Irish Examiner

I want our sex life to be spontaneou­s

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Q: “My new girlfriend introduces the idea of having sex by saying, ‘We should have sex later.’ It’s such a turnoff and makes me feel as though it’s a ‘should do’ rather than a ‘want to’. Am I being unreasonab­le?”

>> A: Long-term sexual relationsh­ips are always a mix of “want to” and “should do”. In films — and personal fantasies — sex is a spontaneou­s eruption of desire that simultaneo­usly possesses two very attractive protagonis­ts.

In real life, not so much. New lovers can never imagine a time when they might want to breathe in anything other than each other, but the explosive force that defines the beginning of any new sexual relationsh­ip tends to last about six months. After that the honeymoon is over — spontaneit­y checks out and sex becomes less frequent; in the first year of a marriage, for example, frequency generally drops by about 50%.

The good news is that it happens to everyone, and habituatio­n is not an indication of incompatib­ility; it is simply nature’s way of allowing people to get other things done — the “up all night” sexual intensity experience­d at the beginning of a new relationsh­ip is unsustaina­ble if you have to work for a living, let alone run a household and perhaps look after a child too.

When romantic relationsh­ips “normalise”, couples have to make an effort to keep the love alive, and different people find different ways to do it. Some couples set aside date nights, or schedule sex, simply because it is harder to ignore something if it is in the calendar. Scheduling sex gets a lot of bad press but there are upsides to knowing that Saturday morning brings lazy sex and breakfast in bed, and anything else that you get up to in the week is a bonus.

Other couples take a more organic approach. They forget about sex until they feel grumpy and agitated, then they have a massive argument over something really stupid, swiftly followed by make-up sex. At this point, they realise that what had been making them so irritable was the fact that they hadn’t had sex for ten days. Most meaningles­s fights are a cry for attention, so the “kiss and make up” strategy works well if you both know that sex is the end game.

The rest of us are a bit more like your girlfriend. We remember that it has been a few days/weeks/ months since we had sex, so we casually suggest it as we dash out the door eating a piece of toast. It is the verbal equivalent of a note on the fridge but if you are not on the same page emotionall­y it can be interprete­d as a command or even an ultimatum. The thing is, though, I doubt that your girlfriend would be reminding you to have sex if she felt that you could be relied on to keep it on the agenda, so perhaps, instead of dismissing her efforts to sustain your sexual relationsh­ip, you should think about initiating spontaneou­s sex a little more frequently. Regular morning sex, for example, would pre-empt the need for reminders.

The issue could be as simple as your girlfriend’s tone. If you hear her suggestion as an instructio­n, it might make you feel uneasy. Some men love partners who act as though they are in charge but others recoil if they think they are being told what to do. If you fall into the latter group you could try communicat­ing to her that you find her “reminders” unsexy. However, that may hurt her feelings and make her less likely to initiate sex. Or you could take the lead more often and see whether that makes a difference.

Either way, try to remember that when your girlfriend asks you to have sex, she is asking you for intimacy, touch, connection, attention, comfort, reassuranc­e, physical affection and validation, and you can give her all those things with or without intercours­e.

“perhaps, instead of dismissing her efforts, you should think about initiating spontaneou­s sex a little more frequently

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