I enjoy being intimate with my husband, but it feels like sex vs. making love and I don’t feel like we connect at all during the act. My husband has admitted that he struggled with pornography before we married. Could this have something to do with it? It often feels like he could be having sex with anyone and not like he’s having sex with me. I have no idea how to raise this with him.
If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone, as developing a mutually satisfying sex life typically requires three fundamental things: time, transparency, and trust.
In terms of your question, here are some possibilities to consider:
Your husband may not understand the difference you experience when you are “having sex” vs “making love”. It sounds like you haven’t broached the topic yet, so please make this your first stop. You may find that simply airing your feelings will completely alleviate your concerns and create a change. Make sure you’re both relaxed and have plenty of time to talk before raising the issue, and don’t take offense if your husband doesn’t see things exactly as you do. Women often view sex as a journey, while many men value the destination. This doesn’t make either one of you wrong. If things get difficult or it doesn’t appear that you’re going to be able to fully resolve it in one conversation, schedule another time in a few days to continue the discussion. There’s no rush.
Your husband has some understanding of what you mean by “having sex” vs. “making love” but needs to be shown. Yes, SHOWN. This means you may have to be more communicative during lovemaking and demonstrate what you like. Be kind, but direct. Requests like, “Can we slow things down?” or “I really like it when you touch me here” go a long way. Believe me, he’ll remember what you enjoy and relish the experience more himself! Asking him to make more eye contact is another way of increasing the connection factor but can feel too intense for some people, so be patient.
Your husband is struggling with a past addiction to pornography. Porn is a behavioral addiction and, just like substance abuse, it’s not easy to “quit cold turkey” without support and accountability. Pornography allows people to escape into fantasy rather than dealing with reality, so over time, the pleasure of reality becomes blunted in light of how stimulating the fake version is perceived to be. If your husband was previously addicted to porn, he may have unreal expectations of what sex is – or can be – in a committed relationship. He may also still be battling his addiction, which may cause him to act out his fantasies or visualize past porn experiences while having sex with you.
Your husband is having physical issues or insecurities about his ability to perform, including feeling pressured for time in some way. Everyday life can cause stress that can distract us from taking pleasure in one another. Stress can also create an inability for men to achieve or sustain an erection, creating even more anxiety and the tendency to avoid sex. The solution may be simply to relax! If he is aware that you are unsatisfied with your sex life, this could compound your issues. A love letter may be just the ticket to get things back on track. Sometimes it’s difficult to express what we desire in our sex life. Try writing your husband a tender, heartfelt letter about all the things he does RIGHT when you are intimate. Maybe even share a fantasy with him. Place the letter someplace unexpected, ask him to be your pen pal, and invite him to share his thoughts and a fantasy in return. Make it a fun game that is something special and shared only between YOU.
None of the above possibilities apply. Your husband may have his own unique and personal reasons for viewing sex differently than you do. It’s not uncommon for us to find, for example, that clients have suffered past physical or sexual abuse they’ve never even shared with their spouse. As you can imagine, this can cause significant issues in the bedroom. The good news is that these issues can also be completely resolved and healed by exposing and dealing with them openly and beginning to reclaim what should be yours: a healthy and satisfying sex life with your spouse!
For a more philosophical exploration of this topic, you may wish to read
Are You Making Love or Having Sex?
Whatever the reason for your differences, keep these things in mind as you try to explore and improve this aspect of your relationship:
Be patient and respectful. If your husband is dealing with any unresolved issues, work together as a team to resolve them. Take care not to judge or criticize. A few hurtful words can create even more distance and set you both back for a long time. Intimacy issues are often sensitive and difficult to discuss but they don’t need to be. Make your conversations about sex a safe space where there are no shameful or “incorrect” words or ideas.
Be self-aware. Take time to think about your expectations and make sure your idea of “making love” doesn’t come from a steamy novel or chick flick. While men may fall prone to pornography more than women, women often expect sex to be a passionate and soul-binding experience every time. This is unrealistic and unfair. Think about sex as food: sometimes you want a 3-course meal at a 5-star restaurant and sometimes you need to grab something fast at the drive-through. Remember that your husband chose YOU and married YOU and use this to increase your confidence in the bedroom.
Model what you want. Similar to #2 above, be willing to demonstrate what you like and what you want. He can’t read your mind! If you enjoy being seduced and taking your time, seduce him. If you enjoy a massage before lovemaking, give him a massage. When it comes to “show and tell”, showing is often much more effective than telling.
Have fun! Laugh, relax and just enjoy one another. Aim to keep your marriage strong and the lines of communication open and your sex life should follow. And remember: practice makes perfect!