141 - Solving Sexual Incompatibility

This week we are talking about sexual incompatibility and infidelity. Opening up about sex is often a challenging and vulnerable part of any relationship, and it can cause some relationships to implode. Today we are going to offer some stits and stats regarding sexual incompatibility, sexual changes over time, and how non-monogamy can shape and help sexual differences in a relationship. We also will talk about infidelity and why it can happen even in seemingly happy relationships.

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Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.

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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory Podcast, we're talking about sexual incompatibility and infidelity. Opening up about sex is often a challenging and vulnerable part of any relationship, and it can cause relationships to implode, or explode. But today, we're going to offer some stits and stats regarding sexual incompatibility, sexual changes over time, and how non-monogamy can help sexual differences. We'll also talk about infidelity and why it can happen even in happy relationships.

Emily: But first, yes, we have two giant, big birthday shout-outs.

Dedeker: No tiny birthday shout-outs here.

Emily: No, these are huge, they're meaningful, and one of them comes a little bit late. Sorry about that. But we're doing it anyways.

Dedeker: Yes, we're doing it anyways. So the first shout-out is from our lovely Patro, Will, to our other lovely Patro, Kenzi. Will says, "Happy birthday to one of the best people I know. I love you and I look forward to all of your upcoming adventures. Go kick ass." Yes.

Jase: Yes. So happy birthday. Sorry that that's a little bit late, Kenzi.

Dedeker: I hope she kicks some ass though.

Jase: I hope you kicked ass and are continuing to kick ass now into this new year of your life. Our second one is from Andy to Jen. This is to wish you a very, very special happy, happy birthday, and that he promised that he would do a dance for you. So be sure you tell him that he needs to do that.

Dedeker: That he needs to do that. He needs to do that. So the thing is that Andy just said, "Hey, can you give a shout-out for her birthday?" But he didn't give us specifically what to say. So that means we have free license just to cram right in your mouth.

Jase: Okay. So he's promised a birthday dance. What else has he promised?

Emily: Amazing birthday sex.

Jase: Sure, yes, great. Amazing birthday sex, that's kind of a given I think.

Dedeker: Yes.

Emily: Yes.

Jase: Yes, and he's going to cook for you. So that's great.

Dedeker: He's going to do all three of those things at the same time.

Jase: That's weird. I'm not sure how you feel about that.

Dedeker: Can you imagine how impressive that would be, though?

Jase: Dancing, having sex and cooking dinner?

Dedeker: Yes. It's like the perfect relationship.

Emily: I think it can be done. Challenge accepted.

Dedeker: Anyway, well, if any of you would also like to have some kind of shout-out on the show, then you can do that by going to patreon.com/multiamory and becoming one of our $15 a month patrons.

Emily: So yes, happy birthday to Jen and happy birthday to Kenzi. So moving on to the episode. Looking up all of these statistics on sexual incompatibility and articles that were written for married couples specifically, I was really, really amazed at how many of them discussed opening up one's marriage as a way to deal with sexual incompatibility.

Dedeker: I feel like that's got to be a big change from even 10 years ago where I feel like a lot of advice articles wouldn't have suggested something like that as a solution to issues with sexual compatibility in a long-term marriage.

Jase: Yes, I wonder.

Emily: Yes. But definitely a lot of them were saying, "Oh, don't throw a book in my head or don't freak out at me saying this. But here's something that you can try and there's a lot of couples out there who do it and a lot of couples who are really pleased about it," and all of that stuff. So I found that to be a really interesting idea.

Jase: Just as a quick side note, a little disclaimer here, these studies primarily deal with heterosexual relationships, cisgender people. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of information about this kind of sexual incompatibility, infidelity, all these sorts of things, for people on the ace spectrum or for trans people. There is some for same-sex couples, but unfortunately, there's not usually like a one-to-one comparison where they'll do the same study with both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Anyway, unfortunately, that is a limitation of the data that we have. But I do feel like a lot of the stuff still applies to any kind of relationship.

Emily: Yes. I mean, sexual incompatibility happens in so many relationships over time, and unfortunately, it's a leading cause of relationships to end or implode, or anything.

Jase: Right. I did want to say too that also these studies are generally done on monogamous people because most studies go in assuming that's just what people do. But again, even with that, I think that the findings still can be applied to polyamorous or other types of non-monogamous relationships. I think a lot of the same fundamental pieces are there, especially if people are cohabiting with each other about these types of sexual incompatibility. So with that, who wants to give us some stits and stats?

Dedeker: Well, I'll hop in with this first one that, on average, Americans report having sex 85 times a year. This was according to a survey that was done in 2007, so that may have changed. I mean, I guess it's been 10 years since they did this survey. I feel like I recall from seeing a list of countries that were ranked based on how frequently people living in those countries had sex.

Jase: Because they did this study in 26 countries.

Dedeker: Right. That the Greeks have the most sex. They're just going at it all the time. It's something like over 100 times a year. Something ridiculous like that. Maybe not ridiculous, probably great.

Jase: It certainly doesn't seem that ridiculous, I guess.

Dedeker: Then, at the bottom of the list, were the Japanese where it's something like under 50 times a year. Which is still sex once a week, to put in a little bit of perspective. Then, Americans kind of seem to live in the middle ground here with sex around 85 times a year, which is what? Like one point hmm-hmm times per week. Something like that.

Jase: Yes, one point hmm-hmm times per week. Yes.

Emily: Yes, one and a half times. It's those half times, what do those mean exactly? What counts as sex versus no sex?

Dedeker: Where only one person got off, I guess.

Emily: I guess so. I don't know.

Jase: Well, that is true, that is another question of what do you count as sex, and I guess this is people just self-reporting. So it's whatever they would consider sex to be.

Emily: Right. So there's another one. Another research survey that surveyed 3,240 men and 3,304 women who were married, living with a partner or in a relationship. They asked them about their satisfaction with their sex lives. So a majority of men, meaning 54% and nearly as many women 42%, said that they were unhappy with the frequency of sex that they had. This was published, I believe, in the issue of the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy in 2015.

Jase: Yes. I think it's worth pointing out that this is specifically asking if they're happy with the frequency of sex and not the quality of sex. I just wanted to point that out.

Emily: That's a good point. Just the amount.

Dedeker: Well, it may happen, in this study, we just count that stat.

Jase: Yes, the only stat we have here is --

Dedeker: Is about the frequency of sex.

Jase: -- about their frequency of sex, yes.

Dedeker: So speaking of frequency of sex, I mean, I think that we covered that when we were talking about our Science of Happy Relationships episode, where in that one it was what? Like they find that about two to three times a week people are the happiest?

Jase: Which puts you well above that average of 85 times a year.

Dedeker: Yes, quite above the average because that's a lot of sex to have in a year.

Emily: But that's how happy -- you would be the happiest if you were having two to three times a week of sex.

Dedeker: Again, with the caveat of like if you are an allosexual sexual person who gave satisfaction and pleasure out of having sex, if that doesn't apply to you, then of course, it's going to be entirely different things. But I do think that's interesting, but in that study, they didn't really cover whether it's you having sex with multiple people or hookups or sex with the same person. Are those all equally weighted or not?

Jase: I'm actually not sure, yes, I'm not sure because it was -- I'll have to go back and check but I'm not sure if that one was by the Cotman Institute. if it was, it makes me think that that stat would be specifically about sex for married couples, since that's primarily what they study.

Anyway, yes, I'm not sure about that. That's a good question. Well, right. Because, no, it was about just couples because then we talked about the question of, "Well, how does that then apply to polyamorous relationships? Does that mean that each relationship needs to have sex that many times per week," because, obviously, that gets out of hand really fast.

Emily: I'm assuming not.

Jase: I don't think so. Yes.

Emily: No, just if you yourself are.

Dedeker: If you have three partners then you're having sex nine times a week, and then you're having sex so many times in a year.

Jase: Though, if you've got three partners and you're having sex with each of them once a week, you're hitting that three times a week happiness quotient right there from the study.

Emily: Yes. Well, that's the thing there. Okay. So this study published in 2015 from the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal first said that one time a week was the only thing that would make you happiest, and if you had more sex than that, it wouldn't make you any less or more happier. But then than they did a second study group that said and showed that if you were having sex two to three times a week, then yes, you were happier. So apparently, this two to three times a week number is the one that people were going by now.

Dedeker: Like that's the magic number.

Emily: Apparently, yes. It used to be just once a week but people are wanting more now.

Dedeker: Well, okay. I mean, I feel like all these studies are leaving out this thing that we've talked about in past relationships. But there is this thing known as the Coolidge effect? Have you guys heard of the Coolidge effect?

Jase: I have.

Emily: Sure.

Jase: Can you remind us what it is?

Dedeker: Okay. So it's this really silly story, that is the reason why it's called the Coolidge effect. So Calvin Coolidge who was our President of the United States.

Jase: Classic.

Dedeker: He and his wife were touring a turkey farm or something, and they were touring it separately. He was with all the men and she was with all the women. So the women's group were touring this turkey farm and their tour guy was explaining that the male turkey will mate with a female turkey like five times in a single day. Mrs. Coolidge was like, "Can you tell that to my husband?"


Emily: Damn.

Dedeker: So then President Coolidge's group came by and the tour guide gave them the same fact and he said, "Oh, is it all with different turkeys?" The tour guy's like, "Yes," and he said, "Can you tell that to my wife?" I don't know if that story is true or not, it's just kind of anecdotal and it's almost kind of like a setup of a joke.

Jase: It sound like the setup of a joke.

Dedeker: But that's why the name's been given to this thing, the Coolidge effect, which they found with both humans and also in studies, specifically, with lab rats. Both male and female lab rats, if you stick a pair of a male female lab rat in a cage together, they'll like sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex. They'll have sex, sex, sex, sex, sex until they're both exhausted, until they don't want to have sex anymore.

However, the instant that you introduce a new rat into the cage, they'll want to have sex with that new rat again. So like if you put a new female in the cage then, even though the male is exhausted, then he'll be like, "Oh, okay. No, I can have sex with this rat." It's the same thing with human beings also, that there is kind of this scientific basis for variety and newness that does drive our sex drives.

So that's why I think it's interesting that these studies so far have just been studying people who are having sex with the same person over a long period of time, rather than seeing what are people's sexual satisfaction. Again, like you were saying, if they're having sex maybe once a week with one partner but also once a week with another partner, would that have the same effect? Yes.

Emily: Yes. Well, I mean it's continuing to perpetuate this narrative that we are monogamous creatures and need to continue being only with one person. That when we find the one or the right person, we're only going to ever want to have sex with them. It's like these studies are setting it up for that to be the case but then also trying to look at sexual satisfaction and other things and not really --

Dedeker: Well, it's something, yes, that they talk about in books like Sex at Dawn, which is that it's really hard for us to take ourselves out of our cultural context in order to sterilize things. It's really hard to separate ourselves from confirmation bias when we're looking at these things. I mean, that goes both for very pro-monogamy studies and very anti-monogamy studies as well that -- it spins both ways.

Jase: Right, or any kind of studies. Yes, any kind of study about any part of culture, especially any kind of more -- like psychological studies is we do come in with so many assumptions and many people, scientists included, have a lot of assumptions that we've never even thought we're worth questioning, we never even thought we're questionable. Right?

I think that monogamy is a big one for a lot of people. For a lot of scientists studying this stuff might be really fascinated in it, but haven't really considered this. This is starting to change, we are seeing more studies about non-monogamy. So hopefully, this is at least one step toward questioning some of those things.

Dedeker: So, I mean, what do we think about one of the reasons driving people being dissatisfied with their sex lives or being dissatisfied with the frequency of sex that they're having? I mean, I feel like it's a pretty commonly held cultural wisdom that if you're married monogamously for a long time, that you're going to have to try really hard to keep the sex interesting.

Still, there's an entire industry built around trying to reignite the passion. I even hate that phrase because it's used everywhere, "reignite that spark" as it were. I know that people will talk about like maybe it varies individually that some people just naturally have higher sex drives than others, sometimes it goes through phases, sometimes people make assumptions along gender lines that, "Oh yes, men are horn-dogs and women don't want sex." We still have that whole tired up narrative that affects this. But I mean what do you guys think?

Emily: Well, in some of my research that I did today, there were some very religious websites talking about it's God's plan if you are having sexual incompatibilities and you just need to work through it, like he put this in your way as an obstacle for you to work through and become closer to your husband. It was very fascinating and made me personally cringe a little bit, maybe not everyone out there would. But yes, I found that very interesting. It also said like, "If you have sex before marriage, that's a thing that Satan does, so don't do that."

Dedeker: That's a thing -- let's wait. I don't know if that's quite the --

Jase: Well, we've already covered that.

Dedeker: Wait. Wait, hang on, sorry. I think that that was lost in translation a little bit. I don't know if sex before marriage is a thing that Satan does, maybe such a thing that he loves --

Emily: That's a thing that like people --

Jase: That he encourages us to do.

Dedeker: He encourages us to do.

Emily: Exactly, yes. That he encourages people to do that and, so definitely don't do that.

Dedeker: Well, okay. There was some religious leader that a couple of years ago put out some article basically saying that if your wife doesn't want to have sex with you, just don't look at her face and have sex with her anyway, because it's her duty as your wife to submit to her husband and to give him what he wants. So just it's terrible --

Emily: Excuse me while I go kill myself. Oh my God.

Dedeker: Well, more like puke all over myself.

Jase: Right, jeez. Anyway, I think we're losing the thread here a little bit.

Dedeker: Yes, I'm sorry, sorry.

Emily: Sorry. So hormones --

Dedeker: Well, something that I wanted to talk about in this was, I think, what Emily was getting to, which was talking about hormone levels and how those will change throughout our life and that those can also vary from person to person. But I think, generally, the one that we go to right away is testosterone. But I think, something that I wanted to point out though, is that there's a lot of misconceptions about testosterone. One of those is that testosterone makes you horny and also aggressive and that it's kind of often associated with sort of negative things, unless you're trying to do like bodybuilding and then you know, "Oh, I need that for building muscle."

But a couple common misconceptions, one is that testosterone is actually a hormone that's very much responsible for lowering your levels of cortisol for making you less stressed, for also making you more able to focus and to handle your emotions. So it's actually a little bit -- with all of the neurotransmitter chemicals like dopamine and serotonin and all of those, there're things where too much of it and too little of it often have very similar symptoms, that's it's more about everything being in balance.

So anyway, I just wanted to throw that out there, we're not going to go into brain chemistry in this episode. Although, that'd be a fun one for the future. But with testosterone, at different times of day, this might be peaking also throughout your monthly cycle for --

Dedeker: With both men and women, yes.

Jase: -men and women, yes.

Dedeker: However you identify, whatever hormones are in your body.

Jase: Right. Then, also, I guess the other misconception I wanted to address is that women -- this is not a misconception -- that women do have much less testosterone than men which is one of the excuses people give for, "Oh, that's why men want sex all the time and women don't." But the fact is that women are much more sensitive to testosterone. So having less of it still has the same effect as it does on a man in terms of things like sex drive and stuff like that. Because otherwise, if you were looking at that, I mean, women have like 1/10 the testosterone of men, they don't have 1/10 the sex drive of men.

More and more studies are showing that men and women have basically equal sex drives and basically equal interest in both casual sex and long-term sex and sexual satisfaction and all of that. There's more like cultural factors that will make those different for each other.

So to go back to the question of how much sex you want to be having, like this study we were talking about earlier that was asking if people are satisfied with the frequency of sex they're having. I think that, especially, when you look at people as a spectrum and that not everyone's going to be the same that you might be able to find averages, I think something important to think about is the question of how much sex do I actually want to be having.

Because I do think it would be interesting to do a similar study looking at people who are not in any committed relationships or just having casual sex and to ask them, "How much sex are you having?" And, "Are you satisfied with that amount of it?" And then, to compare it to maybe the same people, at another time in their life in a relationship, "How much sex are you having, are you satisfied with it?"

I think there's a lot to be seen here because I think that, in terms of numbers and amount of time that we're having sex, I think a lot of it can be based on what we think that we should want. Or what we think other people are doing and that we need to try to match them or be better than them or something.

Emily: Yes, it's challenging how much we place on our partners when we are in a relationship versus maybe when we're single. Because potentially, when we're single, we're not having sex that often. We may have like a one-night stand or a hookup or something or like friends with benefits or whatever, and it's not a committed relationship and we may be having sex frequently less than we would even if we were in some sort of long-standing relationship, but we feel satisfied.

Then, for whatever reason, when we're in a relationship and we're only having sex once a week, and we feel jilted by that, there's something to be said by that and the question is, "Why? Why do you?"

Jase: Yes.

Emily: In reality it may be more than what you were having before.

Dedeker: That's interesting.

Jase: Right. I think that's absolutely true. I've definitely found that there have been times in my life where maybe I'm having just as much sex as I really want to be having, but I still will feel upset like I'm not having sex enough because it's only once a week or it's only once every two weeks or whatever it is at that time in my life. Or maybe it's only twice a week and I'm like, "That's not enough," because we have this kind of cultural idea, an imagined idea maybe based on our peers or what kinds of movies or whatever we watch, if like, "Oh, if I were really in love or if my life were really exciting, I would be having sex every day." Even if in reality you wouldn't be very happy with that.

Emily: Yes, it's this notion that our partner wanting to have sex with us means that they're interested in us and that we're worthy of their time.

Dedeker: Because it's true, we do attach so much to it. I guess, it kind of depends on the person, what they've attached to it, I suppose. Because I feel like that question digs into questions of what are the expectations for their relationship. Is there a sense of entitlement to sex coming into this that's either conscious or maybe even subconscious? Yes, that's interesting.

Jase: Also, just the different kind of intentions for having sex. Like is this sex that we're having in order to get off or is this sex that we're having in order to connect emotionally with each other? Is this sex that we're having to like have fun and roleplay with some new thing we've been talking about? Is it sex we're having to try some new physical thing that we've been thinking about doing?

That all of those have very different qualities to them and I think that looking at that in studies would also be interesting to see people's level of satisfaction. I did want to bring up real quick that we don't have the studies up here right now, but I've definitely read a number of places that have done studies showing that people who are swingers do report higher levels of relationship satisfaction than people who are strictly monogamous.

I do think those studies are interesting to look at. Well, maybe they're having different types of sex that maybe it's not even so much about the fact that it's with other people. Although, I think that's definitely a factor with that newness, but they're probably also having different sex, they're having more varied sex and not just kind of the same, "Let's get off together."

Dedeker: Right. So we could talk about this for so many hours.

Jase: I know, right?

Dedeker: But I want to bring us back to the more practical part of this episode, which is if you're finding yourself in a relationship where there is some kind of sexual incompatibility or maybe you're just going through a slump, like your partner wants more sex or less sex than you do, what are some things that you can do to actually get your sex life back on track or back to a place where both of you are feeling happier and more satisfied?

Jase: Well, I think a good place to start is just, if you can afford it, to find a therapist to talk to about that, or a counselor or a life coach or something who can actually just start having an open dialogue. Because I think a lot of these things can be caused by not having that open dialogue, about what kinds of sex you want to be having or what makes sex even interesting to you in the first place. Because maybe there might be other things that are missing, and having a third-party come in and help you talk about that, or even just with yourself, can be really helpful.

Dedeker: Yes, definitely. I think it's also important to think about ways that you can generate intimacy and closeness in your relationship outside of sex. It's important to examine some people have sex in order to feel close, and some people need to feel close first before they want to have sex with somebody. That can shift and change depending on your life in your context and things like that. But being able to put yourself in that context of one of the ways that can generate closeness that are not about sex, can be ways of actually not only making the intimacy and your relationship better, but maybe making it just a little bit more easy for you two to connect sexually as well.

Emily: Yes. This may not be spontaneous or feel like something you really want to do but schedule it. Maybe there's only a couple times a week in which you're not coming home super late from work and you don't feel super tired or you have a morning together or a day together or something. Just schedule sex for those times, and it can become something that you look forward to and that you're excited about. Then it can just become and work into your daily routine each week.

Jase: Yes. I think there's a lot of pieces to this because the complaint people will give is, "Oh well, that kind of takes the romancing and flirting out of it." I would say, "On the contrary." If it's something that you know you have a plan to do this evening, say, while you're at work, you could be sending each other flirty text messages about it.

Dedeker: Like ahead of time.

Jase: Right. You know that this is going to be received because we have a plan to do this together. I've also found that, for Dedeker and myself, if we'll schedule like date nights that don't even have to be specifically we're going to have sex, it's just we're going to spend time together, we're not going to work, we're going to have our projects done, we're going to pretty up, we're going to take a shower, right? We work from home, so sometimes we can let sex fly it a bit.

Dedeker: Sometimes we get kind of barbaric.

Jase: Right. But just knowing that we're going to be spending quality time together, whether it's about sex or not, is incredibly important, and I think, will also lead to having more sex. At least having those opportunities for intimacy, like you were saying, not just sex but other types of intimacy, by doing other things to show that you prioritize each other and that you value your time with each other. I'd say the next one would be to tap into your fantasies, like we were just talking about. Sexual satisfaction doesn't have to just be a numbers game, it could be what kind of sex you're having.

Dedeker: I think this note is actually a good one where a therapist comes in really handy.

Jase: For sure, helping you uncover that.

Dedeker: To help you uncover that, to help you be able to have those vulnerable talks. Especially if you have some kind of sexual fantasy that you don't think is going to be received well, or maybe that's even been rejected in the past by your partner or by other partners or by ex-partners or whatever, there can definitely be a lot of baggage surrounding that. Getting help for that process, to open up and talk about these things -- and a therapist can even help you find a compromise. If you have a fantasy that your partner's not so into, having a third-party that can really help you to kind of find a safe middle ground that both of you can play in.

Jase: Yes. I think also with fantasies, if they have been rejected before, sometimes that can be because of a lack of understanding of what's behind the fantasy. Like what is it about it that makes it exciting. I think that can be really important that a therapist can help you find. Because I know that, for example, for me, there are fantasies or role-plays or things that I've done with partners and had a really fun time doing it.

If you'd said to me like, "What about this kind of sex?" four years ago, I might have said, "Oh, no way. That seems really weird to me. I don't get it, why would anyone want to do that." Because it's something I hadn't thought of before, so it's not something I'd really looked at like, "What are the pieces of this that would make it fun?" I think that's the type of thing that, specifically a sex therapist, especially if they're a kink-aware professional, that they'll be able to help you understand those things and help you communicate better with each other about.

Here, this is what's actually exciting to me about this, "What if we modified it this way, so there's still that excitement in it," and now you understand it. I think also reading erotica can help with that too. Because it gets you in the heads of people.

Emily: Yes. Bouncing off of that, "Communication, communication, communication." As we always say unless -- again, I mean a therapy can help with that, for sure, but just opening up and choosing to be vulnerable with your partner, sex is a very challenging thing to talk about and it can bring up a lot of scary emotions that can bring up past traumas, past anything that occurred to you in a sexual situation.

I know, for me, sex has been challenging because of those things. And yet, when you are able to be vulnerable with your partner really is lovely to open yourself up to them and to allow new and beautiful things to come out of that. So a sex therapist can also help with this kind of thing, with learning communicative strategies for sex and talking better with your partner.

Dedeker: Another thing to consider if you're finding that the sex life in your relationship has become not so great. This is kind of a challenging question but I think it's worth considering and that's to ask yourself, "Was the sex even good in the first place?" That sounds like a very confronting question, but there's this really interesting article that I read on the Telegraph. And making the argument that --

So first of all, if we look at statistics and we see that women in casual hookups, casual sex, are much less likely to be satisfied than men are. Like they're much less likely to have an orgasm or to have the sex that they want to have. However, women still do seek out casual hookups because sleeping with new people is exciting. Sleeping with new people that you're attracted to is exciting, and that newness can be something that can make the sex interesting and exciting even if you don't have an orgasm.

However, if you start to develop a relationship with someone, an ongoing relationship or an ongoing sexual relationship, when that newness starts to wear off, then you're just left with maybe sex that was mediocre to begin with, honestly. And there's nothing wrong with that, there's nothing wrong with that whatsoever. But just checking in and thinking back like, "Even when I had sex with this person for the first time, was the sex that good?" Like outside of me being really interested in them as a person, were they receptive to my communication? Did I try to communicate what I needed? Because if you didn't set a foundation of actually communicating what kind of sex you like or what does get you off or what does feel good, that can carry over as you develop a relationship.

So again, if you think back and realize like, "Oh, actually the sex has never really been that good," doesn't mean that you're doomed but it just means it's something to think about and something to be aware of moving forward to like, "Okay, that means that maybe we just need kind of a little bit more of a paradigm shift and we need to change the way that we're communicating about sex."

Jase: I would add to that too that, even if your sex was really good at the beginning, that I think often we get caught up in this idea of, "I want to get back to the kind of sex that we used to have." I think that that kind of thinking or, even in anything, trying to get back to the kind of romance and excitement that we had at the beginning, that that will usually lead you to be disappointed partly because going backwards is a difficult thing to do.

Emily: Yes, the world only spins forward.

Jase: Right. Because also, your memories of what that was, aren't necessarily the reality of it. So if you're able to change your focus, in terms of sex, to finding new things, finding new ways to connect, finding new things that you want to try which does involve a lot of communication, that that will be more likely to lead you to having fulfilling, enjoyable sex than trying to just get back to what you think you remember sex was like when you first started dating.

Dedeker: Right. Then, the last one here kind of another somewhat challenging question is to ask yourself, "Is this even about sex at all?" Maybe you do still feel very attracted to your partner, when you do have sex, it is still very passionate and exciting and connected and satisfying. It could be about something else entirely. One or both of you could just be very stressed or very distracted, both in good or bad ways. I know that some people seek out sex as a way to relax and some people seek out sex only after they're relaxed, like they can't have sex until they're relaxed. So it's very important to check in and be like, "Which one am I? Is my partner in a different modality? How can we understand that about each other and kind of tailor our sex lives and how we approach each other appropriately based on that information?"

Jase: Yes, definitely.

Emily: And I think understanding -- You just said we're still the same way --


But I mean understanding is a huge thing. I think so much blame gets tossed around in sex and like, "Well, you don't want this, you always say no to me," blah, blah, blah. But having understanding and compassion for your partner in any area that maybe they see sex as a way that one is giving love and that if you're not having it with them then maybe they feel left out or like they're not being loved in the way that they want. And compassion, on the other side, like maybe someone just wants to emotionally connect and that sex they see as just something physical and it's not giving them what they want. I think having compassion for both sides is incredibly important here.

Jase: Yes, definitely. Learning to speak each other's languages, we've talked about it with love languages and apology languages. We should make our own guide, the five sex languages.

Dedeker: I don't know if doctor Gary Chapman would get on that one, but --

Jase: That'll be our own thing. We've also had a lot of really great conversations about this in our patreon-only Facebook group that -- our patreon community is amazing, it's full of great people who listen to this show, who find these things valuable and who, I think more importantly, are interested in bettering themselves and interested in understanding the best ways to have relationships, whatever those are.

Whether they're the monogamous person in a mono/poly relationship or whether they're polyamorous and have been doing it forever or they're new to it. And we have this very active Facebook group that's secret, so no one can see it unless they're our patreon. And you can join that by going to patreon.com/multiamory and contributing to our show at the $5 a month level or higher.

We also have a monthly video discussion group, which is a really great place, and often goes from fun and silliness to real serious heavy topics and some tears, the whole range of that in this really great supportive online video discussion every month at the $9 an uplevel. Or if you want to get a shout-out on the show, like at the beginning of this episode, then you can do that at the $15 a month an uplevel and it will help us to keep doing this. We've got live events that we want to start doing and we're hoping to get those going, once we hit our next patreon goal. So if you haven't already done it, please consider joining at our Patreon at patreon.com/multiamory.

Dedeker: The other thing that you can do is you can go to iTunes or Stitcher and you can leave us a review. Any time we get to leave your reviews, we just feel, honestly, so warm and fuzzy and often there's tears shed. So the encouraging words really do help us to have the motivation to keep going. But most importantly, it helps our shows show up higher in search results, it helps us to expand our audience. It's a very easy, cheap thing that you can do that won't take a lot of time to help support our show. So again, just go to iTunes or Stitcher and leave us a review.

Emily: Finally, adamandeve.com our oldest and most beloved -- well, all of them, we love all of you, our little sponsors, but Adam and Eve, for sure, we very much love. You get an amazing thing for using our promo code, 50% off of almost any item, a free sex swing wow in free shipping by using promo code "Multi," at checkout. And then, that code is reusable for subsequent purchases, so be sure to use it again and again to help us out. So "Multi," M-U-L-T-I at checkout for 50% off of one item, a sex swing and free shipping. And with that, back to the show.

Jase: Now, let's talk about cheating and adultery.

Dedeker: Yay.

Emily: Yes. See, and this one is important because I think there's a lot of people out there for whom this has been a thing in their lives or they come from families that have had this and there. I personally was born out of a literal affair, so it's a very prevalent thing in my life.

Dedeker: Not a figurative affair?

Emily: Not a figurative one, no. My father was married and my mother had an affair with him and then I was their loved baby. So it definitely -- well, truly, it definitely has changed my life and I think it can change a lot of people's lives. It's caused me to look at the reasons behind why this happens in relationships. So let's go from there.

Jase: Yes. So according to divorcestatistics.info, in the United States 17% of all divorces that occur are due to adultery from one or the other partner. I did want to point out, this is interesting that it's definitely not the leading cause of divorce which I believe is money.

Dedeker: Money. I think it's money.

Jase: But it is still 17% is fairly significant. And that's also considering that, of these 17% of divorces, what about all of the ones that have had affairs or infidelity that didn't get divorced?

Dedeker: Right. Yes, exactly. Because the rate of that, it's like what? It's like 50% of affairs are never found out, right?

Emily: Which is crazy.

Jase: Well, this is the tricky thing. So we have one study here that shows that 22% of married men have committed an adulterous act at least once in their life. And 14% of married women have had affairs at least once during their married lives. I've seen other studies that have put these numbers as high as 50% for both sides, putting the numbers much closer. I've also heard another statistic that 80% of marriages have had some kind of infidelity from one partner or the other in them, right. It's a difficult thing because it relies on people self-reporting, for one --

Dedeker: It relies on different definitions of infidelity, right?

Jase: On different definitions of infidelity, exactly. Which is something we talked about in our conscious monogamy episode of what does count as infidelity for you. So these studies can really vary. But basically the takeaway here is that it happens. This is a very real thing, it's not something we can just ignore or say, "Oh, if people just tried harder or loved harder then --

Emily: Weren't so selfish.

Jase: -this isn't going to happen, we can just fix this. But it's not that simple.

Dedeker: Yes. Well, and the thing is that infidelity happens also in relationships that are happy and functioning and not falling apart. Esther Perel, who's a therapist and social researcher, she's written and spoken a lot about this particular subject. Her amazing book, Mating in Captivity --

Jase: She's got some good TED talks.

Dedeker: She's got some great TED talks, yes, exactly. That she covers the subject a lot of like this paradox of being in monogamous long-term relationships and trying to make the sex better, even though the rest of the relationship is fine. I don't know, I think it's the same topics that a lot of the polyamorous community has been talking about for years. It's just that she presents it in this very, I think, easy-to-swallow scientifically backed kind of way. So she wrote this Atlantic article called Why Happy People Cheat.

Emily: That's a great article.

Dedeker: Yes, it's a fantastic article. I think what really struck me about it is that she mentions the fact that years and years and years ago, we knew that marriage wasn't going to fulfill us in every single front, especially when marriages were arranged or when they were political or when it was some kind of financial transaction. When it really was just a business contract. We knew that this person wasn't supposed to be our lover, our best friend, our parent, our caretaker, our absolutely everything. So sleeping with somebody else was just kind of like a reaction to that, it's like, "Oh, I know very pragmatically, my wife or my husband isn't supposed to be my lover," basically.

There's so many stories of the French royal court, for hundreds and hundreds of years, that was just so common that we're all practically quite open about it. Yes, you have your spouse and that you have your lover or multiple lovers.

What's changed now is that now that marriage is no longer seen as this business contract, now it is a super romantic thing, now we are supposed to be fulfilled by absolutely everything, by our partner. Now we stray and now we cheat because our relationships and our marriages fail to deliver what we thought that they were going to deliver. Which was like --

Jase: Which is everything.

Dedeker: Satisfaction and everything.

Emily: Well, in addition, people live so much longer now than they ever have before which is going to cause -- I mean you change so much over the course of your life, and the person that you were when you married -- Ted may be different than --

Dedeker: Good old Ted.

Emily: Good old Ted, when you were 25, maybe very different than when you're 65 or 45 or whatever. It just may cause different things to occur within you and you may want something different than just good old Ted at 25.

Dedeker: It reminds me, I forget who it was, but I was watching some stand-up comedian who did make this joke that like, "The people who invented marriage, invented it at a time when everyone lived till they were like 40." If the people invented marriage, saw what marriage was, they'd be like, "No, no, no, this is not what we intended at all. No, we didn't want you to be with the same person for 60 years, that's ridiculous."

Jase: Right. So the important takeaway too from this is just to go back to that idea that people will have affairs even if they're very satisfied in their relationship, even if they're having good sex in their relationship. That people will sometimes still seek out affairs or have affairs and that that draw toward newness, toward novelty, toward exploring other sides of ourselves, as well as connecting with other people, that that is just a part of our makeup as these social primates that we are. And regardless of what you choose to do about that, whether it's choosing to be polyamorous or be swingers or some other kind of non-monogamy or if you choose to be monogamous, no matter what, I think the big thing that I would love everyone to just be imbued with this knowledge is that nothing about you or your relationship is broken if you want to have sex with other people. Regardless of what you decide to do with that information is fine.

I think that a lot of people might actually be less likely to make irresponsible choices that might hurt their current relationships if they accepted that, if they understood, "Okay, nothing's broken about me and nothing's wrong with my relationship. The fact that I want to have sex with this other person, so knowing that, I can make the choice to not do that if that's going to hurt my relationship,"

Emily: Yes, communicate about it.

Jase: Right. Or I can communicate about it. Either one. But instead, we get caught up in this kind of romanticization of what a marriage is and what a relationship is, that it's going to satisfy everything and we'll never have eyes for anyone else, as the line goes.

Emily: For the next 60 years.

Jase: Right. Then, if we do, we feel like we're broken or we feel like this relationship must not quite be the right one or just all these awful things that we beat ourselves up about and that we don't communicate about because of that.

Dedeker: It's part of the reason why I was so freaking bored when I finally watched Eyes Wide Shut for the first time which is only like --

Emily: Oh, Stanley.

Dedeker: -maybe two years ago. I didn't see it when it first came out, and so I'd only watched it really after I'd kind of had my own sexual awakening and after I had already been non-monogamous for so many years that I was like, "Okay, first of all, never been to a sex party that actually looks like that, that's not what they actually look like. Second of all, I'm just like, "Just talk to her. Your wife's hot and you seem to have good communication and you guys have hot sex." It's like, "Just freaking talk to her." I was just like so bored this entire movie him just being, "Oh, but I mean -- No --" and I'm just like, "Dude," anyway --

Emily: Jase and I watched that movie together.

Jase: We did, yes.

Dedeker: I guess in the '90s, movies were more scandalous.

Jase: I think, for most people still today that whole concept is --

Dedeker: No, I get it, that it's challenging. It's like, yes, I know Kubrick's this -- yes, Kubrick is Kubrick, we can appreciate it for that.

Jase: I mean, we'll save that for our multi film review podcast where I can rant about my thoughts about Kubrick as a director.

Emily: At least he's not as bad as Terrence Malick.

Dedeker: Hey, The New World is one of my favorite movies. Tree of Life was terrible, but the The New World is one of my favorites and we are really not supposed to be talking about this on this podcast.

Jase: Let's save this for our film review podcast that will be made someday, who knows.

Dedeker: Okay, I'm going to get us back on track.

Jase: Get us back on track, please.

Dedeker: Okay. To get us back on track. So the question that often gets posed to me, specifically as a coach, is, "Can an open marriage or non-monogamy or polyamory either prevent the potential fallout of infidelity, or can it be a solution to recover from infidelity?"

Emily: Well, can it?

Dedeker: Well, the thing is, I mean, there isn't any statistics on this yet, they haven't yet studied couples who have a history of infidelity and then opened their marriage and then tried to track how satisfied they were, how happy they were after that. We don't have the studies on that yet, unfortunately.

Anecdotally, from working with my clients, I feel like I see basically a 50/50 success rate that sometimes infidelity happens in a monogamous marriage and that is the thing that finally forces the conversation to happen between two people about expectations, about what they actually feel about each other, about what they need, either sexually or emotionally. They're either able to be like, "Okay, we can kind of reconnect again monogamously now that we know more about what each other need," or they can decide, "Okay, well let's try this new paradigm, let's try opening up now that we know what each other need."

Then they move forward and then the infidelity is an unfortunate inciting incident but it gets them on this track towards maybe a relationship that's going to ultimately make both parties happier. However, I feel like, with just as much frequency, infidelity happens maybe a couple tries to kind of reactively be like, "Well, maybe if we have an open marriage, we can still stay together but then somebody, one or both of us, can get these other needs met." But there's still been this betrayal of trust, it still probably happened in a context of not being able to communicate, so those bad communication habits or totally absent communication habits may still be affecting them.

It can also still cause some resentment that can, on the flip side, make it twice as hard to open up after that. So it's a hard question. For some people, yes, I would say, it would be a great solution. For other people, I would say no, definitely not. But I don't think that just going to an open marriage or polyamory or anything like that is going to be the number one go-to solution after infidelity.

Jase: Well, I think something else that we've talked about before on this show is when people will ask, "Oh, well, does being in open relationships make them better?" Like does it solve these problems? In this case, it could be this infidelity or, "Does it solve whatever other problems about the passion in your relationships or about becoming codependent with people," whatever it is.

My answer at least to that is pretty much always that the skills and the traits, like you were just talking about, having honest communication about what it is you want and finding solutions to it, things like that, that those skills, amongst others, are important for any kind of relationship whether it's non-monogamous or monogamous.

It's just that in monogamous relationships, so often, we don't think we need to do any work because we're sold this myth that, if we find the right person, all our problems are solved for us. That at least in non-monogamy, we know we're going off that script, so people I think are a little bit more likely to have more serious conversations and do more introspection about it.

But, that said, I do think people still get into polyamory or non-monogamy also hoping it will be this same magic bullet that they thought finding the one would be. That it's like, "Oh, well, if I just do this, that's going to solve all of my problems." Then, when it doesn't, they get disillusioned with it or they are less honest than they need to be to make it actually work. Then it all ends up falling apart. But just this idea that neither one is this magical solution, kind of like we're talking about with love is not enough, also like polyamory is not enough. You can't just be poly and now you're creating a relationship.

Emily: Nothing is enough.

Dedeker: Nothing is enough. Just nothing is enough.

Emily: No, you just you have to work on it, life is work. That's okay.

Jase: Yes, working on improving yourself and getting better and better in your relationships. I know that sounds like a lot of work, and sometimes it will be. But I think that overall the rewards from that and the fun that you can have doing that, once you start getting used to doing those sorts of things and asking those kinds of questions of yourself, will actually be much more enjoyable in the long run.

Dedeker: Well, let's get to work on this multi film review podcast.

Jase: I know, right? Who would tune into that? Please, let us know, you can tweet at us at Multiamory and let us know if you want to see our multi film review podcast.