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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Communal Sexual Strength and Motivation

Uploaded: Nov 13, 2015
In the October issue of Psychology Today I finally found a name for something I've been talking to clients about for many years: it's called communal motivation, or communal strength*. If it's important to you, it's important to me.

You give to each other willingly and you respond to a communal partner’s needs. I do this for you, you do that for me, which leads me to do that for you and so on and so forth. No one is keeping score. It's almost like a game in which everyone is the winner.

You do what's important for your partner, for your marriage, even if it means making sacrifices. The line we use at my house is, “This is what you get for how you’ve been acting!,” as we do a kindness for one another.

The loving, secure, caring, comforting, lusty feelings that make your home and couples life full and exciting are driven by connection and communication and all the dominoes that fall behind those.

Your life partner, your beloved, was so easy to talk with and hot for sex in the beginning of your relationship. You knew he had your back no matter what, you knew she would care for you whatever may come, you knew that whatever challenges life brought from outside your front door, you were in it together.

You would go out with her friends even if you didn't quite feel like it; you would go to his parents for dinner even though his dad drinks too much. You would set your needs on at least equal footing, if not leaning toward your partner’s needs, and make the best choice for your relationship. You both said “Yes” to each other's requests. And you had a fabulous sex life.

Your great sex life was partially due to being turned on; the more good sex you have, the more good sex you want. Plus all those good hormones were driving you along.

The other part of your good sex life was likely from your communal motivation; saying yes to each other about things even when it wasn't convenient. Communal motivation increased your intimate connection and trust that your partner had your back. You helped mitigate your partner in his or her challenges (e.g., family of origin, schedules and agendas, supporting each other's careers, and so on).

Over time, you might have experienced a sexual desire gap. Many couples have differences in their sexual needs over the lifetime of a relationship. The person who wants less intercourse** gains more power in the relationship; even if unintentionally. The best solution may be to experiment with expanding your communal motivation into sexual communal strength.

Amy Muise and a colleague looked at applying communal strength to sexuality.*** They found that those who more “intrinsically more communal” would have sex to meet the needs of their partner and “felt happy they were engaging in sex.”

Often when you aren't initially feeling sexually aroused, and you go ahead to pleasure your partner – with a good heart – you end up having pleasure yourself. This may lead you back toward your earliest communal motivation which includes every day choices of giving for the common good, as well as for your sex life. You enter an upward spiral of contentedness, pleasure, giving, and more happiness. All of this leads to increased intimate connection.

However, you need to know your partner's needs and wants and to express your own to create communal motivation. Your needs will change over time, too, so don't assume they're the same as when you were a carefree new couple without kids.

If you don't connect all day, or all week, or don't listen well enough, or comfort and support without fixing, do you think your partner will be primed and ready for hot sex that night?

Focus on communal connection. Then let's see what happens with your sex life.



* Mills, J., Clark, M. S., Ford, T. E. and Johnson, M. (2004), Measurement of communal strength.
** To clarify, sex encompasses so much more than the model of arousal, intercourse, orgasm. It is about your connection and intimacy over days and years, physical touch, listening, caring, joint responsibility, and so on.
***Amy Muise , Emily A. Impett Social Psychological and Personality Science (Impact Factor: 2.56). 02/2014

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