Sarah focused her doctoral dissertation on men’s experience of sexuality, looking at the connection between sex and belonging/connection/relationship.
There is no shortage of stereotypes about men’s sexuality. There is much bravado and “locker room talk”. When guys talk about sexuality in a group, there can be a lot of elbow nudging, winking, and crass talk which can objectify women.
But, trust me, when a fellow is sitting on a counsellor’s couch, knowing he is safe to explore the tenderest parts of his soul, he talks about the longing to be close to his partner.
A guy will talk about the pain of rejection of sex feeling deeply personal: It’s not sex that is shot down, he feels like he is the one on the chopping block.
There is a passage in Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly that I have, on occasion, read to a couple when we are talking about this. Almost inevitably, the man starts looking at his shoes, and silently weeps, and on more than one occasion, began to sob. His wife looks at him like she doesn’t understand. He connects profoundly with this, and she is stunned by this connection:
The young man who shared the story of his divorce slammed his hand down on his desk and shouted [to the women of the focus group], “It’s not about the back fat! You’re worried about it. We’re not. We don’t give a sh*t!” The class fell quiet. He took a couple of breaths and said, “Stop making up all of this stuff about what we’re thinking! What we’re really thinking is ‘Do you love me? Do you care about me? Do you want me? Am I important to you? Am I good enough?’ That’s what we’re thinking. When it comes to sex, it feel like our life is on the line, and you’re worried about that crap?”
It’s often been that men don’t know how to wrap language around their desire to be close, to be known and loved–that sex is about connecting on a deep level.
Often, when I read this to couple, there is some version of this: The husband, with tears in his eyes, will shyly look to his wife as he points to me. “What she said. That’s it. Really.”
So, it is one of Dr. Sarah’s missions in life to let people know about this…in therapy, and to the larger world through her writing. She’s done the research. Even in this article, she writes some super helpful ideas that women can be aware of to support and connect with their husbands when sex isn’t desired to help her husband avoid the pain of rejection.
Join me in congratulating Sarah as her mission to help couples’ relationships has reached a new level. Her expertise in sexuality is widely regarded. Being an expert on Psychology Today is a big deal, and we are uber proud of her. We love that her expertise as a sex expert will now have a wider audience!