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The Sex-Starved Wife

Sex Starter: Use the seesaw effect continued...

Let's take this seesaw analogy a step further. In many relationships, couples start out on equal footing when it comes to sexual desire. Then one person becomes tired, overwhelmed, preoccupied, or busy. This new behavior prompts his or her partner to double up efforts to keep their sex life on track. When those efforts are met with rejection, all of a sudden sex becomes the center of the universe for the sex-starved partner. And the more the sex-starved partner shines a light on sex, the less sex the lower-desire spouse wants.

If you're the only one putting energy into rekindling your sex life, your husband has come to expect that. He knows you'll take the lead. If you want him to be more involved sexually, you need to experiment with stepping back and letting him notice you're not pursuing him. This technique helps you break out of your rut by giving him a chance to pursue you without feeling pressured.

For years, Annie and her husband, Bill, behaved in a predictable pattern. Annie would approach Bill for sex, he would decline, she would get angry, and then a couple of days later, he would approach her. The problem was, Annie felt that he was initiating sex only out of a sense of obligation — and that when they did make love, his heart really wasn't in it. Yet because Annie believed that the "I approach him, he rejects me, I get angry, he approaches me, we have sex" pattern was the only way they would end up being sexual, she continued to do what she'd always done, even though the sex was never truly satisfying.

After learning about the seesaw effect, Annie decided to try something new. As usual, she initiated sex with Bill, and he turned her down. As she predicted, two days passed. Then one night as he sat next to her on the couch, he began to rub her thighs. Instead of responding sexually, she told him she was not in the mood. Thinking she was joking, Bill continued to touch her. Eventually Annie asked him to stop and said, "Look, I'm really not into this right now. I don't know why, but maybe some other time." Bill stopped, stunned. He asked her if everything was okay, and she said, "Yes, absolutely. I'm just not feeling too sexual right now."

The next day, Bill sent Annie an e-mail with sexual undertones — something he had done early in their marriage but not for many years. Annie was tempted to respond in kind, but held back. After turning down a few more of Bill's sexual advances, Annie finally "gave in," and they made love. The wait really boosted Bill's enthusiasm for sex. "He seemed much more into it," Annie said. Rather than simply going through the motions, she felt connected and very turned on because of his increased passion. Annie wasn't quite sure why her holding back made a difference to Bill, but it did. It wasn't easy for her; she worried that if she resisted him, he would become even more low-key sexually, but just the opposite happened.

Like Annie, you too might worry that a new approach could backfire. It's scary to break free of old patterns, but you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So put your fears aside and give yourself permission to be creative. And know this: By working to create more love, connection, sexuality, sensuality, and affection, you've shown yourself to be a woman who fights for what's important in life and love.

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