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David Schnarch, Ph.D. is co-director of the Marriage & Family Health Center. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, world-renown sex and marital therapist, and international best-selling author. He is a[…]

For thousands of years people have been looking to beat the system. Don’t bother.

Question: Are aphrodisiacs like chocolate and oysters a myth?

David Schnarch: If you take a look at the earliest cuneiform tablets you will find that people were looking for aphrodisiacs way back when. Nobody has really found one. All the drug companies now want to be the first and they’re using the miracle of modern science to try to come up with something. I think if you like chocolate and you eat chocolate you’re probably going to be happier when you’re having sex, but no, there is no way to overpower the human brain and that is why people have been looking for aphrodisiacs. For thousands of years people have been looking to beat the system somehow. In the new book that we published, "Intimacy and Desire," the whole first part of the book is about a fact that it’s stunning because it’s true all around the world and nobody pays attention to it and that’s the idea that the low desire partner always controls sex, not because they’re mean, not because they’re withholding. It’s simply after awhile the high desire partner makes all the initiations, low desire partner decides which one they’ll accept and that gives the low desire partner de facto control of sex and that’s why people want aphrodisiacs. They want to beat the system. They want to find a way to make that low desire want sex when they really don’t, so instead of an aphrodisiac being nice to your partner works a lot better okay and that is tough in marriage and dealing with things like the low desire partner always controls sex and in half the couples we see it’s the man. So the stereotype of "it’s the woman who is going to be the low desire partner and the man is going to be the high desire partner," that’s simply not the case. This is not gender specific, but couples where the man is the low desire partner that’s tough for the man and the woman because it goes against gender roles, but the whole idea of just it pays to be nice to your partner, then you don’t have to buy them candy. You are the sweet in their life. You can’t just do that for Valentine’s Day or for any of the holidays or simply for their birthday. Traveling doesn’t help. A lot of people think if we go on vacation that is going to do it and the pressure is enormous when people go on vacation to have sex, so my suggestion to your colleague who was interested in aphrodisiacs: you’re playing with a system a lot bigger than you that’s been refined over countless hundreds of thousands if not millions of couples and so it’s worked out that you have to learn to be able to stand on your own two feet. You have to not take what your partner is always doing personally. You have to not over react and you have to go through tough times and those are the kinds of things that really instill long term passion.

Recorded on January 29, 2010