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Keeping up with the Joneses: comparison is the thief of arousal!

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“Keeping Up With the Joneses”. Typically when this phrase is used it is describing the need and urge to keep up with your neighbors or others: the toys they have, the cars they drive, the house they live in, the fancy bling they wear, and so forth.

Sex is another area that seems to bring up that same sense of competition. Perhaps you have experienced it? I know I have. Somehow sex is brought up with some friends and people begin to share what they are doing. It’s different than your sex life, in frequency, or style, or enjoyment and it begins a spiral of “should-ing” on yourself.

Here is a scenario that I will use to illustrate exactly what I am talking about. Nora and Addy are friends and both are in monogamous relationships. They are sitting at happy hour catching up and as they become more comfortable, the topic of their relationships come up which also includes their sex lives. Nora boasts that she and her partner are having sex every day and have never gone more than two days without having sex. Addy begins to question her sex life, feeling like something is wrong with her and her partner as they may go a week or two without sex and it seems they have been fine with it, until now as Nora continues to give details. Addy starts to experience feelings of insecurity and wonders if her and her partner should be having more sex, wonders if something is wrong with their sex life.

Not necessarily. Is Addy satisfied? Is her partner satisfied? If both are feeling fulfilled, why is there any reason to change their sex lives? Just because Nora and her partner are having sex more frequently, does not mean Addy needs to. The only ones who determine the kind of sex life they have are the ones having sex together, period. It can be extremely tempting to compare, to feel the need to keep up or surpass, but in the end I can guarantee it will not help. In fact, the motivation to change your sex life being based solely on keeping up with others will only negatively affect your sex life. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy”, and in this instance, “comparison is the thief of arousal”.  Comparison is a sure fire way to ruin any arousal.

So here is a rule of thumb: anytime you find yourself saying “I/we/you should”, I challenge you to ask yourself where this belief came from. Why is it present? Does the belief feel authentic to you or only followed out of feeling the need to fulfill societal expectations?  “Should-ing” on ourselves is damaging and unproductive.

Rather than basing the kind of sex or the frequency of sex you have on others’ sex lives- the Joneses- sit with yourself. Get quiet. Ask what works for you. Ask yourself if you are thriving in your sex life. Is there anything that could use some sprucing up? Then share these questions and answers with your partner. Ask them what is right for them and your relationship. Let your needs and desires gauge this. Allow for communication between you and your partner using this as an opportunity to check-in with one another and make adjustments if necessary. Ultimately, focus on creating the sex life that you desire and deserve!

Need help with starting this conversation? Feel free to connect with me, I would be honored to help.


Until next time,



headshotAbout the Author:

Dr. Lily A. Zehner, MFT-C is a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. Her private practice is located in Denver where she helps others reach their fullest relational and sexual potential. To learn more about her and her services, please feel free to take a look around her website.




About the Author