All couples who have a physically intimate relationship are likely to experience peaks and troughs in their sex lives. Like other aspects of any relationship which ebb and flow, this may not be a serious concern. But when sexual issues begin to negatively impact the relationship, it may be time to consult with a licensed psychologist who is also certified as sex therapist.
Left unattended to, these issues may create friction or lead to resentment which can destroy an otherwise good relationship.
If you recognize any of the following warning signs in your own situation, sex therapy is indicated, and could be the key to saving your relationship:
1. DISCUSSING SEX LEADS TO ARGUMENTS:
If discussing sex leads to arguments, you and your partner are unable or have lost the ability to work together on overcoming roadblocks to a good sex life. Try as you may to approach the subject, attempting to discuss it only seems to make things worse. This often leaves one or both of you feeling guilty, accused, or inadequate (and very few people feel sexy that way). Left unattended, these feeling will undermine even the strongest relationships.
A skilled, experienced psychologist with expertise in sex therapy will be able to help you develop the skills to overcome the roadblocks which have you from communicating your way to a better sex life.
2. SEX FEELS LIKE AN UNAPPEALING OBLIGATION:
While at the start of your relationship sex may have felt exciting and enjoyable, it has now lost that appeal. In some cases, it feels like an obligation that one or both of you actively try to avoid and in other cases, sex may have never felt appealing.
You had hoped that in time you would come to enjoy it more, but that has not happened, and things may even have gotten worse. If left unchecked, the frustration and resentment created by this dynamic can lead to a crisis in the overall relationship.
Discomfort with sexual involvement is far more common than many imagine. Long established sex therapy techniques have proven effective in helping many people to overcome their fears, anxieties and discomfort with sexual activity.
3. ONE OF YOU WANTS IT A LOT MORE THAN THE OTHER:
This is called Discordant Sexual Desire, which basically means that you and your partner have different levels of appetite for sex. Just like our appetite for food, sexual appetite varies from person to person.
With a skilled sex therapist the partner with the lower level of sexual desire develops the ability to take pleasure from satisfying their partner’s sexual needs, while the partner with the higher level of sexual desire learns that their partner’s lower desire does not mean that they don’t find them sexy.
4. I’M NOT INTO THAT ANYMORE:
As odd as it may sound, experts, such as Dr. Lisa Diamond, have found that sexual interests are “fluid” meaning that they tend to change over time and may vary in different situations. So a couple may begin feeling very stimulated by a particular interest and in time it may become less interesting to one or both of them.
Sex therapy helps couples who face that dilemma develop and incorporate new interests. And the very good news is that that ability to use sexual fluidity to enhance one’s sex life can last a lifetime, and helps a couple maintain a robust sex life over the course of their lifetimes.
5. TIRED OF THE SAME OLE SAME OLE:
Some people find routine and familiarity comforting, but for many according to Dr. Jack Morin, novelty and uncertainty are tremendously erotic. The thrill of being with a new partner may wane, and people may fall into a routine which tends to feel unexciting and bland.
In fact, typically couples will in the beginning of the relationship test different ideas with their partner, but if their partner seems uninterested they scratch it off the list of possibilities. As a result instead of their sex life expanding over the course of time, the repertoire becomes narrow. It’s about as exciting as knowing that you will have boiled chicken for dinner every day.
Sex therapy can help people develop comfort with trying new things in bed. Keeping with the food analogy, it becomes more like developing your cooking skills allow you to try new and different recipes with confidence. In fact, as any good cook would tell you, in time you don’t need a recipe at all!
6. THAT’S TOO FREAKY FOR ME:
This is a common complaint when one partner has a particular “kink” or interest that the other doesn’t share. The flip side of that is when one person has an interest, particularly a fetish or some form of bondage and dominance, and they report that they would never want to do that with someone they are close to because they have “respect” them.
This is akin to what in the old days was referred to as the “Madonna-Whore complex.” In sex therapy people learn to become comfortable sharing their interests with their partners, and partners who are initially uninterested often become thrilled with how they can turn on their partner. So what starts out as “too freaky” often becomes lots of fun.
7. THE MORE WE TRY TO FIX IT, THE WORSE IT GETS:
This is a typical complaint of people not only who seek sex therapy, but almost any form of psychotherapy. Basically, we all try to take care of problems without consulting an expert.
For example, you might not consult a specialist for a headache, you would try to take care of it with remedies that you are familiar with such as aspirin, or ibuprofen. But if doing whatever you can think of gives you no relief or only seems to make things worse, you probably should consult an expert.
This is especially true when it comes to sex. People will become so discouraged by repeatedly negative experiences that they stop even attempting to have sex.
The skilled sex therapist can evaluate the problem, and will often provide “homework assignments” tailor made to your wishes and fears.
In most cases people who had long abandoned the hope of being able to enjoy sex, find themselves not only beginning to enjoy it, but ask themselves: “Why did I wait so long to get help with this?”
8. OPENING THINGS UP ONLY SHUT US DOWN:
Many people in sexually exclusive relationships will try to address the problem of diminishing sexual satisfaction in the relationship by “opening up” the relationship by inviting others to join one or both of them in sex.
Often people will consult me having done this to find out that it pulled them further apart rather than fixing their sexual concerns. The problem isn’t that opening up the relationship was necessarily a bad idea, the problem is that the couple never had the chance to take on the sexual problems between them, so the addition of others does no good.
In my practice I often ask people in that situation to temporarily suspend other involvements and we work directly on their sex life together. Once that is in order the couple is free to be exclusive or non-exclusive as they please.
If you can say “that’s me” (or us) in any of the above scenarios then chances are a consultation with a sex therapist like me will set you on a much better path. If you're ready to discuss your situation, I am a sex and couples therapist in the New York City metro. You can reach me at 212-242-2219 for a consultation to see if working together is the best next step for your life.