I am Yasman Karimi, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a certified sex therapist-candidate, and a provider for Intima Health. I have helped couples with communication, conflict resolution, intimacy, trust-building, and more for about six years. Many couples see me in order to understand why they are not having sex and how they can break down the barriers of communication to have a bonding experience during intimacy.
If you have been in a long-term relationship, you will most likely agree that the sex you are having today is probably different from the sex you were having when you first met your significant other. We can blame most of this on the neurochemicals that cook up a cocktail for an insatiable sexual appetite when we are attracted to a new human. As attraction turns into liking and liking turns into love and love turns into a commitment, we don’t experience the high from those neurochemicals anymore and we find ourselves in a completely different place both inside and outside the bedroom.
Although there are couples who have great sex despite the issues they face outside of the bedroom, there are many couples who find that their issues jump right into bed with them, playing a significant role in their sex life. While diagnosable sexual dysfunctions, certain medications, and psychological disorders serve as a clear source of sexual challenges, below are 6 sneaky underlying problems you may not have realized are following you into the bedroom.
Feeling emotionally disconnected from one’s partner is one of the most popular presenting issues in therapy. Often, in heterosexual relationships, I hear the female partner expressing a sense of disconnect and how she is unable to experience arousal when she feels so distant from her partner. Make sure that if you are feeling this way, you express it in a kind and loving way. What tends to happen is one person feels disconnected, fails to communicate it effectively, then the other person initiates sex, and experiences rejection. Resentment starts to build on both sides, making it more difficult to repair as time goes on.
There are roles and responsibilities to take on when a commitment is established and a couple unites to live and build a life together. At first, we are impressed by the qualities, talents, and drive the other presents; especially, if they acquire characteristics that are different from our own. We may even go out of our way to communicate how much we appreciate pieces of them, we may be more generous with compliments and gratitude. Sometimes all of that fades. Not intentionally, but because life gets in the way. Couples get to a point where favors turn into obligations and appreciation goes without saying. If anything is bound to butcher a sex life, it is not feeling appreciated and desired by the one person you crave it from.
History of Infidelity, Trauma, and Sexual Trauma
Trauma is defined as an experience that produces psychological injury or pain. Trauma may negatively impact the individual and the relationship as a whole if not addressed. For an individual coming out of a traumatic experience, control feels safe which makes intimacy and reaching orgasm a difficult task. Moreover, detachment and numbing may be used as mechanisms to avoid experiencing the emotional pain, interfering with the emotional, mental, and physical presence necessary to have sex. Trauma in general can present itself with intrusive thoughts; however, when those thoughts are sexually related, fear, anger, and helplessness may be emotions associated with sex.
Lack of Trust
Trusting your partner means that you are confident that if you need them, they will be there for you, respond to you, and engage with you. Turning towards one another in times of need no matter how trivial, fosters a secure attachment which usually shines in the bedroom. Trust is also built by knowing that you can approach your significant other with your honest thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment, criticism, or blame. Because sex requires a certain level of vulnerability, if there is a lack of acceptance outside of the bedroom, it could very well follow you both into the bedroom as well.
Self-Esteem, Lifestyle, and Self-Care
Both men and women have shared that they would make sex a priority once they feel more confident in their own skin. When we are part of the dating scene, we try to keep up with appearances. Whether we begin to give up our self-care routine for the relationship, or due to feeling so accepted by and comfortable with our partner, it does not help with self-confidence, passion, or our sex lives. Even if your partner desires you, feeling unattractive will kill your mood every time.
What You Were Told About Sex
For some, talking about sex was taboo growing up. Only 24 states mandate sex education in public schools and some states have programs that emphasize abstinence first. Furthermore, in some religious households, sex is not for pleasure, but for procreation or marital duty. As sexual beings, hearing these messages and giving in to a sexual act can elicit feelings of shame and guilt, even after marriage.
Sex with your partner is an opportunity to bond and express your love for one another. It allows you to feel closer and more connected. If there are any underlying or unresolved issues crawling into bed with you, schedule a session with a couples’ and sex therapist today.