Andrew Marshall is best known fur his hugely successful self-help book “I love you but I’m not in love with you”. His new publication “Build a Life Long Love Affair: Seven steps to revitalising your relationship” is one of a series of six short self-help titles that Andrew has produced for Bloomsbury.
Andrew has been a marital therapist for twenty-five years and this particular title is packed with exercises on how to improve intimacy and, most importantly, to communicate about sex.
In his experience, talking about sex is not something that couples find easy to do. “They can be perfectly capable of discussing issues like domestic responsibilities and finance, but they can’t go near what to do in the bedroom.
Normally if we want to try and solve a problem we focus on it and try to analyse it, but in marital therapy this approach makes people clam up. The minute I say to a couple ‘I’d like to talk to you about sex’ they become defensive and awkward.
I think it is because we are all so conditioned to think that if someone wants to talk about something, it means it is a problem.”
And because asking them to talk about it in terms of it being a problem puts them on the back foot, it really isn’t helpful at all.”
Instead, Andrew uses a technique which he calls ‘appreciative enquiry’. He starts with what is actually working in the sexual relationship and builds from there.
“When couples start a discussion about sex by talking about the things they enjoy during sex, rather than they things they find dull or difficult, it is easier to broach the subject of change or improvement.”
In discussing what they like about sexual intimacy, they often discover that touching and kissing are more meaningful and pleasurable than penetrative sex, for both of them. However unless they are prepared to have that conversation, that information remains a secret.
Andrew also says that one of the reasons so many couples endure dull and underesting sex is that they never alter the way the way they have sex. “You wouldn’t wear the same clothes at fifty as you did at twenty, but couples start out having a certain kind of sex and twenty or thirty years later, they are still doing the same thing. They get trapped in a set of post-adolescent techniques despite the fact that they have grown up and moved on.”
Another big problem is the fact that so many men and women equate an erect penis to sexual excitement. Because the penis becomes less reliable as men age, there is a tendency to rush things in case an erection disappears. And because women view an erection as evidence of their own desirability, a limp penis is then interpreted as a form of rejection.
In reality, Andrew says, “erections come and go and the fact that a man’s penis goes limp during foreplay when, for example, he is giving is partner oral pleasure, does not mean that he does not fancy her. Once couples realise that erections naturally fluctuate, sex can last much longer than it does if it is solely centered on the penis.”
While Andrew thinks it is great that men now have drugs like Viagra and Levitra, he is less keen on the way “these drugs perpetuate the idea that you need a rock hard cock to have good sex. You don’t. Fingers and tongues are for making love than a penis.”
Andrew’s Seven Golden Rules for Great Sex in a long term relationship.
One. You can not rely on lust alone. You need to learn how build a bridge to your desire, to understand how you get from the everyday stuff like paying the bills to your intimate relationships. Some typical bridges might be touching, kissing, cuddling, flirting or planning. Sex is far less likely to happen if you leave it to chance.
Two. Have a broad definition of what constitutes sex and don’t limit yourself to penetration. Sex can be any intimate act, whether that is soaping one another in the bath, slow dancing or having a naked cuddle before you go to sleep.
Three. Talk to each other. About sex. About love. About everything. The more you talk the better connected you are
Four. Remember that foreplay begins at breakfast. You simply can not ignore someone all day long and then expect them to jump into bed with you and have rampant sex at night. You have to create the sense that your partner is desirable from the beginning of the day onwards.
Five. Accept that there are differences between men and women in the way we approach sex. Men need sex to feel close, whereas women have to feel close to want sex. We are both after the same thing – intimacy – but we label it in different ways.
Six. Don’t measure the quality of the sex they are having by its’ frequency. As we all know sex can be regular and functional, whilst at the same time being deeply unsatisfying particuallry if one partner is co-operating just to get it over with.
Seven. Insist on a lock on the bedroom door. Your children do not need you 24/7 and if they have a problem they can knock. It is wrong that parents can not enter their teenage child’s bedroom with out knocking yet they feel they can not demand privacy for themselves. Your children are only with you for a short time but your partner is hopefully going to be with you forever and if you neglect your sex life you will hurt your children even more because couples who don’t have sex don’t stay together.
Andrew Marshall is available for private consultations in either central London or Sussex. He can also recommend other counsellors who use his methods.