There Are 2 Sexual Styles — And Knowing Yours Can Change Your Sex Life

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...and your relationship!

It's easy to fall into a trap of believing that the desire for sex and intimacy always works the same for everyone.

We feel aroused, we connect and have sex, right? Because sexual desire and intimacy can happen so effortlessly in the beginning of a relationship, it’s natural to believe it will always be this way.

But as disparities evolve and sex becomes less satisfying we have to create another scenario to explain the changes. Perhaps men are designed to have indiscriminate sex and women are more selective. Maybe men just want sex but women have to have more.

Truth is, it's not nearly that simple.  And the differences in sexual styles are not strictly male vs. female. What makes one man desire sex can be vastly different than another man—and the same for women.

This is why not knowing your sexual style (or your partner's) can cause all sorts of problems. Without good information you can end up blaming, shaming, coercing, cursing, shutting down, or shutting out.

You can also give in and give up like this client who sat in my office and told me her story:

"When I was married to my ex-husband I had sex to avoid his anger. Believe me, my life and my kids’ lives were much better when he wasn’t sex-deprived. Going without sex made him angrier by the day, and his sullen silence would have us walking on eggshells trying to avoid a lightning strike of wrath. To prevent this, I would comply with his sexual advances, fake orgasm, and keep peace in the family.

I have many regrets from that relationship, but oddly, having fake sex wasn’t the biggest one. Since my divorce, I’ve learned a lot about myself including the fact that I’m a demisexual person who truly needs safety, lowered stress, and a sense of connection in order to feel desire. I didn’t know enough about my sexual needs, to be honest with myself, or with him, so we got caught in a trap. I would feel disconnected and avoid sex; his anger would build; I’d give in and add another brick to my wall of resentment—which made me feel even more disconnected. He was a smart man; he knew how unhappy I was; and by the time I ended the marriage, he was resigned to divorce.

What I regret most about my role in that relationship is that I didn’t understand my own needs enough to tell him what I needed. In all honesty, I believe he probably would have done most anything to strengthen our connection and lower my stress if only I had been able to communicate that it was necessary for me to desire him, as well as sex. I didn’t know what to tell him; all I knew was how unhappy I was, and it became unbearable."

RELATED: Can My Husband And I Ever Find Our Sexual Connection Again?

In over thirty-plus years of practice, I’ve heard several versions of this story. This illustrates the fact that what you don’t know about sex can hurt you. There are so many variations when it comes to sexuality that it’s vital to understand you and your partner may need something very different to achieve sexual satisfaction. Let me give you one example.

In terms of sexual desire, we each fall somewhere on a continuum, with testosterone-dominant people on one end and estrogen-dominant folks on the other.

Half the population (two-thirds of women and about a third of men) identify more with estrogen dominance; the other half (two-thirds of men and one-third of women) relate more to testosterone dominance.

During my lectures and workshops, I illustrate this range of desire differences on a clothesline: two bras and one pair of boxer shorts hang on the estrogen-dominant side, while two pairs of boxer shorts and one bra hang on the testosterone-dominant side. A green handkerchief in the middle represents those who feel like they share some characteristics of both. After all, it is a continuum.

Estrogen-dominant:

Estrogen-dominant women and men do not feel the desire to have sex unless their stress levels are lowered and they sense a genuine, emotional connection to their partners.

They enjoy talking about feelings and sharing intimate, personal details and relish the sense of closeness as well as safety. Demisexuals share these experiences. For the estrogen-dominant group, the desire to have sex comes after establishing a safe connection and an open heart. The longer the heart is closed, the greater the risk of it staying closed, as in the case of the client mentioned earlier.

Testosterone-dominant:

Testosterone-dominant men and women walk around in a sex-ready state, primed for passion, much of the time.

This group doesn’t necessarily need the closeness or sense of safety to feel sexual desire. In fact, a little danger, even distance, can make sex more delicious.

And unlike the estrogen-dominant who are turned off by stress, stress can make this group want sex more. They can’t imagine turning down one of the best stress-relievers that exists. The longer the testosterone-dominant person goes without sex, the more physical, psychological, and emotional discomfort they feel. A growing preoccupation with their own pain can make them more insensitive to the pain of others.


Related: Turn Your Relationship Into A Storybook Romance With These 3 Steps
 

Hormones are just one of many factors influencing sexual style, satisfaction, and ultimately the course of a relationship.

Your early history, the status of the relationship, your sexual techniques, as well your personal habits can influence sexual contentment. This is why having good information is so important. If you are going to be successful and satisfied in relationships — whether single or coupled — you have to be sexually savvy.

Pat Love, Ed.D., LMFT, co-author, You’re Tearing Us Apart: Twenty Ways We Wreck Our Relationships and Strategies to Fix Them. Become enlightened to the complexity, challenge and delight of sexual intimacy with Dr. Love’s Online Series: Sex, Desire and Relationships, www.patlove.com.

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