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|Heart of the Matter|
Heart of the Matter
Helping Couples Find Their Sexual Chemistry
by Barry McCarthy
After knowing each other for four years and living together for 18 months, Jen and Rob had become more and more frustrated by an increasingly contentious problem: the state of their sex life. In their first two years together, sex was an exciting and fulfilling experience for both of them, but the past two years had been a different story. Jen complained that Rob didn't value intimacy and that he sulked whenever touching didn't lead quickly to intercourse. She said he wasn't making her feel that he really desired her anymore: he just wanted sex. Along the way, in her disappointment and frustration, she'd lost her own feelings of being turned on by him.
Meanwhile, Rob said he'd tried everything he'd read on the Internet and in Cosmopolitan, buying Jen sexy outfits from Victoria's Secret, watching porn videos, giving her more oral sex, buying sex toys—but nothing worked. His own sex life had taken a decidedly solitary turn; his masturbatory frequency had increased from two to three times a month to ten times that number. He felt cheated and scared that at 29, his sex life was over. He wondered if Jen had pulled a "bait and switch." Sometimes he thought they were sexually incompatible.
At least 40 percent of couples go this route—having great sex during the romantic love/passion sex/idealization phase of their relationship, which typically lasts no more than a couple of years, and naively assuming that the sexual fire will always burn, no matter what. When sex inevitably changes in quality and quantity, they stumble blindly on, hoping that somehow they'll get back that old zing. Studies show that, without some help, they rarely do.
Like most couples experiencing sexual dysfunction, Jen and Rob felt ill-equipped to explore what was going on in their sex life, much less how to discover better choices. Anxious, defensive, and angry, they didn't know how to talk about sex at all, not just because they felt shy about it, but because they lacked a way of envisioning what more inviting and pleasurable alternatives might be. They didn't grasp that what they were looking for wasn't so much a change in specific behaviors and sexual practices as a way of developing a more rewarding couple sexual style.