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Sexual Problems are Generally not about Sex

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People in relationships often struggle with their sex life at some point in their relationship.  Many people struggle to have the language and comfort to be able to effectively talk to their partner about how they are experiencing sex, what they would like and any other issues about sex.

Many couples are great at solving conflict outside of the bedroom, but then they don’t use those same great skills in the bedroom. It’s like the bedroom has a different set of rules and people don’t know how to work together

Dr. Marty Klein, US Sex Therapist and Marriage Counsellor (SexualIntelligence.org) states that what most people want from sex are pleasure and closeness and a little less emotional pain. Dr. Klein goes on to explain that people are not necessarily looking for huge orgasms or mind blowing sex (though it’s a nice bonus), but rather they want to experience more comfort and relaxation and little less anxiety and self-consciousness.

Sexual Problems are generally not about sex. Instead sexual problems are often about the following (from Dr. Mary Klein, SexualIntelligence.org)

  • Self-image (including body image)
  • Self-criticism
  • Lack of self-acceptance
  • Hostility
  • Ignorance & misinformation
  • Guilt & shame
  • Unreasonable expectations
  • Existential issues (e.g., fear of aging)
  • Not wanting to make choices
  • The desire for a sense of autonomy
  • Communication
  • Values
  • Performance pressure
  • Ambivalence about the relationship
  • Let’s not forget power

For some people the messages that they get from their religion and how they understand their religion’s attitude towards sex can complicate things.  Many religions regulate sex and this can create problems for couples, especially if they do not share the same religious beliefs.

An important to thing to remember when trying to address sexual issues is that sex itself has no inherent meaning, goal or purpose.  Dr. Klein discusses that the social norms that govern sexuality  (ideas about what is sexy? What is Sex? Who is eligible for sex? What is normal sex? Etc.) are a product of their unique time and place (Singapore, United Kingdom, Victorian period etc.). They do not reflect some deep truth about the “real” nature of sex.

If you and your partner are struggling with sex it may be helpful to review and reflect on your beliefs about what is sex, the purpose to do sex, what are asking from sex, your partner and many other questions. You can see if those beliefs or expectations are realistic and attainable.

If this is difficult to do on you own, you can speak to a professionally trained mental health counsellor such as our relationship counsellor Tammy Fontana who is a specialized training in sexual health of individuals and couples.

Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexualIntelligence.org)

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