Women’s and Couples’ Sexual Therapy

mature couple transitionIf we were to believe TV, movies, music videos and advertising, it would seem our culture is very open about sexuality, and the messages about how we’re supposed to think and behave might be a little confusing. On the one hand, women heroines and role models are portrayed as beautiful, flawless, sexually confident and always receptive to intimacy with the object of their affection. Their portrayed love lives are spontaneous, exciting, always steamy, and we might expect that this media version of intimacy is “normal”.  On the other hand, closer to home, girls and women are warned off of acting in any way that will earn them a “reputation”. In Western society, when it comes to our personal sexual experiences, we tend to be private, even embarrassed if our intimate experiences don’t seem quite as flawless. Unlike the popular media heroines, most people find it awkward at best to initiate a conversation about sex, and even harder to admit to having worries, questions or concerns. It’s as if we’re supposed to be confident, always in the mood, and amazing lovers without any problems, while displaying sexual morals that no one could question, ever. Most people describe their reality as something quite different from that ideal.

A recent poll of almost 9000 people revealed that:

  • 71% of respondents confided that they have sex no more than once or twice a month, and more than half had sex only once or twice a year. Only 29% were having sex once or twice a week, though popular media suggests twice-weekly sex is “usual.”
  • Half of respondents said their sex was friendly but predictable and uninspired, lacking creativity and spontaneity. Another 17% went on to say their sex was passionless, mechanical, and nonerotic. An additional 15% were celibate. Only 18% said their sex lives were “steamy.”
    * Source: Schnarch, D, Ph.D., (2008) Passionate Marriage

According to recent studies, about two in every five women report having sexual issues – far more common than most people would think. Living in reality alongside the inaccurate portrayal of sexual relationships in the media, a lot of couples feel unsure who to talk to about their concerns. You deserve a satisfying sex life, and help is available in Langley.

A Range of Sexual Issues and Concerns

Women and their intimate partners may experience problems with a number of aspects of their sex life – not just intercourse. Sexual concerns may include problems with touch, reaching orgasm (through self-stimulation or with a partner), oral sex, or pain. If you are experiencing pain, it is advisable to seek medical advice promptly. Common concerns women report include disinterest, or low interest in sexual activity, trouble becoming aroused (feeling too dry), or tension and negative emotions. While these concerns arise for most women at some time in their lives, if the problem persists, it may also start to impact their intimate partner or introduce tension in the relationship.

Causes of Women’s Sexual Issues

Just as we are biological and social beings, so are our sexual concerns driven by these factors. We are also influenced by our internal world of thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. Biological factors such as hormone imbalance, disease (i.e., MS or diabetes), or infection can lead to pain during sexual activity or dryness. Women may experience hormone related sexual concerns following the birth of a baby or menopause.  Some medications can also produce sexual side effects.

Socially, we are influenced by cultural messages about sexuality, including what we are exposed to in the media, and the messages our parents and caregivers conveyed to us about sexuality, positive or negative. Messages that make a particularly important impact on women’s sexuality are those around women’s roles, how assertive or powerful women are expected to be in relation to a sexual partner, messages about body image and messages about pleasure and sex itself. From the time we are very young, we are developing a sense of who we are as a sexual and sensual being, and then we negotiate our intimate relationships by incorporating our sexual partner’s story with our own. Couples develop a style of communication around sexuality(or sometimes, “non-communication”). Ideally, couples find a way to initiate and then continue a dialogue about what works for them both, though life can get in the way.

Common hurdles that negatively impact couples’ sexuality include work stress, financial stress, substance use, mental health concerns, and trying to juggle work, family, and personal interests. A busy mind and exhausted body will challenge even the most dedicated couples to maintain a mutually satisfying intimate life together. Regardless of what started it all, many couples find themselves challenged to turn it around, and yearn for the feeling of closeness they once shared.

When to seek help for sexual issues

If you are like most people, you have thought about the sexual issues you are experiencing, you’ve tried to find solutions, and you may have tried a few ideas. If the concerns have remained, despite your efforts, or you find it difficult to even discuss possible solutions, you may wish to consider consulting a professional sex therapist in Langley. Sometimes even the decision to seek help together can reduce the worry or frustration you or your partner have been experiencing – just knowing you are going to work on it can help restore a sense of closeness.

How to find help

Michele, as a couple and family therapist with specific training and experience in sex therapy, is used to talking about sexual concerns. These are common to many couples, and it is anticipated that you may wish to speak about sexual topics. Counseling will help you identify relationship dynamics and other contributors to the concerns, and can provide you with information about sexuality, sexual concerns, and will help to find possible solutions. Your privacy is protected, and your wishes about what will and will not be discussed will be respected.

The decision of whether to come to counseling on your own or as a couple is up to you. Many couples will find it helpful to schedule a combination of individual and couple sessions. If you haven’t already, referral to a physician may be advised in addition to the counseling. A physician may review possible biological contributors to the concerns, as well as advising you about any medication interventions available. Take the first step today – request a confidential consult with Michele, Langley couple and family therapist, to answer any of your questions or concerns.