Many couples unsuccessfully spend hours, months, or years at home agonizing over how to improve their sex life. Unfortunately, usually this involves a lot of Google searching that yields very inaccurate information that can do more harm than good. Even when they finally enter couples therapy, most couples don’t talk about sex.
Instead of talking about sex, they might say:
- They argue all the time.
- They feel less connected than they used to.
- They say they love each other but are not in love anymore.
- They don’t feel important to their partner.
- They don’t know how to compromise.
- They don’t know how to communicate.
- They don’t know how to recover from an affair.
- They don’t feel happy anymore.
- They feel dissatisfied with the quality/quantity of sex in their relationship.
- They are having trouble adjusting to a major life change.
- They feel like their relationship lacks the honesty and communication it used to have.
- They want to improve their relationship skills to prevent problems in the future.
- They don’t know how to handle the role of stress, anxiety, and/or depression in their partnership.
While only one of those concerns specifically addresses sex, every single one of them impacts the sexual relationship, physical affection, and intimacy within a partnership.
If you aren’t sure if you need sex therapy, take another look at the list of presenting problems above. What those couples might really be saying is:
- We have less sex when we argue all the time.
- Feeling less connected to you makes me less interested in sex.
- We had more sex when we were “in love” — it seems like the passion is gone.
- I don’t want to give you sex if I don’t feel important to you.
- When we can’t compromise, I feel like we’re always against each other and that’s not very sexy.
- You don’t listen when I tell you what I want in bed — help me know what to say to you.
- When I start to feel in the mood, I think of the affair and I just can’t anymore.
- I don’t feel like sex when I don’t feel happy — or when I don’t feel good in my body.
- I don’t understand why you don’t want sex as much now as you used to when nothing has changed.
- I know it’s been three months since we had the baby, but I just don’t feel like a sexual being anymore. It’s like I can’t turn the “mom” off.
- Ever since you lied to me, it’s like my body just closes up when you ask for sex.
- Teach me what you want more of — it’s really important to me that we can talk about this if something comes up later.
- I feel so anxious and stressed that I can’t seem to get excited about anything. It’s not that I don’t want you, I just don’t remember how to want you.
If you can relate to any of the comments or areas of difficulty above, know that you’re in the right place. There is a tremendous amount of healing that can happen in a relationship when we bring sex and intimacy into the discussion — even though these are the two things we like to (falsely) think will just work themselves out.
Sex therapy is a talk therapy approach integrating sexual health education and researched techniques for creating change. Sex therapy can be really effective in treating:
- Sexual desire discrepancies (one partner wanting more sex than another — or a different type of sex)
- Low sexual desire or arousal
- Sexual dysfunction (difficulty experiencing arousal as desired)
- Lack of passion in your relationship
- Challenges related to previous sexual abuse
Sex therapy is most effective when a couple already has some awareness and practice of healthy communication and conflict. If your conflict is hostile or volatile, you need couples counseling before seeking sex therapy.
How Therapy Helps
With the help of a therapist specifically trained in sexual health and sex therapy, you will learn how to safely and productively start talking about sex, identify what “good sex” means to you and your relationship, and understand how the brain and body work together to create your experience of sexual pleasure.
Sex therapy does not involve any touching between client and therapist. It is based heavily on researched psychoeducation and sexual health information and includes conversations about your past sexual experiences, messages learned from family, culture, or religion about sex, and your own experience of pleasure and desire.
Your therapist will use education, compassion, humor, extra reading materials, and other research-supported tools to ensure progress is made towards your goals for a healthy intimate relationship. You may also have “homework” between sessions to guide you in creating the sexual experience you desire for yourself and your relationship. Through sex therapy, you’ll learn to understand yourself as a sexual being and advocate for your own pleasure and sexual satisfaction. You’ll also identify beliefs or behaviors that are working against meeting your goals for “good sex.”