What sort of compromises are possible? Clearly, if the underlying problem is disharmony in the relationship then sorting out the reasons for that will go a long way. It’s fairly well accepted that men and women speak a different emotional language to each other. An exercise that some relationship therapists use is to have the two partners, in turn, tell each other what they need from the other. Only when the first partner feels they have expressed themselves, is the second partner asked what they understood about the other’s needs. It’s amazing how often the message gets mashed up in the translation. It’s a great way to highlight the reasons people so often feel as though they ‘can’t get through’ to their partner. I recently saw a poster that put it so well: ‘I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.’

Work pressure or the demands of a young baby can mean that you are so tired by the end of the day that all you want to do is go to sleep. If you’re exhausted and your partner wants sex, it can feel like another chore to tack on to the day’s list.

Sally has two children under two. ‘It’s not as if I don’t fancy him any more. I often find myself thinking about making love to him during the day. The trouble is, by the time I survive the evening bathing, feeds and bedtime routine I am all out of energy and sex is the last thing on my mind.’ If the issue is tiredness or lack of time, one way around it is the ‘negotiated quickie’ … that means talking about different ways of satisfying one or both of you when time or inclination is in short supply. Just as you don’t feel like a four-course meal every night for dinner and a quick snack does the job, each lovemaking session need not be a major event worthy of a chapter in a romance novel. Expanding your repertoire of alternatives to intercourse can solve a lot of problems. There are times when, for example, a woman wants to make love but would prefer not to have intercourse, like on the heavy days of her period. Alternatives like oral sex or mutual masturbation can be useful compromises.

Traditionally, masturbation has had a bit of an image problem. Even nowadays, it is not exactly a compliment to call someone a wanker. So many people have grown up with guilt, inhibitions, anxieties and generally negative feelings about it. It is very common for one partner to feel threatened by the other masturbating, fearing that it is an insult to their attractiveness or their ability to satisfy their partner’s needs. Of course, others find it not only acceptable but a real turn-on and will learn more about their partner’s needs by watching them masturbate.

*118/17/9*

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