Is Cheap Sex Causing Men to Give Up on Marriage?

I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for more than 40 years. My wife, Carlin, and I have been happily married now for 37 years. There are five important things I’ve learned in my personal and professional life:

  1. A joyful marriage is one of the greatest gifts anyone can have.
  2. Too many marriages go under, just when the couple could be enjoying their lives the most.
  3. Most people would like to have a joyful, juicy, relationship that lasts through time.
  4. Many people are reluctant to marry given the risks of unhappiness and divorce.
  5. An increasing number of men are choosing easy sex over marriage.

There are many reasons why men and women are having a difficult time with marriage these days. One reason may be the increase of cheap sex. The term “cheap sex” is an economic term meant to describe sex that has a low cost in terms of investment. If a person doesn’t have to invest a great deal to get the sexual return they want, the sex is cheap.

Of course, men, like women, don’t just want sex. In my popular article “The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex,” I say that more than the sexual pleasure of “getting off,” men want a safe harbor, a place where we can feel nurtured, care for, loved, and appreciated for who we are. Of course, developing the relationship skills to develop and maintain a caring, trusting, relationship between the members of a couple takes time and skill.

Generally, relationship skills are more easily developed by women than men. Further, men may start off with a disadvantage. According to Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, author of The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male & Female Brain, “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.”

The qualifying word “predominantly” is important. It’s not saying that all women have brains that make them more empathic than all men. But just as we can say that most men are taller and stronger physically than most women, we can recognize and accept that women are more skilled at developing and maintaining close relationships. [Read more…]

The One Thing You Must Do If You Want Love to Last

Love has been a complicated presence in my life from the very beginning. My parents had been trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby for many years. My mother was finally able to get pregnant through a procedure of collecting and injecting my father’s sperm into her womb (a procedure that was “experimental” seventy-plus years ago). Being pregnant brought both joy and fear. I still remember stories about her walking, gingerly, down 5th Avenue in New York, afraid she might lose the baby.

When I was born, both my mother and father were overjoyed, but my mother was afraid something would happen to me and rarely let my father hold me. My father felt the pressure of being out of work and the shame at not being “the family bread-winner.” He became increasingly manic and depressed. When I was five years old, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, just north of Los Angeles.

I got married shortly after graduating college, but the marriage ended after ten years. We both found it difficult to trust and were always worried that we would be left by the other. A second marriage ended badly. Well to be truthful, it started badly. The fact that she slept with a gun under her pillow should have been a tip off that she was not the best mate choice. Later in life when I became a writer I wrote a book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions that described the ways we confuse healthy love with “love” addiction. For instance: [Read more…]

The One Thing That Kills Most Marriages

My wife, Carlin, and I were enjoying a wonderful dinner at the new vegan Caribbean restaurant in Willits when a friend and his wife saw us eating outside. “How’s the food here?” Henry wanted to know. “It’s great,” we told them. “It’s real, authentic, handmade, and delicious.” As we chatted they introduced us to Henry’s brother and his wife. They were in town for the wedding of Henry’s daughter. “I just happen to have a picture,” Henry said as he scrolled through his smart phon

There was a lovely shot of his beautiful daughter in a stunning wedding gown looking up at her new husband. There is so much hope and desire in their eyes. As a marriage and family counselor who has been working with men and women for more than 40 years, I can’t help but see both sides of the future: Marriages that end and marriages that last.

  • Approximately 50% of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years.
  • However, 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Everyone who gets married says, “I do.” No one says, “I do…until…I don’t.” Everyone who gets married wants the “I do” to last “until death do we part,” but too often it ends before then. I know. It happened to me. Being a therapist, presumably an expert in understanding love and marriage, I thought I would beat the odds. But my first marriage lasted less than ten years and produced two great children. I followed the pattern and remarried after three years, but that marriage was short lived.

Before going for number three and facing the 73% divorce statistic, I decided I’d get to the bottom of what kills most marriages. I think I found the answer, at least one that made sense to me. I fell in love again and got married for the third time to a woman who had also been married twice before and had spent time learning how to have a marriage that lasts. All I can say is “so far, so good.” Carlin and I have been together now for 37 years. I can say we’re more in love now than ever and looking forward to another 37 years together and if there’s life after death, we hope to enjoy that together, as well. [Read more…]

How to Fix Your Relationship Without Talking About It

Dear Dr. Jed,

            My boyfriend and I have been together for just over four years and I’m noticing terrible mood shifts that are increasingly difficult to live with. He becomes extremely frustrated, irritable, angry, and depressed. I can tell that he is becoming more distant and I’m worried he’s thinking of leaving.

            Whenever I try and get him to talk about his unhappiness or what I can do to make things better, it seems to make him angry and he pulls away even more. I love him very much and I know he loves me, but I feel our relationship slipping away and I don’t know what to do. Please, can you help?  BL

I get calls and emails like these every day. A man is becoming irritated, angry, and depressed. The relationship is in trouble and both people are hurting. The woman wants to talk and the man reacts with anger and becomes more withdrawn.

For men, the five most off-putting words in the English language are, “Honey, we need to talk.” The words can be said with love or anger, compassion or disdain, with despair or hope. It seems no matter how they are presented, they are met with a resistance bordering on terror by most men.

“I feel caught in a horrible trap,” one woman told me. “If I let things alone and don’t say anything, our relationship continues to go downhill. “If I try and talk to him about ways we can fix things, he acts like I’m trying to kill him. He refuses to talk and our relationship continues to deteriorate. What do I do to save us?”

Why should a woman’s desire to talk be met with such resistance? The simple answer is this: While talking about their relationship usually helps a woman feel better, it usually makes a man feel worse. My wife, Carlin, and I got a glimpse into this dynamic while we were driving into town from our home on Shimmins Ridge. [Read more…]

The Woman’s Guide to Men: 6 Things Men Want Women to Know About Sex, Love, and Talking

For nearly 50 years I have been helping women understand the men in their lives and to have relationships that are more joyous and intimate. I’ve been in a men’s group that has been together for 38 years and my wife, Carlin, believe that our 37-year marriage owes a lot to the fact that I’ve been in a men’s group. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what men need and what we wish women knew about us.

I recently wrote, “The Man’s Guide to Women: 5 Things Women Want Men to Know About Fear, Sex, and Love.” Here are six things that men want women to know.

  1. Men do think about sex more often than women, but that’s not all we think about.

There’s a popular myth that men think about sex nearly constantly. This isn’t true. It goes along with another myth that men all men want is sex and that “sex” is synonymous with intercourse. In my article, “The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex,” I said that men want a Save Harbor. Sex isn’t just for making children and giving and receiving pleasure. It’s also for being fully seen, cared for, and nurtured.

Edward O. Laumann, PhD. is a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of a major survey of sexual practices, “The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.” He says, “The majority of adult men under 60 think about sex at least once a day. Only about one-quarter of women say they think about it that frequently. As men and women age, each fantasize less, but men still fantasize about twice as often.”

Sex is the reason all of us are here and sex is a source of great pleasure. But sex is more than just sex. For men, sex is our safe harbor, a place we can be taken in, loved, and cherished.

  1. There are important differences between males and females.

[Read more…]

The Man’s Guide to Women: 5 Things Women Want Men to Know About Fear, Sex, and Love

For more than 40 years, I’ve been helping men better understand women so they can have more sex and love and fewer fights and tensions. It’s said that we teach what we want to learn and I’ll admit I’m still learning about the wonderful creatures we call women and how to have passionate, peaceful, and joyful relationships with them.

Like many men with absent fathers, I grew up knowing more about women than I did about men. I remember playing in the kitchen while my mother and some of the neighbor ladies talked about their concerns about the men in their lives. They all expressed some degree of disappointment. Some were disappointed that there wasn’t enough closeness in the relationship. Others complained that the men weren’t as successful as they had hoped.

My father was one of the men who wasn’t emotionally close and also had trouble keeping a job. He was a playwright and actor. He and my mother moved to California from New York where he hoped to break into the newly emerging television industry. But jobs were hard to come by and he became more irritable, agitated, and angry. He would also become more withdrawn and depressed.

I’m sure some of the reasons that I became a therapist, specializing in helping men and the women who love them, was to better understand what women want and how men could be better husbands. I also wanted to know what men wanted and how women could become better partners. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years about what women want. [Read more…]

What Men Want More Than Sex But Are Terrified to Admit

My recent article, “The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex” has garnered more than 400,000 readers on the Good Men Project and my own site, MenAlive.com. Given the responses I received, it is a topic that resonates deeply with men and women. Since I only write about things that I’m interested in, I’ll say truthfully that I’ve been obsessed with sex since I was very young boy. I still remember our sex play with the little girl next door when I was 7 or 8 years old. It is innocent and exciting until we got caught and her parents wouldn’t let us play together.

So, sex always had a double edge of allure and danger. I suspect this duel aspect of desire and danger goes back to our ancient heritage where getting caught with your pants down could lead to getting eaten by the tiger that was stalking you. For women, getting pregnant could mean death for themselves, since many women died in childbirth.

But there are modern dangers as well. I still remember my first orgasm. I had found my mother’s vibrator (she called it her electric massager) when I was 10 or 11 years old and found that vibrating it around my genitals was not only stimulating, but highly arousing. My little penis was hard as a rock and my heart raced with excitement, when suddenly I had a massive release of energy and liquid flooded my hand and the vibrator.

My penis went from rock hard and large to wet, soft, and shrunken. I was terrified. I knew what had happened. I had been warned about the boy whose radio fell into the bathtub and he was electrocuted (it never occurred to me to wonder why anyone would have a radio plugged in above their bathtub). I was sure that’s what had happened to me. I had electrocuted my penis and had killed it.

I didn’t believe in God, but I prayed that if the almighty restored my penis to life, I would never vibrate it again. Well, God was good and my penis came back to life. But it took me years to overcome my fear of vibrators, despite my wife’s assurances that she would assume any risks if I joined her with her sex play. [Read more…]

The One Thing Women Want More Than Love Is The One Thing Men Find It Hard to Give

We’ve all heard that Women need to feel loved to have sex. Men need to have sex to feel loved. There seems to be some truth to here, but what does it really mean? In my article, The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex Is The One Thing Women Find It Hard to Give, I asked if it was true that, for men, sex was the most important thing in their lives.

When I was 17 years old I was sure it was true. When I was 37 years old, I suspected it might not be true. And now that I’m 73 years old, I know it’s not true. Now don’t get me wrong, sex can be wonderful at any age, but there’s something that is more important than sex, but it’s something that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.

In this article, I want to explore the other side of the question. Is there something that women want more than love? And a broader set of questions including these. Do women want sex as much as men? Do men want love as much as women? Are there differences between women’s desires and men’s desires? Is the battle of the sexes inevitable or can there be peace and harmony between men and women, without losing our passionate connections?

In order to answer these questions, it helps to know a little bit about the field of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology seeks to reconstruct problems that our ancestors faced in their primitive environments, and the problem-solving behaviors they created to meet those challenges. Understanding our evolutionary roots helps us better understand why men and women are the way they are.

Biologists have a very simple and useful definition of what is male and what is female, whether we are fish, ferns, or human beings making our way in our African homeland. An individual can either produce many small gametes (sex cells) or fewer but larger gametes. The individuals that produce smaller gametes are called “males,” and the ones that make larger gametes are called “females.”

These obvious biological facts have huge implications for our lives. It’s easier to move the smaller gametes to the larger ones, than vice versa. As a result, males compete with other males to have access to the females. Females choose the male that she fancies the most to mate with. Female mammals, including humans, carry the baby inside their bodies, and nurse the newborn child.

To understand what women want more than love, you have to place yourself in the shoes of our female ancestors. Imagine that you live in East Africa 100,000 years ago. You are born and raised in a closely knit family and when you come of age, you hope to have a man who will be a good hunter and provider and a good protector. [Read more…]

The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex Is The One Thing Women Find It Hard to Give

How many times have we heard the phrase, “All men want is sex?” When I was 17 years old I was sure it was true. When I was 37 years old, I suspected it might not be true. And now that I’m 73 years old, I know it’s not true. Now don’t get me wrong, sex can be wonderful at any age, but there’s something that is more important than sex, but it’s something that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.

This understanding has dawned on me slowly and became most evident to me in my men’s group. I’ve been meeting regularly with six other guys for thirty-eight years and sex has been a topic that has run through our discussions over the years. Like all guys we are somewhat competitive and we all want to be seen as successful, but we also have learned to be honest with each other. We not only talk about our sexual successes, but also our failures, fears, and confusions.

From the time I was a young I learned that wanting sex was synonymous with being a man. In high school I remember overhearing a girl I liked talking about a guy we both knew. She wasn’t complaining that he was preoccupied with sex, but that he “didn’t come on to me like other guys do.” She went on to tell her girlfriend, “He’s not being very manly.” The message was clear, “real men” want sex and if you don’t “come on” to a girl, you’re not a real man.

This early lesson was validated through the years: Always wanting sex is the mark of manliness for many. It’s better to be turned down again and again and be seen as a jerk who is totally preoccupied with sex than to want something more than sex and be seen as “less than a man.”

So, what do men want more than sex? We’ve all heard that women need to feel loved to have sex, but men need to have sex to feel loved. Let’s look more deeply at what it is exactly that men are getting when they get sex. Sure, there is the physical pleasure, but there is a deeper need that is being satisfied. I call it the need for a safe harbor.
[Read more…]

What Every Woman Needs to Know About Men

My wife, Carlin, invited me and my men’s group to share some of things about being a man with her women’s group. We’ve done this before and one of the things that helped women “get” men was the fishbowl process, where the men sit in the center and the women sit quietly around and just listen. It doesn’t take long for the men to engage each other and the female’s presence fades into the background as we talk “man-to-man.”

This reminded me of my first fishbowl experience nearly 50 years ago. I was at a conference for men and women and the leaders first had the women come into a circle with the men listening on the outside. I was entranced as I listened to the women talking about themselves and thought “they’re just like me and they’re oh, so different.”

When it was time to reverse roles, the women began moving out of the circle and the men moved in. The woman sitting in front of me smiled and patted the spot where she was sitting on the floor, a warm gesture of “your turn, have a seat.” I sat where she indicated, but it was like sitting on a hot stove. I literally jumped up and finally moved to another spot. All this took place in a matter of seconds as the women moved out of the circle and the men moved in.

I immediately burst into tears. As the men finally took their seats, here I was sobbing and nothing had happened yet, our sharing hadn’t even begun. The somewhat surprised leader asked, “So what’s happening with you?” Between my tears I was able to share what went on for me: [Read more…]