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Not Enough Sex? Look for a Third Alternative

It happens in a lot of marriages. One spouse starts saying no to sex so often that the other stops asking. Or, worse, that partner begins demanding, whining, or insulting. a huge turnoff that seldom leads to a blissful intimate moment.

What's the solution? Surely it is not the remedy doled out by a French judge this week, ruling that the uninterested spouse pay the other more than $14,000.

I believe it is looking for a Third Alternative. This means recognizing that almost any disagreement results from partners taking stands on just two of the many possible options. The two options get wrapped up in language that suggests there are no others: sex vs. no sex.

Elsewhere, others are happily married and enjoying quickies before they open their laptops after the kids are in bed. Some spend the weekend in a resort with nothing on their minds but slowly pleasuring each other, enjoying a leisurely recovery together, then doing it all over again.

Some shower first. Others prefer not to. Some use oils, others whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

Some start the romance over breakfast and keep it up all day, climaxing right before they sleep. Others wake up ready for a great start to their day. Some use sex toys. Some use one or two body parts. Others use them all.

Some seek orgasm. Others delight in being pleasured, whether or not it leads there. Some use prescription drugs or natural herbs to coax their bodies to behave as they once did. Some use alcohol to get in the mood. Others use music or candles or dancing.

Those with medical conditions or injuries that make the experience temporarily unpleasant seek only intimate conversation for themselves but find ways to pleasure their partner physically.

Some have a schedule. Others have a secret signal, a flower on the pillow or a raised eyebrow in the middle of a party. Others wing it.

Instead of, "Do you want to?" some ask, "How do you want to?" Others ask, "How soon do you want to?" Still others ask, "Where do you want to?" or just, "May I?"

In some couples, one does all the asking, and the other enjoys the freedom from rejection in such a sensitive area. In others, both ask and both feel free to say yes or no.

Some are timing their sex to improve their chances of conception. Others are using whatever works for them to prevent conception. Some are beyond conception and working with their bodies' new responses as they enjoy the freedom.

Some hide their bodies in special clothing, under the sheets, or in a dark room, enjoying sex more this way. Others flaunt them and watch the action in a mirror on their ceiling, adding to the experience for them.

Some seek therapy to learn to reduce any negative thoughts that interfere with their pleasure, thoughts planted there in their childhood, in a sexual assault, in the shock of learning their mate cheated on them, or in a bad prior relationship. Others seek it to learn how to avoid triggering thoughts that ruin the moment for their spouse.

When your spouse says no, it is no only to his or her expectation, seldom to all the other options open to the two of you.

Finding a Third Alternative to a sex/no sex disagreement requires dropping the catchall word, sex. If you replace it with your specific likes and dislikes and your partner's specific likes and dislikes (his or her current ones, because our bodies and minds are always changing), then you can find the sweet spot where both of you enjoy yourselves. Then you can give instead of taking, feel generous and happy instead of rejected.

And I am willing to be the outcome will be worth a lot more than to you than the French judge's $14,000.


My boyfriend was married for 25 years to a woman who slept through pre-sex, intercourse, post-sex. After the divorce, she remarried a man who enjoys inappropriate public displays of affection, and she lets him. Go figure.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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