What you should know if there's no sexual attraction for your partner, according to a therapist | CNN
Why would a person pick a potential life partner without feeling the spark of sexual attraction? And can these relationships survive and thrive? Can sexual attraction be cultivated later? Therapist Ian Kerner shares what he’s learned in his practice.
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A lot of heterosexual male clients are coming into my practice admitting they picked their partner without considering sexual attraction.
During couples therapy sessions with his partner in the room, the man will claim that he doesn’t know why he isn’t experiencing desire. Maybe it’s stress, low testosterone or feeling anxious.
But when I meet with him individually, he often tells a different story. He tells me he picked his partner without prioritizing sexual attraction.
Why would a person pick a potential life partner without feeling the spark of sexual attraction? And can these relationships survive and thrive? Can something like sexual attraction that wasn’t there in the first place be cultivated later?
I’ve talked with many men in their 30s who have told me, “When I found the woman I wanted to marry, she checked all the boxes. Except one.”
Characteristics on that list include “being my best friend,” “will make an amazing mother,” “our friends and families get along so well,” and “she really loves me.” The one box that didn’t get ticked? Sexual attraction — and often the men didn’t even list that quality to start.
I was stunned.
Sexuality is the one thing that really distinguishes a romantic relationship from a platonic one: I find that it’s one kind of “relationship glue” that helps couples stay together through hard times. That’s why I’m puzzled that so many people devalue sex in picking a partner for a long-term relationship.
“Research shows that, while physical attractiveness is usually among the most important traits people desire in a romantic partner, it doesn’t actually top the list for men or women,” said Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, a research center dedicated to sexuality. “Traits like intelligence, humor, honesty and kindness are often at least as important, if not more.”
Some men have internalized an “either/or” view of women: those who make great wives and mothers and those who are sexually adventurous, according to Chicago-based sex therapist Dr. Elizabeth Perri.
“I’ve observed this in male patients who are out in the dating world and feel the pressure to pick someone whom they perceive as ‘wife material’ but without sexual attraction, rather than waiting to find a partner who is a better fit both emotionally and sexually,” Perri told me.