Getting a Little Handsy

Getting a Little Handsy

Q: Please help me find a way to get through to my husband that it is not a turn-on to me to be constantly groped and grabbed! I can’t tell whether he is trying to initiate sex and thinks that I like being pawed at, or he thinks it’s funny to get me so frustrated. It actually makes me want to avoid him and push him away. The LAST thing it makes me want to do is to be intimate. What should I do? I’m so frustrated and annoyed, I feel like I’m married to an adolescent boy.

She: One thing that should make you feel better is that your husband still wants to grope you. I know this doesn’t feel like a victory right now, but sexual playfulness is something that can quickly die in a relationship. It’s good that he still finds you attractive and that he still initiates sex with you on a regular basis. Believe me, once this starts to fade, it can become a real struggle to get it back.

Unfortunately, men and women generally vary greatly on sex drives (on a very primal level). It makes sense in the early days of procreation that men would have higher sex drives than women. But today we are left with differing views on sex, and incompatibility that leaves your husband chasing you around the house like a horny adolescent. Have you tried having a loving, but serious, talk with him about how this makes you feel? When I have run into similar problems between couples, I find it helpful to explain (very simply) that men need to have sex to feel loved, and women need to feel loved to have sex. Being intimate with your husband is very important for staying connected, for both of you. What needs to be communicated are the things that he does that make you feel good, and the things that make you want to be close to him.  He also needs to understand that the groping and grabbing actually make you want to run from him, the opposite of his intensions.

He: Consider yourself lucky.  I had a friend who told me that her former boyfriend would signal his affection for her by approaching her naked and swinging his penis in a propeller-like fashion.  When she got done laughing, she was faced with the reality that she did not want to be sexual with a guy who just beckoned her with his swinging penis.  In that context, a little groping doesn’t sound that bad. Groping is something that happens consensually in the throes of passion, but to start with a grope is much like starting off in a car in 4th gear. It sputters and stalls.

Jen is right that you should be somewhat happy that your husband gropes you, and should know that he is signaling approval about your appearance. Think of it this way: have you ever seen a baby or puppy that was so cute that you had this unstoppable desire to grit your teeth and squeeze its fat little face? Some people have even described the desire of wanting to bite a fat little babies arm or leg (in an affectionate way, not a psychotic way). That is a powerful reaction to a visual stimuli, and not much different than the urge that your husband has to paw at you.

I disagree with Jen about the “serious but loving talk”- that is a long-term passion-killer, and is a little shaming. Instead, I would suggest a little operant conditioning (think of training a lab rat in a maze). His actions are coming from animalistic place, so treat him like an animal, or at least train him like you would an animal.  When he comes up on you and starts pawing at you, take his hands with yours and put them on your hips or other neutral spot. Leaving your hands on his, take control a little and tell him to kiss you on your neck or something gentle that you like. Don’t let him move his hands until he has done something for you.  That exchange of affection may be all he is looking for in that moment. If he is looking for more, at least you are starting to show him a more effective way of engaging you in the process.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for nine years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California.  Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.



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