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A Healthy Sex Life...

Myths and Facts about Relationship Sex

Sexual dissatisfaction is a theme I encounter in therapy often enough that I wanted to organize some basic perspectives on the topic for those struggling with this issue. 

Regardless of sex frequency, the majority of people are underwhelmed with their sex lives, and interestingly enough, it is not the frequency of sex that tops the list of unmet sexual needs (whaaaat?! you might say, read on).

  • Only 44% of people surveyed are fully satisfied with their sex lives and 82% who are sexually satisfied say they feel respected by partner during sex (Durex Survey, 2010)
  • 39 % of those dissatisfied are looking for more love and romance (Durex Survey, 2010)
  • 36% would like more quality time alone with their partner (Durex Survey, 2010)
  • 31% would like more fun, better communication and intimacy (Durex Survey, 2010)
  • 37% want to feel less stressed out and tired (Durex Survey, 2010)
  • 29% desire a higher sex drive (Durex Survey, 2010)

Since so many people report being dissatisfied, let's examine some common misconceptions about sex that could be harming sexual connection and satisfaction. 

 

MYTH: You need to be in the mood instantly.

Consent is mandatory, but excitement is not. In fact, it's normal for sexual engagement to be a little ho-hum for one or more partners at least some of the time. Anything can throw things a bit off-kilter: timing of an advance, your mood or theirs, the amount of foreplay offered, life stresses, you name it (interesting tidbit; female-oriented brains have a little more trouble disconnecting from all the mental things they were engaged with prior to sex, largely due to more neuro-connectivity). Rather than postponing sex until the planets align, try it for 5 minutes or so to see if you can get your mind into the moment. If you can't, don't catastrophize and judge the relationship unfairly, just be affectionate and look forward to next time.

MYTH: If you’re not having spontaneous sex, it must mean your sex life is over. 

When you were first together, you had sex on your mind for hours, maybe even days, leading up to the experience. In many cases, you set the date, thought about it, planned the evening –even what to wear. It may have seemed spontaneous, but it wasn’t. Good sex is planned sex and in order to keep having it the more elaborate and integrated two people's lives become, it must stay planned at least part of the time. Think date night, pencil it onto your calendar, and take time to talk about your sexual frequency, your needs, your fantasies, and what is missing and what is there for each of you.

MYTH: Men always want sex.

Bullocks! Across gender, low sex drive can be related to stress, health problems, developmental changes, or medications, many of which are known to create some sexual functioning challenges. But men judged on their sexual performance societally so if they experience a dip in sexual interest, he may avoid reporting an issue longer than other gender identities. No matter who is experiencing low sex drive, you need to know that pressuring partners for sex can actually decrease sexual desire. The freedom to choose sexual activity can be a difficult paradox for a partner : the very thing often required to increase sexual desire is not feeling like you HAVE to put out to keep your mate. Create a culture of sensual acceptance of self and other and see what you can learn about sexuality if not pressured to perform.

MYTH: Good sex is long and slow.

Few of us middle aged people can afford the luxury of leisurely sex on a regular basis (frankly, we might even secretly think it sounds like more work after an exhausting day). But that doesn't mean we don't want sex at all. The solution? Embrace the quickie. Think of it like a sex snack, sure to boost your energy and put you back in the mood. For extra excitement, break out of the bedroom and don't forget, there's more to a healthy sex life than just sex, MORE cuddling, holding hands, and spontaneously hugging and kissing, which don't take long at all and increase romance to boot!

 

MYTH: You must have sex a predictable number of times each a week. 

Having sex regularly is good for most romantic relationships, but don't get too caught up in the counting. What's important is that you both are satisfied with the frequency. If that's not the case, start a discussion outside the bedroom by saying something like, "We don't have sex as often as I like anymore, and it worries me." Expect frequency to vary across development due to individual experiences of you and your partners, be accepting of these changes but continue to discuss sexuality in open and caring ways.

Healthy versus Unhealthy Sex:

Examination of sexual functioning for emotional healthiness may be the difference between sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction. So what are some of the markers of emotional health in sexual functioning?

1. How do you feel after sex? feelings of guilt and shame can indicate an unhealthy sex experience either in reality or in your own mind. Check in with yourself and see where those feelings might be coming from since healthy sensuality should leave to feelings of relief, relaxation, and well being.

2. Are you present with your partner? You may have trouble staying focused on what is happening right now-- SEX. You can use mindfulness techniques to avoid letting your mind wander to uninteresting things like laundry or meeting up with friends later. If we are distracted by comparison or criticism about current sexual experiences, see point 4.

3. Are you creative sexually? If so, sex seems inspired, intuitive, and passionate even if no orgasm or penetrative act occurs, but if not, it can seem empty and more about “chasing an orgasm” and satisfying a “need.” Ask yourself if sexual performance is dominating your sexual expression and what you need to release that narrative in favor of something more inspiring.  

4. Is sex escapism for you? Ideally, you are both physical and emotionally connected during sex, even if it takes a few minutes to transition your mind to sexual activity, but if you find sex more about getting high, numbing out, or escaping to fantasy, then your sex life maybe serving as a surrogate for intimacy rooted in the past. You may need to resolve emotional or sexual trauma, or let go of old relationships to be present.

5. Do you feel safe during sex? If risking being known doesn't frighten you ,you can trust, be vulnerable, accepting that anxiety and awkwardness are okay. This allows for safety and exploration, but if you experience detachment or are avoidant of emotional intimacy, the sex is only about power and control, then your sex life needs an RX.

If any of these areas are concerning for you, you may wish to seek mental health counseling or therapy to understand your internal processes related to sexual functioning and satisfaction. While this may not always preserve the relationship you are currently in, it can have lifelong benefits for present and future relationships.

SOURCES

http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20411243,00.html Jennifer Berman, MD, is the director of the Berman Women's Wellness Center and the author of For Women Only

http://blog.aarp.org/2013/02/21/busted-5-biggest-myths-about-sex-after-50/ Barbara Hannah Grufferman | Best of Everything After 50 |

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-sexual-continuum/201112/how-often-do-men-and-women-think-about-sex

http://www.iub.edu/~kinsey/resources/FAQ.html

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/love-sex/info-05-2010/2009-aarp-sex-survey.html

http://sonorancounselingservices.com/

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