At the point couples start to realize how their values, beliefs, behaviors and wants are different from each other, they may start to apply meaning to this consciously or unconsciously. The meaning they decide to give to it, can have a huge impact on the outcome of the relationship and their sex life. One meaning might be, "Oh this is so interesting that my partner prefers" this. Another less helpful meaning is: What is wrong with my partner that they want that?"
If we step back for a moment, all information in the world is meaningless data. Human beings are meaning making animals. We give meaning to things, events and people’s behavior in our life, it doesn’t inherently have meaning. The meaning we give is greatly influenced by our family of origin, socioeconomic status, education, culture, religion, gender and life experience. This would be considered the filter through which we see the world. Humans filter and interpret data and then apply meaning. This happens fast and often outside of our conscious awareness.
Keeping in mind, that each person has an unique filter, it is easy to see how people can give different meaning to events. However, people are not aware of the filter difference. If you combine different filters with the fact that many people believe that “love” is so powerful as to give couples the same filter, you can see how dangerous it is when couples can no longer ignore how they are different from each other. Couples will then start applying meaning to this difference.
It is at this critical junction that people apply “Meaning” to these differences and often start to employ relationship killing strategies to deal with the awareness that I am different from someone I love.
Common “meanings” given to identified differences that create problems for couples are:
· Maybe you don’t love me enough because you don’t want what I want
· Maybe I don’t love you enough because I don’t want what you want
· May be we are not meant to be together because we don’t want the same thing
· Maybe you are sick, abnormal, wrong or immoral to want what you want especially as it is different than me.
Many people will experience amazing sex during the beginning period of their relationship because they are so accepting of their partner and do not judge or ask them to change. In a longer term relationshi, you often get amazing sex because when you start a relationship you are younger, have more energy, more sleep, more time and a lot less stress and commitments and no deadly habits of blaming, complaining and criticism.
Over time, many people fail to take into consideration that their sex life with the same partner will ebb and flow and change over the course of the relationship’s life time. They fail to realize sex patterns change, desire will ebb and flow and what turns you on may change. When people don’t consider this, they apply “meaning” to the change or even diagnosis the issue.
Depending how couples handles it and the mindset they use can determine whether they will go on to have an amazing sex life or introduce problems to their sex life that can result in low or no desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or vaginismis (vagina walls spasming shut) or painful sex for the man or the woman.
Here are 2 mindsets that couples employee to deal with differences. One will kill your sex life and relationship and the other will lead to greater intimacy and satisfaction in the relationship and sex life. Where do you and your partner fall: (2009 Marlee Adams, PhD. Adapted from the Art of Questions)
Closed Mind-set :
· Judgmental of self and others
· Blame, preoccupation of assignment of blame
· Reactive and automatic
· “Know-it –all”
· Inflexible and rigid
· Either-or thinking
· Looks at things from a personal perspective only, it is the only perspective to evaluate and determine things. No other perspective exists
· Defends assumptions
· Possibilities are limited
· Primary Mood: Defensive
· Accepting of others and self
· Highly responsive and thoughtful
· High level of personal responsibility and accountability
· Values not knowing
· Flexible and adaptive in beliefs and behaviors
· Is open to and considers perspective of others
· Questions assumptions
· Possibilities seen as unlimited
· Primary Mood: Curious
Imagine how the two mindsets evaluate the differences between individuals in a relationship.
These are how these 2 mindsets impact the relationship: (2009 Marlee Adams, PhD. Adapted from the Art of Questions)
Closed Mindset on Relationship:
· Win-lose relationships
· Feels separate from self/others
· Feedback perceived as rejection
· Listens for:
· Seeks to attack and defend
Curiosity Mindset on Relationship:
· Win-Win relationships
· Feels connected to others/self
· Values differences
· Feedback perceived as helpful
· Listens for:
· Seeks to create and resolve
When couples notice a change in their sex life one or both individuals engage in the closed mindset and closed mindset behaviors. Examples of this are that one person will look at the sex problem from only their perspective. They will decide what the problem is based on how sex works for them only without even considering that their truth is not a universal truth but only a personal truth.
They will give meaning to their partner’s behavior and insist how they understand it is the one and only true position. They will be paying attention to how their partner is bad and they are good in trying. They will focus on the differences between them and judge them.
For example, a person may decide that they are able to or even like to have sex when they are tired, or when they don’t feel like it or that the right number of times of sex is X. All of this is based on their own understanding and operating of how sex works. Then based on their solo perspective they look at their partner and start to diagnosis and frame the conversation to defend their diagnosis and root of the problem. What occurs next is blaming.
The main questions asked are:
“Who’s fault is this?”
Blaming the partner for not being like “me” is the problem. From here the solutions are focused around fixing the wrong, abnormal, bad or sick partner once the closed-mindset partner’s original fixes don’t work (and they won’t work because they are based on only the closed-mind set’s person’s view). When the blamed partner tries to explain their position or views the closed minded partner takes it as an attack or rejection of their effort. Rapidly things become hopeless and options limited. All the while one or both people never consider that there is an alternative.
When people use blame this is a disconnecting habit. One person is determining the other is broken, bad or wrong. This is not erotic at all. This continued blaming, closed mindedness and defensiveness really creates horrible conditions. When this is going on, no one is having sex. Sex takes a new meaning, almost like a love test. If you really love you’ll change, be something or somebody you are not and just get on and have sex with me. All of this is not erotic at all!
Now consider dealing with a change in a couple’s sex life with a curiosity Mindset.
This person or couple values not-knowing and therefore wants to understand want is happening in the partner’s entire world (not just the bedroom). They refrain from determining it is a problem until they get more information and facts.
There is no diagnosis of the problem or assumptions, just general curiosity and opened questions. The often start from the position that the partner may not even see it as problem. They bring it up as feedback and seek feedback from partner about how they view the situation, what is working and what isn’t working for the individual. They are trying to understand and listening for commonalities and facts. No solutions are discussed until total understanding is achieved by both partners.
They also take a lot of personal responsibility and ask:
“What am I responsible for?”
This one questions shifts the change in the sex life back to the person who noticed the change. This question makes getting the sex they want their responsible, not their partner. Healthy people understand it is their job to figure out how to get the sex life they want, it is not something their partner owes them.
In self-reflection they examine if they’ve been staying attractive to their partner from a body perspective and an intellectual perspective. They examine if they have been happy and a pleasure for their partner to be around. They may realize they are using sex for different things in the past. They may notice a change in their own desire but haven’t been putting much effort into making sex great. This person starts with themselves before talking to the partner and see what they need to do different first to improve sex.
The curiosity mindset facilitates connections, understanding and intimacy. There is no rush to judgment or solutions until all is understood. The whole process makes everyone feel good and accepted. There is a highly level of personal responsibility for getting what the individual wants, not making it the job of their partner. Mostly this couple doesn’t panic and rush to create meaning when they notice a change or difference. They value differences and see it as opportunity for growth and novelty. They want to learn about each other and believe it is an ongoing process.