My posts for today and Sunday will be better understood if you take twenty minutes to watch the TED video Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice. I did not actually build these posts on that video; I went looking for a good clear explanation of something I have read about a number of times in the last year which I wanted to address here.
In short, having more choices does not benefit us. The more choices we have, the less happy we are.
The studies on this are clear – past some fairly small number of choices, more choices mean we fret more about making the choice, question ourselves after the choice, keep looking back wondering if we made the wrong choice, and are far less happy with our choice. Alternatively, the choices may be so numerous that we become overwhelmed and we put off making the choice.
So let us apply that to married sex. I often hear guys complain about the lack of variety in their sex lives, and the common belief is that more variety – more choice – would result in enjoying sex more. While this seems right to us, the growing body of research on variety and choice suggests the very opposite; more sexual variety will result in less sexual satisfaction. I suppose there would be an initial thrill, but then there would be a drop in pleasure and very possibly in frequency.
Sounds wrong, doesn’t it? However, what the studies suggest should happen is what my bride and I have found to be true based on talking with numerous couples over the years. There are couples out there who have exciting sex lives “despite” the fact they use only one or two positions, or have all of three forms of foreplay, always turn the lights out, or have never done it other than between 10PM and 11PM. There are couples out there who have had sex the very same way a couple thousand times, and they are both eager to do that very same thing again tonight, and tomorrow night, and two nights after that. While my anecdotal “sample data” is not even close to being representative of the population as a whole, a lack of significant variety is common amoung those we have talked to who have a lot of sex, and enjoy that sex a great deal. A lack of significant variety is also common among couples who have no struggles with sexual frequency. There are exceptions to this, but they are few, especially over a number or years.
Aside from the paradox of choice, I wonder if part of the problem is being so focused on variety that a couple (or at least one of the couple) is not getting out of sex what they should. Sex should be deeply intimate and connecting, and while the physical pleasure is great and important, too much focus on that (for yourself or your bride) means not having the ability to focus on other vital aspects of the sex act. Maybe we would all enjoy sex more, and maybe even have more of it, if we stuck to a narrow menu, with something extra thrown in only rarely.
Another way to look at this: If you are into fancy coffee (St. Arbucks or the like) – how many different ways do you order your coffee? Starbucks® claims there are at least 87,000 combinations of drinks possible at their stores! Despite that variety, most people order only a very few drinks, and many order the same thing day in and day out for years. They find something they like, and they stick to it. The coffee break becomes more than a drink, it is a ritual. The coffee shop experience is about relaxing, connecting with friends, or people watching. Changing your drink choice every time would not make the experience better it would make it worse.
How can you make sex more like your coffee break?