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October 8th, 2010
10:47 AM ET

Thrill seekers vs. comfort creatures: Sexual compatibility

I have a confession: I may be a sex therapist, but my own sex life is pretty ordinary. Don’t get me wrong—my relationship with my wife is amazing. But if you think my line of work automatically means that we like to visit swingers' clubs or have mirrors on the ceiling of our bedroom, think again. Sexually speaking, my wife and I are both “comfort creatures,” and that suits us just fine.

We’re not alone. In my experience, there are two types of people when it comes to sex: comfort creatures and thrill seekers. The former tend to prefer to keep sex within the comfort of their own homes, with one partner, sticking to a few tried and true positions and routines. And as the name suggests, thrill seekers are just the opposite. They want new positions and toys, different partners or locations, and more sex. In general, a couple made up of two comfort creatures or two thrill seekers has it easy:  They’re on the same page, sexually.

But what happens when a comfort creature falls for a thrill seeker, or vice versa?

It’s more common than you think, but most couples don’t realize that they’re mismatched until much further along in their relationship. That’s because, in the beginning, you’ve both been hijacked by a potent neurochemical cocktail of “infatuation hormones” that’s responsible for your constant canoodling—and that masks any differences in the bedroom. You’re so busy getting busy that you probably won’t notice potential sexual incompatibility until your infatuation starts to wane.

These hormones can also mask other differences in a relationship, from how often you like to have sex to whether or not you enjoy public displays of affection. According to Psychology Today, one factor that may prove unifying or divisive to a couple is the degree to which their nervous systems are naturally inclined to pursue novel and stimulating experiences. Says Marvin Zuckerman, a psychologist at the University of Delaware: "A person's inherent need for sensation is not necessarily obvious in the early stages of a relationship, when love itself is a novelty and carries its own thrills– It's when the sex becomes routine that problems occur."

Sexual incompatibility can have a real impact on your relationship. Maybe you crave sex every day, but your partner is perfectly content with doing it once a month. Perhaps your significant other loves to talk about sex, while the very word makes you blush. Are you destined to break up?

Not necessarily. The brain is our biggest and most powerful sex organ, and it’s completely possible for sexually incompatible couples to have very compatible relationships. The key to success is communication: Talk with your partner about your sex life, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, and agree to make some compromises. Comfort creatures can venture out of their shells a bit, and thrill seekers can focus on the benefits within their existing relationship.

One fun way to do this? Take a tip from a recent study at the University of British Columbia and harness the power of fantasy. Researchers found that longtime couples were best able to rekindle romance by pretending they were strangers on a first date. So experiment with wigs and different outfits, assume an alias, and meet your partner at a local restaurant or bar for a rendezvous. You’ll get variety and safety—and a hot new way to compromise.

Ian Kerner is a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.


soundoff (264 Responses)
  1. Scot

    When you are young and have a rockin body we are thrill seekers, when we are older and not so rockin hot we hide for comfort.

    October 8, 2010 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. dm

    RabiaDiluvio
    We all have different experiences. When I was married only 10 years, life was sweet and I experience what you describe in your post. You are not wrong. But it is from a young person's point of view when things are still rocking. Please email me in 23 years and share your point of view then. My guess is you lkely won't be married 23 years from now.

    October 8, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RabiaDiluvio

      dm

      Life is not "rocking" at my age, thanks, but we do well. Your prediction may be true if only for my age. I will be happy at that age if I am not in a nursing home. lol! My point was only to tell you that you are projecting. Your experience is not my experience and it is not the norm you would like to think it is. Men can grow cold also–there is a reason why so many vibrators and clitoral stimulators are sold to housewives. There can be a lot of stress in a marriage/relationship, but there can be a lot of joy. (I was with my current spouse for almost a decade before we married, so I am almost at the 23 year mark all together) Again, I am sad for you, but my union with my spouse is deeply loving and spiritual on top of being hotter than a tamale physically. We have been through HELL as a couple with children (lost everything twice over) and we have seen a lot of adversity, but we have a deep camaraderie that has already seen its test many times over. We are each other's life raft, cathedral and home. You will have to pardon me for not sharing your cynicism about my life.

      October 8, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
  3. Reflections

    OK, here is a twist on the wig bit. I wore a “wig” hair piece. And my late wife never got tired of saying how terrific it was (when I took my rug off ) that she had TWO men in her life.
    Oh, she was more woman than I could ever handle and I will always be saddened that I felt I could not fulfill her needs.

    Nevertheless, on a birthday card she once gave me was penned the following:

    “Together- to share each other, to share our time, our minds, our ideas our dreams, ourselves. To lie close together, to touch and fondle , to hold and kiss, to make gentle love, to make deep love, for you to drive me to the depths that only I know, and then relax and feel close in our fulfillment and satisfaction. All of these things make our relationship something special .......................”

    Could a man ask for more ?

    October 8, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. xstongue

    I was in lust for 28 yrs and then all of a sudden I woke the hell up. I am trying to start a "stoning" group here in America sign up today.

    October 8, 2010 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. The bitter truth

    The bitter truth is that most men are not good in foreplay and in bed. They don't know how to touch a woman's body and make her beg for it within three minutes, they don't know know how to move for the most enjoyment during sex. THAT is the stuff that makes a woman want a man very often, after she's been with him for a long time and the 'newness' and infatuation has worn off.
    And THAT is the stuff we often don't say anything about because we don't want to hurt his feelings. Plus, it's difficult to patiently show this stuff to a man who thinks he's wonderful, feels no need to learn more, and doesn't even suspect he may not be God's gift. It takes sensuality and a real desire to please and excite the woman, and the humility to think 'maybe I can be even better...'.
    A woman who knows her man CAN turn her on within a few minutes with his exquisite touch, doesn't mind that she's tired- she knows she can just let herself get turned on by him...and this certainty (that he knows well how to handle her body and the pleasure she will feel) is what makes her want him all the time....

    October 8, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The Bitter Bitter Truth

      You state that most men are not good in bed or in foreplay, but at the same time you state you can't be bothered to tell them what you like or how, "because we don't want to hurt their feelings." If you are old enough to be having sex you are old enough to grow the heck up. It sounds like your experiences have been less than satisfactory... because of you.

      And that is the bitter, bitter truth.

      Now grow up.

      October 8, 2010 at 19:13 | Report abuse |
    • FreeSpiritGal

      You have spoken the TRUTH! I wish there was a way to communicate to a man about what you described (precisely) without hurting his feelings! There's so much ego to deal with that anything other than "you are the best man I ever had" is taken as "gasp, I will never be able to please her... OK, now I can't even get an erection; I can't perform when a woman gives me instructions; I am no good; or, she is no good".

      October 8, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      Wow. When I was young, I was afraid to be open and honest about what I needed/liked/disliked in terms of sex because I didn't want to hurt my partner's feelings. But you can discuss these things without being critical and crushing the poor guy's ego. I've discovered that pretty much if you can't discuss these things with a guy, you probably shouldn't be wasting your time having sex with him. Many men appreciate it when a woman helps them out in this category.. I've actually had the sneaky feeling that this is why so many young guys hit on an older woman (ie. because rightly or wrongly they think we are confident enough and comfortable enough with our sexuality to actually discuss these things with them).

      The biggest thing I've noticed is that people tend to assume that what one partner thinks is the greatest thing ever will be just as great with anyone else they try it on.. and don't realize that it can leave somebody else entirely cold.. or even be a major turn off. I don't know if you can teach somebody to be a great lover.. but you can definitely teach somebody to be a great lover for you and hopefully the communication skills to be a better lover in general.

      October 8, 2010 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
  6. FreeSpiritGal

    This article is just two-dimensional. Black n' white. How boring. Not all, but most people are more complicated. There's infinitely more to sexuality and expressing it in a relationship... or expressing a relationship through sexuality and taking both even deeper. If you are open-minded, read up on Kama Sutra. Some people refer to it as Tantra, but this is very misleading – a confusion created by Western translators. Tantra is deeper than Kama Sutra; Tantra is a spiritual practice. Anyway, there's plenty of information on Kama Sutra on the internet if you are curious. Cheers!

    October 8, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. dm

    RabiaDiluvio
    You are indeed a lucky soul and have a great strength. thanks for your comment. You are don't something right and should write a book so the unfortunates out there like myself can read and learn.

    I wish you all the best. Just remember after menopause life will change for you both and when things are not so rocking and sweet and the years go by, just remember to mind your words and live by them. You should print your message and keep it in a safe place and when things start going sideways in another 10 years, bring it out and reread it so you don't become like me for God sake, somebody will have to set you straight. All the best with your spouse. Cheers

    October 8, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Deepwater805

    Recently my girlfriend, out of the blue, asked me, "Do you ever cheat on me"? Without hesitaiton, I replied, "All the time, baby". Then I noticed the shocked look on her face, and said, "oh...you mean with other people...."

    October 8, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Karen Saucedo

    I think this is a bit simplistic. I have found throughout my life that the "type" I am is dictated by where I'm at in my life...what is happening, and who I'm with. I also have to assume that the sex of the individual male/female plays a part in this as we do operate differently in some ways. I recall the thrill of the hunt and initial encounters and I also recall fondly the married sex and the comfort of knowing this person is waiting for you at home and waking up and saying "hey, I think we did it in our sleep last night...." Good sex runs the gamut. But, it starts with self awareness, and a desire to be fulfilled and to fulfill. As for menopause, I'm 55. If you have always been self-aware, take good care of yourself, and are SENSUALLY aware...very important...you can continue on. Life is a journey. Journeys don't have the same thing around every corner. Doesn't mean it can't all be good.

    October 8, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Bitter and more bitter

    I tried to suggest new and improved things for the husband and I to try many, many times and I got the "my other girlfriends never needed that" sort of response. Um......and they left you didn't they? And, now I'm leaving him too. I was always trying to spice it up. My porn collection was bigger than HIS (he had none)...sadly, it was all for nothing and now I'm the one out hunting. (and having oodles of fun at 41)

    October 8, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. dm

    The article recommends talking to your partner about your sexual needs. She is comfort and you are thrill seeker. From experience, guys don't do this. She will for the rest of your life think you are a sexual deviant and pervert. Its tempting to talk but women remember this stuff much longer than men. She will think less of you and a bad situation will become worse. Do you remember all the good ideas Dr Spock had for raising kids? Today we blame a lot of problems on his advice. If you start yapping about the BJ you want she will think you don't love her and its all about sex. and see you as disgusting. I'm not saying all women will react this way, but its risky, because you don't know how she will react. If she wasn't doing it before there was a reason. Younger women are different, as they are starting to think like men, boy do I wish I was young again, but for you older guys, these women can't even say the word BJ without wanting to call the police on you. Women want to think that they are the only person in the world that you can get an erection with because you love them. once you prick this bubble your sex life is down hill all the way, again unless she is 26 and part of the new generation of sexual attitudes. Once this genie is out of the bottle there is no putting him back. The next day she will be looking at you like your are a pervert like all the other men out there who only think about sex.

    October 8, 2010 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Aloisae

      Again.. your experience is not universal. You are not an expert on women over 40, let alone women in general.

      Many women become more confident talking about sex as they grow older and more able to communicate what they like and more adventurous in exploring what their partner enjoys.. and some become less willing to do so because of how a partner reacts or has reacted to such discussions.. or they just have given up talking about it with a particular partner because when he "discusses" such things it is all about what he likes and wants and not about what they might enjoy together or what she might want and he goes into a snit if he doesn't get his way.

      You are probably correct in that some people might never be very open or adventurous or able to talk about such things.. but that isn't a generalization that can be applied to everyone or everyone in any particular age group. I

      f you have trouble with these kind of discussions with a particular woman you might want to consider analyzing how you discuss it... just like women tend to have to be careful in how we bring up things that a guy could take as criticism in the sex department, so should men be if they want a positive response. And it tends to help to remember that sex with a partner is just that.. with the partner... and sometimes the answer is going to be "no" to something or "not yet" and she might have some good reasons for this which you may or may not be able to find a solution to. Believe it or not this goes both ways to and guys really do nix a lot of female fantasies too.

      Oh.. and we realize we are not the only person in the world that can give you an erection. At times we even really, really appreciate the benefits regardless of the inspiration (in fact, I'll do my own generalizing here based on discussions with female friends and say younger women are likely to be less practical about such things concerning male biology). If, however, the relationship is supposed to be a monogamous relationship, the hope is usually that you won't be satisfying that erection with other women and, yes, guys aren't the only ones who get angry if they find out their partner has been deceiving them on that score.

      October 8, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
  12. 3some

    Yep – just like my husband looked at me like I was a pervert for suggesting a 3 some. What man turns down a 3 some?

    October 8, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lady GooGoo

      Probably because you were suggesting adding another man to the party?

      October 9, 2010 at 02:14 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      A bad....bad man. That just makes me angry. lol

      October 14, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
  13. dm

    Again people, about this thrill stuff and talking about your needs. Just remember a few short years ago something now known as anal sex was called sodomy and got you 11 years in jail. My how things change?? Now you surf the internet and adds flick up with thrill seeking sex that used to get you 11 years in jail. Again, younger people go ahead and talk because you don't remember this and your mothers certainly won't tell you what she told your father when he asked for a BJ. There marriage went south and he was in the doghouse for the next 20 years

    October 8, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. dm

    3some
    you must be 26

    October 8, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Al Gore's therapist

    Perverts

    October 8, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. dm

    Al Gore's therapist

    The truth is the world is run by oversexed men, whether it is al gore, bill clinton, trudeau, etc. and sport stars are the same, Wilt Chamberlain slept with 10,000 women they say. Tiger Woods, the Italian premier, the French president, Donald Trump etc.etc The men with a lot of testosterone rule the world. the guys without this drive can't get out of bed or don't have the ambition to succeed in the same way. Not saying its bad, but its true. Don't take my word for it, just read the news and study history. All thru history the same story. Strong leaders were not wimpy men, nothing wrong with wimpy men, I'm one, but its the way the world works. Go back a bit in history and the men with power had harems, a 1000 women.

    You should have a lot of business if you go to Washington.

    October 8, 2010 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      Did it change when women could have their own jobs? or was that mainly because women were basically forced to be dependent on males? What a dog's life.

      October 9, 2010 at 08:19 | Report abuse |
  17. NormalGuy

    My wife and I sometimes fantasize about her being gang-banged. That usually gets both of us going. Strange but true.

    October 8, 2010 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • maria

      my husband gets turned on by my sex stories, I was a wild girl. We both get horny over how bad I was.

      October 8, 2010 at 22:50 | Report abuse |
  18. Dawn

    Having your wig pulled just isn't the same...

    October 8, 2010 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Ha ha....best comment of them all.

      October 14, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
  19. Cody

    Wow look at all those people commenting on sex and thrill

    October 8, 2010 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Lady GooGoo

    There is more than one way to wear a wig. But after all that pretending you'll find yourself putting your bait in the same fishing hole.

    October 9, 2010 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Bad Patient

    That's just it...good to know people for a long time before you get involved in these things. Even if you have pretty strict rules about not sleeping with people unless you are married to them...and waiting years to decide to get married...you can still end up with surprises. But, I'm not convinced some people even know themselves well enough to explain it to someone else. People with ED don't seem to be very tuned to their own bodies and if you married someone that has it (before drugs, but even after if it's not a great drug for them), it could be quite different than you expected. It would be a lot less trauma to know up front, but some people simply aren't [not sure what the word is here] to be able to explain it. Sometimes they think it's your fault. (They think the reason they aren't interested is because you are making them mad...but it never really makes sense why they are mad. More like they can't figure it out themselves...or if they know, they don't want to admit it to either themselves or you. It's heartbreaking...to the point of wanting to kill yourself.) Talking about it is good, but I am not convinced that it's going to get some people where they need to be.

    October 9, 2010 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      It has two sides. If the guy really loves the woman, and he doesn't understand his own body, but thinks it's her fault (it's not) then the woman feels suicidal. If the guy is honest up front and the woman has any aspirations of having intimate relationships...she may not want to get involved in that relationship...then the guy might be suicidal. It's not a nice problem.

      Knowing up front would help people make those decisions, but if you wait until you get married, it just seems unlikely to me that people are going to be that well informed...but maybe more is known now than years ago. i still tend to think the guy might lie anyway...to preserve what he wants in life and thinking that he is not harming the woman. It is harmful though. so...the whole thing has problems. Especially for the comfort types...they wouldn't have much interest in toys, multiple partners, or any of that. so...not much for options.

      October 9, 2010 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
    • Bad Patient

      Life is always strange...that's the only thing I know for sure. Nothing ever works the way people say. You can try so hard to be good...doesn't matter...life is just going to throw something stranger at you. I give up.

      October 9, 2010 at 08:25 | Report abuse |
  22. marco mauas

    Comfort: pleasure principle. Thrill: beyond pleasure principle.
    These two axis are intertwined. Freud discovered that human pleasure is combined with its beyond. This was contrary to Kant assertions on Law and punishment as primary. A human being may choose a specific sexual pleasure because punishment is a part of it, even death: there are males who seek HIV positive prostitutes. "Thrill" is a field with borders. One of its borders is death. Freud recognized the border and discovered Death Drive.

    October 9, 2010 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. marco mauas

    Comfort: pleasure principle. Thrill: beyond pleasure principle.
    These two axis are intertwined. Freud discovered that human pleasure is combined with its beyond. This was contrary to Kant assertions on Law and punishment as primary. A human being may choose a specific sexual pleasure because punishment is a part of it, even death: there are males who seek HIV positive prostitutes. "Thrill" is a field with borders. One of its borders is death. Freud recognized the border and discovered Death Drive. It is a realist discovery.

    October 9, 2010 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Emma

    To reflections. (Oct. 8, 2010 at 18:02 ) I scanned down the page hoping to find some response to your post.

    My guy is bald. If he ever gets a hair piece, I’m going to use your wife’s line....

    “OK, here is a twist on the wig bit. I wore a “wig” hair piece. And my late wife never got tired of saying how terrific it was (when I took my rug off ) that she had TWO men in her life.”

    On my guys next birthday I’m going to use the message your wife wrote to you.

    “Together- to share each other, to share our time, our minds, our ideas our dreams, ourselves. To lie close together, to touch and fondle , to hold and kiss, to make gentle love, to make deep love, for you to drive me to the depths that only I know, and then relax and feel close in our fulfillment and satisfaction. All of these things make our relationship something special .......................”

    Thrills ? Yes, sure ! But “to make gentle love, to make deep love.” Fabulous !!!!!

    October 9, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. 3some

    I am a 41 yr old professional and I was suggesting a female....for him and for me. :-)

    October 9, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SeaFurther

      I have long tried something similar with my girl friend of 8 years but was more interested in her having a two some with another man. As long as the guy does not try to destroy our relationship I am ok with it. I am the same age as you but male. I am extremely sexual but don't have the size and stamina that she says she needs. Even though she tells me I am too small she still tells me my idea makes me a total freak.

      October 13, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
  26. Dangerpotholes

    Odaiss you are not the only one that pulled off that car ride stunt. Dam ...it works! Just be creative people. Good things come (cum) to those that partipate. Be playful and safe.

    October 9, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. xtd

    clean pussy and dick...healthy sex life.hahaha

    October 10, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Lilly schonell

    It's really great dating tips for me. I always find this type of dating tips on net. Once i visit http://www.findadultswingers.com for dating fun and it's really amazing for me.

    October 14, 2010 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Well, Lilly if you are a real person and not a bot, I wish you could talk to my wife for me. She is definitely the comfort person and I am the thrill seeker. Anytime I have even hinted at something other than sex in the bedroom, missionary etc etc she things I am crazy. I realized that we were incompatible sexually after we already lived together, had debt together etc. I don't think she'll go for the wig either. ha ha

      October 14, 2010 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
  29. H.E.D.

    Out of all the comments on here I have yet to see anything on a Comfort-Thrill Creature (I came up with the name.) I myself am one and so is my fiancee, it's the mix between the two "Comfort Creature" and "Thrill Seeker". I like being passionate and being in the comfort of my own home, getting real sensitive and soul touching not doing anything wild and/or crazy.. but I also enjoy being wild and crazy and fun. Examples: Doing it in the parking lot of a store; Doing it where we could get caught to make it intense; Light handcuffing to the bed; and stuff like that.

    I'm just wondering if we are the only ones like this, I don't believe so but then again neither one of us ever really did fit into any one category for anything so it wouldn't surprise me if we are the only ones.

    If anyone else is like this let me know if you don't mind.. Just say "I" if you don't want to put too much detail, just so I can have a tally that I am or am not part of a rare group of people (would also be helpful for others who have this question).

    April 13, 2014 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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