On the Regular version of today’s show …
We receive emails and questions regularly from listeners wanting to know what is normal when it comes to sex.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re normal, or at least not abnormal.
So, what are some characteristics of normal when it comes to sex?
On the Xtended version …
Every person has some conditions that are necessary in order for them to enjoy sex. What are yours?
We go through some of the most common ones today.
Enjoy the show!
Better Help: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Give online therapy a try at betterhelp.com/smr and get on your way to being your best self.
Speaker 1: You are listening to the regular version of Sexy Marriage Radio, smrnation.com.
Corey Allan: Welcome to the show. I'm Dr. Corey Allan, and as always, alongside my wife, Pam.
Pam Allan: Hey, hola.
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Coming up on today's regular free version of Sexy Marriage Radio, a topic that keeps coming up over the course of just the cycles of society and our show and emails is: What's normal sex? What are the characteristics that make up normal sex?
Pam Allan: Why do we want normal sex? Am I adding the question that they're not even doing?
Corey Allan: You're going a whole different way, baby, but I like where you're going there because let's not just be normal. So that's what we're going to talk about. What's normal? What are the normal aspects of sex?
Pam Allan: That's fun.
Corey Allan: And what I've come across and know about out there. And then on today's extended version today, which is deeper, longer, and there are no ads, you can subscribe at smrnation.com/smracademy. There's some conditions that people have for enjoying sex, and we're going to talk about-
Pam Allan: Well, some people. Doesn't everybody have certain conditions for-
Corey Allan: Everybody has condition. You are correct. So we're going to talk about: What are some of the main standard conditions that people have for enjoying sex? All that's coming up on today's show. Okay, so Pam, one of the things over the years of doing this show, all the emails we've had, thousands of emails we've had over the years, people we've talked to at the getaways, some training I've done just recently with Dr. Marty Klein, and just the couples I've worked with, one of the things that's always out there is: What's normal? How do I know I'm normal?
Pam Allan: How do I know I'm normal, or how do I know the sex that we're having is normal?
Corey Allan: All of it.
Pam Allan: In our marriage relationship.
Corey Allan: I want to fit in. I want to be seen as I'm among the crowd. I'm usual, I'm ordinary, even though most people wouldn't say I want ordinary. But there's an element of us that wants to know I'm not way out here on this limb and a freak.
Pam Allan: Or I've got company. Right? It's nice to know when I've got something going on, there's other people that have walked through it so that I can talk with it. Right?
Corey Allan: Or in it right now.
Pam Allan: They're in it right now, yeah.
Corey Allan: Because if they're facing it, then I can too. There's a phrase out there, if another man can do it, so can I. And if another couple can survive this, so can we. So I think there's different motivations on why we want to know this because it helps us feel a part of the crowd. It gives us hope, gives us comfort, peace.
Pam Allan: Or that we're just not off the deep end somewhere.
Corey Allan: Camaraderie. But when you think about this, most of the time I think this question is asked on: What's the normal levels of frequency? What's average? Because normal and average can be put together. That's the same thing we talk about with the weather. Right?
Pam Allan: Sure.
Corey Allan: But what's average for today? What's the normal high? What's the normal low? But that encompasses everything. It's all an aggregate to create that. So I want to talk about normal when we're talking about sexuality, and this is in the West. This is among Western culture is where this would be coming from. So if you want to talk about what the number one characteristic of couples having sex in marriage, and that's another qualify, a committed relationship, is they most likely have sex when they're tired.
Pam Allan: Yeah.
Corey Allan: Right?
Pam Allan: Ding, ding.
Corey Allan: Because it's towards the end of the day.
Pam Allan: Got it. I nailed it.
Corey Allan: You're exhausted. We're doing it, baby. We're normal. But it's because it's not the priority that it once was, possibly. Maybe it never has been where you've put a whole lot of energy, or more aptly stated, one person has put a lot of energy towards it, the other hasn't, when they can actually finally have the sex, it's towards the end of the day. They're tired. They just woke up, they're not quite awake. They don't have a whole lot of energy. I mean, there are aspects and times where, yes, it's in a better time and you're both engaged and excited and really involved. But for a majority of the time, most couples, I would say the sex is when they're tired is a big characteristic.
Pam Allan: Yeah.
Corey Allan: Another characteristic is they probably still to this day, even after many years of doing it with each other and many years of marriage, they probably still have some unrealistic expectations.
Pam Allan: Yeah.
Corey Allan: They're still holding out hope.
Pam Allan: I can't argue with that one.
Corey Allan: Maybe this is the time. Maybe it'll flow simple this time. Maybe they'll actually initiate it. Maybe they'll get on top. Maybe they'll turn the light on. And it's just these unrealistic expectations. And a lot of times, they're unspoken expectations too. Another aspect is there's awkwardness and self consciousness still.
Pam Allan: That makes sense to me. I can't argue with any of these.
Corey Allan: Most couples probably still can confuse arousal and desire.
Pam Allan: Confusing arousal and desire, yeah.
Corey Allan: Don't know what the differences are between those two. And I'll confess, even as a PhD level clinician, I can get caught up in this confusing arousal and desire. You get overwhelmed and you get lost, you get frustrated. And you're like, "I don't even know what I'm dealing with here." I don't even know what I'm feeling. I don't know what that really is. And then or, you can confuse arousal and enjoyment.
Pam Allan: Well, that's an interesting one because: How can I be aroused if I'm not enjoying it? I guess you can.
Corey Allan: Yeah. You can. There's aspects of life, actually, Emily Nagoski, if I'm remembering correctly, has talked about it's incongruent arousal, where your mind is in it, but your body's not, or your body's in it, and your mind is not. And that's a dynamic that is true and real. It's unwanted on one aspect rather than the whole of you. And that's a real thing.
Pam Allan: That's an interesting concept right there.
Corey Allan: It's one sided, it's fairly normal.
Pam Allan: I would think that might be right up there-
Corey Allan: And these are not arranged order. The only one I put a characteristic of a ranking was sex when tired.
Pam Allan: When tired, yeah.
Corey Allan: Because I think with most people listening, they'd be like, "Yeah, we probably fit that category." And if you don't, please email us in and let us know how.
Pam Allan: Right.
Corey Allan: What's your keys and tips?
Pam Allan: Yeah. I've got some assumptions about those people, and they're ones that probably ... My assumption is no kids at home.
Corey Allan: For sure no little ones.
Pam Allan: No little ones. Well, that's just really the main assumption right there is the kid thing.
Corey Allan: Okay. And they're retired.
Pam Allan: Well, retired did come to my head, but I didn't want to be that person.
Corey Allan: I don't know. I know some people in the academy will email and say, "That's us. That's us. We're there." It also can be focused solely on pleasure. It's at the expense, and we're not thinking about-
Pam Allan: Connection.
Corey Allan: The connection.
Pam Allan: It's just my personal pleasure, potentially.
Corey Allan: The companionship, the passion, the erotic. It's just pleasure. It's just physical pleasure. That's all it's focused on. Even as a couple, we both could come into it with this. This is just a purely physical thing.
Pam Allan: But when I'm looking at it, when we say it's just purely for pleasure, is it about ... We're not saying that it's necessarily just about one ... Well, we said it's one sided quite often.
Corey Allan: That could fit into it, absolutely. It's just all about my pleasure, or it's just all about your pleasure. Maybe I'm just focused on your pleasure. That's all I care about that night. Right?
Pam Allan: That's okay with me if you're focused on my pleasure.
Corey Allan: I like the way you're going with that.
Pam Allan: All right.
Corey Allan: Some of it is questionable on if you're sober. That's a normal characteristic today.
Pam Allan: It's questionable on if you're sober.
Corey Allan: The levels of sobriety when you're having sex because some-
Pam Allan: So we're saying it's normal for at least one partner to not be sober.
Corey Allan: One or both because there is an element of I'm going to get this to unwind, and that'll help me get a little more amorous. Or it's a necessity, it's a crutch, it's a component that I use when it comes to being engaged in sex. You don't know what your partner likes.
Pam Allan: It's normal to not know what my partner likes.
Corey Allan: I think there's a lot of couples out there, absolutely. They don't know what they really like.
Pam Allan: Okay, just making sure I'm clear.
Corey Allan: Yeah. And that's kind of all these are characteristics of one or both, maybe doesn't even know what each other likes. The episode's sponsored by Better Help. Without the help of a good therapist at various times in my life, particularly the times when I was at my lowest because of my own doing, or life's circumstances doing, let's face it, we all get stuck, we all do things that are just ridiculously stupid. And sometimes we absolutely need some help, and that's where therapy comes in. Better Help is an outstanding way to connect with a therapist because it's 100% online. Navigating any of life's challenges can make you feel unsure, whether it's a career change, a new relationship, becoming a parent, or trying to navigate through loss, or something that's been destructive, or the possibility of losing something.
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Pam Allan: Boy, and that one, I would agree there. And that one makes me super sad just thinking. How long have we been having sex together? And I'm not inquiring. I'm not picking up the cues.
Corey Allan: But also, some of it's completely understanding.
Pam Allan: And I think that goes back to the awkwardness. Right? So it makes it normal is that it feels awkward to me to ask these questions. It feels awkward to me.
Corey Allan: It would be disruptive because I'm focusing solely on pleasure. See how all these are weaving together. But some of it also is understandable because we could reach each other well enough. But is it an accurate read? When I would touch or do this way back then, it created this. But now does it still create the same thing? Have I inquired and paid attention enough to see? Because we change, we evolve, we grow up. Things shift and adjust. And what worked once maybe doesn't work the next time.
Pam Allan: Or what didn't work before might work now.
Corey Allan: So here's, as we keep going, some more. Some people go into this, don't expecting to enjoy it.
Pam Allan: Don't expecting. They don't expect to enjoy it.
Corey Allan: Thank you. They don't expect to enjoy it. You are correct. I totally mixed up the wording on that one.
Pam Allan: Yeah. That's an interesting one. And I guess I could say I have fallen victim to that because I'm so tired, because it might have been one sided at one point.
Corey Allan: So I'm not going to-
Pam Allan: I just assume I'm not going to enjoy this particular-
Corey Allan: Well, and it also fits in another one. There's a possibility of it's physically uncomfortable, or it's even painful. And so if that's been in the history, then I'm not going to expect to enjoy this because that is the one thing that's akin to the erectile dysfunction or difficulties that can happen. There's waiting for the shoe to drop, even if you've had painful sexual experiences in the past, deep in your mind is that it's going to happen again.
Pam Allan: Well, it's triggering it. Right?
Corey Allan: Right.
Pam Allan: It's how the brain works.
Corey Allan: Right. And so I can go into this, at the very least, I can go into it with an apprehension.
Pam Allan: Are there any positive normal things? Because all of these things sound so negative. It's like, "Why would they do this if this is normal sex?"
Corey Allan: Wait with me. We'll see because again, maybe there's not. You feel rushed is a normal thing. You don't have time to let it unfold.
Pam Allan: If you're tired, I can see that one going right.
Corey Allan: Or if you're on a busy schedule with a busy household, with lots of stuff going on. Hey, I've got X number of minutes, let's go. I've got time. And again, all of these can have anomaly outliers of ... The weekend away is different. The vacation could be different because there's a different kind of a focus. But we're just talking about the normal day to day interactions that most couples can have. I already mentioned the feeling disconnected from your partner. It's not a connecting thing. I actually feel disconnected when doing this, or after thinking about it, I can feel awkward or self conscious. This is a real prominent one because still a lot of people, even when they've been well practiced and well versed with sex, there can be a component of, yeah, I still feel awkward. I'm still really self conscious about that act, that move, that position, that aspect. Yeah, no, please, I hope they don't ask that. I hope they don't want to do this because I still feel really awkward about that. Uncomfortable asking for what they want.
Pam Allan: Yeah. There's taboo things around that. Right? So I could be uncomfortable because maybe they've rejected me. Maybe I think that they're going to say that's off limits, or they're going to think I'm gross, dirty, or perverted, or something because I want this. Yeah, okay.
Corey Allan: Or the other side of it is, I don't know what I want because I've never actually done the work to ask myself those questions. And so therefore, I'm uncomfortable letting that even be known, which is still sending a pretty sophisticated message of, I don't care about this enough to figure it out for myself, even for your benefit, or for mine, so that's a huge one. One or both don't climax.
Pam Allan: Yeah, that's normal. Okay.
Corey Allan: Times you fantasize about something, you fantasize in order to climax. You disconnect and actually go somewhere else to be able to climax. Could be concerned that you aren't attractive, can be concerned how you look, again, that's a self conscious, awkward, unrealistic, or awkwardness. There's themes of this that are repetitive in some regards. And then the last one I've got down is just you're worried you're going to have a dysfunction, worried that something's not going to go right. And so if you think about it, and again, these are playing out in individuals trying to do an act with another individual, well, no wonder there are a lot of people when they start winding their days down, aren't real anticipatory excited about heading to bed sometimes because you look at all of what constitutes normal, in the way we're framing it at least.
Pam Allan: Yeah. There can be a lot of stress and anxiousness surrounding all of those things. Hopefully, one person doesn't have all of those things going on at the same time. That's a lot to deal with.
Corey Allan: That is. And I would say probably if you think back through that list, we all could resonate with multiple of those at times throughout our lives together.
Pam Allan: Yeah. Can't disagree with that.
Corey Allan: Because again, some of these are circumstantial. Some of those, we can't control. Some of those are, you know what, we are in such a busy season right now, or a chaotic stage of life right now, that tired sex is what we have, but it may be ... And here's where I think you were talking about: Are any of these good or positive?
Pam Allan: Yeah.
Corey Allan: I think what I want to do as we shift this, and then we'll head into the extended content here in just a few minutes too and talk even more in depth at it, but what I want to do is shift this to let it realize, if that's what most people are experiencing, I can tweak some of my meanings and reasons associated with what I'm seeking to reframe the characteristics because: Could tired sex actually be connecting sex? Because if most of the sex we may normally have, or usually have, is a drawn out physical affair, well, what about the aspects of tender loving, making love kinds of sex?
Pam Allan: Yeah, I wouldn't use the word affair in there, event, I hear where you're going with that. But I don't want to use that word because that's not where you're going.
Corey Allan: No, it's not.
Pam Allan: It has two meanings.
Corey Allan: No, you're absolutely right because words matter. And that's kind of what we're talking about with this whole thing, Pam, is this idea of when you hear sex when tired, unrealistic expectation, not knowing what my partner likes, if that's what's normal, the easy fix is maybe I ask. What do you really like? That's how I become abnormal.
Pam Allan: How could we-
Corey Allan: Or weird, or different, and I start changing the aspect of my marriage. I start changing the aspect of that dynamic.
Pam Allan: Yeah. Hey, baby, how could we have sex sometime when we're not so tired?
Corey Allan: Right. Let's carve out a little bit of time to make this happen this week.
Pam Allan: I think of it on this regard, if anybody's a Dave Ramsey fan out there, he says, "Live like no other so that you can live like no other."
Corey Allan: Right.
Pam Allan: Right? Get rid of the day, get rid of all that junk that's burying you down and killing your freedom, your financial freedom, so that one day in the future, you can give. You can be debt free. You can have all this freedom. And I think of it the same way in ... If these are the characteristics of what really is normal-
Corey Allan: What's actually happening, what we're talking about.
Pam Allan: When we're not trying to get more out of this relationship with our spouse, this aspect of our relationship, well, let's do these other things that we talk about on all these episodes of the show, and that we'll talk about more today. Let's do that, so that we can live like no other.
Corey Allan: Right. And have sex like no other.
Pam Allan: And have sex like no other.
Corey Allan: Fantastic inaudible.
Pam Allan: Enjoy one another like no other.
Corey Allan: Right. So that's how we flip this to start to realize, yes, it can feel like this is a negative connotation. But when I adjust the meaning I attach to it, I empower myself because a lot of times, psychologically speaking, big changes don't necessarily come from revolutionary ideas. It comes from reframing what's already going on and making a different meaning out of it. That's Viktor Frankl's work, who was a psychiatrist in Austria during the war, during World War II, lived in the concentration camps and recognized all this suffering is incredibly destructive unless you can attach a different meaning to it, which he then posited, if I can look at suffering as it's producing something, it becomes meaningful. That's all he did was just change it, rather than, I'm powerless to it, I have power to how I approach it.
And so all of these things that we are normally doing as married couples when it comes to our sex lives, I just need to adjust the meaning. I need to adjust how I am approaching it. I need to look at it differently. And then I can start looking at: What are my reasons behind this stuff? What am I really seeking? Am I clear about that? That's how I change it because a lot of times, it really just comes down to the simplicity, not easy all the time, but the simplicity of a conversation. You know what, Pam. When I do that, do you really like that or not? What is it you really like? Would you like touched softer or harder? Would you like more time, less time? That's just teaching each other how to treat each other, how to approach each other, how to engage with each other.
Pam Allan: Yeah. And if I can be clean on my response to you, then ... Because that can be hard too, it's hard to ask that question. And then it's hard to be the spouse to answer it sometimes. Sometimes, not all the time. But if I think I'm going to respond where it might hurt your feelings, that can be hard. But how are we going to get past it? Right?
Corey Allan: Perfect, perfect segue before we go straight into the extended content because the way I look at this is everything that we're doing is already communicating something. So if you're in a marriage where your partner only is interested in sex when you guys are both really tired, and it's usually of their doing because that's the only time that's carved out, or the only time they say yes-
Pam Allan: The end of the day whenever-
Corey Allan: It's the only time you really can, well, that's communicating something. So then it becomes: Is that not hurting your feelings on what's already being communicated?
Pam Allan: Not making it a priority.
Corey Allan: Right. That's still, so I think of that as I'm already communicating something that likely does hurt your feelings. Why don't I just be a little more honest about it, so that at least we both know where we stand better, what we're really up against? I think of, there's a show way, way back when Shannon was a co-host with me, and I think it's called The Silence is Killing Me. And I think there were two parts if I'm remembering. This memory just triggered in my head with these shows, and I'm not sure exactly if I'm ... But I think it was a two parter, actually. And the reason it became a two parter is because we were just ... I'm talking about silence, and she had made an off handed comment of when you ask your spouse a question, in that case, she was talking about her husband, when I ask my husband this question and he doesn't answer me, then I don't know what I need to do with that.
And I jumped right in and said, "He's already communicating something though." And that totally, literally on the air, she was like, "You are right."
Pam Allan: Yeah, the silence is an answer.
Corey Allan: And now it gets into: Do I know what they're communicating? Do I have the courage to ask clearly? What is it? Because I could mis-perceive it, I don't want to know it, or I don't care about it. Well, tell me how those things don't all play out in sex too. What are my reasons for seeking something? Well, I may not know it, I may mis-perceive it, or I may not care about your reasons. So all of these things are what are put together to create the issues that can make normal. And if we want to not be normal, I need to look at things differently and approach them differently, and have the courage to say so, speak so, act so, and see what happens because that's how we become abnormal. Let's reframe that word too.
Pam Allan: So abnormal is awesome.
Corey Allan: I want abnormal sex. That's a little weird.
Pam Allan: No. You might want to cut that part of the show.
Corey Allan: That word still has some connotation to it. So as we wrap this up, Pam, this went all kinds of places.
Pam Allan: It did.
Corey Allan: I mean, this was one of those trying to read each other through the show, most people wouldn't, if you got a video of this, if we had it videoed, you might see something. I'm not sure where you're going with that. I'm kind of reading your face, you're reading my face.
Pam Allan: Let's roll with it.
Corey Allan: Let's see where this thing lands, kind of like life, and sometimes kind of like sex. I'm not sure where you're going with that, but let's see where it goes, kind of the way it always goes.
Pam Allan: I might like it.
Corey Allan: Who knows? Sit back and see. Well, if you like the show, you can help us out by rating and reviewing SMR on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or however you listen. Your comments help us spread the word about the show, and they can help others frame their conversations about what happens behind their closed doors. Transcripts are available in the show notes on each of the episodes' pages. All of our advertisers' deals and discount codes are also available on each of the episodes' pages at smrnation.com. Just find the individual episode, click on it, and codes, discounts, links, all right there in the show notes.
Please consider supporting those who support the show. And as we say each and every week, the greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those that you care about, particularly as we're talking about today. If your spouse doesn't listen, have the courage to listen to this one together. See what kind of conversations that might bring about. Wouldn't be easy, but it might produce some good things. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.
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