Is Stress Killing Your Sex Life: 7 Things You Must Do Now to Keep It Alive
Many of us find that when we're under stress our sex life suffers. The problem is that many of us are under stress a...
Is Stress Killing Your Sex Life?:
7 Things You Must Do Now to Keep It Alive
Is Stress Killing Your Sex Life?:
7 Things You Must Do Now to Keep It Alive Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for the last 45 years. He is the author of 9 books, including Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, Male Menopause, The Irritable Male Syndrome, and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome . He offers counseling to men, women, and couples in his office in California or by phone with people throughout the U.S. and around the world. To receive a Free E-book on Men’s Health and a free subscription to Jed’s e-newsletter go to www.MenAlive.com. Many of us find that when we're under stress our sex life suffers. The problem is that many of us are under stress all the time. We all know that it’s difficult to feel sexy when we’re exhausted. And this is very common with our hectic lifestyles and our work hours. A recent study showed that partners of individuals who worked over 48 hours a week reported that there were major problems with their sex life. The root cause may be the different ways that men and women deal with stress. Here’s what you can do to keep your sex life alive and well: 1. Understand male vs. female reactions to stress. We’ve all heard of the classic stress reaction being about “fight or flight.” But it turns out that’s really the more common pattern in males. Females respond differently. Under stress they are more likely to “tend and befriend.” This basic difference was first studied in depth by psychologist and stress expert, Shelley E. Taylor. In her book, The Tending Instinct: How Nurturing is Essential to Who We Are and How We Live, Taylor describes her response when it became clear that our assumptions about stress and strain were wrong. “An epiphany in science is fairly rare, but when it happens, there is no sensation like it. The sudden recognition that all of the classic theories of stress were based almost entirely on males was a stunning revelation.”
2. Tend & Befriend vs. Flight or Fight has evolutionary roots. If you think back to the period that encompasses 99.9% of the history of homo sapiens—when there were roving bands of hunter-gathers—the responses to acute threat that were most effective for males were angry and violent displays of counterattack. When a wild animal was threatening the camp or a rival tribe was coming to steal your women and children, it made sense for the physically stronger males to come together and fight to save the lives of those they love. For the women it made more sense to connect with each other and care for the children. As J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., author of Does Stress Damage the Brain? says, “This explains why males exposed to stress are likely to respond with anger and aggression, whereas women respond with behaviors such as expression of emotion and talking with others. 3. When stressed, men need to do something physical. Women need to talk and touch. We’ve all had the experience of having a stressful day. We come home looking forward to the safety and support of our family, perhaps a loving and sexy evening, but something goes wrong and we have a big fight instead. The male brain is built to respond to stress by being physical. He needs to exercise his muscles, to run (flight) or to throw his spear or shoot his arrows (fight). He would do much better to take a break before he comes home to “blow off some steam.” Trying to do that with his partner is likely to scare her or shortcircuit her way of dealing with stress. The female brain is built to respond to stress by talking and nurturing. She would do better to get together with one of her women friends and connect with each other. Trying to do that with a man when she is stressed or he is stressed is more likely to lead to a fight than an evening of sex and love. 4. Love takes time. When we’re under stress, we often look for a quick fix from our partner. We want them to take care of us, and then we will be able to “get in the mood.” The key to a good sex and love life is to take care of our male or female brain before we engage with each other. This takes more time, but it is worth it. Think about how much time is lost when we try to hurry things along. Things blow up and it takes us hours, days, weeks, or months to recover. We all know the line, “you can’t hurry love.” Well, it’s true. Slow down. Take care of yourself. Take time to approach your partner with care.
5. Show appreciation for each other’s differences. Remember when you first fell in love? You loved all those unique differences that made you feel excited to be with her. Remember when you first fell in love? You loved the way he acted, so manly and strong. Too often we forget how much we loved our sexy differences. The longer we’re together, we come to expect our partner to be more like us. Appreciate the differences. Let your partner know you love how they love you. Accept that he’ll get angry more often and express his care for you by wanting to fight or run away. Help him do it in a way that supports your relationship. Accept that she’ll want to talk and touch before she can even think about sex and love. Support her in doing that. 6. Walk and touch and talk. Men are more comfortable with “side to side” communication, while women are more comfortable with “face to face” communication. She wants to gaze into his eyes. His hunger-gatherer brain remembers that the only time a pair of eyes was intently focused on him was just before the tiger leapt out at him. He’ll like walking with you, particularly when he is stressed. It allows for him to be physical. She’ll like holding hands and talking. Try it, you’ll like it. 7. Stay positive. This is probably the simplest, yet most difficult thing you can do to keep your sex and love life humming. When we’re under stress we tend to blame ourselves or our partner. Sometimes we say hurtful and blaming things. “Why are you being so stupid?” is not a question that will endear you to your partner. “Why can’t you pick up after yourself?” is not likely to lead to a night of passion. Most of us have grown up in homes where some kind of criticism was the norm. Think about it. When you were a kid, how often did you feel your parents let you know that what you did was wonderful and how often did you feel you were being criticized or blamed? We know it doesn’t work, but under stress we often shame and blame. I ask my clients, “would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” We fear that if we don’t correct our partner, they’ll keep doing the wrong thing. What we’re really doing is trying to prove we’re right.
After counseling people for more than 40 years, I’ve learned that whatever we focus our attention on, will increase. If we want our partner to be more negative, then focus on the things we don’t like about what they do. If we want them to be more positive, focus on what they are doing that pleases us. The truth is that our brains—both male and female—are structured to please our partner. We want nothing more than to feel that our partner is pleased with us. When they are doing things we don’t like, that’s the time to be positive, not to tell them what is wrong with them. We can still have great sex even at times of great stress. We just have to stay positive (and I do know it isn’t always easy). Carlin and I have been married for more than 30 years and we still have to work at staying positive. But I’ll tell you its work worth doing. If you’d like more information on how I help individuals and couples have the sex and love life they desire, contact me at www.MenAlive.com