Episode 176 – Pressure to Perform

pressure to perform

In this episode, we’re talking about pressure. Both the pressure we put on ourselves and the pressure we feel from our spouses. And in reality, how the internal and external pressure isn’t good for our marriages. Let’s talk about why we put that pressure on and what we can do to let it go and have the relationship we want! Let’s get rid of some of that pressure!

pressure to perform
pressure to perform
pressure to perform

Show Notes:

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Show Summary:

After Episode 174 came out, my interview with Mike Peterson, I got a LOT of feedback.  Lots of men who reached out looking for resources because they felt like they were in the same situation Mike was a few years ago and now want to work on bettering themselves.  Yay!  I also had many women reach out and say “Thank you” because they are on the receiving end and it was good to hear the man’s perspective.

I also had some negative feedback, which I also appreciate.  I had women reaching out saying that the episode was “troubling” because women have been subjected to feeling like they are not desirable enough unless they are thin, keep a nice home, are the perfect mother, etc. and why should we subject men to the same thing?  

I’ve also had men that have been “livid” that HE should have to do all the work and she did NOTHING.

I think these two kind of missed the point. We aren’t subjecting men to this unattainable, superficial idea in order to be desirable.  We aren’t talking about doing what you think you need to do to be “enough” for your spouse.   This is about learning to show up as your best self FOR YOU and for your marriage.  It’s about loving and accepting yourself as you are and showing up for yourself in a way that comes from the best of you instead of seeking validation from your spouse to believe that you are enough.  Of course a marriage takes two…but it only takes one to be the catalyst for change – and you can be that change whether you are the husband or the wife.

I often tell my clients that sometimes things get worse before they get better – because, as one person starts to change the way that they are showing up, doing things differently than they have always done them, often the spouse doesn’t like it at first.  As humans, we don’t like change.  We like to stay in our comfort zone, where things are nice and safe and predictable.  And when your spouse begins to change and things aren’t as comfortable and predictable, things get uncomfortable.  It puts pressure on the spouse to change as well, which is uncomfortable.  But then you find a new normal…and with my help…a better normal.  You get good at being uncomfortable for the sake of growth.  And that’s things get REALLY REALLY good.  

So that’s what we are going to talk about today…pressure.

Pressure (both good and bad) comes from a variety of sources. Let’s talk about a few of those.

1 We think we need to feel pressure in order to make something happen

This kind of pressure comes from an internalized source.  The need to try harder because you don’t feel like you are enough without it.  Feeling like, without putting that pressure on yourself, you won’t do what you think you should.  This internalized pressure comes from a lot of expectations on yourself.  Thinking you should be a certain way or do certain things, and so you put pressure on yourself in order to accomplish those things.  Some internalized pressure can be good.  But it’s not good when we create so much pressure for ourselves to be a certain way because we think THEN we will be enough.  We are always enough.  Can we work to become better? Absolutely.  But we are always enough as we are.

So the way I see this presenting in my clients is that they feel like they have to pressure themselves to be sexual, even when they don’t feel like it, to live up to the expectation of “the good wife.”  This is where duty sex comes in.  But, because the desire to be sexual is not genuine, but comes from duty, it builds resentment in the marriage.  So this internalized pressure backfires and doesn’t make things better, but actually makes things a whole lot worse.  It ends up creating a duty sex dynamic, and then many women also experience a lot of anxiety about sex, trying to live up to this ideal or trying to keep their husband from straying, having an affair, or looking at pornography if they don’t live up to what a “good wife” does sexually.  Doesn’t sound great, right?

2 We think that something is too important or not important enough

Often when we think something is SO important, that puts pressure on us to do it or fix it.  Or, on the flip side, if we believe that someone isn’t putting enough importance on something, then we try to put pressure on them to fix it.

The way I see this playing out in many marriages is this: The husband feels like sex is SO important and doesn’t feel like his wife puts enough importance on it.  So he is constantly pressuring her to fix things because it’s important to him.  He feels like it should be just as important to her as it is to him.  

On the reverse side, I see women thinking that other things are so much more important than their sexual relationship, that they put pressure on their spouse to make other things more of a priority.  For example, I spoke with a woman recently who felt it was very important for her and her husband to be on the same page with life planning and goal setting, and he didn’t want to do that.  This left her feeling stifled and thinking she had married the wrong person.  Because what was important to her wasn’t important to him.  On the flip side, he felt unhappy with their marriage because he didn’t think she cared about his pleasure and happiness.  So both partners were putting pressure on each other to fulfill these desires.  And that pressure, on both sides, didn’t create a happy marriage.

We feel pressure in a relationship when someone wants something from us that we don’t feel ready or capable of giving or that we don’t want altogether.  Often, the other person doesn’t mean to create pressure (although sometimes they do), but it does just because of the way we are thinking about it.  Think back to Mike Peterson and his wife.  He said he wasn’t trying to make her feel pressure or feel like she wasn’t enough, but that is what was being created because he was constantly pushing for sex as a way to validate himself.

I hear from many, many women that they constantly feel the pressure from their husband to not only have sex, but that the sex needs to be a certain way.  They need to be a certain way during sex.  They need to perform during sex.  They need to be what he wants sexually.  They need to orgasm. They need to fulfill him.  And that pressure (whether it is true or not) kills their desire for sex altogether.  And along with feeling that pressure, when we don’t live up to what we know our spouse wants, then we feel inadequate and feel like we aren’t enough.  It’s a bad cycle.

3 We prioritize what is happening in the moment rather than what we want long term 

Pressure often comes from thinking about what needs to be done RIGHT NOW.  We create an internal pressure because of time.  And what we don’t take the TIME to do, is understand our priorities.  Does it really make sense that we can’t be intimate with our spouse because there are dishes that need to be done?  Not really.  But we tend to prioritize whatever is the pressing need in the moment instead of what we want for ourselves long term.  Having a long term vision often releases a lot of the pressure.

4 We are too much in our head and not in our body

In terms of sex, when we are in our head, we become the observer of what is going on instead of an active participant.  We are thinking about ourselves (what we are thinking, what we are feeling, distracted by all the things on our to-do list, wondering about how our body looks, thinking about what he is thinking about us, etc.). This creates an internalized pressure to perform and be a certain way, which takes away from being truly connected and intimate with our spouse and allowing us to feel the pleasure that sex can bring.  Pressure does not equal connection or pleasure.

Instead, if we move into our body and what we are experiencing in it and thinking about loving our spouse and wanting it to be a good experience for both of us, then we are able to have a great sexual experience without the pressure.

So there are the four biggest reasons I see pressure coming from the sexual relationship.  Both internal and external.  And the way to take that pressure off is to release expectations.  You have to take the pressure off of the relationship.  We have this idea that in a relationship we are supposed to meet each other’s needs.  And this sounds really nice, but over the long term, it is a recipe for disaster.  No two people can ever match each other across all areas of existence.  And when we expect that of our spouse that pressure creates more problems in the relationship than it solves.

So how do we fix this? How do we release those expectations?  I suggest sitting down with your spouse and discussing a few areas where you can and are willing to meet each other’s needs.  But you aren’t going to match up in all areas…and sex is usually one that is a difficult one to navigate because within our value system, there aren’t a whole of of choices beyond our spouse, right?  But when we can discuss what we can and are willing to do, within reason, then we can also look at solutions.

For example.  Let’s say the husband wants to have sex three times per week and the wife is willing to work to get herself there mentally and physically once per week.  What happens the other times?  Sure, it would often seem to the husband that the wife should just figure out how to do it three times per week.  But if she is not willing or capable, then what?  I like how Mike mentioned coming to his wife’s side of the bridge.  The husband can meet the wife at her one time per week and then figure out how he wants to handle the other two times per week.  Does he want to be willing to just feel the discomfort?  Is he willing to just cuddle and be intimate without intercourse and orgasm?  Does he want to masturbate?  These are the conversations that we can have as a couple to take the pressure off.  Often times it’s a good idea to look at WHY we want the amount of sex we do and we can look at how we can fulfill that need in other ways.  Episode 128 – The Four Reasons Why We Want Sex is a good one to listen to and can help you figure out why you want the sex you are wanting.

So, going back to the pressure and releasing the expectations.  You have to release your expectations of yourself – that you should be a certain way, that sex should be a certain way.  And also release the expectations of your spouse, that they should be a certain way or do certain things.

All of the expectations and pressures come from our two core fears as humans.

  1. That we are not enough
  2. That our situation, our life, our experience, should be different than it is.

These two core fears are your brain running on it’s default programming.  It makes total sense why your brain does this (to keep you alive and safe) but what we have to question is, is it helpful?  And the answer is usually, no, it is not helpful.  And how do we know this? Because you aren’t getting the results in your life and in your sexual relationship that you truly want.  

In order to get the results that you truly want, you have to override the default programming of your brain and make things more conscious, deliberate, and intentional.  If you want a truly great sexual relationship, you have to drop the expectations and the pressure in order to get it.

Overriding that default programing and being more intentional is what is going to help with all the pressure and this is exactly what we do in coaching.  So if you feel like you are being pressured from your spouse or feel like you are putting too much pressure on yourself and either of those are making it so you aren’t feeling like you want to and creating the life and sexual relationship that you truly want, I want to invite you to come and do a free consultation with me where we can discuss if coaching is the right fit for you.  To book your free consultation go to AmandaLouder.com and there is a form right there on the home page.  Let’s get rid of some of this pressure!

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