Many relationships have developed stress in the area of intimacy. This tends to be the kind of stress that sneaks up and builds over time. There is usually no one event that leads to this stress but a series of disappointments that accumulate over time. Sometimes there is a discovery of an affair but typically this type of situation occurs when one or both partners realize over time they are not getting the type of intimacy they want in their relationship.

Again, I look to some typical male/female differences although recently, I have seen more women with the profile of the typical male and vice versa. I believe that what frequently happens in the precommitment stage is the female is very receptive to the male in the relationship. She has the idea that he could be the raw material needed to create the perfect mate she has been dreaming of. In her attempts to mold him into that being, she will provide whatever sexual desires he has. Her partner feels very satisfied and will commit to her hoping she will forever maintain this sexual receptivity. In return, he feels very loving toward his partner and will provide her with the emotional intimacy and romance she craves.

Once the couple is committed, usually married, something happens. The male does not transform into the “perfect mate” the woman envisioned he would. She believed that once they were married he would change. Marriage is generally not a change agent in and of itself. People change when the pain of staying the same exceeds the fear and effort of changing.

The typical pattern is that as the woman realizes her man is not buying in to the prescribed program for change, she becomes disillusioned, feels cheated and becomes angry. She realizes all the sexual effort she had previously put forth did not reap the benefits she hoped and she begins to withdraw her sexual attention. This is usually a gradual process. By the time the male notices, he begins to feel unappreciated and isolated. He doesn’t understand why his woman doesn’t seem to want him the way she did before. If the female also engages in some deadly habits such as criticizing, complaining and blaming, he will withdraw the romance and intimacy he once provided, further adding to his woman’s reduced sexual desire.

This becomes a negative, downward spiral that without attention can eat away at the fabric of your relationship. When one person feels disillusioned enough, an affair can ensue. The female typically says she engages in affairs because she felt unloved and unwanted by her man. The male will say he engages in affairs because he felt unappreciated and unwanted by his woman. The problem is that neither is providing to his or her partner what he or she needs to maintain satisfaction with the relationship.

I believe that looking for fault or where this cycle began is fruitless. It doesn’t matter where it started. It doesn’t matter who started it. If you need to assign blame, I say look at Walt Disney. All of the Prince Charming, Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella movies have socialized females to believe that the love of a good woman will transform any man.

If you are unhappy with your level of sexual intimacy, then it is something you can address. You don’t have to wait for your partner’s cooperation. You can take the preliminary steps necessary to begin the upward spiral of repair to your relationship.

It helps to know and understand your partner’s needs with regard to sex. It is typical, but not always true, that the woman is seeking romance while the man is looking for variety in the sexual act. Take time to talk to your partner about what they actually want in the area of intimacy. Remember, females are not trained to just come out and say what they want so it may take some time to truly uncover her true desires in this area. Most of what she will want may have more to do with creating the mood and the events leading up to intercourse. She wants to feel loved and cherished. She wants to feel you appreciate her and are taking care of her feelings and her needs. Make her feel special and her sexual receptivity will likely increase.

Women, when you speak to your men about what they want in your sexual relationship, take your man at his word. Men will typically come right out and say what they want. You don’t have to read between the lines or interpret what they are actually saying. Men, in general, are more direct communicators than women.

When you have this conversation, it will be helpful to discuss things like what each of you wants to be different in your sexual relationship. It will be equally helpful to discuss what has been working, even if you have to mine the past for these things. You can start off by saying, “I really liked it when you used to . . .” If there is anything from your current situation that works for you, definitely include it in the conversation.

Once each of you have an idea of what the other person wants, then each of you can decide what you are willing to do to give the other person what he or she wants.

One strong word of caution here: Please do not engage in changes with the idea that if you change your behavior, then your partner had better start giving you more of what you want, or else! This is not a "giving to get" situation. You are taking steps to improve your relationship regardless of what your partner chooses. Your behavior should not be contingent upon someone else. You are choosing a new behavior because you believe it is the right thing to do to strengthen the important relationship in your life. Let me know how things work out.

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Author's Bio: 

Kim Olver is a life and relationship coach. Her mission is to help people get along better with the important people in their lives, including themselves. She teaches people how to live from the inside out by empowering them to focus on the things they can change. She in an internationally recognized speaker, having worked in Australia, Europe and Africa, as well as all over the United States and Canada. She is the creator of the new, revolutionary process called, Inside Out Empowerment based on Dr. William Glasser's Choice Theory. She is a public speaker and provides workshops in the areas of relationships, parenting, and a variety of self-growth topics. She is the author of Leveraging Diversity at Work and the forthcoming book, Secrets of Successful Relationships. She co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard, Les Brown, Mark Victor Hansen and Byron Katie, entitled 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. She works with individuals, couples, parents, social service agencies, schools, corporations and the military--anyone who will benefit from gaining more effective control over their lives. She has consulted on relationships, parenting, self-development, training, leadership development, diversity, treatment programs and management styles.