Unrealistic expectations can ruin one's opportunity for happiness in all areas of life, but especially in the bedroom. We've all experienced high expectations for spectacular sex with a new partner ruining the reality of the event (that would have actually been perfectly fine if we didn't build it up so much beforehand). Just as sexual expectations, "sexpectations," if you will, don't serve us well in the beginning of relationships, they can also wreck havoc over time in long-term relationships.
Below are three common areas where unrealistic expectations get in the way of a great sex life. Adjusting your expectations to be in line with these has the potential to impact your sex life and your overall relationship for the better.
1. Sexual desire discrepancy is natural.
Sure, in the beginning of a relationship sex is hot, frequent, and perfectly compatible. That's great! It keeps you interested long enough to become attached to the person and gives you something to fondly look back to when things get less compatible. That's just the thing, things do get less compatible at times. The disappearance of that passionate sex doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, it is common. Sexual desire discrepancy, where one member of the couple has higher or lower desire compared to their partner, is a feature of most long-term romantic relationships. A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that sexual desire discrepancy was common, and women employed a number of strategies to get back on track with their partner, including having sex without desire, communicating, meeting partner's needs, and just giving it time to work itself out. So don't fret if you and your partner aren't in sync at all times. In fact, expect that you won't be! Having the expectation of desire discrepancy as a natural part of the relationship will take away the stress so many couples needlessly associate with it.
2. Men don't always have higher sexual desire than women.
This expectation, that men are always ready for sex and women are always refusing it, is harmful for men and women. It is not consistently supported by research and leaves men who aren't always wanting sex feeling inadequate and women who are always wanting sex feeling like nymphomaniacs. In my research, I have found fairly consistently that women and men are equally likely to be the member of the couple with lower sexual desire relative to their partner. And when we have interviewed women about this, they've expressed frustration when their desire dynamic isn't consistent with these stereotypes because it becomes harder to talk about with their partner and therefore harder to overcome. By pushing back against gender stereotypes and acknowledging that there is probably as much variation within each gender as there is between each gender, you'll lessen the pressures of conforming to those roles that can add up over time.
3. Orgasms are not a requirement of "successful" sex.
Early sexual response cycles from Masters & Johnson, and later, Kaplan, had sexual response peaking at orgasm and ending at resolution. However, more recent conceptualizations of sexual response have acknowledged that there is a lot more to sex than wham, bam, orgasm, done. Work from Basson has led to a more circular model, with the option of orgasm (or not), and satisfaction being a more important output. Focusing on engaging with your partner in satisfying sexual exploration rather than "getting off" will enhance the quality. Recent research has also found that sexual duration may be a better way to classify sex than sexual frequency; maybe having sex longer is just as good as having sex more frequently. So focus on the quality rather than quantity and don't let the goal of orgasm get in the way of a pleasurable experience with your partner. Treat orgasm as a little (or big) bonus rather than letting it define whether it was a satisfying experience.
Adjusting "sexpectations" to be more in line with reality can protect your relationship from stress over sexual desire discrepancy, gender stereotypes that don't help anyone involved, and goal-centric sex that places orgasm as a badge of honor. Replace unrealistic expectations in your sex life with reality and you may find that reality isn't so bad after all.