Intimate love — 25 October 2004
The road to sex is paved with kindness

Men and women are different when it comes to the physiological responses involved in sexual arousal and performance. What they have in common is the need to feel emotionally safe prior to sharing intimacy within their committed relationship.

There are many myths about males’ indiscriminate readiness for sex. Yes, it is true that men are more visual and more easily aroused than women. Yet, their comfort within a love relationship is a major factor in their desire, availability and sexual performance. You may ask men how ready they are to become intimate when they feel criticized, disapproved of and unappreciated by their women, and you will learn, what you already know, that the natural ability and interest is quickly extinguished when disapproval is present.

Women are known to require courting behaviors to become aroused and interested in intimacy. They need to feel loved, cherished and appreciated first, before their sexual impulses are activated. Women like to be physically desired, but resent when this occurs without the greater sense of being valued for all their other attributes.

Men and women do respond differently in recovering from fights. Men desire sex to receive the validation that the relationship and they are accepted, while women often avoid sex after the fight since their sense of being loved as a person is temporarily shaken.

Both men and women deeply want to be regarded favorably by their life partners. When they feel disregarded, shamed, criticized and poorly viewed, their hurt often causes them to doubt their own appeal. It is also hard to continue to feel loving toward a partner who is being harsh and disapproving.

The contrary is also true, feeling valued is an aphrodesiac. Intimacy requires safety and safety is created through acceptance. Unless we feel appreciated for who we are as people, it is hard for us to engage in truly intimate exchange.
Most people know that about themselves, but may be remiss in realizing that it is also true for their mates.

Not infrequently women say that men desire sex regardless of the emotional nature of the relationship. Men often say that criticism does turn them off sexually. Wouldn’t it be great if men and women spoke to each other honestly about the emotional components of feeling sexually interested?

Even if this conversation is hard for some couples, there is a simpler way to achieve sexual connection that is true and wonderful. Be kind to your partner most of the time.

When mates are kind, considerate and respectful of each other, it is easy for them to feel valued and all barriers to healthy sexuality are removed. It does not require talking about it, negotiating or compromising. It is a personal decision each individual can make for him or herself. This behavior is likely to be reciprocated in kind.

Being kind starts from a loving space. When you love, you act reverently toward the loved one. You are careful to be attentive, accepting and supportive to your mate about any minor or major happenings. You see your partner’s less than ideal traits as areas to be supported, understood and helped. You attempt to compensate for these areas of weakness with your areas of strength. When your partner takes the same approach, both of you are honored.
Being kind is a choice about being reverent of your mate, not being competitive, superior, desiring to win, to conquer or control. It is about deep respect and the desire to assist your partner to become all that he or she can be.

Kindness stems from the heart and has a protective quality. You do not want your loved one to suffer, be hurt, embarrassed, or diminished in any way. You may go out of your way to preserve your partner’s dignity and esteem. You may minimize the impact of his or her mistakes, find positive meaning for actions that may cause your mate to feel badly about him or herself. You can elect to validate the essence of your partner’s being as solid and good.

Choosing your words carefully is another way to be kind. “I know you intended to get this done and must have been prevented from doing so today”, is the kinder phrasing of the more commonly used message of “Why didn’t you do it? You promised that you would, how can I count on you?” The first sentence may evoke appreciation for keeping the “doer’s” integrity intact, while the second may create shame and hurt.

It is easy to be kind if you set your mind on doing so. It is not what you do or say, but how much respect and love you insert into your doing. The payoff for kindness is a close, intimate and sexually rewarding connection with your partner.

Please consider these premises:

  • Sex is one of the many loving exchanges you share with your partner. They are all interdependent.
  • Both men and women need to be accepted to feel safe in their sexuality.
  • Feeling valued is a sexual turn-on.
  •  Criticism extinguishes sexual interest.
  • Sex is not something you are entitled to, it is an activity of intimacy you earn and share.
  • Sex begins with loving and kind gestures.
  • Being kind is a choice you can make to affirm your partner’s worth and create a deep emotional and sexual intimacy.

October 24, 2004

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.