An Underdeveloped Idea of Marriage – Sexual Immaturity

I have found that a lot of marital problems revolve around sex and immaturity in sexual development. Last week, I had the privilege of going through a training on The Sexual Experience and Behavior Inventory (SEABI) with Dr. Lisa Terrell at the Sensovi Institute here in Charlotte. She has been doing some amazing work in this field, you can learn more about it at Since I was introduced to her work and tried to incorporate it in my work with individuals and couples, I have realized that part of the problem with immature marriages is that no one talks about sex.

Husband comes to therapy because wife just found out he has had an account on for over 2 years. Wife is furious and sends husband to me so I  can “fix” him. Husband is already defensive and treats the therapy like he treats his wife: with defensiveness. Husband slowly starts to understand that part of therapy if exploring the purpose of his behavior, as Dr. Lisa calls it “the payoff”. Slowly husband begin to realize what has created and maintained his behavior all along: his sexual template, his erotic catalyst. Wife also goes to her own therapy. Therapist instructs her she needs to leave this marriage because husband is basically a jerk and she needs to not allow such behavior to continue. Another failed marriage, another statistic. Sometimes this is what needs to happen. Sometimes this could be prevented if people can just stay together long enough to talk about the difficult topics revolving sex, intimacy and what turns them on.

I see a lot of men who go to great lengths to build and maintain a secret life around their sexual preferences. They like anonymous sex or fantasy sex or they like to watch or seduction is what they are after. That’s what turns them on. Despite being in a committed relationship, they seek out secret, fantastical encounters. There is a running joke between my friend and I. We say men want to have their cake AND their candy. If you like fantasy then you will love building a whole new secret persona/life. I’m not in the business of deciding whether that’s right or wrong. But I CAN tell you that this is probably an indication of sexual/relationship immaturity more than it is an addiction problem. A lot of these men (and sometimes women) have trouble with intimacy. They want a marriage but they don’t know what it takes to be truly emotionally and mentally intimate. Also, I have found that there is a history of rejection of some sort in their development (parents, early crush/girlfriend/competition with same sex, etc). They will do and risk almost anything to feel wanted sexually. That’s the hook. A single partner is rarely enough to satisfy this developmental need. But they can help (or hurt) the issue.

I am interested in exploring how what turns you on has become such a big secret. How far back does the secret go? What were the high school years like? What happened when you went to college or entered adulthood? How is it that you don’t know what your sexual template looks like? Or if you do, you go to great lengths to hide it from the person you have decided to spend the rest of your life with? I also find it interesting that you can not tell me what turns your wife on. But you can count all the ways in which she is being “frigid” with you. EVERYONE gets turned on by something. As Gina Ogden puts it, there is no such thing as low desire, there is only low desire for the KIND of sex you and your partner have been having.

Let’s talk about it.

What turns you on? What turns you off? Talk to your partner about it. Yes, they may judge you. But that’s a communication, respect and partnership problem. It reveals how mature each individual is AND whether or not they are willing to grow. Marital growth can not exist without sexual growth. Before you try to get your wife to attempt different positions or put on a sexy outfit, you have to find the courage to talk. Ask the tough questions without judgement and start negotiating the rules and boundaries of your relationship all over again (or maybe for the very first time).


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