Psychology Today: Your Sex Number

I really enjoyed this Psychology Today article, “Your Sex Number: A Scale of Sexual Desire and Libido.”

His idea is that there is a libido spectrum, and figuring out where you are on the spectrum, as well as where you partner is, can be helpful in avoiding tension around the frequency of sex within your relationship. So according to Meyers, it can diffuse a lot of frustration if a couple realizes that one individual has a high libido number and the other has a low libido number. It can help individuals realize they are just different, and help keep it from feeling personal if sex isn’t happening as frequently as one of them would like.

His first recommendation “discuss a menu of sexual acts” is very much like Marty Klein’s idea of sexual intelligence, and I was happy to see it at the top of his list. I think it is continually important to expand your ideas of what it means to be intimate, romantic, and sexual. 

His next recommendation floored me: “Rethink monogamy.” What?! Totally awesome! His full explanation:

The vast majority of romantic couples in American society report that they’re monogamous, despite the fact that a high percentage of individuals within those couples secretly seek out sexual adventures with others. Secrets, of course, are bad news for the obvious way that they can destroy intimacy. If you and your partner have vastly different sex numbers and the less sexual one isn’t interested in compromising to have more sexual activity, you both should consider creative ways that the more sexual partner can get those needs met. If you’re a couple who would consider letting each other have the occasional sexual dalliance outside the relationship, make sure to keep the lines of communication open to avoid growing apart. Perhaps you’re a couple that must set specific rules: never engage in sexual activity with the same person more than once, only seek out adventures on vacation or far away from home, and so forth.

I am impressed!

His next recommendation is pretty interesting: sublimate sexual energy. Basically, try to harness your sexual energy into other activities, like art or exercise, that produce tangible results. He describes sublimation as a high-level defense mechanism (although I wonder about calling it a defense versus coping mechanism), and that it can be a very healthy way to manage a long-term relationship in which the sexual energy has gone stale.

Lastly, he offers the possibility that a couple break up if a libido incompatibility is too great. This part was interesting to me: 

As a therapist, I’m hard-pressed to believe that ending a relationship for sexual reasons is a good idea. Given that the are so many alternatives (sublimating the energy, changing the parameters of monogamy, and compromise), my hope is that couples find a way to keep the good parts of the relationship rather than throw it away.

I appreciate his approach: why turn a relationship into an either-or situation when there are alternatives to keeping the relationship and finding ways of staying sexually satisfied? However, I also question the idea that sexual incompatibility is not a good reason for ending a relationship. Why? Sex is such a basic human need, and we all deserve pleasure and satisfaction and physical intimacy. (Granted, he goes on to say that after a couple has exhausted ways to salvage the relationship, it may be time to break up and move on.) It seems like, to me, that sex is still so taboo and tangential to what relationships are supposed to be about in our culture, that to even suggest that two people break up because of sexual incompatibility is sacrilegious.

Just my two cents!! But I was impressed with his ideas and happy to see some broader ideas of what can be done with different libidos in a relationship.

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