For both men and women, much of what we learn about the members of he opposite sex is acquired in the early years of post-pubescence, that is, the early teenage years. Much of this information, if not wrong, certainly contains elements of inaccuracy. Teenagers spend a good deal of time not only developing the requisite social skills but also discovering their own and their friends' sexuality. The values and beliefs developed in the teenage years about the opposite sex are often carried into adulthood with little modification.
Teenage girls quickly become convinced that teenage boys are constantly thinking about sex. This observation is probably not far from accurate. At the same time, they become convinced that the number one objective of the vast majority of teen-age males is "scoring".
Many teenage males quickly come to the conclusion that the young women expect them to behave this way, and they are often more than happy to comply with these expectations. Somehow, it's unmasculine to not try to encourage a date to have sex. Young women quickly begin to believe that young men, as a group are crude boars, and insensitive to the more subtle parts of a relationship. Early on, young women become convinced that the only part of a relationship that matters to men is the sex part. The notion of sensitivity and caring somehow get lost in the process.
So both men and women enter adulthood with some real misconceptions about sexuality and the role of sex in a relationship. Young men often fear that anything that borders on sensitivity will be interpreted as being somehow "unmasculine" and thus represent inappropriate behavior for a "real" man. Women believe that the only part of intimacy that matters to men is the sexual intercourse part.
Some couples never really get beyond these misconceptions. They muddle through life never really getting what either partner wants out of a relationship. Men don't really like being viewed by their partners as insensitive clods, but many do not know where or how to begin to change. Parents often provide role models in this regard, and young men who grew up in a family where the father was sensitive and caring to the needs and wishes of the mother--sexual and non-sexual--are at a great advantage in developing the requisite skills. Young women who have had the advantage of observing their parents loving and sensitive relationship are also at a significant advantage over those who grew up in families where the relationship is weaker or less stable.
Why is all of this important? Simply put, sex is a good deal more enjoyable in a loving and caring relationship, and this is true for both men and women. John Gray became a best-selling author with his book Men are from Mars: Women are from Venus. The popularity of this and subsequent books stems primarily from some basic truths Gray was able to articulate so well.
In his book, Gray argues, not surprisingly, that men and women are very different with respect to their sexual and non-sexual needs and desires, and thus bring very different ideas about relationships to the table. Clearly, most men probably see intercourse as being far more important to their overall happiness than most women do. But these differences extend to non-sexual matters as well. Men see themselves as "problem solvers" in a relationship, not as sympathizers. If a women faces a problem involving a co-worker, for example, the male partner (husband), often believes that in order to make the woman feel better, the problem must be solved. In reality, what the woman is often looking for is not a solution to her problem, but rather expressions of caring sympathy. Phrases such as "You were mistreated and I can see why you are angry with the co-worker." may be far more successful than a sincere attempt to try to help her deal with the co-worker. Worst of all is to belittle the problem by saying "I don't think that's serious enough for you to be concerned or upset about it." In a relationship, that kind of help is asking for trouble.
Women often believe the myth that the only thing men enjoy about sex is intercourse. Foreplay is just something men put up with to please the woman. I hope that my foregoing discussions have helped explode that myth.
But men believe some myths too. The first myth is that women don't enjoy sex nearly as much as men do, but sometimes "put up with it" to please their partners. It is true that the vast majority of women se the sexual act as part of a "package" deal. Sex is but one of many components of a worthwhile relationship. Most women would probably rate caring and sensitivity in a loving relationship as being far more important than the sex act itself. But its not true that most women feel only so-so about sex. There are many women who see sex as a very important part of the overall package.
So the package deal of a relationship for women involves a lot of things: a loving and caring relationship, perhaps a family, home, a big dining room table--that is, all the signals that suggest a stable, caring and protected environment. With the possible exception of the big dining room table, men want these things in a relationship too. The rankings may be different, but, in general, the same items are "on the list" for men too.
So, what's a man to do? Showing some sensitivity towards the female partner would be a good start. This is why florists have become wealthy selling long-stem roses. This sensitivity is important both in and out of a sexual setting. Strong relationships begin with both partners sending strong signals that they care for each other. Relationships are not built of the sizes of breasts and penises. Most men are far less concerned about breast size than women believe. Analogously, most women are not nearly as concerned about the size of an erect penis as men believe. These are leftover myths from adolescence.
In short, relationships are built on three words: sensitivity, caring and communication. That's how love develops. It's really all quite simple-- but at the same time, marvelously complex. Sex without these three factors is dull and meaningless. So, how does a man show to a woman that he is sensitive and caring. Communications is critical. John Gray is on the right track. A caring relationship is defined by both compassion and concern. Women don't marry men in order to have someone to solve their problems. They are searching for someone who can sympathize with their situation, whatever it is. In addition, expressions that indicate the man is thinking continually about the woman always earn high marks. Women are actually "turned on" by these expressions that indicate a caring love. And the sex will be better because of this.
Many men are quite dysfunctional when it comes to revealing a sensitive side. In a sexual relationship, men are often unwilling to talk about what "feels good" to them, or that by asking the woman about what feels good to her, that somehow the myth of the "magnificent lover" will be exploded. Adolescent boys often like to act as if they learned all their was to know about how to make a woman happy at age 15, and frequently bring these views into the adult relationship.
I believe that men who are considered by women to be "great lovers" did not achieve this because of their skills at physical techniques. Great lovers become great because they are willing to communicate with women about exactly how they want to be touched without any embarrassment. In this regard, the man who considers himself to be "less experienced" with "more to learn" may actually be more successful in the lovemaking department than the man who claims to already know everything there is to know about lovemaking. The less experienced man will likely want to communicate with his partner on a continuous basis during the lovemaking session. Interestingly, the ability to communicate needs and feelings during intimate sexual activity often helps build better communication skills in non-sexual areas as well, solidifying the relationship in total. At minimum, this is certainly something to ponder. Sex without a caring, loving relationship is no sex at all!