As I continually work with couples on improving their sex lives, one concern I hear frequently is, “Are we having the normal amount of sex?” They worry that if they are having less sex than they did at other points in the relationship, that maybe their sex life is getting worse. The reality is, the number of times you are your partner have sex, isn’t the most valuable information about whether or not you have a high-quality sex life. It is very natural for the quantity of sex to eb and flow throughout a lifetime together. Here are some perfectly normal times to see some changes in the frequency, and perhaps quality of your sex with your partner:
Pregnancy: Though there are some changes in the body during pregnancy that can make sex more enjoyable for women, there are certainly some changes that do not. Some women report that fatigue and sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy, make them feel less sexual desire. Typically, women report the most enjoyable sex during their second trimester of pregnancy. During the third trimester, it is a fight for space in the female body! Additionally, after baby comes, there is no sex at all for at least 6 weeks.
Death and Grieving: Some people report that when they are grieving the loss of a loving one, they feel less desire to be sexually intimate. That being said, some don’t feel that way at all. You shouldn’t feel weird or guilty if you still do have a desire for sex after the death of a loved one. All of these responses fall under the normal umbrella.
Illness: Most people don’t feel like being sexually intimate when they are sick. When our bodies are fighting off illness, survival takes precedence over procreation. Luckily, illness usually only influences our sex lives for a week or so. However, when chronic illness is involved this can take a toll on a relationship. When a partner has cancer, or dementia, or kidney failure, sex becomes one of the last priorities, though sex can still be missed and longed for by both partners.
Distance: This one is obvious… You can’t have sex when you are miles apart. Many couples have to spend time apart due to work, deployments, etc. In these cases, couples should have a plan for how they will maintain intimacy and connection during the time apart.
Depression and Anxiety: Mental health issues can certainly influence sex. Specifically, anxiety and depression, somewhat highjack the mechanisms in the brain and nervous systems that influence our sexual reactivity and receptivity. With professional help and treatment of the illness, these concerns can be resolved or better managed, and couples can learn to have functioning sexual relationships.
Stress and Fatigue: Stress also interferes with some of the biological mechanisms that influence sexual receptivity. When our bloodstream is raging with the stress hormone Cortisol, our nervous system is not typically apt to engage in sex. High levels of fatigue can also decrease desire. You may be noticing a pattern. There is an order of operations in the body; survival first, everything else after. Since sex is not essential for survival, but sleep is, the body will prioritize accordingly.
These certainly aren’t all the reason sex may struggle in a marriage. They are however, some of the big ones. Men and women all report times when sex wains. There are stereotypes that men always want to have sex and that women are always the ones turn men down. That’ s simply not true. Men and women,though different, have many sexual similarities. For help with your sexual relationship, schedule an appointment today.
I often hear stories from men and women who discover their partner has sexual secrets. Sometimes those secrets involve pornography, sometimes they involve infidelity, sometimes they involve fantasy or sexual preferences. The individuals who share these stories with me often feel betrayed because the expectations they had about the sexual agreements within their relationship were not kept. The first problem to address is that most of the time, these sexual agreements were unspoken.
I want to encourage couples to make these unspoken agreements spoken. All couples should talk about their expectations for their sexual relationship. In order to facilitate this discussion, here are six principles that constitute healthy sexuality. Spend some time with your partner and discuss each one, what it means to each of you as individuals and how it relates to you as a couple. (One word of caution, avoid having this discussion during or after sex. Those times are likely to bring with them heightened vulnerability, which if the discussion is difficult in any area, can lead to increased defensiveness and conflict. The discussion will go much more smoothly if you schedule it for another time.)
Consent in this context means that someone has given permission for something involving their body to occur. Are there sexual behaviors in your relationship that you’d like your partner to ask specific consent for each time? Are there sexual behaviors that you don’t feel your partner needs to ask first? Talk about these, and create clear guidelines to shape how consent looks in your relationship. Remember that feelings about specific sexual behaviors can change, and it’s okay to change your sexual agreements in the future.
Non-exploitative means that one partner does not take advantage or manipulate the other into sexual behaviors. This includes using power dynamics to coerce the other person. Are there behaviors that one partner participates in hesitantly? Use this opportunity to talk about what those behaviors mean to each partner. If there are exploitative behaviors in your relationship, this is an area where reaching out for help with a therapist may be necessary to resolve them and set healthy boundaries.
3. Protection from STIs, HIV, and Unplanned Pregnancy
If either person has had previous sexual partners, have they been checked for sexually transmitted infections or HIV? What is the plan surrounding birth control?
Are both partners able to be fully honest about their sexual history, and is there room in the relationship to honestly discuss fantasy and sexual preferences?
5. Shared Values
Creating sexual agreements are crucial for couples, and the largest part of the discussion will likely revolve around values. What behaviors fall within your value systems as individuals and as a couple? If there are value differences, can you create workable compromises? If there are value conflicts within a relationship, a professional can help explore resolutions that feel workable to both partners.
6. Mutual Pleasure
Sadly, many individuals grow up with the idea that sex is something men like and women tolerate. When this is the background, women can feel used and resentful about sex, even when they’re otherwise happy in their relationship. Breaking out of this mindset is going to be difficult if the couple has not found mutually pleasurable sexual activities. If one partner wants a specific type of sex exclusively, and the other partner doesn’t enjoy that activity, neither partner will be able to truly experience the kind of sexual relationship that is fulfilling and strengthens the relationship.
If after reviewing these six principles, you find some areas that you and your partner need help with, schedule an appointment with Alice today. 801-944-4555.
It’s all about the language we use, and how that language impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when it comes to sex.
We’ve heard the baseball metaphors. First, second, and third base. Home run. Striking out. Playing for the other team. Al Vernacchio, who gave this ted talk points out that in baseball, you have two teams, one wins and one loses. You have specific rules to follow, and you have very little control over the season schedule. When there’s a game, players are expected to play. In sex this creates an unhealthy dynamic. Sexual relationships shouldn’t be about winning or losing, or about competition. Sex shouldn’t occur due to pressure to “play”. Sexual relationships should be about enjoying the activity together. He suggests a new metaphor.
Getting pizza. When you want pizza, it’s based on an inner desire rather than competition. When you’re eating pizza, there are no winners or losers. It’s about enjoying the experience. In baseball there are rules. The right ways and the wrong ways to play. In pizza, there are no rules, you can eat it if you want to, if it satisfies your hunger, and it’s okay to enjoy some toppings, and not others.
By changing our metaphor, as Mr. Vernacchio explains, “we could…invite people to think about their own desires and make deliberate decisions about what they want, and talk about it with their partners…to look not at some external outcome, but for what feels satisfying”.
…and other holidays you feel pressure to make IT great!
There are a few holidays, you know which ones they are, that bring a chain of different thoughts.
“My anniversary is coming. I guess that means we should probably have sex.”
“Sweet, it’s my birthday. This means a party in the bed tonight!”
“It’s Valentine’s, does that mean that I should actually dress up for sex tonight?”
There is even a song titled Birthday Sex by the artist Jeremih. So, what is it that creates these expectations about holiday sex? Is it that we consider sex the ultimate gift and it seems fitting to give it on a holiday? Is it because in a situation where someone feels deprived of sex, that seems like a day you really shouldn’t deprive someone? Or is it that it is the ultimate celebration of your love for someone and that seems like a perfect day to celebrate? Who knows?
I am not here stating that it is neither good nor bad to have expectations about holiday sex. You and your partner can decide whether that is awesome or a problem. I thought it would be fun to consider some of the pros and cons.
We usually also eat a lot of great food on these holidays and sex with a full stomach can be… interesting.
Expectations can add stress and stress can be debilitating when it comes to sexual function.
You can’t save your sexual relationship with your partner on a holiday every now and again. Spice is necessary more than 3 times a year.
If you don’t have holiday sex and it is expected, it can lead to a lot of hurt, passive avoidance techniques, or anger.
If sex is already a problem, the problem usually comes to a head when these expectations are unfulfilled and you can spend a perfectly good holiday fighting.
If you conceive, you can guarantee you don’t have to share an anniversary or birthday with your kid.
Going above and beyond on anything, sex included, can really make your partner feel wanted, seen and important.
The pressure of expected holiday sex, keeps you on your toes and actively working on improving your sexual relationship.
These holidays can create deep feelings of love, and perhaps create the desire to have sex in the first place.
If you plan to have sex on these holidays, the kids are usually gone and sex can be more enjoyable.
Consider these points for yourselves. Wishing you a Valentine’s Day full of love and closeness for whomever or whatever you love!