I think sometimes we confuse relief with enjoyment, especially when it comes to sex. I think this gets confused by both high-drive and low-drive spouses, and I don’t think we tend to reflect on that much. So, I thought I’d take a second to try and share the difference.
Relief is the release of pressure or the fulfillment of a felt need
We feel many kinds of relief in our lives. You know when you’re hungry? I mean really hungry, not just “I want to eat”. When your stomach is feeling hunger pangs, and it’s grumbling, and you feel that your blood sugar is low. You know that kind of hunger? Alright, continue on like that for a few days. Then a few more. I once fasted for 16 days, and at the end of it, when I ate food, there was this huge relief. The need for food was strong and I just wanted to get something in me. And you sort of feel this “Oh, yeah, that’s good”…but it’s not quite enjoyment. Instead, it’s just a relief. A sating of a real need. You barely taste the food, you’re just trying to get it in you.
Or like when you really have to go pee, and then finally you can, and you feel this … not enjoyment, but relief. But the relief is so strong, it feels sort of good. You know? It is the urinating that feels good? No, it’s the release from that pressure. And in any other circumstance, peeing would feel that great, but we sort of think it does at the moment.
And I think this happens with sex too. When it’s been a while, there’s this pressure. In men, this pressure can be a literal, physical pressure, but in both men and women, there can be a psychological pressure. It’s this need to be intimate with our spouse. That need is very real and it can cause a lot of mental, if not physical, pressure. Then, when that pressure is released, it can feel good, and yes, there’s some physical pleasure as well, but I think what we feel is relief. Not quite enjoyment.
Enjoyment cannot be truly embraced under pressure
Because true enjoyment can’t really happen in those circumstances. It needs a sort of freedom for us to enjoy it. Our minds are split. Yes, this is something we get pleasure from, but our brains are first trying to meet a need, and that takes our focus away from actually enjoying the experience. It’s hard to be “present” and “in the moment” to really share a connection, when you’re brain is so focused on releasing this pressure that has built up.
And when we have sex, and orgasm, we feel this sense of release. This relief. And it feels good…but it’s not the same. We feel more a sense of “finally” than of “wow, that was amazing”.
I wonder if low-drive husbands and wives think that when they finally “give in”, when they feel they should have sex just to “relieve the pressure” if they think that’s what their spouse wants. I mean, yes, they’re meeting a need, but it’s a need to feel relief. But there’s also a want buried behind it to feel enjoyment. If your only ever meeting the need of releasing pressure, then your spouse is never really getting to enjoy the experience.
Enjoyment is needed for actual intimacy growth
When I think back at some of the emails I’ve gotten from higher drive husbands and wives who are doled out sex like prison rations, I think this is what they are trying to express. On the one hand, they’re relieved that they don’t have a sexless marriage, but on the other hand…they’re just getting their need met. That’s not living…it’s survival. And yeah, I know, sex isn’t a need for individual survival, but I think it’s a need for the survival of a marriage…at least one that is healthy. But, for the marriage to thrive, it needs more than just the bare minimum of survival. I think it needs enjoyment too.
That shared experience, that recreational intimacy, that can only come about when there is enjoyment. If all you’re doing is relieving pressure, then you aren’t growing a relationship, you’re just providing the bare minimum to maintain it. If you want intimacy to grow, I think it needs a bit more than the minimum.
Those are my thoughts anyways. What do you think?