With the new year comes new goals, New Year’s resolutions and the desire to “do things differently”. Many people are happy to say goodbye to 2017, and welcome 2018 in the hope that the year might be smoother, healthier and happier. So often in my practice, it is at this time of year that people contact me to finally work through something that has been bothering them for a while, or they’ve been putting off.
So here’s a little two part guide of the main concerns that my client’s face, and perhaps a little advice on what to do, if you feel that the new year is finally the time to work through things.
Mismatched sexual desire
Probably the most common concern I hear from couples is that they don’t want sex equally, with one partner more interested in sex than the other. This is so unbelievably normal, and it is actually usually the rule (not the exception), for partners to have mismatched libidos. No one is going to want sex the exact same amount that their partner does, and then you throw in day-to-day stressors like children, work and getting sick, and that gap widens. For most of the heterosexual couples who come to see me, it’s typically the man who feels that he wants more sex than his female partner, but of course that’s not always the case.
It’s a myth that men want sex more than women. Although men have ten times more testosterone than women do, and testosterone fuels our libido, that does not necessarily mean that they want more sex. What I typically find is that one partner is not sexually satisfied and so disengages from sexual intimacy, or there is underlying anxiety, low mood or low self-esteem. Regardless of the reason for the imbalance, there are a few things that you can try by yourselves that could help get things back on track:
- Focus on the basics, rather than trying to swing from the chandeliers. Couples often forget to even kiss, hold hands and meaningfully touch one another.
- Instead of focusing on the performance of sex, shift your focus to the pleasure of sex. Focus on what your partner’s touch feels like, guide them on what you like and how it feels.
- You don’t have to always feel like sex to have sex, so why not try just going ahead with it when your partner initiates. You might find that once you get into it, you actually really enjoy it.
Issues with orgasm
Both men and women can be affected by difficulties with orgasm. I may hear that someone used to be able to orgasm during sex and now can’t, that they struggle to reach climax at all, or that they climax too soon and it’s frustrating for both them and their partner. From a psychological perspective, difficulties with orgasm are typically related to anxiety. Our brain actually decreases our ability to orgasm because our amygdala (the anxiety control centre in our brain) is working over time. The more anxious you are, or the harder you’re pressuring yourself to climax, the less likely that it will actually happen! From a medical perspective, there may be physiological reason that climaxing is challenging, and this could relate to anything from damaged nerve endings to medication or illness. If you are struggling to climax during sex with a partner, but don’t have a problem when masturbating, then it’s typically psychological.
For women, climaxing during sexual intercourse is actually not the norm, as most women need direct clitoral stimulation in order to climax, and they don’t always get this during penetrative sex. I have a lot of women contact me regarding this issue. Getting to know your body and what works for you is the most important step! If you don’t know what touches feel good when and where, it becomes very difficult to guide a partner. If you’re trying to climax during sex and you can easily reach climax on your own, focus on getting clitoral stimulation in positions like ‘her on top’, or by using your fingers to stimulate your clitoris during sex. You could also use a little bullet vibrator during sex to ensure that you’re getting the exact stimulation you need to cliamx. Some women unfortunately may not be able to climax during sex, but there is nothing wrong with this at all!
For men, if they report no problem with masturbation, but they either climax too quickly (in under 3 minutes) or it takes frustratingly long during sex to climax, then it’s most likely linked to a psychological cause. The average time it takes a man to climax once his erection is stimulated is 3-5 minutes. If he’s distressed by climaxing too soon or not being able to get there, then I’d always recommend speaking to a sexual health physician or sexologist, who would most likely work with his anxiety and thought processes. Again, when this is happening, it’s about shifting your focus during sex: getting out of your head and into your body. Focusing on your thoughts such as “she must be judging me” or “I have to climax to make her happy” will lead to an increase in anxiety and a decrease in your enjoyment of sex. Try to practice mindfulness during sex; focusing on what sensations you feel, what you can taste, hear and see. The more you are present, the more you’ll enjoy your sexual experience.
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