Physical intimacy and sexual dynamics are complex! Since intimacy between husband and wife is special and private, we don’t have nearly enough appropriate dialogue about it. Many people feel uncomfortable or shy discussing it, but since it’s one of the most influential dynamics in our relationships, we need to be better at talking about it and better at prioritizing it.
Men and women are both wired to be sexual beings, and we’re all wired to want and need it but in VERY different ways. In general, men feel loved and connected through sex and women need to feel loved and connected before they’re in the mood for sex.
To me, this comes down to basic biology. You see, women inherently (subconsciously) know that sex leads to babies. Pregnancy, historically, is a life-threatening endeavor. Once the “risk” is over, it’s still a lifelong physical and emotional commitment. It makes sense that a subconscious part of a woman wants to know that her man is really there for her before she jumps into bed with him. Alternatively, for a man, the fact that a woman would trust him enough to take that risk must mean that she really loves him.
Sexual Desire and What it Means
Sexual desire (or lack thereof) is by far the most common challenge couples face in their sexual relationship. Most couples also notice sexual dynamics changing through the course of the relationship. Early on, most couples have sex more frequently than they do later in relationships. Part of this is due to the biology I explained above: If the house is a mess and the children have been tyrants all day the thought of jumping into bed and (potentially) adding another hellion to the mix probably sounds like a terrible idea, even if a woman feels loved and secure in the relationship. (Yes, I know not every sexual encounter leads to pregnancy, I’m just talking about subconscious biological processes that diminish natural sexual desire.) The same can be true for men: if he’s had a terrible day at the office or feels like a failure he may shirk from the thought of adding another mouth to feed. Or, he may desire sex for validation and an emotional boost that at least things at home are going okay.
Another factor that comes into play is what I call the “peacock effect.” Women, subconsciously, know that their sexuality is very attractive to men, so they may feel more sexual early on to secure a man. This isn’t intended to be a “bait and switch” but sometimes it feels that way. I’ve heard dozens of men wonder what happened because they “used to have sex all the time and now she’s never in the mood.”
Alternatively, if there is a husband with a lower sex drive than his wife, this usually leads to feelings of inadequacy or feeling ugly and undesirable. There’s a stereotype that men should have insatiable sex drives, so if that’s not the case it usually leaves both partners feeling broken.
In the most recent sexual literature, researchers have done away with the concept of “desire” as the first stage of the sexual response cycle and replaced it with “willingness.” This is a powerful and important reframe. A partner may not necessarily feel a burning sexual desire towards their partner, but they may feel willing to have a positive shared experience that boosts the partner and the relationship significantly. This shifts a general attitude to one of being willing to give rather than simply relying on whether or not you’re “in the mood.”
Sexual dysfunction is another wrench that gets thrown into the relationship and often isn’t talked about. Inability or difficulty to reach climax is a common one. First, I’d like to set the record straight. Did you know that 70% of women don’t climax regularly? Only 7% of women report that they “always” do—so if you are expecting a climax every single time and are disappointed that it isn’t happening, it might be helpful to shift expectations. A sexual encounter can still be very rewarding and bonding without it, and for a lot of women letting go of that pressure helps them to enjoy sex much more.
Pain during intercourse is another common and difficult issue. If adding extra lubrication and going slow isn’t solving the problem, you may be dealing with something called vaginismus. This is a pain disorder that has successful treatment outcomes, and where therapy can be really helpful. Male sexual dysfunction including premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction can also take a toll on the relationship. Men suffering with these difficulties often feel broken and inadequate, and wives often feel frustrated or insecure. Talking about these issues in counseling can help couples feel connected and validated. I can help you either overcome the issue completely or make it less problematic.
Past Sexual Trauma and Therapy
Past sexual trauma can impact the sexual relationship in a myriad of ways. Early sexual abuse or rape, inappropriate sexual pressure in marriage, sexual addiction and infidelity can make sex feel very scary, uncomfortable or vulnerable. If any of these deep wounds are getting in the way of having a fulfilling, care-free and fun sexual relationship with your spouse, counseling is a great way to heal and move forward together.
Benefits of Sex Therapy
Increased Intimacy & Love
Greater Sense of Closeness
Deeper Feelings of Connection
Ready to take the next step in sex therapy? Let’s schedule a free consultation.