sex therapy

Why Men Are No Longer The Only One's Pursuing Younger Partners

During a more traditional gender norm adhering generation, social roles pushed a specific agenda, limiting women’s access and opportunity.  With minimal resources or choice, making survival a primary goal, our primitive brain kicks in and our biological and evolutionary drives go to work, narrowing down mate selection based on who will increase likeliness of survival and reproductive success. 

Social norms, fed to a society through various forms of media and represented in language through praise, permittance and idealization, has reinforced the evolutionary drive that influences mate selection. 

An older male partner, due to what he historically represents and is able to provide (financial stability, status, safety and in turn an increased likeliness of the survival of ones offspring) would appear as an ideal mate selection to a woman of any age. This of course greatly widened the dating age gap and pool selection for heterosexual males and limited that of heterosexual females. 

In today’s more modern norm adhering society, women now have access to education and the profession of their choosing. Despite barriers still existing, many strides have been made for women’s rights that directly influence their independence, freedom of choice and in turn, what they seek in a partner and when/if they seek a relationship altogether. This is a clear demonstration of how social structures greatly influence human behavior, including mate selection that may otherwise be attributed to biology. 

Social perceptions pertaining to the traditional image of a female as a homemaker continue to be challenged and redefined.

This however does not mean we as a culture have fully rid our expectations or ‘old brain’ perception of what is acceptable or ideal. You can observe this social ambiguity in the negative comments and gossip surrounding a couple such as Kate Beckinsale and Pete Davidson. A society who uses media as a platform to empower women and encourage a progressive society and at the same time expresses discomfort and uncertainty with a 45 year old woman’s intentions when choosing a 25 year old partner. 

We as people are uncomfortable with change or the unfamiliar. Today is an age of change, and as we encourage the empowerment of women (and also men) it is reasonable to expect some resistance. As referenced in several theories of psychology, the ‘system’ will readjust to changes eventually and that will become the new normal until the next inevitable change occurs. 

Let's Talk About Sex: When Your Relationship Goes Through A Dry Spell In The Bedroom

When choosing a romantic partner there are often several variables one may consider prior to commitment, with sexual compatibility often not being an exception. But what happens when the person who compliments you in many valuable ways, does not seem to match you sexually? This can weigh heavy on the potential of the relationship and may even hinder each partner’s experienced happiness despite the many other aspects of their partner that elicits joy. But fret not lovers; sexual compatibility is not an inflexible concept.

Firstly, keep in mind that neither partner is wrong for how frequent or infrequent they desire sex. Placing an expectation in relationships that because two people stimulate each other mentally and emotionally that they also are ‘supposed’ to want the same things sexually can negatively impact the wellness of the relationship. It creates an idealistic platform when entering relationships that, if not met, will result in disappointment, judgment, shame and/or blame. Even the most passionate of partners will experience waves of uncertainty and differing sex drives at certain points in their relationship. With that in mind, a goal for couples would be to begin to remove such unrealistic demands and instead highlight the importance of communication and compromise in all aspects of a relationship, including sex and intimacy. 

Communication can be challenging if partners are in defensive and offensive mode due to built up frustration over ‘incompatible’ sex drives. If possible, seek a couple’s counselor who specializes in sexuality to aid in identifying and revising cognitive distortions including– “My partner ‘must’ want sex every time I do or we are not compatible enough.” A professional is a great resource to help couples come to a compromise on what a happy and healthy sex life looks like for their UNIQUE relationship.

Don’t be afraid to explore your sexuality together so you can create your own love language. A little direction goes a long way, so keep in mind the benefits of positive reinforcement when your partner is pleasing you in a way you want to encourage for the future. A satisfying sex life most greatly begins and ends with compromise. This may include one partner having sex even when they are not in the mood or the other using masturbation as means of feeding their sexual hunger.

Consider whether sexual exclusivity, familiarity and lack of novelty are negatively affecting sexual intimacy in the relationship. Engaging in a new sexual activity together may spark that previously experienced passion; or some simple distance may also do the trick. The key is not to adhere to a socialized norm of what relationships and sexuality looks like; to create your own love story that leaves you satisfied with no apologies necessary.

The 'Bad Boy' Spell: Understanding The Allure

Ah, remember that saying "nice guys finish last", well, that is not necessarily true and in fact may be reinforcing an illusion of validity to those trying to find reason for their run with singledom. This myth places unrealistic expectations on how we should behave and feel. It attempts to define attraction as all or none thinking (black or white). If you are a nice guy than you can’t be a dominant alpha ‘bad boy.’ We as human beings are just not that simple to divide us into such neat corners without even the slight consideration of the many conditions linked to, for example, expressions or intentions behind the ‘niceness’ that allude to an entirely different being. If you are someone who adheres to the nice guy finishes last stereotype, you may be missing out on an entire population and the possibility of developing meaningful relationships.

The bad boy persona has a history of being idolized in media and has flooded our culture for centuries. But such individuals can’t be ALL bad, otherwise why would they have such a high mating success rate. The attractiveness of the unattainable has to be more than just the “hit it and quit it” attitude. It is someone who makes it a point to consistently appear their best, exude confidence (if merely cockiness) and knows the importance of a great first impression. Let us consider that there is more behind this phenomenon of attraction than adhering to social stigmas that biology and brain chemistry can help explain:

To understand complexities of attraction to the ‘bad boy’ persona more clearly research considers the discovery that males are more likely than females to have personality traits consistent to the Dark Triad: narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The allure of a bad boy is they have adopted short-term mating strategies. According to the study The Dark Triad personality: Attractiveness to women, “Women may be responding to dark triad’s men’s ability to ‘sell themselves’; a useful tactic in a co-evolutionary ‘arms race’ in which men convince women to pursue the former’s preferred sexual strategy. This ability may derive from a ‘used-car dealer’ ability to charm and manipulate, and DT-associated traits such as assertiveness. A female preference may be an evolved contingent choice that enhances her reproductive success, or it may be the result of exploitation by males in the evolutionary time lag before females have evolved a response.” Well, maybe it is time we highlight some useful ‘responses’ and remove the damsel in distress depiction on why women may prefer the charm of a dark triad man.

What is it that drives some women to stay in and fight for the love of such narcissistic ‘bad boys’? Is it the chase? The desire to ‘win’ the admiration and affection of someone who is blatantly unavailable (anxious/preoccupied caregiver attachment rear it’s ugly head)? These are questions that may be worth considering if you find yourself as the constant chaser in ‘relationships’; is it for love or ego? We sometimes chase the unattainable because when someone you have invested in does not return that time and affection, it feels like something against who we are as individuals; as if we are not good enough and therefore we must stick around to fight for the validation that we are in fact good enough. With this type of thinking you are allowing someone else to determine your worth and believing that every decision another person makes is about you, when in fact, this person may not be a narcissist or ‘bad boy’ at all, rather, someone who just is not at a point of their life to settle down – and that is OK. If this individual never made any verbal commitment to you than there may be a lot of ‘shoulds’ in play leading to the disappointment that is being experienced. “If I have sex with him regularly than he should settle down with me otherwise I am unlovable” or “otherwise he is a narcissist ‘bad boy’.”

If you find that you are always the one giving more of you time, trust and devotion without it ever remotely being met in return examine the cost-benefit of the amount of effort you are putting into another individual who appears to otherwise be distant. Examining the scales may help shine some light on whether you consider it to be more costly than anything else. Yes, you may consider yourself to be a ‘natural caretaker’ who ‘can’t help it’ but ask yourself whether the relationship of sorts warranted such devotion, if you have worked up unrealistic expectations of yourself or another, or if you are simply falling for the effective charm and manipulation of a ‘dark triad’ personality type.

The thing is, we have no control over others behavior but we do have control over our own. Even if you find yourself drawn to a particular type of person, consider what it is you want for your life and relationship status and make conscious efforts and decisions to work towards achieving that. Look at the whole person rather than just the parts. If you find that you keep dating the same way and it is not getting the result you want when does it become time to try another route? If we take ownership of how our own choices and behaviors may be contributing to an outcome we are unhappy with than we are able to take back the power necessary to achieve the version of happiness we so desire for our own lives.

Working with a relationship professional can help you develop useful tools to aid in achieving the happiness you desire. Learning how one's own beliefs, through the lens of Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, may be creating negative consequences in your life will help to reduce these emotions and encourage more appropriate response to the event at hand.

Modern Dating in the Digital Age

We are living in a digital age where accessibility is a norm and privacy is limited. The Internet has significantly affected how we communicate and connect with others so it is only fair to consider the impact this has had on relationships – and risk of infidelity. With the delete button at our fingertips, it is quite easy to (or one may presume) get away with cheating. So, how do you help your relationship remain a faithful one when opportunities are endless?

Firstly, consider whether there is a mutually definitive understanding of what cheating is in your relationship. What is acceptable to one partner may not be to the other. Without communicating these expectations and boundaries you are increasing the likeliness of finding yourself and the relationship in a disappointing, hurtful place on more than one occasion. It is possible that, for example, one person in the relationship deems flirtation as innocent fun, while the other believes it is crossing the line. The important point to remember is that neither are wrong, rather, what worked in one relationship will not necessarily work in all, and that is OK. It comes down to being able to effectively communicate your needs (without blaming or shaming), express empathy and validation, and being open to compromise.

An option to explore when you and your partner are having difficulty agreeing on terms of fidelity is that even without the internet factor, consensual non-monogamy and non-traditional relationships are a thing (yes, there are open relationships beyond being the side piece) – and although they may not be for everyone, it might be worth considering whether your relationship’s wellbeing is solely based on it’s sexual exclusivity and where such a concept originated. If your relationship is comprised of other parts you both find meaningful, maybe reconsider how not restricting sexual boundaries could encourage openness, honesty, and support.

If non-monogamy is not your thing but the temptation of endless dating apps is still playing on you or your partner's mind that does not signify you are in the wrong relationship. Familiarity and domesticity decreases the sexy in relationships. Instead of going on a guilt-trip for your wandering eye, try something effective such as evaluating the cost-benefit ratios of acting on these desires. A few moments of satisfaction may be more costly than you anticipated in the moment, but because we can’t alter what is already done, applying this decision making model when temptation is heightened would be a useful tool. 

Cognitive behavioral therapies, including evidence-based REBT, offer an effective means of exploring infidelity, understanding the origins of jealously and working towards a relationship resolution of sorts. A relationship and sex therapist can assist you in discussing boundaries, roles and rules that work for your unique relationship’s needs.