Dear Dr. Jenni,
I’m not so into sex. My husband loves it. He would ideally like it every day. We end up having sex about once a week. I figure if I can get him to do things for me, I will feel better about conceding to sex. For instance, I offer sex if he can mow the yard or do some ironing. I’ll even offer oral sex if he can clean the bathroom. Sometimes I feel like I am trading sex for housework chores. Is this a reasonable arrangement to do?
It sounds like you are operating from a scenario of quid pro quo. As relationship expert John Gottman says, it’s not beneficial for partners in a marriage to be “emotional accountants.” There is too much room for resentment when we keep tabs, because too often they don’t equally add up. Furthermore, keeping score prevents partners from developing an environment of spontaneous generosity. Like a pay-it-forward mentality, when we give freely without keeping tabs, our partners want to reciprocate in kind. It’s a positive feedback loop that naturally keeps resupplying itself.
I also encourage you to look at your disinterest in sex. It’s normal to have differences in sex drive where one person has a higher or lower libido than the other. Neither person is in the wrong; it’s simply a difference. However, when there is a disinterest because of relational issues, it is a good idea to explore the quality of trust and friendship in the relationship. Whether you have sex all the time or very seldom, you ideally want to feel safe, sensual and, most importantly, connected.
Remember, sex is not always something you do with your partner; it’s also somewhere you go together in intimacy.
Dear Dr. Jenni,
I am a 24-year-old man, recovering alcoholic. I’ve been working my Alcoholics Anonymous program for three years. Both my sponsor and I feel I am ready for a relationship, but I’m nervous about how to date and do the whole sex thing without alcohol. I’ve never done this kind of thing without alcohol. Will my date think I’m a social outcast if I don’t drink?
—Scared of Sober Sex
Tons of people refrain from drinking. You are certainly not a social outcast if you wish to abstain, and anyone who might think this of you is not worth dating.
Ask yourself, what did alcohol do for you when you previously used it during dating and sex? Did it relax you or reduce your inhibitions?
What can you do today to naturally calm yourself and feel secure? You may enlist some breathing exercises while you are on a date. Or have a game plan to go take it slow and build trust and friendship so that when you move to sexual intimacy, it feels easier to be less inhibited. Don’t forget that dating doesn’t need to be at a bar. You can go for a hike and picnic, or do tea and cookies at a cozy café.
Before you even get there, I suggest dating others with similar values. It will make both dating and sex easier and more meaningful. To achieve this, you might want to seek partners who are also in recovery or don’t drink. I recommend online dating because you can explicitly state your drinking preferences or lack thereof. You can also tell friends who are setting you up to keep this as a primary consideration.
Congratulations on working your AA program. Keep it up!
Send questions for Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., to firstname.lastname@example.org. Skyler is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist who runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org.
Questions Send questions for Jenni Skyler to drjenni@ theintimacyinstitute.org.