“Men just want sex. Sex and sandwiches.”
That’s what the mainstream want you to believe.
And in part, they’re right. I want both those things (albeit in different measures).
But I know I can have both those things and still be miserable in a relationship, desperately yearning for the carefree days of bachelorhood.
Women who believe men are that simple remind me of those guys who truly believe the secret to happiness is money and six-pack abs.
I’d take both of those any day, but I know they also won’t be a panacea to all my problems.
Take sex. Although there seems to be good evidence that more is better, it’s usually probably because this indicates other healthy parts of the relationship that mean two people can’t keep their hands off each other.
- It might be because you both turn each other on in conversation and make each other feel attractive.
- It might be that he pays attention to your physical and emotional needs.
- It might be that he has a strong sense of purpose and takes charge of his life, which makes you want to jump on him at every opportunity.
- It might be that you both always give each other sexual compliments and try to remain desirable for each other.
These things seem to indicate that sex is a symptom of a healthy relationship, not an immediate cause.
What really seems to matter more is the presence of sexual desire. Sexual desire includes novelty, mystery, fun, adventure, a sense of shared excitement, the ability to let go and feel in the moment of shared passion.
As the relationship expert Esther Perel explains in her hugely influential TED Talk “The Secret To Desire In A Long-Term Relationship”, the things that create feelings of love are not the same as the things that create desire.
What really kills relationships is when two people purely focus on comfort-needs to the detriment of every other area of attraction.
They focus on building a home, having security, paying the bills, making each other feel safe, being loving parents. All of these are great, and are no doubt part of the warmth that relationships can provide.
But if these activities become the only focus of the relationship, they crowd out all those other parts that generate attraction, rather than just comfort.
And attraction is:
- When you both arrive a fashionable 30 minutes late to your friend’s party because you had to tear each other’s clothes off first.
- Giving spontaneous sexual compliments or expressing physical desire to your partner.
- Doing things that make each other feel more sexy, rather than just more loved.
- Prioritising physical intimacy as much as emotional intimacy.
- Caring about our appearance with our partner, and finding out what turns them on visually.
So I don’t think it’s as simple as sex keeping the relationship interesting. It’s just as crucial to also stoke sexual desire, which involves caring about those physical and flirtatious activities that keep things novel and intriguing, that add a layer of unpredictability and provide an injection of amorous spontaneity to the quotidian comfort of the everyday relationship.
And after all that, you’ll probably both deserve a sandwich.
Photo (Getty Images)
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Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.