Here's Why Knowing Your Sexual Motivations is so Important
Enjoying sex and saving yourself from the pain of long-term heartache.
“Around three years ago, my wife and I stopped having sex. She didn’t want to do anything, anymore, other than just kiss and cuddle. I tried asking her many times what was wrong, and she’d insist it was nothing. I pleaded with her to go to therapy with me, and she’d say nothing is wrong. We met ten years ago, dated, then eventually got married five years later. I feel like a major jerk for wanting to leave my wife just because I’m not getting laid, but at this point, I feel like I have no other options.”
Stories like these are the elephants in our proverbial living rooms. They’re like a hidden dimension of space and time—all around us, but we don’t see or talk about them. We close ourselves off from them. We do this because, on some level, we understand the precariousness of our relationships.
The realist in us knows how difficult relationships are to maintain for the long haul.
People are both inconsistent and complex.
Falling in love with someone and trying to make it work for a lifetime is like trying to confine ever-metamorphosing chaos in a jar. People are intricate, complex, contradictory, and dynamic—plus, they’re constantly changing.
Even if we do everything right, things can still go wrong.
So most of us try to avoid the subject and live in the moment.
When people do talk about the issue of sexlessness, it’s often oversimplified. They convert it into a binary and call it “mismatched sex drives.” It’s simple, easy to digest, and provides a framework for sexless relationships that most people can understand.
But the truth is a bit more complex than this binary allows.
And thinking strictly about “mismatched sex drives” can do a lot of damage.
I’ve covered sociosexual orientation in this newsletter and on Medium, so if you’ve made it here, I trust you have a good understanding of it. It’s basically how motivated we are to have sexual encounters with people we’re not in a committed relationship with.
There was a big scare over the past decade that casual sex was on the rise, destroying people’s mental health. This turned out not to be the case. More research showed that casual sex damages someone’s mental health only when they score low on the sociosexual orientation inventory.
In other words, people who want a committed relationship and use casual sex to get it sometimes damage their mental health and self-esteem. Almost everyone else is fine with casual sex, as long as that’s what they’re after.
You might be thinking, “Well, okay, but what does this have to do with relationships?”
Sociosexuality doesn’t suddenly disappear because we get into a relationship.
Saying the quiet part out loud here, another uncomfortable fact most people rarely want to think about is that our partners might sometimes desire people other than us.
This is just the reality of relationships.
Someone’s sociosexual orientation is a crucial predictor of how much they’ll want sex outside their primary relationship. For people who score high on sociosexual orientation, things like predictability and security are sex drive killers.
These people crave adventure and need stimulation to feel turned on.
People who score low on the sociosexual orientation inventory are more likely to desire that one partner they have. Things like security, predictability, and routine aren’t sex-killers; they might be total turn-ons.
In other words, some people just like casual sex more than others. This aligns with what we know about genetics.
We’ve already uncovered the genetics that predisposes someone to want non-monogamy.
So what if someone who scores low on sociosexual inventory and is predisposed to monogamy developed a relationship with someone who scores high on sociosexual inventory and is predisposed to non-monogamy?
Those two people secretly have very different ideas of what sexual pleasure looks like. And since sex is such a taboo topic in our society, we don’t always discuss the intimate details, even with our closest partners, these differences can be pronounced, and neither party would know it.