AS a sex therapist, I spend lots of time dealing with problems caused by misunderstandings between the genders.
There are certain mistakes I see heterosexual couples make over and over again – and most are easily fixed once you have a better understanding of what the other sex is really all about.
When a couple first gets together, it’s fireworks in the bedroom. But over time, ignorance of what the other is feeling can cost your sex life dearly. Here, I tell you the top five things men and women fail to grasp about each other.
Adapted from Love Worth Making: How To Have Ridiculously Great Sex In A Long-Lasting Relationship, by Stephen Snyder.
Five things he doesn't understand about her
1. SHE MUST FEEL DESIRED: Most women like to feel craved – and there is no way really good sex is going to happen without that.
Many women say the biggest turn-on is to feel sexually irresistible. The more you want her, the more irresistible she feels. Most women love the idea of being chased.
But it’s not so easy to arrange a chase when you have lived with someone for a long time.
That is why often a woman will have perfectly good sex with her husband then lie in bed afterwards wondering what it would be like to be with someone else – someone who can’t stop thinking about her and will pursue her.
This is the root cause of a lot of affairs. For most women, the mechanics of sex are not as important as simply feeling wanted.
2. KISSING REALLY MATTERS: You may have been together 20 years, but the way you kiss still matters.
In 30 years of being a sex therapist, I’ve rarely heard a man complain about the way his partner kisses.
But women tend to talk about this a lot. Too hard. Too soft. Too wet. Not wet enough. Too much tongue. Not enough tongue. For her, a kiss should be just right.
Then there is dental hygiene, breath and whether a partner seems to be really paying attention to such things.
Most women, on kissing someone for the first time, will do a detailed assessment. Her desire may rise or fall accordingly.
Few men pay enough attention to details such as personal hygiene when they are in a long-term relationship. They should.
3. SHE DRESSES UP FOR HER: When a woman is paying attention to how she looks, it is not just for a man’s benefit.
For most women, looking good is hugely erotic – for her. The more attractive she feels, the more it turns her on.
My colleagues Dr Marta Meana and Evan Fertel, at the University of Nevada, asked male and female subjects questions such as, “Does looking at yourself in the mirror in your underwear help get you in the mood for sex?” or “Would you want to have sex with yourself?”.
Many more women than men said yes. In fact, most men had no idea what the question, “Would you want to have sex with yourself?” even meant.
But a lot of women understood it immediately and said they would like to.
4. KIND ACTS INCREASE LUST: Your desire for her may start when you are getting ready for bed and she takes off her top.
Hers may have begun to grow much earlier in the day, when you did something that reminded her why she chose you.
A thoughtful text is always nice. The fact that you were thinking about her and took the time to let her know will impress her. Your words need not be intended to turn her on. But they should make her smile.
Flowers are great, too. It shows you have taken the time to think about her. Or plan a surprise night out. A woman wants to know you are thinking about her even when she is not there.
If you put in this kind of effort when you are apart, it will lead to fireworks when you are together.
5. SHE WANTS YOU LEAD: Most women who come to me say they prefer a man who knows how to be decisive. Why?
Simple. By the end of the day many women are so exhausted from thinking so much about other people’s needs – children, elderly parents, colleagues – they would love nothing more than to have someone else take charge.
Men tend not to realise this. When a woman asks, “What do you want to do for dinner?”, he will answer: “I don’t care. Whatever you want.”
That may be true, but it’s the wrong answer. The right answer is: “You look really tired. Let me take care of dinner while you take a bath.”
In bed, she would love it if you knew her body well enough for her to just shut off her mind and let you take charge.
Five things she doesn't understand about him
6. ATTRACTION IS INSTANT: If a man is not attracted to you from the start, the chances are he is never going to be attracted to you.
Most women have had the experience of being only mildly attracted to a man at first, then getting much more attracted to him once they get to know him better.
Men tend to lack this “erotic plasticity”. You can take a man out to the best restaurant in town, laugh at his jokes and he may appreciate it.
But it will not make him any more sexually attracted to you. Here is the good news, though: If he is attracted to you, there is not much else you need to do to keep him happy in bed.
Sure, sexy underwear can be nice. But the only thing a man needs to drive him crazy in bed is a woman whose body turns him on.
7. HIS BRAIN IS VERY SIMPLE: I think if most women could spend ten minutes inside a man’s head, they would be shocked at how little activity goes on there.
When a man thinks of something erotic, it is a simple thing, such as an image of his partner’s body.
Compare this with the thousands of details that bombard women’s minds during lovemaking, and it is quickly clear why most men tend to have a much easier time reaching orgasm.
My colleague Emily Nagoski describes a woman’s erotic mind as like a flock of birds.
To climax, women need to get enough birds flying in the same direction. A glance at her naked, alongside a few well-placed moans, and his birds are up and flying towards their destination.
8. HE'S SCARED OF YOUR BITS: He's afraid of your vagina. Yes, really. Just about all male sexual problems get worse in the presence of a willing and naked partner.
One man may be OK during foreplay, but then he will lose his erection when things move on to the next stage.
Another man may enjoy all kinds of physical stimulation without climaxing, but the minute intercourse begins, he is not able to hold back an orgasm.
There is also the fact that intercourse can result in pregnancy playing on his mind.
The best cure for a man’s fear, besides good birth control, is simply time to build trust. The key aspect in all this is not to make a big deal out of it.
9. SADNESS CONFUSES HIM: Men tend to see any unhappiness as criticism. This leads to all sorts of problems for couples – in and out of bed.
Let’s say she is disappointed because her partner has had to work late every day the past week.
The chances are he will notice her disappointment, but will not know quite what to do about it. So he will withdraw emotionally, which will make her even more upset.
Eventually things can get to a point where he is so wary of her disappointment that he no longer feels it is safe to approach her in bed.
My advice to couples is to sit him down and say: “Look, sometimes I’m going to feel disappointed, that’s all. “It doesn’t have to be such a catastrophe.”
10. PERFORMANCE WORRIES: Anxiety about their performance is the most common reason men avoid sex with a long-term partner.
No woman truly understands what it is like for a man to lose an erection. Most men say it feels like losing an essential part of themselves.
A man who has lost his confidence about his perceived masculinity needs a partner who believes in him and accepts him as he is.
That is the surest road to him getting back his confidence. Acceptance is key. Women and men both need lots of acceptance, every day. In that respect, despite our differences, we are all just the same.
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