Dr Sandip Deshpande, Consultant Psychiatrist, Sexual & Relationship therapist; co-founder Happy Relationships argues that ‘Perfect Sex’ is a myth that spoils many a happy relationship…
Sanju & Geetha (names changed), both professionals, were dating each other for over two years. They were sexually active during their courtship period and were happy with each other. While they were madly in love with each other, differences in their personalities did not seem like a huge issue. However, a year since getting married, both of them were terribly disappointed with the way their lives have gone and were considering getting out of their marriage much to the shock and disbelief of their friends and families. One of the major bones of contention for Sanju was that he was ‘dissatisfied’ with their ‘sex life’ which seemed ‘perfect’ till a few months into their marriage.
Sexuality is very personal and no two individuals are alike in it!
The growth and development of an individual’s sexuality is contingent upon several factors – early life experiences and messages one receives about intimacy, home and external environment and the sources of knowledge and information about sexuality. For Sanju, like many other young people of the 21st century, in the absence of reliable sources to educate young men and women about sexuality, this vacuum was filled by information from friends, media and pornography. Pornography is becoming easily accessible on smart phones and is cheap or rather free to access. Several problems have begun to surface for young people who are sexually active due to porn viewing. It has begun to shape the view that intimacy is a physical act only and that the focus should be on ‘perfect sex’ that involves having perfect body types (with emphasis largely on genitals and breasts) and on the duration of the act itself.
Sexual intimacy and the couple relationship go hand-in-hand
Seldom do couples who have major problems in their relationship, end up having satisfactory sexual relationships consistently. Sanju and Geetha failed to understand this and blamed each other from different ends of this spectrum. He expressed his dissatisfaction by talking about how she was not interested in intimacy anymore which would leave her feeling low, a sense of being an object of sexual gratification which left her angrier. On her part, Geetha was tired of telling him about how they don’t spend time with each other or that he doesn’t help her with the household chores which he deemed as ‘less important issues’. Very often they began to argue and bring their respective moot points only to go away blaming each other and not taking any corrective steps. Over the course of the next few months, intimacy dwindled and they felt distant in each other’s’ presence.
Sexual intimacy needs to be blended within the couple’s busy lives
In view of the sexualized world that we live in, the focus has now largely been around the myth of 'perfect sex'. For most couples, especially for men (who deem themselves as the experts in this area), perfect sex involves ‘having a hard erection’, and, ‘being able to perform intercourse for a long long time’. Any sexual activity between two people originates with one or both of them having the desire to want to be sexual. In new relationships or among newly married couples, the desire tends to be high among both the partners. However, this tends to change especially after the first 12 to 18 months tending towards a mismatch in their desires. After this ‘honeymoon period’, there is likely to be a partner who has a higher spontaneous desire and the other partner whose desire is kindled as a result of the partner who takes initiative.
Sanju and Geetha were in therapy with a sexual and relationship therapist and were educated about the desire differences and the fact that intimacy can be a planned activity. The myth of ‘perfect sex’ put undue expectations on each other about spontaneity and in some couples the chase for the elusive ‘simultaneous orgasm’. Also, they were encouraged to focus away from a narrow sexual script that involved focusing largely on intercourse. They were taught to view intimacy as much an act of giving pleasure to their partner as was the selfish motive to be the receiver of this pleasure.
Moving away from the notion of ‘perfect’ to good-enough’
Sanju and Geetha were counselled about couple communication and resolving conflicts in the couple setting. They had a handful of unresolved issues which seemed to show up in different shapes and forms. There were discussions and mutual agreements about how to handle them and a division of roles and responsibilities. They were encouraged to have an approach to intimacy that had variety, that was focussed on mutual respect and driven by pleasure rather than based on performance only. Once they began to see value in this approach, and worked like a true couple team, the intimacy improved and so did their relationship in general. Typically, according to the literature in psychology, men approach the spectrum of couple relationship from the point of sexual intimacy. In other words, by being sexually intimate with their partner or wife, they show how much they care or love them. Conversely, women (not necessarily all) largely feel that if they are shown the love and receive attention by their partner or husband, that, intimacy blends well in that relationship.