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Control. Who doesn’t like it? If people were to be honest, they would admit that their need for control is what drives them to be high achievers at work and in many other areas of their lives – and often, successfully so. If this is true – they wonder – then how come it doesn’t seem to be paying off in their sex lives? Let’s look at that today; how does this need of control manifest, how does it interfere with the great sex you’re trying to have and how can you harness it so that it can actually benefit you?
What does control look like?
You might be surprised to learn that it is a common belief that giving a partner more of what they want is likely to turn them into arrogant, needy and/or difficult-to-please partners. It isn’t unusual to hear a Kenyan (wo)man say “huyo ataringa sana nikimuonyesha nampenda” (he/she will become too arrogant if I was to show them that I loved them).
In actual fact, many people are miserable because their partners are denying them what they feel they need to feel loved and cared for. The irony is that deliberately withholding something from your partner might make them miserable but it also makes you – the withholder – miserable! So why do it? What do you get out of it? The answer? A sense of control.
The feeling that sharing love or affection would tilt the odds against you and so you try to protect yourself and your vulnerability. But what if you’re wrong? What if this is the very thing that has been getting in the way of your ability to enjoy sex with your partner. What if this is the reason why your desire for sex is often rebuffed? What if your partner is rejecting you to give you a taste of the misery, loneliness, isolation and/or rejection that you have been forcing them to experience by your withholding? Just what if, in your attempts at not getting taken advantage of and/or being more assured of their love by withholding your expression of love and affection, you ended up alienating yourself from their hearts and your bed?
How can you harness this need to control so that it serves you?
I know this may sound obvious and maybe even a little condescending but the way to harness this need is to steer in the direction that you are afraid of. You cannot control sexual satisfaction because sex – desire, pursuit, satisfaction – is more about flow than it is about fight, flight or freeze. So what can you do?
Whatever you need to do to remove barriers that stand in the way of the flow of sexual energy in your relationship. Think of it like a river; where there are stones, rocks or plants, it flows slower. If it does not have an easy-to-follow path, it creates its own path because rivers cannot be stopped. If there is garbage strewn in the river or its path, it floods and becomes a problem to its surrounding.
If, on the other hand, a river has a good source of water, a clear path to follow and no barriers inside it, it flows and flows freely. So, if your sex life was a river, what kind of river is it? More importantly, what kind of river do you want it to be? Even more importantly, what are you willing to do to see that kind of river that you want and need?
For those of you who might be wondering where to begin, here are a few things that you can try. If nothing else, my hope is that they will spark ideas of your own.
- Flip the control
Turn it inward by making it your business to learn about yourself and your needs. Your partner is not a mind reader so you need to guide them into how they can love you better. Furthermore, as we are taught, “charity begins at home” so begin with understanding yourself and your needs so you can understand what’s missing.
- Discover yourself
Keep the control inward by shining a light on this aspect of your personality. For as long as it is a mystery to you, you will continue to sabotage yourself and your sex life. For example, some of you were raised in homes where any show of affection or vulnerability was used against you. If you can identify this, then you can also identify ways in which your current life is safer. At the very least, you will identify this aspect of your personality and how it manifests, which gives you the opportunity to learn new ways of being, loving and being loved so that you can be safe enough to be in the fullness of who you are, with no fear or manipulation in sight.
- Discover your partner
Turn the control outward by making it your business to learn about your partner and their needs. Listen to them and seek to understand what they need and how they need it, in and out of bed. One thing to remember is that they will be more likely to listen to your needs if they see that you are willing to listen to their needs.
Now that you know that your need for control is sabotaging your sex life, what are you prepared to do to let it go or use it to your advantage? Whatever it is, I hope you will soon reap the rewards of a happy, healthy, flowing sex life.
Maggie Gitu is a Marriage, Family & Sex Therapist. She can be reached at [email protected]