couple in grass

A sexual frequency difference is a stubborn problem in couples pledged to monogamy.  Fun and games are the opposite of the serious deadlock when you’ve been fighting over something so intimate with someone so unfeeling.  But game theory can help solve the problem.  Play this game:

For years, my husband has run training groups for people interested in how they might be getting in their own way to block their goals, growth and happiness.  He has the group do an exercise based on game theory called Red/Black.  The rules are explained to the group as a whole; the objective is to get the most points for your team.  Then the group is divided into two, one side going downstairs and the other side staying upstairs.  For 16 times, you can either vote Red or vote Black. Points are garnered in this way.

Vote Red; if the other side votes Red:         you get 0 pts, the other side gets 0 pts

Vote Red, if the other side votes Black:       you get 30 pts, the other side gets 0 pts

Vote Black, if the other side votes Red:       you get 0 pts, the other side gets 30 pts

Vote Black, if the other side votes Black:    you get 15 pts, the other side gets 15 pts

Ready, GO!! At first, it’s a no-brainer – vote Red! The groups experiment with their vote in order to learn the psychology of the other side.   Often both sides vote Red at first.  Self-preservation rules the day, but nobody wins much.

But then, maybe the upstairs side votes Black.  Downstairs, much cheering and rejoicing is heard against their Red vote.  Another Black versus Red vote – downstairs continues to cheer.  If the upstairs continues with a black vote in the face of a red vote, the downstairs starts to ponder what is happening.

The folks upstairs are idiots, they theorize.  The folks upstairs are sacrificial, they wonder.  The folks upstairs are sending a message, they conclude.

The folks upstairs have decided that their TEAM is both sides.  The only way for all of them to have the most points is for both sides to vote Black.  The only way to send the message is to continue to vote Black

In marriage, we have to decide – who is our team?  Who is US? Marital happiness occurs when we create a “couple’s mindset.”  A Couple’s Mind cares about both parties needs over and above their own.  A Couple’s Mind seeks for ways that both people can be happy. Fear and selfishness are the opposite of having a Couple’s Mind. Therapy brings in people who have voted Red in their marriage and have a zero sum game.

I am amazed when one party in the marriage declares, “I would be content to never have sex again,” while their partner is clearly unhappy with this verdict.  How can either side be happy about a decision if the same decision makes their partner very unhappy?  Vice versa, one spouse will say that they must have sex every day while their partner feels overwhelmed, under-helped, and not cared about.

One spouse will argue to me,  “Sure, in the beginning, I was seductive, but my partner kept saying no to sex.  So over time, it seemed like wasted effort and I gave up.”  Translation in game theory, “I voted Black in the beginning and my spouse kept on voting Red,”  Or, “My partner is selfish.”  Maybe it sounds like this: “The more sex I gave, the more sex my partner took, but stopped paying attention to the way I needed love,” ie, “I don’t dare vote Black.”

But what do we do when the issue is sex and the problem is one wants it and the other doesn’t.  Should we sacrifice our sex life and cave into the other’s platonic ideal?  Should we just “lie there and think of England” to make our more sexual partner happy? (probably won’t make them happy – I might add)  Should we take turns – okay, one time we won’t do it and one time we will?  Uhg, sounds dreadfully unerotic.

Some people are truly married to narcissists who take, take, take and probably will never give back.  But most of us give up too easily.  We are married to people just about as selfish as we are, also giving and loving and wanting the marriage to work.  There’s only one way to send the message – Vote Black.  Care more about the marriage than just what you want.  When you want something, consider how it impacts your spouse.

Ideas for Voting Black on Sexual Differences 

Lower desire spouses:

1)   Cultivate your own erotic core so that you heat up inside

2)   Resolve conflicts so that sex gets unsnagged from the power struggle

3)   Initiate sex on one day a week that you have planned without alerting your partner ahead of time (Midnight Black Vote!)

4)   Be true to your word regarding sex.

5)   If sex is top your partner’s list, make it top of yours.

6)   Make every decision with respect to your Couple’s Mind

Higher desire spouses:

1)   Become a masterful seducer – (I know you used to be – Vote Black again!)

2)    Accept a “no” with grace and don’t pout.

3)   Ask when you feel horny not because you believe you need to keep asking to get any result.

4)   Tolerate small efforts at change.

5)   Meet your partner’s stated needs within your power that are not sexual.

6)   Make every decision with respect to your Couple’s Mind


Follow Laurie Watson on Facebook and Twitter!  Laurie’s book Wanting Sex Again is available on Amazon, Kindle and Barnes and Noble!


  1. Would love to know examples from your readers of times they’ve voted black in the face of a partner red vote. 

  2. Eileen says:

    This is so true.  It falls in line with doing things with not expecting anything in return.

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