If you’re feeling, distant, lonely or lacking sexual desire, try to take action quickly. The greatest obstacle to improving relationship problems is waiting too long. It’s a lot easier to lose 10 or 15 lbs. than 40 or 50. Small problems and concerns are more quickly corrected than long-term distresses.
Couples often hesitate bringing problems to one another because they care deeply for each other and don’t want to bruise feelings. The strength of being sensitive to one another is always important, but when the outcome is resentment and pain the strength becomes a weakness.
In this article, I will discuss three cases to exemplify common problems I see as a couples and sex therapist. To protect confidentiality, some of the data has been slightly modified. I hope this discussion will encourage dialogue and problem-solving to help improve your situation.
A stunning and sophisticated couple sat before me. Everyone thought they had the perfect life because no one knew he hadn’t wanted to touch her in years. She kept making excuses; he was tired, stressed after so much business travel, but her feelings about desirability constantly gnawed at her. After years of holding in her pain, she finally confronted him and they came to see me.
Sexual avoidance can be caused by multiple factors—health, stress, relationship difficulties, medication, family of origin conflicts, and others. The shame of sexual avoidance is why most couples hesitate to deal with it and the emotional wounds fester or even worse—a member of the couple looks outside the relationship for a sexual connection.
They had been married for nearly 40 years and came to see me on the brink of a divorce. During the past year, his wife refused to let him touch her. For most of their marriage, she had been a willing sexual partner, but never discussed her real feelings about sexuality.
After participating in individual therapy, she realized how hurt and angry she had been throughout the years and didn’t want sex anymore. Her spouse tried to be understanding and was shocked as he hadn’t had a clue how she really felt. This past year, he was feeling very rejected and distanced and they came to therapy to see what could be done.
This couple was constantly bickering with their arguments surrounding parenting. It became evident that although there were concerns and differences in parenting issues which sparked conflict, the fact that they hadn’t touched each other or been affectionate in years made even minor disagreements fodder for anger. The event that finally caused them to deal with sexuality was the wife¹s discovery of her husband’s use of pornography on the computer. Substantial research has proven how important the hormones that get secreted by touch and sexuality help with calming and preventing depression. Couples where no touch exists in their relationship, even when there are serious limitations due to illness, are more prone to irritability and negative thinking.
I hope these examples may resonate for you and help you recognize that sexual avoidance is rampant in marriages. If one or both of you have been struggling with this problem, here are some suggestions:
Loving communication. Let your partner know how much you want to be with him or her. If your partner is anxious or avoidant to talk, reassure him or her how important it is to deal with this issue. The more the topic is avoided, anger, self-doubt, blame or infidelity may occur.
Try to determine what may facilitate ways to begin touch, affection and sexuality. If the reasons the problems developed are identifiable, share them with honesty and diplomacy.
Try reading Rekindling Sexual Desire, by Barry and Emily McCarthy together. This book discusses multiple causes and cures for understanding and overcoming lack of sexual desire.
If your efforts to talk or overcome the problems on your own aren’t working, see a couples therapist with training in both couples and sex therapy.
If you would like to learn more about Relationship and Sex Therapy, please contact me at 201-445-0550.