Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I don’t like having sex with someone I love

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer
[Two Pronged] I don’t like having sex with someone I love
'I enjoy sex more with someone I have no relationship with. Is the way I feel normal?'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer:

Please just call me Nurse Madonna. I have a partner who is a foreigner. We’ve been going together for two years.

I feel sorry for him, because whenever he wants to have sex, I often turn him down. Many times I say I am too tired and sometimes I pretend to be angry. I know he loves me very much.

When I have sex with him, I often think of someone else, or I think of the last porn movie that I watched. Because for me, when I love somebody, sex is not my priority. I am happier when we are together; I prefer bonding and cuddling.

I enjoy sex more with someone I have no relationship with. Can you give me any advice? Is the way I feel normal?

Please help me. Thank you.

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Dear Nurse Madonna,

Thank you for your email.

Mismatches in the sexual arena are quite common, and so it is fair to say that your issue is “normal.” However labeling it normal is no solution in itself to the problem it poses for you and your partner (let’s call him Hans).

According to Dr. Robert Sternberg, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University and the author of Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, the three principal components required for true love are: commitment, passion and intimacy.

The different combinations produce different types of love, the ideal being consummate love i.e. all three components (see his site for more details).

You say that your preference is for bonding and cuddling with Hans while sex is better with people with whom you have no relationship. Following Sternberg, your relationship with Hans falls under the category of companionate love, since there is no passion, only intimacy and commitment, while your sexual encounters in all likelihood do not qualify as love at all in the absence of passion, intimacy, or commitment (if there is passion, Sternberg would label it infatuation). 

You do not mention Hans’s view of your relationship (other than his desire for sex), but surely the question arises of what sort of long-term prospects lie ahead if yours remains a passionless relationship. After all, you may be happy with this but what about Hans?

Of course, you too may hanker for something more than companionate love, even if not with Hans. In the absence of further information, perhaps in your past there have been some defining moments which led you to differentiate sex in this way. You may therefore want to analyze more deeply why you feel as you do and question whether your definition of love is as fulfilling as it could be. If self-analysis is insufficient to yield satisfying results, you might consider therapy to guide you further.

As for your question about normality, we are all discrete individuals, separate and distinct one from another, and, given this, normality is much overrated, particularly psychologically. We each seek fulfillment on our own terms and no one should have to settle for less just because others are different.

All the best,
JAF Baer

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Dear NM (Nurse Madonna):

Thank you very much for your letter. I feel Mr. Baer has given you a clear, if slightly academic analysis of your situation. I admire the way he has eschewed the more “media-friendly” description for your having hot sex only with people you don’t have a relationship for. That is the Madonna-Prostitute dichotomy. I even wonder if some inner wisdom made you choose Nurse Madonna because a deep part of you recognized this.

People who follow the Madonna-Prostitute dichotomy can only have hot sex with someone they have no real relationship with. Otherwise it seems like duty, gratitude, or a mercy f*ck – the kind of sex that certainly is anything but fun.  

Culture may have contributed to this being your go-to guide to good sex, even if, usually, it is Filipino men who are encouraged to have this attitude. You know: “May dalawang klaseng babae sa mundo: ang pang-altar at ang pang-laspag (There are two kinds of women in this world: one you marry, and one you have sex with).”

In my clinical experience, when women take on this attitude, it is oftentimes because men close to them — fathers, brothers, best friends, uncles, etc. — treat their partners this way. As a self-protective measure, many of them decide they will beat their partners to the punch (rather you, than me) and have sex this way too: only with partners they cannot have serious relationships with. Should they find someone they love and/or they feel truly loves them, sex loses its color/passion and becomes what many people (often men) describe as “married sex.”

I do not know if you are comfortable with this attitude. It is a way to protect yourself from getting hurt when/if you fall in love. I do not know if you want to change feeling this way so your love life can be deeper and more meaningful. Or how deeply ingrained this is in you or how easily you could change should you want to. However, if you find you want to give changing a shot, please write to us once more. I am sure Mr. Baer and I can give you further food for thought, which can help guide you in, at the very least, choosing the right therapist for yourself.  

You ask if the way you feel is normal. In the sense that it is statistically frequent enough, yes, it is normal.

However, there are other considerations to consider: Is it kind? Is this the way you would want to be treated? Would it not be better for Hans if you played it straight so that he could decide for himself if he wanted the love of a person who merely tolerated having sex with him? Would he not be happier in the long run with a woman who loved and enjoyed sex with him? The sooner he knows the truth, the earlier he can make decisions about his future (and his present).

But more importantly for you, is it healthy? Is it healthy to live a lie, day in and day out? Yes, yes, even if it is under the guise of kindness, of not wanting to hurt Hans? And isn’t it tiring to have to pretend practically every night?

The energy you invest in your lies could be put to far better use…even to enjoying porn more (joke only, although, why not, diba?)! However I have a feeling you may discover other more creative pursuits when you decide to become true to yourself and allow Hans and yourself to have a greater sense of agency because all the cards are on the table. 

Good luck and please, pleeeease write if there is anything else we can do for you.

Ingat lagi,
MG Holmes


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