NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, December 28, 2020

How Sexual Pursuers and Sexual Withdrawers Can Work Out Their Differences in Their Relationship to Have a Happier Sex Life - Part 1

I've been focusing on sex in relationships in my recent articles (see my articles: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex).

How Sexual Pursuers and Sexual Withdrawers Can Work Out Their Differences

In this article, my focus is on relationships where one partner is more interested in sex (the pursuer) and one partner is less interested (the withdrawer) and how they can work out their differences so they can have a happier sex life.  

It's not unusual in a relationship for there to be one person who is more interested in sex than the other (see my article:  Overcoming Sexual Incompatibility).  

Alternatively, even when there's a couple where both people are equally matched in terms of desire, there might be times in the relationship when one person feels less sexual.  So, this is something that needs to get worked out.

In prior articles, I've discussed the concept of pursuers and withdrawers in terms of emotional intimacy in relationships as opposed to sexual relations (see my article: How Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples (EFT) Can Help Emotional Pursuers  and How Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT) Can Help Withdrawers (also known as Distancers).

It's important to keep in mind that emotional pursuers and withdrawers in the same relationship can be different from sexual pursuers and withdrawers.  Someone who is an emotional pursuer isn't necessarily a sexual pursuer.  The same person who is an emotional pursuers might be a sexual withdrawer in the same relationship.  Likewise for emotional withdrawers--an emotional withdrawer in a relationship might be a sexual pursuer in the same relationship.

In addition, most people tend to think of sexual pursuers as being men and sexual withdrawers as being women.  But this isn't necessarily the case--a woman can be a sexual pursuer and a man can be a sexual withdrawer.

What Can A Sexual Pursuer Do to Improve Their Sexual Relationship With a Sexual Withdrawer?
Pursuers, whether they're emotional or sexual pursuers, usually have good intentions.  They often seek sex with their partner because they want to connect with their partner.

But when their partner, who is a sexual withdrawer, says they're not interested in sex, pursuers often feel rejected by their partner.  Then, add to this that the pursuer might attach a particular meaning to the rejection (i.e., they're not attractive or they're just too sexually demanding) that the other partner often doesn't mean.

If the pursuer is pushing for sex with their partner and the pursuer's need is for sexual satisfaction, the pursuer first needs to recognize that the withdrawer's rejection is probably not about lack of attraction.  It just might be that their partner isn't in the mood, and it probably doesn't have much to do with the pursuer.  However, it might trigger old feelings for the pursuer that they're "not good enough" or "not lovable."  So, the pursuer needs to step back and get curious about why their partner isn't engaging when the pursuer wants sex.  

So, rather than having tunnel vision and being emotionally reactive, the pursuer can be calm, take things less personally, and try to understand what's going on for the partner.  Also, sometimes pursuers pile on their partner by being critical or judgmental, but that's counterproductive to the relationship.

If it's a matter of wanting to connect with a partner, the sexual pursuer can find other ways to connect.  This might mean cuddling with the partner or finding other ways to connect emotionally.

If it's a matter of experiencing sexual satisfaction, the sexual pursuer can engage in self pleasure/masturbation with their partner holding them.  So, the pursuer experiences sexual satisfaction and also connects with their partner without being emotionally reactive to their partner.

What Can a Sexual Withdrawer Do to Improve Their Sexual Relationship With a Sexual Pursuer?
Sexual withdrawers usually don't want sex as often as their partner, but there are things they can do to improve things sexually in their relationship.

As I mentioned above, rather than being emotionally reactive or shutting down emotionally, calming down, being present, and getting curious about the other partner's experience is a much better approach.  

Many people, who are less sexually responsive than their partner, can get in the mood for sex if they're open to it.  Often when people start out not being in the mood, they can become sexually aroused and engaged once they start being sexual--whether they begin by kissing their partner, thinking about other times when they were sexually aroused, fantasizing, and so on.  

Rather than being judgmental towards a pursuer, the withdrawer can recognize that their partner isn't wrong for wanting more sex.  

If a withdrawer is too exhausted or not feeling well enough to have sex, they can be supportive of their partner's need for sex.  So, for instance, they can hold their partner and be present for them while their partner engages in self pleasure/masturbation.

In my next article, I'll provide a clinical vignette to illustrate the points I discussed in this article (see Part 2 of this topic).

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your partner have tried without success to resolve your problems on your own, you could benefit from seeking help from an experienced psychotherapist.  

Rather than struggling on your own, you and your partner can work with a skilled psychotherapist who understands the dynamics of pursuers and withdrawers in a relationship and can help you to work out your problems so you can have a happier relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.