Mark and Arian explore the journey of their sex life. And find some clues about how they ended up where they are now!
After their first exploration into their broken down intimate connection, Mark and Arian return to counselling for more guidance.
Between Duty and Need: what does it mean to have sex?
Arian has started to feel a little more open. She is curious about her body. How it responds to Mark’s approaches due to the exercise they practiced after their last session. But she is still bewildered about how to move beyond her feelings of ‘duty’ when it comes to sex. And about Mark’s ‘need’. They used to have fun with each other and never think along those lines in the first years of their relationship. Arian thinks about those days as distant memories of a past life.
So much has changed over the years. While they were building their life as a family, the sexual attraction seems to just have faded away and been replaced by this sense of duty. Mark, on the other hand, keeps alternating between wanting to be respectful and feeling frustrated that Arian is so unresponsive to his needs.
The difference between erotic and connected love-making and fulfilling needs and duties is hidden behind specific perceptions
In their next session they begin to unpack these experiences a little more. The counsellor explains a new concept. The difference between fulfilling needs and obligations versus making erotic and deeply connected love, is how the partners percieve each other. Esther Perel explains how sex for a woman is a deeply narcissistic experience! She needs to feel sexy and good about herself in order to be turned on. This is only possible when she can switch off her ‘care-taking-mode’. This is often the number-one killer of sexy feelings in (mostly) women. Very often, relationships that begin to get out of balance in other areas of life, leave the woman looking at her partner as the ‘third child’. The other one, that also needs to be taken care of, once the kids are looked after.
Being together sexually needs to be preceded by being together emotionally
For Arian, this revelation makes total sense. Mark and her can almost track the change throughout their time together. Once the kids arrived, time was taken up caring for them. It was easy to move into their known roles. Mark provides for the family, Arian cares for the kids. Mark also pinpoints the time when he first felt jealous. It was the time when the children got more attention than him! He is brave enough to admit to this feeling toward Arian. Although he never mentioned it to her at the time.
From there, they can track the changes in their sexual connections. Arian, who’s body was taken up by raising children in the first years of their lives, had little capacity to switch from nurturer to sex-goddess. Yet, her need to do the right thing to keep Mark in her life, compelled her to respond to his approaches with a sense of duty. This was easy enough. She did not hat having sex. And she was very capable of responding almost ‘automatically’ to Marks initiating. Arian did not notice how ‘the colour slowly faded out of the experience’, as she describes it in counselling. It wasn’t long before they engaged in counselling that she had begun to refuse Mark’s approaches. She now realises that this was just another indicator of an eroding connection.
For Mark, being able to have a beautiful sexual experience with Arian means feeling certain that she is confident within herself and feels save. As the counsellor bluntly explains. Men get turned on by their women being turned on and women get turned on by feeling good about themselves. Since Arian’s sexual presence has diminished over those past years, Mark realises that for him too, the act of having sex had changed from being a deeply connecting, exciting experience to a reassurance that he is still loved by Arian.
Back to the beginnings: Mark and Arian rediscover their sexual language
These explanations help the couple to better understand their current situation and how they ended up in that place. Mark and Arian express their willingness to change this. They leave this session with another ‘homework’. They are to write down the things they used to do that would initiate sexual interactions. This includes concrete actions as much as small gestures, smiles or verbal hints. It also includes those things the other one did to indicate they accepted the invitation.
Over the coming week, Mark and Arian greatly enjoy having a number of conversations about what they used to do and how it used to make them feel.
Once again, it is up to you to imagine where else this experience leads our couple.
If you need to have a conversation about sex with your partner and don’t know where to start, book a free 45-minute check-in-session with Mattie now.