How much variety does it take to have enjoyable sex?

So many spices to choose from © Tonnywu76 |
Gotta try ’em all!

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?

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23 Comments on “How much variety does it take to have enjoyable sex?

  1. Interesting post! I think it has a lot to do, however, with how you define “variety.” Trying new stuff in the bedroom all the time isn’t going to bring about intimacy. Perhaps, however, small alterations can be good…like adding music or candles, trying a slightly different position, spending more time in foreplay, etc. I believe it can add an interesting flavor to the same dish to do something different.

    Using your Starbucks analogy, I always order the same drink there. Most of the time, I ask for peppermint syrup with it. But now and then, I want something different. I don’t change my drink; I change the syrup … to vanilla, caramel, whatever. And it’s rather nice.

    Great post! Curious to know what others think as well.

  2. My wife and I have looked at those different-position books before. It didn’t take long for us to realize that there are only a handful of positions with a lot of different names attached to them. So we decided to have our own fun figuring out new positions. We might generally do the same thing, but together we try to find our own variety. So much more fun than copying something!

    Adding to J’s thoughts – There’s something to be said for practicing the basics, but sometimes you do want a bit of variety in the form of something small (maybe attempting an altered position, candles, a new location, etc).

  3. I struggle with this because I am so starved I believe variety is one our our problems. Maybe it is just the situation. We only have sex 3-4 times a month. It is mostly a quickie after 11:00 at night. It is always the same. A little foreplay for her to have an orgasm and a premature ejaculation PIV for me. Occasionally it will be a time that starts earlier in the evening so it has some forethought, but even that is the same thing. This time it is extended foreplay for her. And the same PE PIV for me. We may mix up the positions at the end. These encounters happen every 7-10 days. It is always in the bedroom in the bed. We talk about it all the time and she says she understands my need for more to the status qouand promises to work on it but then I look back a couple weeks later and nothing changed. So this post makes me think I am supposed to be content with lack of variety and am expecting too much. This just frustrates me even more.

    • @JSC – If you could choose, which would you take:

      1) The same thing, three times as often.
      2) The same amount of sex, but a lot of variety.
      3) Twice as much sex, with more variety.

      The answer to that will help you see what you really long for.

      • In response to your response to JSC … as for me, I would take the same thing three times as often. or maybe 4 times as often … lol … but then again I was the kid who brought the exact same lunch to school for the entire school year.

        I have to agree that less is more when it comes to choices. When we are going out to dinner, I usually give myself just a few minutes to choose, and then I put the menu down. When my wife keeps throwing out more suggestions of things I might like to order, it makes me second guess myself, and I end up enjoying my meal less. I am not saying its her fault, but I am saying that in my own experience too many options lead to much frustration. I agree that simplifying is the way to go, and I am making an effort to do that in my life.
        Thank you again for your awesome insight and well written posts.

  4. Interesting post. Variety is good, but probably only after the basics have been mastered. J is right. Variety does not necessarily produce intimacy.

    I think if both partners are willing to try new ways, places and tools then great. But one must be careful not to become a connoisseur of sex. I think that would make it constantly frustrating.

  5. Your comment on variety doesn’t seem to apply to meals though. Usually variety in deserts is desired. Most Americans want some kind of variety in main courses. I know my wife is often trying a new recipe. Though people tend to return to their favorite restaurants, they also will at times try a new place. I think the same is applicable to a couple’s sex lives. Just like being excited at finding a great new place to eat out, something new in a couple’s sex life can be exciting for the couple and refreshing for their intimacy.

    • @KB – Yes, most of us want a lot of food variety. And we can get it. But some folks eat the same very few meals their entire lives, and do just fine.

      I wonder, do those folks who eat the same simple things over and over have better conversation and better connect with others during their meals? Does the lack of culinary variety in any way expand the community aspect of meals?

  6. If my wife reads this it’s really going to impact my efforts to expand our horizons. LOL! Seriously though I am more “adventurous” and my wife is happy with just a few positions. I’ve proposed trying new or beyond the basics positions or activities once a month and the rest of the time just sticking to the more “standard” repertoire as a compromise of sorts to allow for a little bit of the spice I desire. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the “standard” fare I’m just curious to expand (withing reason) our horizons to find out if there’s something else out there we’d enjoy.

  7. …Don’t take as many coffee breaks. Let the thirst build up… then take it SLOW, savoring every taste!

  8. Great post. Well written & right to my heart and mind and I’ve forwarded it to my hubby. We are digging up as much truth as we can handle trying to learn and understand and then share what works and what’s true about live in love under God. Thanks for this post! I’ll be sharing it with our online community. I appreciate the TED link as well! Blog on!!

  9. That is fine and dandy if there is a little variety every now and then ….. But when one spouse simply refuses to ever try a little variety it is very frustrating….Christian Seminars showing that even the standard forms of foreplay won’t send you to hell are ignored….I love my spouse and have tried to understand this…..but when I even mention this I am marked as selfish….deviant..or perverted….it is becoming much more difficult to feel the desire I once did with that response

  10. i really appriciate the variety issue,this blog was recommended by another on women,how i wish there could be a way of making these ideas and thiers come together,i mean wifes communicate with hussy and vice versa

  11. I came here from, which is written for women, so it’s interesting to see the guy’s side of things (I’m almost afraid to comment, there’s so many guys over here!). My hubby always wants more variety, but some of the things he tries are uncomfortable (seriously, the floor is HARD) or even painful for me. Sometimes I try to put up with it for him, but I don’t think that’s what sex is about. Honestly, I only orgasm in missionary position. We keep trying other positions, but I just can’t make it “work.” And then I feel unsatisfied and disappointed after sex, and not as interested in it in the near future. I want it to be great for both of us and sometimes that’s hard, so I do appreciate the good advice here and at Sheila’s website.

  12. @BW – Glad to have you visit!

    If missionary is the only thing that gets you there, then I would think that needs to be a part of sex any time you want to climax.
    If you ever don’t want to climax (some women don’t want to every time, some do) you could offer something else for him then. Another option is to do missionary until you orgasm, then move to another position for him to finish.

  13. Pingback: 50 Best Christian Marriage Quotes of 2011 from Marriage Blogs | To Love, Honor and Vacuum

  14. Pingback: Does Your Husband Want More Variety in Bed?

  15. I agree to most of it on the principle, variety for it’s own sake is not good. But as other have written already, when there is NO variety at all or when there is, it’s very reluctantly, it is no good as well. Like my DF doesn’t wnat to be on top unless she’s laying on me, which is not nice as I cannot see anything, and that the purpose of it (for me of course) I told her so, but it doesn’t matter. It’s always another time, not today, etc.. Frustrating at the end….

  16. It’s funny to me that my husband is the one who likes the same thing, abd I am the one who wants a bit more variety. We always just go sight to sex. I’d personally like a little foreplay to help me out a bit, but honestly he usually complains. He’s always too tired and just ragged something he noted he likes and is quick. I like the idea of sending more time together. I really enjoy kissing and touching, it makes it more personal. I really enjoy his body, but when he just lies there it doesn’t seem like he enjoys it as much. At the same time, he didn’t want to change so he must enjoy it. What am I supposed to do? When I try talking to him about it he says I’m too needy because I wasn’t too spend more time with it and I’d like it more often. But maybe i wouldn’t need it as often if it was more satisfying? It’s just frustrating when you feel rejected and your needs disregarded.

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