In today’s episode of “Healing From Within” your host Sheryl Glick welcomes Laurie J Watson author of Wanting Sex Again- How To Rediscover Your Desire and Heal A Sexless Marriage. Laurie is a sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors and Therapists and a licensed couple’s therapist. She writes the “Married and Still Doing It” blog in Psychology Today’s online magazine and frequently lectures at Duke University Medical School, University of North Caroling at Chapel Hill and East Carolina University.
Laurie and I will discuss an ever increasing frustration existing between people in many committed relationships: while concerns about the topic of sex are often not shared with others due to embarrassment, a lack of knowledge of how to discuss this subject, or due to fear that others may judge you, this subject might be put aside, when in actuality discussing the problems could be very helpful. Many situations in a sexual relationship may be thought of as dysfunctional but could be quite a natural part of a healthy relationship. Views and experiences of our early family life, religious life and misconceptions about what is appropriate and acceptable in a normal relationship may need to be re-evaluated. Confusion surrounding the nature of sex, a good intimate communication between partners, and the cultural values seem wide spread causing much unhappiness, anger and elevated rates of the dissolution of many marriages and relationships. Statistics now suggest 40 million American women are frustrated by their lack of sexual passion, but I believe the male population is equally facing an unhealthy regard for good and meaningful sexual relationships. In this fast moving stressful technological world, both parties are overwhelmed by responsibilities, health issues and emotional barriers often restricting them from the more playful and innocent aspects of their soul and physical needs.
Before solutions to any one aspect of a relationship problem can be discovered, it must be recognized that to restore what seems to be missing or seems to be perceived as missing by one or the other parties in the relationship, it would be wise to go within and end the unnecessary feelings about oneself or the way one interacts in their own private, sexual encounters. There really is no right or wrong in what goes on between two people and nobody should have the right to tell people what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. In other words, the perceptions or imaginary thought processes of the mind or ego may be creating many of the problems affecting what a person may view as acceptable in the sexual aspect of their relationship.
Sexual activity is but one component of a fulfilled and joyful life but becoming more present and aware of our own personal physical and religious views often illuminate much about our behavior and interaction with our sexual partners. In focusing on the complete development of an individual’s energetic and spiritual needs, it becomes obvious that as we are evolving, and more than the physical needs must be respected. Therefore, the unresolved fears from earlier experiences are often creating pain and restriction that present in all areas of interacting with loved ones including how we respond sexually.
Understanding the earlier stages of love and the patterns developed at that time can help understand some of the problems that may occur later on. People simply don’t want to believe that everyone has sexual difficulties at some point. Sexual problems of any nature, may be due to emotional feelings. control issues or unhappiness in one’s personal life that spills over and it is easier to find someone to blame for any problem rather than assuming personal responsibility for correcting one’s own issues. Laurie suggests that there may be confusion over an acceptable balance of who initiates sex..everyone will be turned down sometimes and should not take it personally or think about it too much…ideally, establishing an Egalitarian relationship has to be talked about and worked on consistently so no one feels undesirable or left hanging. Furthermore, timing is crucial and while spontaneous action is sometimes desirable, it is not always the only way to begin a loving sexual experience. However, making someone wait while you finish a television show is a definite turnoff and could be very demeaning and hurtful to your partner. It would be advantageous to consider your mate’s preference for when to make love. Again, communication about your needs in all aspects of the relationship, not only the sexual part, is a way to develop a greater understanding of yourself and your partners desires and needs. Communication about what is enjoyed by your partner, a massage and luxurious lovemaking or acting out erotic fantasies or a fast and furious athletic tumble could add to the sense of mystery and variety in the relationship. Over time, there will be clues that signal what will happen and of course the other person always needs to be respected; when they say no to any act that is not comfortable in a loving way rather than a derogatory attack on the other person, will be the best way to proceed.
A positive aspect of the sexual function in a marriage, suggests that sex functions to ease the wear and tear of daily life and reconnect two people in body and soul while facilitating forgiveness for the daily frustrations of living with one another. Sheryl agrees that this is a truism, but also feels that very few people express that sex is playing that role in their marriage and sex education and helping people learn how to communicate with their partners before marriage should be a curriculum included into school programs. Education might provide coursework in the spiritual and psychological ways to maintain healthy and loving relationships which really is the only way to have great sexual encounters.
Many modern day American women really desire an intimate, trusting and authentic communication with their partners. Men should want the same level of commitment and sensitivity, but perhaps they are slightly behind the female population in knowing how to accomplish an authentic relationship and indeed it is a lot of serious work to have a loving and stable marriage. Some approaches to realizing a better relationship and a better sexual relationship may utilize alternative energy healing modalities to awaken the body and mind to greater possibilities .Yoga, meditation, prayer, Reiki and other means for self-discovery and self-mastery of emotions, change the way we look at ourselves and the people we love.. To love, give, share and be loved, is a constant effort and a balance that requires the forfeiting of personal gain, judgment and other negative emotional responses for the comfort of the other person, rather than personal gratification. A moving towards unconditional love rather than a love that is in a sense a “bartering” situation where one demands sex as a result of doing something else for you. It is really a codependent relationship and not the way towards a meaningful and deep encounter.
Knowing the differences between the hormonal, chemical, spiritual and physical needs of men and women, are the essential and crucial building blocks for long-term lasting functional relationships. Many women don’t understand that men’s brain chemistry and neurological wiring is quite different than a women’s. Indeed the man’s physical brain and instincts are different, and it has been proven that as a man ages, the vibration of a woman’s voice is redirected to a part of the brain which is the musical center and the message needs to be deciphered and redirected to a part of the brain where the words can be interpreted and a response can be made. Many women think their husbands are not listening when in fact, they just need a little more time to respond…don’t repeat and nag…just wait awhile and gently try to mention your thought later on.
Another important difference that makes for much confusion is that desire kicks in for women when they feel something and then might want sex, but time and approach are crucial for a woman to be aroused: this may include but not be limited to; slow undressing, body contact and intimate sharing of thoughts during the seduction phase. Men are very different as they usually experience what is known as “sexual hunger” before arousal. Therefore, women have to be enticed each and every time, but men will only begin if their sexual hunger exists. Simply by knowing this difference, you are able to see that if a man is not interested at a particular moment, it is not due to a lack of attraction or lack of love for his partner. If a man is unable or unwilling to entice his partner into the sexual act because he does not understand that it is a vital part of the process, he may not have the response he needs or wants, and as a result anger and frustration may fester.
Another important aspect in a healthy relationship is getting the right closeness and distance at appropriate times. For example, plunging libido can result from being overworked, overwhelmed, overtired, or yielding to busyness…so while sex may enhance vitality and satisfaction, when absent, then sex can become a primary focus draining positive feeling and tearing at the marital fabric.
Let us remind ourselves of why we marry anyway. Most people marry for closeness, to love and be loved, yet we want to remain our own person and be respected for our separate ideas, opinions and goals. Connecting securely to a partner without feeling like we are losing our sense of Self can take years to work out and in some cases, cannot be worked out favorably…the sex issues are sometimes a reflection of feeling absorbed into a oneness that might be frightening or stifling at certain junctures in our life. While we long to share the secrets of our souls and crave passionate intimacy with our bodies, we need to be secure. These needs become confused when we marry..one spouse becomes the Pursuer favoring more closeness, usually the woman, and the other becomes a Distancer, favoring more separateness, according to Laurie Watson.
Sex therapists say love enjoys knowing everything about you: desire needs mystery…too often a couple settles into the comforts of love and cease to fan the flame of desire. Suggestions for fanning the flame of desire include, but are not limited to, travel, dinners, gifts, surprises, doing something unexpected, being humorous, coy, playful, musical, dancing, flirting, romantic movies, weekends away..spending time apart even separate vacations sometimes, and being in love with life is a great turn-on. Sometimes avoiding talking about the mundane or minor problems will be beneficial.
Sheryl shares with Laurie a recent article she read that suggested a huge number of women are opting to take anti-depressants and be in a state of well being but often their sexual urges are diminished by taking the medicine. The question becomes “Why do so many women need anti-depressants?” Could this be a commentary on the societal, educational and cultural mores which are adding to the stress and anxiety levels of so much of our population? The part materialism and excessive competition is playing in this problem needs to be addressed. Helping the general population to move forward spiritually, creating a community of more evolved people who will not need anti-depressants long term, will foster emotional balance, harmony, a state of peace and a sense of self-worth for many, clearly improving health and relationships.
Understanding certain life changes impact our sexual health and that includes childbirth and menopause, allow us the means to deal with the symptoms or issues that may arise. Seeking appropriate medical or counseling guidance, is the first way to deal with any dysfunction. If that doesn’t work, consider a different professional or treatment plan…but there is always a way to improve these situations, even if it means ending the relationship after all efforts have been made to correct the mind-body connection.
In conclusion, we can see that sex, while a great physical, spiritual and emotional event, is but one way to know ourselves and others. Preoccupation with problems fosters and continues the same patterns and behaviors. As we are on this earth plane to evolve into more loving and compassionate beings, freeing ourselves from the harmful emotions or physical problems that restrict love, we will become the best person we can. We will be more loving and will attract a loving relationship. Sex will no longer be the main issue, for you will have discovered the true purpose of a physical life…to love yourself and to love others deeply, without controlling them.