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July 29, 2019

Should Equality Be A Goal in Sexual Relationships?

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I was recently asked about equality in sexual relationships and how you can make your relationships really equal. I share a few thoughts below.

Equality may seem like a reasonable goal when it comes to sexual relationships, but you likely want to be flexible with regard to your definition of equality.

You don’t want equality to necessarily refer to sameness. For example, you can achieve relative equality even if one person has more orgasms. Similarly, if you go down on your partner or initiate sex more often, these may not be signs of inequality, but simply indications of personal preference. It can certainly be problematic when one person is disproportionately tasked with initiating sex, but in some cases this works for both partners and is equally fulfilling.

You likely don’t want equality to be measured by keeping score of sexual advances or efforts. Oftentimes our perception of what we give versus what we take is biased — especially when we are keeping score or responding to sexual resentment (our own or our partner’s).

If you are aiming for equality in your sexual relationship, note that no specific encounter, day, week, or month will be split perfectly down the middle. Try to look at the big picture over the course of the relationship as opposed to a snapshot in time. For example, if your partner is working long hours to start a business, they may less inclined to initiate sex, so you can help by putting them in the mood in a manner that suits their desires. If you’re not in the mood for sex because of family stress, they can take more responsibility for helping to to relax and maintain intimacy — sexual and otherwise.

Oftentimes equality in the bedroom (or lack thereof) is a reflection of how you interact outside of the bedroom. If you perceive your partner as being ungenerous with regard to household chores, you might be inclined to be ungenerous when it comes to sex. But this tit-for-tat approach is ineffective. You’d be far better off expressing your needs and encouraging them to do the same.

In terms of pleasure, I’d be more concerned with assessing individual perceptions of fulfillment/satisfaction as opposed to perceptions of equality. One person may value sex more than the other, so the communication on pleasure and fulfillment on an individual level can be helpful.

Some questions/conversations to consider:

  • How do you feel about our sex life?
  • Is there anything you’d like me to do more of?
  • I’d really like to try _______ with you.
  • Would you like me to initiate more? How do you want to be seduced?
  • What would make sex more emotionally fulfilling for you?
  • How can we make sex more physically fulfilling?

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