When something is scarce, you want it more! (Remember the toilet paper shortage of 2020?) So what does this have to do with sex and marriage? When you’re not having sex, you begin to be preoccupied with sex. I see this scarcity mindset show up in my coaching practice in two ways. Either you don’t have enough to give or you feel like you need to do more to be fulfilled. In today’s episode, we talk more about this scarcity mindset and how to change your mindset to make sex something for you not something you have to do.
Have you ever watched the Bachelor? I’ll confess, I used to watch it. I haven’t actually watched it in years, but now my 19-year old daughter watches it, so it’s often a topic of conversation. One man, 25 women. Seems like every guy’s dream right? But what happens psychologically on the show is fascinating to me and I wanted to share with you a few observations and conclusions I’ve come to.
But first, let me tell you about the “beer goggles effect.” Some creative researchers decided to test the theory that “all the girls get prettier at closing time.” The study has been replicated several times with the same results. Basically, it’s that the “perceived attractiveness of members of the opposite sex increased around the closing time at bars.” This was even true for participants who hadn’t actually been drinking any alcohol. “When we consider the setting of a bar that is about to close, what we have in a sense is a temporarily shrunken world. In a shrunken world, with fewer options at hand, people begin to ask themselves, “Of the options that are present, which one is most appealing to me.”
So, the results of these studies are not actually about the beer, but something else entirely. It’s about the scarcity principle.
Ok, back to the Bachelor. With the shrunken-world element, The Bachelor effectively reduces the range of choices to one man, which increases the appetitive (and competitive) drives of all the women. Think about it. You never hear on the show “Oh, he’s not really my type” or “I’m not actually attracted to him.” No! He’s the one man and that drives desire.
What is scarce becomes very attractive.
A scarcity mindset is the belief that there will never be enough, resulting in feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. “Scarcity orients the mind automatically and powerfully toward unfulfilled needs.” (Jessica Schrader)
“Our brains have limited bandwidth, so any attention afforded to one immediate problem cannot be used somewhere else.” (Matthew B. Gilbert)
Think about other things that happen with a scarcity mindset. My mind immediately goes to there being no toilet paper and no disinfecting wipes last year with Covid. If you found it, you tended to horde it. If you have time scarcity you tend to put focus on trying to use the time that you have the most effectively that you can, often at the detriment of other things. If you are lonely, you may get clingy because you are focused on maximizing the interactions you do have.
I want you to think about what happens in your mind when you feel like you have too little. How does that shape your choices and behaviors?
Now, let’s move this into the realm of sex and marriage. With the conservative Christian value system, couples tend to only have one sexual partner. We wholeheartedly believe in and support monogamy. But, if sex isn’t happening with the ONE person you are supposed to be having sex with, it stands to reason that you are going to develop a scarcity mindset around sex. And that scarcity mindset drives desire and increases the appetite for it. When it’s scarce, it can preoccupy your mind. This can drive you to feel fear (What if we never have sex again!), stress (it’s not happening enough), and anxiety (I wonder if my spouse even loves me or finds me attractive.)
I once heard scarcity defined as “A lack of belief or faith in yourself or a higher power.” (Jody Moore) and I loved that definition because it puts things back into your control. It all comes back to the way that you are thinking about it.
I see this scarcity mindset showing up in two ways in my coaching practice.
The first one “There isn’t enough of me to give something to him” comes up mostly with the women I see. They feel so drained, so tired, mentally and physically from everything they have on their plates and don’t feel like they have any more to give. But, they feel this way because of the way they think about sex. That it’s taking from them. It’s something they have to give to someone else.
David Schnarch says “We want to belong to ourselves more than we want to belong to someone else.”
If we don’t feel like we are able to belong to ourselves first, we are going to have a scarcity mindset about giving more of yourself to someone else.
What does it mean to belong to yourself? Oftentimes, as women, we question our ability to choose what we believe to be right for ourselves, for fear that we will be judged or misunderstood. But, what we often don’t understand is that there is power in exercising our agency. Belonging to yourself is all about being your own best advocate. It’s about being dedicated to the care and nurturing of your mind, body, and spirit. As women we are so good at nurturing others. This is biological in us because it is important for the survival of our babies. We have to sacrifice for our infants to survive. But, we don’t just sacrifice for infants. No, no. This carries over into other areas of our lives. We nurture others often at the expense of ourselves. But, if you belong to yourself, you make sure that you are taken care of before you take care of others. This kind of self-love is about patience, and self-nurture, and trusting yourself to make good decisions. And this is often very, very hard. It requires extending the care that we normally give to others, to ourselves. Being kind and compassionate towards ourselves. Giving ourselves grace.
This is some of the greatest work I do with clients. Helping them learn how to belong to themselves. And once they can belong to themselves, then we work on becoming a good receiver. Seeing how sex can actually be FOR them, giving something to them, rather than taking from them. It’s more of an abundant mindset.
The second way that scarcity shows up with my clients is something along the lines of “I’m not enough as I am, so I need to be more and do more to be fulfilled.” Many women (and this does happen with men too), think our value comes from what we are doing. That if we DO more than we are worth more. That we have to accomplish certain things, have certain things, BE certain things in order to be valuable as a human being. We think we earn our worth.
This is another thing we work on a lot in coaching. We work on their belief systems about themselves, their confidence, and I help them understand their true value. That their value doesn’t come from what they do (or don’t do) but is inherent to who they are.
With men, especially in the realm of sex, they often don’t feel like they are enough because the belief is that IF they were, their wife would want them sexually. That they would be desired as much as they desire their wife. And with this scarcity mindset, they become needy. They want their wife to validate them with sex so that they feel like they are enough. But, this usually has the opposite effect of what they want, because their neediness isn’t attractive and repels their wife so sex becomes even more scarce.
Scarcity begets more scarcity. What we want is abundance.
An abundance mindset flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It’s grounded in the belief that there is more than enough for everyone. And this is much of what we work on in coaching in many different aspects. With an abundance mindset you are able to appreciate and have gratitude for what you do have and you aren’t driven by fear, stress, and anxiety for what you don’t. So, if you have an abundant mindset about sex, you don’t come off as needy and desperate.
This is what I see so much in relationships. One person (or both) have scarcity mindsets. Either about themselves (I’m not enough), their abilities (I need to do more), or about sex, intimacy, and connection (we don’t have enough of any of it.)
So how do you go from a scarcity mindset to an abundant mindset?
Like I said earlier, it starts within. It starts with you building a more abundant mindset about yourself. Then, when that is taken care of, you can focus on creating a more abundant mindset on other aspects of your life, including sex and intimacy. Focus on what you have, instead of what you don’t. When we think there needs to be more, or there isn’t enough, we are focused on what we don’t have instead of what we have. By focusing on what we do have we see opportunities instead of limitations. We practice gratitude. Instead of thinking about how much more sex you wish you were having, practice being grateful for what you do have. This is more confident..and doesn’t come off as desperate and needy.
If you notice your mind going to a place of scarcity, remind yourself that is what is happening and redirect to a more of an abundant mindset. This will quickly change your attitude, which will absolutely change how you are showing up for yourself and your spouse.
And, if your spouse is showing up desperate and needy, remind yourself that they are just having a scarcity mindset, and that is ok. Then see how YOU want to show up differently.