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Not Always In The Mood #442

On the Regular version of today’s show …

A conversation with Dr Sarah Hunter Murray, a therapist who has a new book exploring the science of men, sex and relationships.

Check out her work and pick up her book here

On the Xtended version …

Dr Sarah joins me to answer a question from a husband whose wife initiated sex and then informed him she did so only because she knows he needs it.


Enjoy the show!


Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps!  If your review is chosen and read on the podcast (anonymously, of course!), you’ll win a very special prize!

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Corey Allan: I love it when we're recording episodes and my wife is talking on the air before she even realized she's talking on the air.

Pam Allan: Yeah, I just said-

Corey Allan: Well, welcome to Sexy Marriage Radio.

Pam Allan: You're going to use that later, aren't you?

Corey Allan: At some point that will come back to you.

Pam Allan: All right.

Corey Allan: Alongside my wife Pam, we are excited each and every week that you guys take a little bit of time out of your week to spend it with us. I'm just coming off of another week long excursion of training with Dr. David Schnarch. It was last week and my head is still swimming with the amount of information we cover during those times each year

Pam Allan: And I'm still saying dumb it down for me. Dumb it down for me, dumb it down for me.

Corey Allan: And I'm working on it, but I still got to make sense of all of it. It just came in because it's a tsunami of information on just dealing with brain processes and how that all plays out. And then what do I do with it? How do I make sense of it? and use it because I want to steer it towards the sexy merge radio nation because I think a lot of the information that I keep coming across can now always be assimilated and useful to Married people and dealing with life better and dealing with marriage better. Because what we really hope with Sexy Marriage Radio and its nation is that the best sex happens as they continue in this process because it is a long game.

Pam Allan: Well it's not even just that. It's just having a better life and a fuller life and leaving a legacy for generations to come. That's really the dream for the nation, right.

Corey Allan: Exactly.

Pam Allan: That we've got better relationships and better legacy.

Corey Allan: Exactly. And we hope that you will join us in this as part of the sexy merge radio nation. And the way you can do that is you can jump on and give us a call at (214) 702-9565. Leave us any kind of a voicemail with your question, your thought, your concern, whatever it is that you want to share. We'd love to get your voice and an attitude conversation or you can jump on the inbox at and again you've got a question that you want to ask and you're not sure where to ask it. We'll answer it, send it to us.

Corey Allan: Sometimes those become segments of the show and they help steer the conversation. Sometimes it takes place offline and we'll just interact with you back and forth via email. Yeah, because we want to try to be a service and of help to you as you move forward in your relationship. So coming up on today's regular free version of Sexy Marriage Radio is a conversation that I got to have with Dr. Sarah Hunter Murray, and she has a new book out that is called Not Always In The Mood and it's really geared towards the science of men, sex and relationships.

Pam Allan: Is that right?

Corey Allan: Because she was doing some research and then started getting an inkling that men have this stereotypical or they're always ready, they'll take it every time.

Pam Allan: Not so mch.

Corey Allan: And as she started getting into it, she realized that could still tend to be more towards the true side, but there's also a whole lot of other stuff underneath it, that she found men were really willing and interested to talk about. So we have a conversation in the first part of our show, this just about her work and what she's discovered when it comes to men and sexuality.

Pam Allan: That'll be interesting.

Corey Allan: It's a fascinating conversation because it's not something that's carried real far because a lot of it goes towards, well, how do we get women in the mood? There are much more complicated rather than men have a similar path that there's a lot of similarity, but it's just not talked about.

Pam Allan: Yeah, I mean men are complicated too, right? It's not like there's one gender that beats the other on that one.

Corey Allan: No, not at all. And then coming up onto the regular, the free version. Ah, I'm just stumbling over this. And coming up on the extended version of Sexy Marriage Radio, which is deeper and longer, and there's no ads. You can subscribe at Dr. Sarah Hunter Murray joins me to answer a question from the Nation that came in.

Pam Allan: Great. Like an email or on Slack?

Corey Allan: An email that came in from a husband that has this issue that after a little bit of a dry spell, his wife initiated sex and said, I did it because I know you need it. And they're throwing for a loop because he realized let's not... It's true, but it really creates this real one sided nature.

Pam Allan: That's not what he wanted. He wasn't too excited about it because that's why she was doing it.

Corey Allan: It made him start thinking, well, it's all just about him and what does that do? And so I thought, all right, I have at my disposal another clinician. Let's tackle this from all sides. Right? Absolutely. And so on the extended version, she and I answered that question.

Pam Allan: Excellent.

Corey Allan: And to the man that emailed, the husband that emailed, I'm back channeling you via email to get you access to the extended content. But if you listen to this and you haven't seen that email and you are the one that sent me this email and I know who you are, I will get you the extended content if you're not [inaudible 00:05:57] member already. So all that's coming up on today's show.

Corey Allan: Well, joining me today for Sexy Marriage Radio is Dr. Sarah Hunter Marie. And she has a new book out that's entitled, Not Always In The Mood, The New Science of Men, Sex and Relationships. And I got to start there, Sarah, just because it's the glaring thing that has to be asked right off the bed. It's a woman writing a book for men. At least that's the way it's framed. I know that's not what it is. It from what you do, it's to everybody, but you've really tried to tackle the side of men in relationships, which as a man, thank you for what you're doing for this, but also, how did you get to this? How did this come to be?

Sarah Murray: Yeah, no, I think that's a really important question and what I would say is I have a PhD in Human Sexuality and so I studied sexual desire specifically throughout my Master's and my PhD and I actually started... I'm a woman and I actually started studying women. I was really curious about women's sexual desire. We know that women have complexities around their desire, it's elusive. It can be low. We're trying to figure out how women can increase their desire and a lot of situations.

Sarah Murray: I'll talk about the role of motherhood, stress as women age, menopause, there's all these things that we're comfortable talking about, the complexities of women's sexual desire. Partway through my research I started to wonder. I was like, we're doing a lot of comparing here. We're saying that women's desire is complex in comparison to men's desire, which is not, we had a lot of assumptions we're making is high constant, unwavering, simple surface level and I just couldn't help but ask is that actually true?

Sarah Murray: If we were to talk to men in a more research based setting and say how accurate are these stereotypes? What is your true experience? I was wondering what men would say and so I conducted what we call a grounded theory based or research topics. So not really going in with many assumptions, just asking open ended questions to men who identified as heterosexual in the context of relationships, because I was particularly curious how this plays out when men and women are together for a long period of time.

Corey Allan: Then that's a perfect caveat to add because it is a different thing in the beast of what married life and desire is or committed relationship and desire is versus singlehood and desire.

Sarah Murray: Absolutely. And I think a lot of the stereotypes we have about men, in fact come from that. From men who are say that college age sample that we're so used to seeing in research 18 to 25 younger dating, maybe just looking for a hookup. And so the thing is that's a small pocket of the population when push comes to shove. And so what happens with mentoring 20, 26, 30, 40, 50, 60 when they married, when they have kids, when they've got jobs, when they've got responsibilities. That is a huge part of our population and we're just not talking about it because we're only talking about what some men, maybe even most men experience for that small part of their lives.

Corey Allan: So what did you find when you went into this with this little assumption as possible when you started trying to hopefully find the men that would be honest and not the provato, machismo. Oh no, I am always raring to go when in reality, no, there's a depth to there. There's a complexity to there. What did you find?

Sarah Murray: Well, and it's interesting you say that because with the interviews that I did, a lot of the interviews started with the things that might fit into more of those stereotypes. So it was very common for men to start by saying, "Oh yeah, I have a high sex drive or I want sex more than my female partner. I've never really met a woman who has more of a drive than I have." And so I was like, okay, well that's interesting. When you start asking, the thing that's nice about talking to someone for over an hour is you get to move past that first. This is some of the more complex nuanced parts of their experience.

Corey Allan: Right.

Sarah Murray: So what started to happen is that there was some of these holes that started getting poked in this narrative of always being in the mood. Right? So the first thing that men would start saying in general would be along the lines of like, Oh, well, I guess I've said no to sex if I've been sick, or if I'm tired, things that are pretty understandable, right? It's been a long day. It's just I can't really get up the energy. But as I started asking more questions, I felt like men were being increasingly open about how sometimes they actually felt that there was pressure to be in the mood for sex, that sometimes they felt that there was this masculinity narrative that to be a real man, you always have to want it.

Sarah Murray: And it really confronted them these times where they felt that their desire wasn't as high as it used to be. And so particularly when talking to men who were in their thirties and forties and existed with men in their fifties and sixties but I feel like there was that turning point from their thirties and forties who were like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. It wasn't that long ago that my desire was high. And it's not that it's not still somewhat high, right? It's not to say that men's desires, in fact, completely low all the time.

Sarah Murray: It's not necessarily showing exact opposite of the stereotype that we've had, but it's just to say, yeah, when men have jobs that they're going to and they work these long hours and if there's financial responsibilities that they feel are on their backs or if there's things that have to get done around the house and a relationship to attend to when pets and animals and things that they're just saying, you know what? Sometimes I'm not in the mood. Sometimes I want to say no. Sometimes I worry what my female partner would do or how she would respond if I wasn't in the mood. So that's the thing that started to make me realize, I was like, there's more going on.

Corey Allan: Yes it is.

Sarah Murray: Yeah. And so the next thing I started asking them about was, what helps you feel more in the mood and what kind of things decrease your sexual desire. And what started to happen there is that men started to share that there was a lot more that they desired through sex and what they got from sex than what we typically talk about. So some of the things that just stand out and we can take this conversation however you see fit. But men talked about how they felt that there was really this idea that they were the ones who should be the dominant, powerful person during sex. The one who initiates the one that makes their female partner feel desired, that they're the ones who do the pursuing.

Corey Allan: Right.

Sarah Murray: And what I started to hear from men in my research is that they really wanted to break free from this mold. They didn't necessarily mind initiating sometimes. They like telling their female partner that she looked beautiful or sexy or leaning in for a kiss, but they've got tired from always doing that. And then I asked them, feel the most sexual desire themselves, almost across the board men, which tell me that when they felt their female partner made them feel desired in return.

Corey Allan: It's a fundamental thing in it that we want to be desired.

Sarah Murray: Yeah. And yet it kind of... I think we have to acknowledge that it goes against the grain. I mean, women in our society are told implicitly and explicitly that our bodies are sexualized. Women spend a lot of money, doing their hair and their makeup and their clothes and looking desirable and men are the ones who do the looking and the wanting and the pursuing. But men are sharing with me throughout my research and clinical practice that they want to be told by their female partner that they look good.

Sarah Murray: They like compliments about their appearance that makes them feel wanted, that makes them feel like their female partner cares about them. It increases their sexual desire. And in the absence of that, men talked about how not only did they doubt their sexual attractiveness or their female partner's attraction to them, but it also could take a toll on their self esteem and their self worth.

Sarah Murray: So it went far beyond the bedroom. And so I thought that was just a really interesting finding because I don't think we give a lot of space for men to say that, that they want to be wanted in return and have women even initiate things that aren't even sexual. I think that's what struck me as so interesting about it. It wasn't just that men wanted more sex like [inaudible 00:14:11] to me, having a female partner initiate sex or tell them that they look good, but men were saying that they just wanted their female partners to even rest her head on his shoulder or be the one to lean in for a kiss or give him a pause and just identifying how uncommon that was in a lot of heterosexual.

Corey Allan: Interesting. Okay. Yeah because this is what I think of Sarah at Sexy Marriage Radio here. I frame higher desire, lower desires, like what you're describing. And in a majority of relationships the man is the higher desire in comparison to the woman, and neither one is right or wrong. It's just a comparative continuum. Just to try to help make sense of the dynamic, right? Because I don't believe in match desires. I think one of you want something more than another. That's just a reality of every topic.

Corey Allan: So the struggle I hear framed a lot that goes into this stereotypical cultural societal myth, that you're uncovering is, well, if a woman were to be a little more overt, desiring, expressive, something like that, affection to a husband that goes straight into the... Well, all he's got to want, then it's just to respond and want more sex.

Corey Allan: And it's just going to open the floodgates. But what you're describing is what a man really wants is that, there's a level of a man, and I'll own this too. Absolutely. I like to feel desired. That's a human thing. Then it comes down to, does that mean sex has to happen? How do we start changing the language almost, right? That goes against the whole, any kind of sexual touch or overture means sex has to happen rather than what if it's just part of the language between a relationship too, between the spouses.

Sarah Murray: I think that's so critical and something that I see and work with a lot of couples in my clinical practice is creating space for gestures of intimacy and romance and things that can be sexual in nature but not necessarily lead to sex, so that there is more... And maybe safety or confidence in being able to reach out.

Corey Allan: Right.

Sarah Murray: But again, I mean we can like when our partner makes the move and it leads to sex, that's fun. But we also want sometimes that it is just cuddling or it's just a makeup session on the couch or it's just a compliment or playful snuck on the bud as you walk by the kitchen or what have you. Right. So it's about having that dialogue and saying it's important to create all of these pieces in our relationship.

Sarah Murray: And it's not always leading to sex. I can't tell you how many women I work with. I'd be curious if you have similar experience who do exactly what you were just suggesting. That they are worried about initiating or being affectionate or even giving a kiss because they think that if we start with a kiss that's going to turn into a makeup session, it's going to turn into someone, unbuttoning zippers and all that kind of stuff and then we're having sex. It's like well if I don't want to have sex and I don't want to give you the impression of any of those other-

Corey Allan: Don't even dip your toe in the water near it.

Sarah Murray: Exactly. And yet so many people say that, that's actually what they're missing. And if they had more of those kissing and flirtatious moments, they might be more sexually interested. So it's about really fostering space for that in a relationship in addition to the sexual active.

Corey Allan: Okay. Yeah, because I see the same kind of thing, and I also think of it in the route I go with the clients is to recognize, okay, you're saying no by not even initiating it. So what if being able to say no has moved down the line a little bit, you can initiate it. And if you're not interested in going past point B, fine, at least it's moving closer rather than not even getting in the pool.

Sarah Murray: Absolutely. And I think just so many people want to know that their partners still expresses or feels interest, right. And for them to be able to see it and feel it in those more tangible ways helps reassure us that there's, the love is still there. The passion is still there and that always have to be sexual activity.

Corey Allan: Perfect. So what are some of the other... Because I know it sounds like what you found is there's the side of men that aren't talked about that if you just lump them all up in the "societal norm." As far as the way it's portrayed, that there's a depth and a complexity that that matches and it rivals a woman's. The woman's gets more glory in the sense of it's talked about more, but there's the same kind of thing happening in the other part of the human species, the males. So what else did you find?

Sarah Murray: Yeah, so another finding from the research that I did was, I was curious about how important these more physical or visual sexual cues were for men because they talk about being surface level in that, right? We talk about heterosexual men at least being attracted to low cut blouses or short skirts and that physical appearance. And I was just wondering how important is that really? And where does that fall in terms of this overall importance of men's sexuality? And the thing that I thought was really interesting as men, we're very fortunate. Tell me about liking those types of things. Right? They would often talk about their female partner when she wears something that's a little revealing or sexually suggestive that, that's very appealing to them.

Sarah Murray: But when I thought it was really lasting through my research, is that member very clear about, that's only so important. What I'm really looking for is that more emotional connection. I want to steal clothes, initiating sex or wanting to have sex with so often described as this bid for emotional connection through physical touch. And so I thought it was really interesting. Again, it's not to say that men don't like the visual side, right? It's not saying that's not the case, but there are conversations around men's sexual desire stop at that point. And I think that's what's detrimental about this physical gratification. I'm just turned on because of some cleavage or what have you. And I talked to a lot of women in, in my clinical practice who actually find they're not in the mood when they believe that, that's what their male partners after, he just wants sexual gratification.

Sarah Murray: He just wants the physical side of sex. It's not about me. I just happened to be the closest person or the only socially appropriate person to have sex with. And that doesn't make anyone feel very good of course. But what the men in my research were describing is that they wanted to have sex to feel close, that it was actually a really vulnerable experience for them to initiate sex because they wanted to feel close to their female partner.

Sarah Murray: Again, the responsibilities of initiation are much more fully on their shoulders and so want to feel close, they have to do it and then they're waiting. They're like, are you going to say yes? Are you going to say no? Are you going to reject me? I think women can relate to how hard it is to have lower desire than a male partner and the guilt and worry they have when they say no or feeling bad that they're not meeting their partner's needs.

Sarah Murray: But just as much, I mean men are saying like, I don't know if you want me in return, like I'm making it clear that I want you on a pretty regular basis. I'm not really getting that. And so that rejection piece really came out pretty strongly in my research. Men were talking about how detrimental sexual rejection was for them, how much it hurt them, it made them question their attraction, their self worth, whether the partner was interested in them, not just sexually, but as a partner.

Sarah Murray: It hit on all these levels and, and so that really struck me because I think we talk about how well men are the ones who initiate and they must be used to rejection. It can't hurt that much. And it really, it really stuck with me and continues to stick with me. How much sexual rejection first for men you want to say yes all the time. That's not the point. But there's a lot more emotions being experienced with these sexual interactions. Again, then we've been typically talking to,

Corey Allan: Right? I mean, I almost hear it. Tell me if this metaphor that's going on in my head lines up with what you're describing cause I almost hear it as if you take the prototypical college kid, young, young man, adult that's it's coming out of adolescence hopefully and moving into the adult world and a productive member of society. There's the emphasis on the parts. That's where you're talking about the low cut dress, the short skirt, the flowing things, the alluring presentation and then my experience is as I've gotten into my 40s approaching 50s and other people I talk to that are similar and that have been in a longterm relationship, those parts and the allure matter, but what matters more is who those parts are attached to.

Sarah Murray: Absolutely

Corey Allan: I've even said on the show in the past that there is a level of sex that matters where you are just having sex with the genitalia. But if you're talking about married sex being really good, you're having sex with the person that genitalia is attached to.

Sarah Murray: Of course. And it's all parts, the head, the heart and body, all of that. Right. And again it's, I really want to be clear here, there's nothing wrong with liking the physical side of things or liking the physical gratification that you get from sex. Sex should feel good and often say I like when my partner puts on lingerie. But the thing is, it always in my research at least it kept coming with this caveat, which is the lingerie is nice for the physical but it's more that, Oh she put an effort because she cares about me.

Sarah Murray: She's putting effort into our relationship. She's doing something because she knows I would like it and that feels good. So I just think it's so important too to talk about those extra layers. Right? We know the people side, we know the physical side, but it does go so much deeper than that. And I think men are being shortchanged when we don't acknowledge that. And I think women shortchange because again, like I said before, even this week I met with a female client who talked about how she really believes that all her male partner wants is sex.

Sarah Murray: So she consents to having sex with him but it doesn't go in with her sexual needs really at the forefront because it's like, Oh it's just about you. You just want to have that sexual experience. It's not about connecting with me. And so this is this whole opportunity to have a really intimate moment with their partner because of believing some of those negative...

Corey Allan: Yeah. And that's interesting you say it that way Sarah, because that just for whatever reason it triggered a client, which then has, I've got multiples of that have had a similar, that it's not talked about where it's men that they're well into life so they're in their '40s or '50s and they're with a wife that they've been with for a while. So you're talking long-term life financial stories is got a lot of layers to it, because I love your frame of there's layers to this whole thing.

Corey Allan: And I love it because one of them early on in my counseling world was talking about is yeah, I'll something woke up and triggered in my wife sexually now all of a sudden she's so much more interested almost daily even and I can't keep up, and it was a totally thrown him off on like I don't, I can't perform that often. I can't... And it's just this whole, Oh this is really cool that we're talking about some real stuff here.

Corey Allan: Right. And so just being able to one, him start to acknowledge it and then to bring that to her, changed the depth of what they were dealing with and it changed the depth of how they could find solutions because now all of a sudden they started getting into this is not just an act. This is an experience of each of us together.

Sarah Murray: Absolutely. And I mean on that it, if I can keep going with it, is there is this idea that men's desire isn't just high, but it should be higher than women. And a lot of men identify that way and say, no, my experience is that I've got a higher sex drive than a female partner. And a lot of women can say, I've got lower sexual desire than my male partner.

Sarah Murray: What we know from the research is that actually there's a lot more variation than that kind of stereotype. And it's interesting question where I'm like our social norms that we've been raised with is that men have been given a bit more freedom to be sexually expressive, to say that are sex, to initiate, to like it, to have more sexual partners when they're dating.

Sarah Murray: Women are taught to be a good girl, you don't do that. You don't embrace your sexual desires. And so it's interesting because when we actually look at some of the findings, there's a lot of women... I guess it goes against the grain of what we talk about, but there are a lot of women who do have higher sex drives than their male partners, but it goes against that norm, women sometimes tone it down or tuck it away or don't show it, and I've noticed that there's actually a really detrimental dynamic that can show up because a lot of women who believe that men should always want sex.

Sarah Murray: So she has an and he doesn't, they take it personally. It's like, Oh, you're not attracted to me or what's wrong? Is there something wrong with our relationship? And then can internalize that of like, Oh my gosh, she wants sex. I should also want sex. Why aren't they getting an erection? Why are tying the mood? There must be something wrong with me. I mean, we're into lots of judgments, lots of problems when really what we're talking about. It's just normal variation between men and women and it doesn't have to be a problem. I think a lot of normalizing that can be done, but we interpret it because these stereotypes are so pervasive that when you think goes against the grain, we alarm bells sound

Corey Allan: Right. And you even touched on it and this is a good way to land this conversation. Do you even touched on that? A woman that when she's, all of a sudden the variation puts her in the higher category and he's not responding and she's, what's wrong with me? I don't understand, all of this kind of issues that can come up. Well that's the same thing your research is finding. It sounds like the men are saying that there's this element of, hold on, I'm still... I do believe this is my own experience. There's a resolve that can happen with, okay, I know I'm going to strike out as the higher desire more, it's going to happen.

Corey Allan: I'm going to get rejected. But it still doesn't make it enjoyable. It still doesn't make me go bounding to the plate again ready to see what kind of pitches I get thrown. And there's still an element of ah, so it's just I guess, and if nothing else to say, how do we take some of the different myths that we've bought or been sold and start to see it as, okay, wait, my experience on this dilemma, whether I'm the male or the female, my experience is not too dissimilar for what my spouse's experience experiences, if you get to the deep core of it.

Sarah Murray: And that's what I think is important to make space for is... I know there's a back and forth, men and women are so different or a little bit of backlash against men and women are the same. It's like, I think it's important to talk about our similars and our differences.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Sarah Murray: We're so much more used to talking about these differences and there's a lot more commonalities that I think can actually make us feel a lot closer if we could acknowledge and kind of question whether those stereotypes are true or whether that really fits for our authentic experiences.

Corey Allan: Well, thank you so much for the courage as a woman to dive into the world of men, Sarah.

Sarah Murray: Thank so much for your kind words.

Corey Allan: So tell people in the Sex Marriage Radio Nation how they can find more about you, pick up your book and then any other things that you've got that they would benefit from.

Sarah Murray: Yeah, so again, my name is Dr. Sarah Hunter Murray. I've got a website, that has information about my book. It's called Not Always In The Mood, the New Science of Men, Sex and Relationships. I write for Psychology Today, a blog called Miss of Desire and I'm on Twitter @SexDoctorSarah.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Well Sarah, thank you so much for the work and the willingness to just research and see where that goes. I love that because I think that sets such a better precedent than just the fad. Here's 50 ways to whatever and here's the three keys and blah. It's like no, no, no. Let's get into the weeds of what's really going on and let's start talking about that. So thank you.

Sarah Murray: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Corey Allan: Well I find it fascinating Pam, that this is something that that's like the way you lead our show today with this idea that both genders of our species are complicated.

Pam Allan: Well yeah we are, right?

Corey Allan: But in some regards, men come across this out. We're pretty simple. I mean I actually had a client say when it comes to regarding sex, it's like a dog. If every so often you just rub my belly, I'm good for a while. Right, and that's a simplification.

Pam Allan: If only life were that simple. Right, because it's not just about sex, it's about so many other things in our life and relationship.

Corey Allan: Exactly, because we all face rejection and pain, disappointment and frustration in this world and in relationships. So this has been a fun dialogue to explore it through a little bit of a different perspective. So this spin Sexy Marriage Radio, thanks for taking some time out of your day. Again, spend it with us wherever you are, whatever you've been doing, we hope to see you again next time. Have a great rest of your week.