Men who feel sex as their primary path to connection are often told “all they want is sex.” Indeed, sex is exciting and pleasurable to them but also the way they feel and want to express love and connection. Listen to George Faller and Laurie Watson talk about how men feel about sex; why the couple needs their sexual motivation and what they can do to have more of it.
Laurie Watson: So we’ve got a story today about a sexual pursuer. George is going to tell us all about male sexual pursuers.
Hey, you’re listening to Foreplay Radio for couples in sex therapy and I’m Lori Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller: And I’m George Faller, your marriage therapist.
Laurie Watson: We want to take a wide lens on sexuality and talking with you about what we’ve learned as experts in the field, on how you bring your body, your mind, and your brain to the sexual experience.
George Faller: We want to expand people’s perspective of just talking about sex, that it’s not something to be avoided. It’s actually something to embrace it and to lean into with an openness to be changed by what you hear.
Something I might know a little bit something about. All right.
Laurie Watson: Good.
George Faller: Working with a couple. Here we are. Male sexual pursuer feels pretty comfortable in his sexuality, feels pretty healthy. He’s made a commitment to monogamy and before marriage was dating a lot, lots of different relationships, had a lot of attention. Heard that dreaded statement that this great relationship that you have, once you get married, it’s going to stop. And he said, “No, not my marriage. It’s not going to happen to me. That might happen to you. And most of the people I know, but it’s not going to happen to me.”
Laurie Watson: He’s going to have a stellar sex life.
George Faller: [inaudible 00:01:21]. They’re dating, they get engaged, they have a great sex life. What’s going to change, right? So he shared some of these concerns. His fiance says, “Look, this is never going to change.” And they sail off into the sunset together.
Fast forward a couple of years and a few kids and all of a sudden his wife is less interested in sex, right? And it starts to set into motion this male pursuer energy that says, hey, wait a second, I’m not going anywhere else. It’s just me and you. And this is a way we serve each other. And you know what’s going on here. Right, so he starts reading the books.
Laurie Watson: That’s a good line just for their current, this is the way we serve each other. This is the way you should serve me is probably what he’s saying. Okay, go on.
George Faller: So he starts reading the books. He starts leaving books out for her. He’s listening to Ted Talks. He’s engaged. He sees the problem, he has healthy longings and needs.
Laurie Watson: And he’s fixing it. He’s trying to fix it.
George Faller: He’s trying to get her to look at herself, identify her blocks, really kind of understand what’s stopping her. He tries to empathize with having kids and being too busy. He hears statements, he should do more dishes, that’s going to help. So he starts doing dishes.
Laurie Watson: Did it help?
George Faller: It didn’t help so he keeps getting disappointed. He’s like, wait a second, I get all this advice and there’s all these myths and education out there and at the end of the day it gets less and less. And it feels like when it is sex, it’s just sex because she’s throwing him a bone and just trying to calm him down. But it doesn’t feel like she’s engaged and she’s really present in it. And that that part of him that starts getting more and more anxious, more and more insecure, it gets harder to risk. It gets … And that frustration mounts as he starts to say, wait a second, this is not what I signed up for.
Laurie Watson: Right.
George Faller: How did we get here? How do I get to the place where I have to beg for something that’s so healthy and then I start to feel bad that like there’s something wrong with me because I want to have sex. Like isn’t it normal to want to have sex? Or this is kind of internal battle that starts to happen for these male pursuers.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, exactly. And I’m not sure yet, I don’t know EFT in terms of how they deal with transference and countertransference, but as you’re going to have to teach me all that. But as you talk, it honestly hits my heart and this is what I often feel like in session with either gender, actually of a sexual pursuer. Like this healthy part that defines us apart from all other kinds of relationships is sex. I mean once we’ve committed, if we’re just committed and not having sex, we are friends, we are not married people. And so it’s the sexual component and that, that says we’re married in our heart, soul, and body. And so I begin to feel that pain as I imagine the sexual pursuer feels, and certainly male. I get that. And I think that what you’ve just told is the classic story.
I think the story that most men are afraid of because most men are sexual pursuers. Their body drives them, their body drives them into sex. And for them, sex is many things. But it is certainly a way to connect with their partner. I mean they could turn to porn, they could turn to other women, but that’s not what they want. What they want is the special sexual connection with the woman that they love. And when she’s shutting down, it’s so damn mysterious and so frustrating because they don’t understand how to flip it and how to change it.
George Faller: Well, I just want to echo that list that sex means so many different things to these male pursuers. That it really isn’t just about the orgasm, right? That it’s a great way of going to sleep. It’s a great way to make up after a fight. It’s a great way to lead into snuggling, it’s a great way to release tension. It’s a great way they get a workout. It’s a great way to have some fun. There’s so many components that this taps into and especially if you’re not so great at expressing your emotions, this becomes the one doorway where you actually are naked and vulnerable.
Laurie Watson: Exactly.
George Faller: And getting touched. It meets so many needs for men.
Laurie Watson: Exactly. It’s like I want to play that over and over again because I think that’s the heart of the male sexual pursuer. That in a healthy relationship, sex can mean a lot of different things and it’s all good. All of it is good. When it gets complicated, some of those things, it’s not that they’re not good, it’s just that we need to rethink when they’re pursuing for sex.
George Faller: Well, could it also be, they wind up getting this sense, this feeling of being desperate, like they need it too much and so there’s so many insecurities it starts to tap into.
Laurie Watson: But just think about what you say George, about the female emotional pursuer. Right? Or any emotional pursuer. Like we tell them you’re so anxious.
George Faller: Yeah.
Laurie Watson: But like when you’re driving for sex, which is the marital relationship, and then we turn around and tell them, you want too much sex, you want sex too much. All you think about is sex, you’re just a sex machine. All this stuff, it’s just soul crushing. It’s like, wait a second, I am feeling and doing what I thought marriage was all about. And the supply demand issue is at stake because the supply is very low. And so that increases the sense of frantic need. Oh my God, it’s never coming. And so then we turn around and blame them or women frequently, their wives, frequently turn around and blame them and say all you want is sex.
It’s like, nu-uh. I want a whole lot more. I really truly, I’ve been practicing in sex therapy for 20 years and I have rarely encountered a guy who just wants sex. I don’t really think any, and maybe they just don’t come to therapy, right? But I mean a married man or a committed man who’s in it, he isn’t saying, I just want to get off. I mean, that’s not what he wants. It’s many, many things. But it’s her. And I think that the idea of just having sort of service sex or sex that is checking off the list, it is soul crushing to experience that because they’re not wanted. And I think more than …
George Faller: Some of that misconception we can help with. I mean, I know a lot of these male pursuers that we’re talking about because of the cultural messages that they get, or they watch porn or whatever they see. Sex always starts with two people hot in desire so that’s what they’re expecting. They’re hoping their partners showing up that way.
Laurie Watson: Exactly.
George Faller: Right. And when their partner can’t, they’re already starting off with a rejection, right. Right out of the gate, which isn’t … That’s a break putting on to the sexual encounter. So I mean, I do think helping these male pursuers recognize that sometimes their partner’s willingness to just show up and engage in a process is about the most loving thing they can do. Right. And what is the starting point? Is the starting point hot, mutual sex or is the starting point a willingness to just be with each other and open up that space to see what’s going to happen? And what’s the finishing line? Is the finishing line both of them passing out in a mutual orgasm? Or is it the finish line, you know what? Just to kind of be connected to each other? I mean, I think a lot of that takes some of the pressure off so much that’s gone and getting these mixed signals that are being sent in is these negative patterns we’re trying to talk about.
Laurie Watson: I think that you’re right that unfortunately, it’s like a body. A male body is lit with testosterone. So he can be aroused in a heartbeat and imagining, I mean that her body is not lit and it’s going to take her some time. I mean, it’s frustrating. I totally get that that’s frustrating if you’re a man.
George Faller: God has a funny sense of humor.
Laurie Watson: I do think that every once in awhile as a woman, I say, you’ve got to stop, drop and roll. You got to be ready. You got to like go for it. And because a man can’t always be adapting to the female pattern, in order to be happy, there has to be some time that she adapts to his pattern.
George Faller: Reciprocal.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. But you’re right. I think it’s a big disappointment when he comes in ready and says, hey, you want to? Or whatever he does to initiate and she is at zero. And when he asks her, do you want to have sex? And she says, do I want to have sex? No.
George Faller: What are my options?
Laurie Watson: It’s the wrong question.
George Faller: No and piss him off or go through the motions and that’s still going to be not enough.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. But it’s the wrong question. I think what a man should say is I want you, because it’s so much more vulnerable.
George Faller: Are you listening to this men? Write this down.
Laurie Watson: I do think it’s so much more vulnerable and so much more of a turn on to a woman than to say, hey, do you want sex? I mean that just feels like a commodity versus being wanted.
George Faller: It’s a great line.
Laurie Watson: We know that women respond to being wanted so that, looking at her in the eyes and saying that, that is a good line to begin with. But I also think, yeah, it’s going to take her, even if she’s saying yes, I do. From that moment through to when they’re actually engaged sexually and hot and heavy, it’s going to take a warmup. I mean she can’t help that. That’s her physiology. Even if she wanted to help that, she can’t help that. So I think there is some sense of how does a male pursuer share what he feels? I say men share testosterone by being good seducers. They have to learn how to seduce their partner. The guy that you described. He’s going to come in and he’s going to tell me, Laurie, I have done that. I have tried everything under the sun. I’ve romanced her, I’ve taken her out to dinner.
George Faller: Read the books. Watched the tapes.
Laurie Watson: I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the videos, I’ve done everything I can do and it’s not working. So then we have to explore what’s blocking her.
George Faller: Does anybody want to know how to get it to work?
Laurie Watson: Yes.
George Faller: We’re going to do that after break. We’re going to listen to Laurie explained to us how to make it work.
Speaker 3: Speaking with certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson from Awakening Center for couples and intimacy. Laurie, what is an intensive?
Laurie Watson: So an intensive is 12 to 14 hours of therapy all in one weekend and it’s a way to really make fast progress compared to weekly therapy. I mean, there’s just so much more you can get done when you have a chunk of time.
Speaker 3: Overcome the challenges in your relationship and your sex life. Learn more about intensives and Awakening Center’s other services at awakenloveandsex.com.
Laurie Watson: Hey, I want to let you guys know all about George. He’s written and contributed to several books and I’d especially like to draw your attention to his book, Sacred Stress, a radically different approach to using life’s challenges for positive change. His book is about a mission on how you adopt new strategies and turn stresses into a positive force in your life. And who among us doesn’t live with a lot of stress these days. We’ll keep you posted as to all he’s doing, but George and other EFT therapists all around the country and the world hold couples retreats called Hold Me Tight, which is developed by Sue Johnson. And it helps secure your own relationship. If you’d like therapy with George, find him at georgefowler.com.
George Faller: Welcome back. All of you have been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to hear from Laurie on how these male pursuers sexually can get their partners to engage.
Laurie Watson: Exactly.
George Faller: Do you notice even my voice feels like it’s changing as I’m saying it.
Laurie Watson: Please listen up. I think it is something that has to be attacked as a couple. It can’t just be one person.
George Faller: Picking up a theme here.
Laurie Watson: Certainly I’ve heard men talk about it and say I’ve told her all this. I’ve told her how meaningful it is to me, how important it is to me. I’ve told her I don’t just want sex and they’re still kind of stuck at zero. I think the same thing goes in terms of when we were talking last week about the female sexual pursuer. We have to be able to imagine that there is something that obscuring his wife’s libido and there’s a laundry list. I think women particularly have difficulty when they become mothers. There’s this sense of I have to be ever present for the babies. Get a lock on your bedroom door for the record. Everybody out there, lock on the bedroom door. As soon as the children come, that’s the next installment, but she can’t somehow or another separate this out.
I would say to men everywhere, take your wife to a hotel room, get her out of the house. There is something intrinsic about being female mother in the home. Children in the next bedroom. I had a male supervisor when I was young. He was a fantastic processor, but he was really wrong about sex. And of course I didn’t know anything at the time, but he said, “Women need to learn to do this internal separation where they separate out the Madonna from the whore,” right? That they can have both parts and flexibly access both parts. And maybe he could get that. But quite honestly I have not been able to get that to happen for women. Sometimes it’s so merged in terms of who they see themselves and the role that they see themselves in that it’s impossible to separate out. So that to me is just like easy peasy, cheaper than therapy, get the hotel room.
George Faller: Sounds like we’re slipping back into focusing on this female withdrawer and how do we get this male pursuer to own his side of the street, right. Which is how has my anxiety and my rejection really changed the way? Do I woo my partner? Do I help build that expectation or that anticipation that’s so necessary? Or has my resentment and my own kind of triggers gotten so big that it’s really contaminated? So how do I clean up my side of the street? And we’ve talked about, we got to get these withdrawers to start looking at themselves and getting more curious and open and they got to want to engage right for this dance to change.
Laurie Watson: Okay keep me focused George.
George Faller: So how do we stay with these pursuers and try to empower them to kind of stay empathetic to their partner but really also focus on what they can do differently.
Laurie Watson: So one thing that I’ve learned is that they often don’t listen to the whispering of their sexual distancing partner. Oftentimes the woman will have said something and it’s hard to hear. It gets drowned out in the repetition of failure between the two of them. But many times as I listened to them for the first time, I can hear very clearly about what would work for her. So I would say slow down. Think through what has worked. What does your partner say? So I’m thinking about one woman in particular and the guy is a sexual pursuer and he doesn’t touch in a gentle way. Like when he touches her, it’s like guys at the football game. I mean clapping her on the back and just in a way that somehow or another I think he’s a little bit afraid of and doesn’t know how to be sensuous, how to touch.
But this is something that she does talk about. Very, very infrequently does she talk about it, that she’s not touched in a way and this is not sexual touch, let alone that. God, we’re not even talking that yet. But he doesn’t touch her just in daily living in a way that would turn her on. And that’s one of the things that she says. I think that women often talk about that they want the buildup, and I think this is a little dicey for the sexual pursuer because he’ll say, yeah, I sent her this text. Right. And sometimes the language is off. So it doesn’t always have to be soft language. I mean sometimes women like other kinds of language, they’re fine. But you have to know what kind of language your partner needs and likes. For some women, slang is great. Some women, dirty talk is great. Sometimes romantic, fluffy language is all they respond to. So you have to make sure that your messaging is attuned to what’s going to penetrate, so to speak. Otherwise they won’t take it in.
George Faller: So, and I would think timing has something to do with it too. Like when do you have these conversations? So often, a sexual pursuer wants to have these conversations in bed.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. Or after sex.
George Faller: Or after sex.
Laurie Watson: That’s a really favorite time of sexual pursuers of tell me what was good about this, how to make it better, which of course the sexual distancer internalizes as that wasn’t good enough. I just rocked your damn world and now you want more.
George Faller: Not enough, right.
Laurie Watson: So this is a conversation over coffee. It has to be, and not necessarily the next morning, but like Saturday date kind of coffee or breakfast where they go out and he asks and he prepares her for that conversation.
George Faller: So how does the sexual pursuer teach this withdrawer that they can have success in this sexual realm?
Laurie Watson: Okay, well this is great because oftentimes he’s going to get to that talk. Right? And he’s going to say, so I want to understand you. I want to understand what you need from me. I’d stand on my head for you, I’d do anything for you. And she’s like, I don’t know what I need. I don’t know what I want. But partly …
George Faller: You know, when somebody says, I don’t know, you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
Laurie Watson: I love this George.
George Faller: [crosstalk 00:20:02] try to put words to something emerging that that’s not a sign of somebody being defensive or resistant. They just really don’t know. Right. How beautiful that is to the see the opportunity and somebody saying, I don’t know.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. Because there’s so many things often that are emerging in their mind that they can’t decide almost what to start with. What would be safe to start with? That I don’t know does mean something. And I think you nailed it. But of course when you’re the sexual pursuer, right to hear I don’t know, it’s deflating. It’s like, okay, I’ve set this whole thing up. I’ve done what Laurie and George told me to do and I’ve got my partner here who’s not going to give me any more than I’ve gotten in the last so many years. It’s really hard to stay patient.
George Faller: So what I would add is there has to be room for that pursuer’s vulnerability. It’s always bad timing whenever you want to bring it up.
Laurie Watson: It is.
George Faller: But they have to also see the value that they deserve to see themselves in these places. It’s normal when you’re rejected to feel insecure and doubt your own worthiness or lovableness or how attractive you are. But that’s really when we need reassurance the most, when we kind of get down on ourselves. So we have to figure out a way to help these pursuers bring that message that’s really asking for help. Unfortunately it comes across as criticism, which makes that partner go further away. Right? But how do these pursuers say, hey, I get you’re not always in a mood, and you might have things going on physically with you. And I really try hard not to take this personal, but there are times where I start to go to a dark place that says, you know what? If we would do this all over again, you probably wouldn’t want me because you’re not so attracted to me. Right. It’s that painful, scary place.
Laurie Watson: It’s being out in orbit, right. Without any tether to their partner that they are feeling.
George Faller: Like they’re going to need reassurance in those places. [inaudible 00:22:08] either partner can’t physically provide, the sexual intimacy, can they give that reassurance that says, hey, I still want you? There are things getting in the way, but there is no doubt in kind of how I see you in these places. Right, which is again, I think that’s the growing part of what our misses can do in marriages, in relationships, right? It’s like it starts to tap in. It’s redemptive. If I can go to the doctor’s and my partner can come with light.
Laurie Watson: And if they can be reassuring. I think what you said struck me because it’s really about the safety and being desired that you’re talking about. That feels, I think that’s such proof for men because they feel it so much in their body that it feels like proof when their partner desires them and wants to be sexual with them. And when that’s not happening, it, it feels really insecure. So they need that verbal reassurance that says, no, I do want you. And these are the things that might be getting in the way. I mean, I think most couples could resolve the blocks if they could talk about what they are specifically with each other.
George Faller: So the good news here is if we could identify that we don’t lose desire, we actually kill it with our own anxieties, defensiveness and blocks. That we help all these withdrawers and pursuers start to identify what’s kind of messing up this beautiful natural process. And we start to get them to share that with each other and heading towards each other. They’re doing the very thing they’re not doing that’s getting them into trouble. So when these pursuers can really touch their more vulnerable places and share it with their partners, regardless of kind of the outcome, that very act itself is, they’re on that pathway towards healing.
Laurie Watson: Exactly. And you’re talking about Steven Mitchell, one of my favorite authors. Can Love Last, good book for pursuers to read.
George Faller: Awesome. Homework assignment. Pursuers want that.
Laurie Watson: They do.
George Faller: All right.
Laurie Watson: You’re listening to Foreplay Radio, Couples And Sex Therapy.
Hi Foreplay fam. The biggest support you can give us is sharing our podcast with a friend. You can find us also on socials: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we’d love your questions and feedback and really do use these to guide our show. We’d also love it if you’d rate and review us. If you’re interested in learning more about us and our mission, look us up on our hot new website, foreplayradiosextherapy.com.
Speaker 3: Call in your questions to the Foreplay question voicemail. Dial 833 my 4play. That’s 833. The number four, play. And we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.