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Reconciling Different Love Making Styles

QUESTION: My husband and I have very different tastes when it comes to sex. He typically is very fantasy-oriented and likes to incorporate tapes, magazines, and verbal fantasy. I would be quite content with us just staring into each other's eyes. While there may be fantasies going on in my head I don't feel the need to verbalize them. I can accept his desires, but sometimes it's very overwhelming and it dominates our lovemaking, which I feel is reduced to animal lust. I've told him that his "obsession" makes me feel very separated from him and he says he doesn't mean for it to. Is there anyway I can accept his sexuality or should I insist that he conforms to me?

ANSWER: The good news is that you are communicating with your husband. The bad news is that you feel his style dominates your lovemaking. Perhaps this is why you are feeling separate instead of close to him. Why not ask for equal time? Increase the range of sexual expression in your relationship rather than turning your lovemaking into a turf war.

Take turns pleasing each other. You may discover that your nonverbal sensuality can open your husband to new frontiers of sexuality. It is important that you and your partner experience emotional and physical satisfaction in your relationship. Lovemaking is no different from other areas that you may need to experiment with in order to achieve harmony by learning from each other.

You may find that his flavor of lovemaking is more appealing to you when it does not serve as your sexual default. Suggest that your mate learn about your approach to sensuality, rather than conform to your sexual needs.

You might want to include an exercise inspired by Masters and Johnson for increasing your attention and ability to engage intimately in one another's sensual as well as sexual pleasures:

After bathing together, take turns caressing each other, but avoid genitals and breasts at first. Begin exploring one another's body through touch. Take turns as one person lies nude on the bed, allowing the other to gently stroke their body from head to toe. First lie on your back as your partner strokes you, then on your stomach, allowing him to touch you from your scalp to your toes. Share what kind of touch and stroke feels pleasurable to you. Share what does not. Reverse roles after about 20 minutes. Discover what feels pleasurable to your partner. Does he like a soft stroke? Does she like slow steady pressure or a lighter touch? Share what feels good to you and what does not.

Agree to refrain from having "sex" the first time you do the exercise. This will keep you on track with discovering what is sensual, before sexual tensions develop. When you are ready, include genitals and breasts and gradually proceed to full sexual intercourse. If you wish, include looking at one another as you have wanted to do, but also give your husband an opportunity at some point to communicate what he experiences.

Your husband may need to develop a level of comfort with the emotional intimacy you are requesting. Likewise, you may find that you can delight in the lust he excels at, once the range of sensual/sexual pleasure is widened. Agree to keep an open mind and do these exercises with the intent of trying to better understand your partner.

These questions may help you gain empathy for the different ways women and men are acculturated to address their sexual needs and expressions.

You are two very different people in many ways. The enrichment of any marriage lies in part through the perspective you gain from your partner in many areas, and sex is no exception! Each of you brings an important and viable element of sexuality to your relationship.

Invite your husband to experience the world of your sensitivities. Do not become hurt and upset if he does not at first get it. Simply insist that he learn your language of love as well as his own. There is nothing that either of you will gain from dominating your spouse. But there may be much that each of you can learn from the other. Isn't that what marriage is all about?


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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