515QFm-O73L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_When we begin a new relationship, we are usually in that “honeymoon” phase where our baseline sexuality is elevated for a good three to six months, perhaps a year at most. After that, we go back to our normal “sexual style”.

Dr. Barry McCarthy and his wife, Emily posit that there are four basic sexual styles, each with their own set of benefits and caveats. The four styles are:

  • Complementary
  • Traditional
  • Soul Mate
  • Emotionally Expressive

Complementary is the most common style. Each partner may initiate, refuse an advance or suggest an alternative. The benefits are a blend of intimacy and eroticism. The shadow side is the couple may fall into routine.

Traditional is more the stereotypical masculine/feminine (which may exist in couples of all sexual preferences). The masculine initiates sexuality, the feminine initiates intimacy and affection. This is a stable sexual style, no big surprises or drama. The down side is the rigidity. What happens as an aging masculine can no longer perform as dictated? What happens when something disrupts the status quo in either sexuality or intimacy?

Soul Mate is the sexual style of best friends. It establishes a secure bond that blends the secure attachment of an all-accepting best friend with the excitement of the lover. The caveat is that the couple may become so familiar with each other that the “friends” dominates and the relationship becomes neutered or de-eroticized.

Emotionally Expressive is the most erotic and unpredictable style.  Couples use sex to heal emotional conflicts and have high intensity. The shadow side is that eroticism may override the need for intimacy and that the intensity and drama often involved may burn out the couple.


I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in these sexual styles. Have you experienced them? Has your style shifted over time or over different relationships?


Dr. Adam Sheck