Sex Revisited

Periodically I write about SEX since it is one of the most common topics that come up with clients.

Whenever we are working with couples, whether they both have a “drinking problem” or when one is here to support the other, we do at least one mono-gender session. By that, I mean that the man does a 90-minute session with me while the woman does one with Mary Ellen. Here are a typical utterances:

The man to me: “I swear, Doc, we never have sex. I’m lucky if we do it 2 or 3 times a week!”

The woman to May Ellen: “We have sex all the time, why we must have sex 2 or 3 times a week and he wants even more!”

That is about one-third of the complaints we hear and will surprise no one because it fits the stereotype most of us have been led to believe. Men want sex, women grudgingly comply.

But the next week we’ll hear:

The man to me: “Doc, she’s insatiable! We’re having sex 2 or 3 times a week and, can you believe it, she wants even more!”

As the woman in the next room is lamenting to Mary Ellen: “We never have sex! I’m lucky if I get laid 2 or 3 times a week!”

Yes, that’s right. Exactly the same complaint, only the genders are reversed.

That’s the second third of the story.

The final component involves those couples where one thinks having sex solely for procreation, or maybe twice a year, is about right. The other spouse thinks twice a day is the maintenance level. And no, those “beliefs” are not gender specific.

Finally, there are those folks who are obsessed with what’s “normal.”

After decades of working with people, we can assure you that whether it’s twice a day or twice a year, or anything in between, it’s all normal. And you will not, and should not, try to win an argument, or change a preference, by suggesting that your partner of choice is sick, obsessed, a deviant, or a nympho.

The real problem occurs when people’s idea as to what’s “right” differ to a considerable degree. Think about it, couples who agree that twice a day, or twice a year, or “only for procreation,” or even never, don’t show up in our offices very often. And while sexual preferences aren’t usually the primary underlying problem being medicated, they certainly constitute one of the most common, and thorniest, components.

They are also one of the most difficult to resolve.

If the differences aren’t wildly divergent, interesting compromises can be achieved, especially if you are willing to actually acknowledge what your real preferences are, whether those involve frequency, practices, or any of the myriad of sexual possibilities adults may choose to enjoy. Open discussion, unfettered by self-censorship, and done with our usual prescription of good humor and good will, often leads to a sex life neither of you imagined.

Sober sex is also better sex. Virtually no one likes sex with a drunk and it’s tough to enjoy an activity if you aren’t there, mentally and emotionally, either.

Yes, there are differences, beliefs, and preferences that cannot be mitigated or resolved. The twice a day people aren’t ever going to be happy with the twice a year people and vice versa. Better to acknowledge that there really are irreconcilable differences, that neither of you is “abnormal,” and go your separate ways as amicably as possible. We all deserve the sex life we prefer, assuming it doesn’t involve children, abuse, or other harmful activities.

So why not let us help you get the misperceptions regarding sex, as we do about alcohol, out of the way of a more interesting, fulfilling, and intimate life?

Books from Our Shelf

Reading is an activity that isn’t compatible with drinking, does not require anyone else’s participation, is inexpensive, legal, readily available, and reduces anxiety and boredom.

Amazing how much that sounds like the benefits of drinking.

The question for all of us comes down to what do we like to read? Taste in reading is, again, similar to preferences in alcohol. Some of us will read, or drink, almost anything while others have a category or two and eschew the rest. Some of us haven’t read anything in so long we don’t have a clue as to what we might like.

Every Sunday I get the New York Times and delve into the Book Review section which always contains an interview with a writer who is always asked what books are on her or his bedside table. The answer is usually an eclectic assemblage most of which, I admit, I’ve never heard of, But that, the standard reviews, the Best Seller lists and recommendations, help me refine my trips to the bookstore or on-line.

We suggest that you stock your reading shelf/table/desk with the same selections you would your liquor cabinet or wine cellar. Some light, some informative, some fiction, some non-fiction, short and long, and so on, such that there is always something on hand to fit any mood or time frame, and engage you while distracting you from any urge to reach for a bottle.

That said, what are some books from our shelf that are relevant to giving up the misuse of alcohol?

For you women, the obvious choice is Gabrielle Glaser’s Her Best-Kept Secret, Why Women Drink – and How They Can Regain Control.

For everyone there’s Lance Dodes’ The Sober Truth, Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

For a personal account of kicking drug addiction, as well as being entertaining, try Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, her account of beating the habit by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (the Reese Witherspoon movie is good, but the book is better).

Reading is a habit and it’s fairly easy to get hooked. It’s an excellent example of replacing a life destroying behavior with a life enhancing one. That is, after all, what ending your alcohol abuse is all about, isn’t it?