We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: signs that your relationship could use sex therapy.
Q: How do you know if you need sex therapy? My boyfriend and I have been having some issues in the bedroom. We're pretty compatible in terms of what we like and how often we want sex, but if there's just one time when he wants sex and I'm not in the mood, it can turn into a big fight. I feel like we could both stand to improve our communication skills, but he thinks we should be able to solve these issues on our own.
A: Thanks for your question! I’m obviously biased since I’m a sex therapist myself, but I think sex therapy is useful for a wide range of issues. I also believe it’s not necessary to have a specific problem in order to go to sex therapy; a good sex therapist can help you take your sex life from good to great with new skills and fresh ideas.
A lot of people have the same reaction your boyfriend is having. It’s great to be able to work through things on your own, but sex is such a tricky topic. We all have hang-ups about sex, and most of us have a hard time talking about sex honestly and openly. Any time you’re feeling stuck, a trained sex therapist can make things so much easier.
Sexual issues often happen in the context of a relationship, so going to therapy together can sometimes be the best path to take. Let’s dive right into a (non-exhaustive) list of signs that your relationship could benefit from sex therapy.
1. You’re Fighting About Sex — A Lot
Disagreements about sex are normal and to be expected, but if you find yourself having full-blown fights about things like sexual frequency or not prioritizing each other, or if you feel like your arguments go in circles, never fully resolved, or keep getting rehashed over and over again, it’s time to start Googling “sex therapist”.
2. You Just Want To Feel More Playful, Fun, And Spontaneous Together
This is the perfect example of a “non-problem” reason for seeing a sex therapist. Sex therapy can help the two of you bring more joy into the bedroom. Sex is meant to be a way of showing our love for each other, but it can get complicated with other factors far too often. If you’re wanting to start having more fun in the bedroom, sex therapy can help you learn new ways of connecting with each other and bringing out your playful sides.
3. You Have Different Sex Drives (And It’s A Problem)
All couples have some degree of mismatch in their relationship, but it can be tricky to navigate how often to have sex. Sometimes it’s hard to find a happy compromise for both parties, and resentment can build up. Sex therapy can help you initiate sex in more enticing ways, deal with rejection better, and find that happy medium.
4. One Partner Doesn’t Want Sex
One particular variation of mismatched sex drives is when one partner stops desiring sex altogether. There are a number of different reasons why this can happen (like stress, anger, or a medical issue), and sex therapy can help you get to the bottom of the issue while supporting both partner’s needs and desires.
5. You Want To Spice Up Your Sex Life
Let’s face it: we all get into ruts with our sex lives. If you’ve been together for a long time, odds are that your sex life is pretty routine, predictable, and maybe even a little boring. Sex therapy can help you spice things up with ideas for new positions, toys, and techniques. So many people think you only need to go to sex therapy when there's a problem, but it's just as useful for couples who do enjoy their sex lives. There’s so much to explore when it comes to sex, so why not try out something novel?
6. You Can’t Remember The Last Time You Had Sex
Some couples end up getting so distanced from each other that they stop having sex altogether. (Please note that this is different from couples who are asexual or have made the conscious decision to avoid sex.) Whether it’s because you’re upset with each other, because you don’t have the time, or because you’ve stopped prioritizing sex, a dead bedroom is never a good sign.
7. You Want To Make Intimacy A Priority
We’re all so busy these days. Sex has a way of slipping through the cracks if you’re not paying attention. A good therapist can help you devise strategies for creating more quality alone time together. They can give you exercises for being more present in the moment with each other, and helping each other feel special.
8. You Want To Improve Your Sexual Communication
Sex is hard to talk about! I’ve always said that I wouldn’t have a job if it was easy. You may find yourselves struggling as a couple to talk about your needs, your fantasies, or your likes and dislikes. Sex therapy can help you become much more comfortable talking about sex.
Your sex therapist might help you find the words and phrases that feel easier to say to you, and give you exercises to practice saying them out loud. They can also help you and your partner discover your unique communication styles, and how you can each adapt your styles to communicate better with each other.
9. You’re Grappling With Change
Our sex lives are surprisingly fragile. Even the smallest things, like one partner getting a cold, can throw us off our rhythm. If you’re dealing with a much more significant change in your life, like having a kid, losing your job, dealing with depression, or having a family member pass, your sex life can really suffer. Sex therapy can help you manage the other stuff going on in your life and make the room for intimacy.
10. You’re Exploring New Boundaries In Your Relationship
Have you ever considered opening up your relationship? Is there a fantasy you’ve always wanted to play with, but been too nervous to try? Sex therapy can help you get a sense of your boundaries, and figure out if you’d like to expand them.
11. You’re Dealing With Performance Issues
A huge number of men struggle with getting and maintaining their erections, orgasming too quickly, or having a hard time reaching orgasm. A lot of women don’t know how to orgasm, can’t orgasm with a partner, and experience crippling body self-consciousness. We all feel pressure to perform in the bedroom, and that pressure can end up making sex extremely unpleasant. Sex therapy can give you strategies for overcoming your performance issues. It can also help you manage your anxiety, feel more confident, and start enjoying sex more.
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