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Wanna kill desire? Add pressure to your sex life.

by Nicole Matusow

You and your partner used to have great sex...in the beginning. The two of you are well into the middle now, and you’re wondering, WTF? Although there are plenty of logical explanations for your unsatisfying sex life, I’ve noticed a recurring theme in the many conversations I’ve had on the subject: Pressure.

I’m not just talking about the pressure to have sex, but also any pressure before, during, or after sex.. When you begin to associate sex with pressure, desire is quashed and performance is compromised. Sex will then likely become awkward, rushed, or anti-climactic. That is, if it happens at all. Aroused yet? Didn’t think so.


Let’s go in a little deeper.

Firstly, what’s with the pressure to have sex anyway? Results from a national survey revealed that teenage boys experience pressure from other teenage boys. Sounds about right. And that’s likely where the concept of performance comes in. You don’t have to have been a teenage boy to know that bragging to other boys about their sexual escapades (that may or may not have actually happened) is a thing. And, the tale will be more akin to 50 Shades of Grey than 50 Ways to Leave your Lover. Although, as adults, we know that teenage sex is typically awkward (and often missing the female orgasm), teenage boys are likely hoping for a scene out of Nymphomaniac 1 & 2.

And what about girls? Peer pressure by other girls may play less of a role in the teen years than the pressure to give a boy some pleasure. This pressure, in itself, can make it impossible for young girls to associate sex with desire or pleasure. Same goes for women. You want her to want it, right? If there’s pressure for sex to have a certain frequency or be a certain way, how is she supposed know the difference between wanting it because you want it (and might be petulant if you don’t get it) or wanting it because she has the desire to have it? She won’t. Instead, the pressure she feels from you will now be associated with having sex with you, and pressure is bad, mmkay? Y’know why? Because her desire to have sex at all will wane, and the bedroom antics might be reminiscent the teenage/awkward years.


Pressure is hard on your intimate connection.

Pressure during sex isn’t all that different; it’s just more graphic. It’s one thing to lovingly guide your partner to touch you here or there during sex...it’s quite another to make your partner feel bad during sex as you criticize their technique or inhibit their desire by insisting on some kind of preferred beginning, middle, or end. Lo-ving-ly-guide. Because, without the lovingly part of guiding, your partner will feel some form of pressure, embarrassment, or shame. All things I’m sure you don’t want associated with sex. Once they are, you can kiss your love life goodbye.

It’s important to feel connected before, during, and after sex. Human contact and connection are a large part of what makes the process of having sex more enjoyable. If you want it to be more enjoyable, feeling intimately connected beforehand is a great start. Sure, make-up sex has its reputation for being restorative and exhilarating, but, starting off your foreplay in good spirits is a surefire way to get to 3rd base. That is, unless you feel pressure as you’re rounding 2nd.

And what about after? Do you roll over and go to sleep? Do you drop her head that was resting calmly on your chest as you get up to go to the bathroom? Or do you give him a kiss and let him know how much you enjoyed spending the day with him (and that amazing thing he just did with his tongue)? You get the idea.


What you can do with all this carnal knowledge...

If you’d like to breathe new life into your relationship, it all starts with desire. Desire can be held hostage by the need to have control, trauma, and general anxiety around the subject of sex. And, those are typically consequences of sexual pressure. If any discussion about sex with your partner is experienced as pressure, that’s the time to see a therapist to manage the communication. If you can speak freely with your partner, the sooner, the better.

As we established, pressure is not an aphrodisiac, therefore freeing desire and taking ALL pressure off asap is a good start. You don’t need it a certain way, however often. And, if you’re the one feeling the pressure, let your partner know and request to take things slow again. No expectations. Just like in the beginning…


You might also like: (In)visible Women.


Nicole Matusow is a psychotherapist, artist, and writer in New York City.

Nicole Matusow, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist

New York City
(646) 580-3123
nicole@nicolematusow.com