Trouble Pleasing Your Partner? Get Back on Track

It's an all-too-common scenario: A spouse feels overworked, underappreciated and overwhelmed with a job, household and kids to care for. Resentment and exhaustion take their toll, and she feels less and less like having sex. With a busy life, there just isn't time for everything, let alone having an all night lovefest.

The problem can snowball into a relationship-wrecking issue. "The wife feels bad about herself," says Lauren Mackler, psychotherapist and the author of Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. "The man feels that he is not appreciated for what he is doing, and he just gets flack if he comes home too late or works too many hours. He feels very unloved."

Sexuality is a communication issue, says Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, an intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist. It is crucial to spend time together on a regular basis, she says. "Take the time out to make that date with your partner," she says. "And tell each other what you each want sexually."

Here's how you can please each other while working toward a mutually satisfying sexual bond.

To better relate, look at it this way: "For a man, having sex is the same as getting flowers brought to you if you are a woman," she explains. "It makes them feel pampered and desired. Plus, men get more turned on if they feel that their wife or partner desires them."

Write it down. It might sound crazy, but chances are you don't even know what pleases your partner sexually, Rapini says. To find out, each of you should write down three things that make you feel good, she says, and then exchange these lists. Don't be surprised if the list doesn't include "having sex." "For many men, it won't be intercourse," Rapini says. "It will be things such as, I like when she kisses my penis, or when she holds me. A woman might say, I feel more alive sexually when you give the kids a bath and I have a little time for myself."

Have sex more often, and you'll want it more, Rapini says. "The more you have sex, the more aware you are of your genitals and the more you will desire it," she says. "One of the theories behind regular and consistent sex is that in women, your libido will actually go up."

Dig below the surface, Mackler suggests. "Nearly all sexual issues are rooted in a breakdown of the relationship," she says. Just as a baby would die if left to fend for itself, a relationship fails to thrive without ongoing care, love and attention."

Communicate with each other in ways that defuse, not escalate, conflict, Mackler says. For instance, try saying, "I'm having a strong reaction to what you just said," rather than "You idiot! Don't you dare talk to me like that."

Take a long, hard look at yourself, Mackler suggests, to see what kind of relationship dynamics might be working to diminish your sexual interest in your partner. "One is playing the victim and blaming your partner for your unhappiness or problems," she says. "Another is being self-righteous and controlling."

Finally, take the time to explore why you may be having difficulty pleasing your partner, Mackler says, and to work together to get back on track. "When someone feels unloved," she says, "It sets up the possibility for infidelity to occur because the person is feeling so deprived at home."