WATCH ABOVE: It is a spreadsheet that has a lot of people talking. The document went viral after an unidentified woman said her husband sent it in an e-mail; it’s all about sex, or rather, sex the couple wasn’t having. According to experts – there are better ways to seek help. Heather Yourex reports.
TORONTO – I’m exhausted. I need to shower. I have to wake up early. Behind closed doors, couples may have a hard time connecting in the bedroom.
This month, a couple’s dirty laundry was aired out online and quickly went viral: a bitter husband created a spreadsheet detailing each time his wife refused to have sex over a month-long period. He emailed the document to his wife as she was leaving for the airport for a 10-day trip.
Her response? She posted the spreadsheet to Reddit and let the online community have its say.
Canadian psychologists and researchers aren’t impressed with the couple’s actions.
“What struck me most is it didn’t seem like they were communicating very well. He was secretly compiling a list instead of addressing it with her more directly. She posted it to the world instead of having a conversation with him,” Dr. Amy Muise, a University of Toronto professor specializing in sexual motivation research, told Global News.
Muise and Amitay explain the mechanics behind our long-term relationships and how to rekindle the romance.
Relationships start with the honeymoon phase: You’re smitten, your partner is perfect and you can’t get enough of him or her. You’re head-over-heels, butterflies-in-your-stomach, can’t-keep-your-hands-off-him in love.
This is a period of “passionate love” and, sadly, it has an expiry date of about two years, plus or minus six months, according to Muise. After that, studies report a decline in that surge of dopamine, the feel-good chemicals that make our new connection feel magical.
After that, reality sets in: Once we’re committed, responsibilities follow. You move in, meet the family, share chores. “I don’t think it’s uncommon for desire to decline and it can decline more steeply for women than men,” Muise said.
It may be because women are affected by these transitions — parenthood, for example — more so than their male partners. Amitay calls this a “habituation.” You see your partner all the time so you get less stimulated when you do.
One partner wants sex more than the other. And that’s okay: In Muise’s research, she found that couples share different levels of desire and that desire waxes and wanes. Seventy per cent of the time, there was a disparity and typically it was men who reported higher desire than women.
What’s important here is that partners need to understand why they aren’t on the same page — maybe it’s stress-related, or one half of the couple prefers sex more often. In other cases, your partner could be upset with you, Amitay suggests. “Once your partner feels rejected — and it doesn’t have to be sex — a downward spirals begins,” he explained.
Have sex for the right reasons: If your husband or wife is in the mood but you’re not, don’t take one for the team and give in. Muise’s research suggests that our reasons for having sex are just as important as the frequency of times that we do it. Putting out is meaningless if the experience isn’t good for both parties.
There are two reasons why we get it on: we have approach goals, such as wanting to be close, to feel good and enhance intimacy; or we have avoidance goals, such as giving in so you don’t trigger a fight. Having sex to avoid conflict is bad news — in follow-ups, those couples weren’t as satisfied or committed to their relationships.
READ MORE: Faking it in bed? Your partner can tell
You also need to think beyond doing the deed: There’s more to sex than the main event. “It’s intimate aspects like connecting and being close that lead to satisfaction. Affection is more important than foreplay,” Muise said.
In her latest findings published a few months ago, she suggested that post-sex cuddling was the single action that improved a couple’s sex life and relationship — especially if they have kids. Kiss, cuddle and share some pillow talk. Don’t head for the shower or get dressed right away.
Listen to your partner. Put yourself in his or her shoes: Don’t make assumptions, Amitay advised. “Rarely do you find a couple whose sexual needs are the same,” he said. If your partner isn’t responding to your advances, take a step back and practice some empathy. Ask your partner how they’re feeling and how you can make their lives easier. Consider what they’d want when initiating sex instead of making it about you, he said.
It works both ways, too. If your partner is eager for some action but you’re not in the mood, tell them instead of ignoring their needs. Ask them if they’re okay with rescheduling or if you can, at least for tonight, stick to another activity you can do together, Muise said.
Some of the best relationships take hard work, too: Have a date night, break the routine whenever you can and head into sex with the intention of bonding. “The greatest misinformed thought on relationships is you shouldn’t have to work on it,” Amitay said.
Partners shouldn’t assume they’ll always be on the same page. Check in and communicate with each other. We put effort into work, at the gym and with our friendships, so why wouldn’t this apply to our romantic relationships? “It’s okay to work on your sex life and make it a priority. We do it in many other aspects of our lives,” Muise said.