Why does sex on special occasions
not always live up to expectations?
And if you can’t quite make it work,
what should you do? Elizabeth Brandt
looks for answers
Sometimes you just know it’s going to be
fireworks and red-hot lurve between the sheets. But
you can never be absolutely sure. Explosive sex has
the potential to become a damp squib in no time,
especially during those first times . . .
First time with a new partner, first time
after a long period of expectation or
abstinence, first dirty weekend
away from the kids for ages.
Everything might be
perfect: music, candles,
But none of it
will put in an
raise your love
to new heights.
Instead of lifting
you to the pinnacle
of ecstasy, that rascal
might just as easily,
dump you in the doldrums.
It’s at times like these the
rustling of sheets is stilled and backs are
sullenly turned. Under the cover of darkness you pretend to be
asleep while your mind races in search of answers: Am I not
desirable any more? Has the spark finally gone out of our
relationship? Will things be this pathetic forever? Could there be
Unrealistic expectations don’t make good bedfellows, two sex
therapists explain to YOU Pulse. Especially not when it comes to
Special Occasion Sex.
Whether it’s your wedding night or a romantic weekend
intended to stoke those cooling fires, if you expect too much
you’ll probably have to settle for too little.
That doesn’t mean you should stop expecting though,
says Jonti Searll, who calls himself South
Africa’s foremost sexuality and sensuality
instructor. On the contrary, you should have
the highest possible expectations of your
sex life. But reaching those dizzy heights
takes understanding and strategy, not just
a date in your diary.
Well-known sex therapist Dr Elna McIntosh agrees. She’s 50 and
newly married and reveals that on their wedding night, she and
her husband fell into bed – and slept. Nothing else.
Their wedding day had begun at 4 am and got progressively
crazier. “It was like running the Comrades,” she says. And who
could possibly be in a fit state (or in the mood) for putting on
a mind-blowing firework display at the end of a marathon?
Luckily for Dr McIntosh’s groom, his bride was clued up
enough on sexual matters to know when great expectations are,
quite simply, unrealistic.
Sex isn’t a tap you can turn on whenever you like. Those times
you feel you have to put on the best-ever performance are
precisely those times when uncertainty and ignorance will rein in
Pleasurable, orgasmic sex is something you have to learn and
practise, the sex gurus say. It doesn’t happen by itself. And let’s be
honest: parents and teachers don’t exactly set out to cultivate great
lovers. In fact they don’t want any sexual experimentation at all!
No wonder a bride, who was barely able to gather the courage
to talk openly about the art of seduction, finds it impossible to
shed her inhibitions on her wedding night the way she does her
nightgown. And how would she have mastered any of the secret
skills that unlock the portals of pleasure?
Wedding nights aren’t the only time when there’s no coming
together of promise, desire and satisfaction.
There are periods in all marriages when being happy to see
one another doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness in bed.
Dr McIntosh and her husband see one another only every second
week – he lives in Kuruman, she in Johannesburg – and when he
walks into the house after hours on the road it’s time to catch up,
share a meal and go to bed early. The next morning, of course, is
a different story …
Special Occasion Sex, however, can’t seal all the cracks in
a relationship in one weekend. Months or even years of discord
and resentment can’t be shoved under the bed just because
you’re between hotel sheets and wearing perfume and a smile
for a change. If something’s wrong between the two of you,
Dr McIntosh says, you’re better off staying at home, turning off
the TV and really talking for a change.
Perfect sex requires perfect planning: not just where and when
but also (and especially) how – which isn’t nearly as unromantic
as it sounds. Spontaneous sex can be fabulous, but during
planning Expectation’s seductive sister –
Anticipation – also gets a turn.
detailed the planning, the greater and more
delightful the anticipation. Sex without
anticipation is just sex, writes sex therapist
Dr Belisa Vranich on www.huffingtonpost.
com. And what you have in mind is usually
a lot more than that.
Expectation can make a cold bedfellow and also be the
reason you feel so alone afterwards if things fall flat. You’ve kept
your secret expectations all to yourself, thinking your partner
would anticipate them. Which leaves you both disappointed
and upset. Planning and anticipation, on the other hand, are
shared pleasures. Sex is like dancing – much better when two
people do it together.
And being able to match each other’s tempo to perfect the most delicate turns
and dips of the tango means you need to learn the steps together.
When there’s a Special Night, Day or Weekend coming up, you need to get your
heads together in good time. Discuss exactly what you have in mind with your
partner – don’t expect him or her to read you like braille in the dark.
The kind of communication essential for great sex takes courage, Jonti Searll says.
You have to be prepared to have an extremely intimate conversation with your
partner and probably say the kinds of things that would make your mother’s hair
curl (best not to think of your mom at all).
Take a deep breath and trust your partner. Turn off the lights if that helps. Send
an SMS in the dark if you have to. Or you could send each other subtly provocative
SMSes or downright naughty MMSes during the day.
If you can trust each other with your deepest feelings you’ll be able to journey
together to the peaks of Tantric sex – the opposite of the lie-back-and-think-of-
England kind – in which your pleasure is that much greater because it’s consciously
and purposefully shared.
Mutual trust is absolutely essential for a good sex life. Unfortunately men often
underestimate just how vital emotional safety is to women, Searll says. Time,
talking and touching are just as important.
Sadly, sex is a foreign language for many – just as the vagina is a foreign country
for many women and the penis a kind of love thermometer for many men, Dr
McIntosh says. She encourages her patients to get to know that foreign country
and to travel together frequently over the rest of the 2 m² of skin covering the
body. And to be patient with the thermometer.
Despite the impression condom
advertisements create, more than half of all men over 50 have erectile problems.
According to Dr McIntosh there are only two causes: either it’s medical (which
means off to the doctor with you) or he has a hurtful wife or partner who puts
him down so often the thermometer can’t forgive her, not even when she lights
candles and dons hot lingerie.
A romantic weekend that’s really a ceasefire will definitely not live up to
expectations, which is why both therapists advise it’s best to clear out all the stuff
that’s been swept under the carpet of your relationship before you leave the kids
with Gran and book the guest house.
Then again, if you’ve gathered the courage and gone to the trouble that makes
Special Occasion Sex succeed, cancel the guest house anyway. Exceed your
expectations at home – pleasure that’s been planned by two brave people who
trust one another is indeed a Special Occasion in itself.
Emotional issues could be one of the reasons
lovemaking sometimes goes wrong on those
special occasions – but a common, fixable
medical problem could also be the cause.
Emotional problems such as stress, poor self-image
and depression are the usual suspects and the first
things you should think about.
Illnesses that make you tired are also common causes.
Chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart
ailments, HIV and cancer are well-known passion killers.
Flu or colds with their accompanying fevers, sore
throats, coughs and blocked sinuses don’t exactly
create the ideal environment for sex.
Fear of infecting – or being infected by – someone
with a sexually transmitted disease puts love in the
deep freeze, as do vaginal infections.
Three frequent problems men have and are afraid of
talking about are: premature ejaculation (very
common), erectile dysfunction (half of men older than
50) and inflammation of the prostate (in older men).
Obesity can bury your sex life in several ways: it makes
sex physically uncomfortable, lowers your libido and
hurts your self-esteem.
Pregnancy doesn’t just mean carrying a baby in the
uterus. Hormone fluctuations and physical discomfort
put some pregnant women off sex or even being
No matter how romantic the moment and environment,
if a woman finds sex painful she’ll try to avoid it.
One in 16 women experiences vaginismus, a condition
in which the pertinent muscles clench so tightly sex
becomes impossible and excruciating.
Go to A
You experience any medical symptoms
such as pain, or when romance and
attention can’t fix a low libido over
a period of a few months. But be
realistic: if you’re going through a traumatic time, a poor
libido is normal.
Make a point of resolving the problems
in your relationship, says sex therapist Dr Elna McIntosh.
The golden rule is: when you’re worried, see your
doctor. Surfing the internet or reading self-help books
won’t solve your problem.
For more advice visit
Dr Elna McIntosh’s website
She also offers a 12-week sex
therapy course you can do
Or get in touch
with Jonti Searll at