Sex & intimacy.
You would think that couples know that most likely, when coming into therapy, I will be asking them about their sex life. It’s always a surprise to see most couples look so taken back when I open up this conversation. Guess what? If you are coming to couple’s therapy, you should know that at some point, we might be talking about sex and intimacy. Why? Because it’s a core component in a relationship, and as such, needs to be cared for.
Let’s back track.
Most couples I see, come in asking for help in their communication [to start with]. I’ve learned throughout my years as a therapist, that communication is a general word for anything and everything. It might mean too much talking from one partner, and not much talking from the other. It could also mean that couples are having trouble talking about certain issues that always create conflict because of lack agreement (anything from household chores to moving to another country [not surprisingly, this comes up a lot in my work with multicultural couples]). It could also mean, not being able to talk about their emotions or misinterpreting the emotions that are shared. It could be a mismatch in values, goals, life vision, culture, family, and so on…
Often, problems communicating means that couples are having trouble connecting in an emotional way and being able to talk about this. If you are not feeling emotionally connected to your partner, it’s most likely that you won’t want to connect physically with them. So, we do need to talk about sex and intimacy in therapy.
To start with, I will ask for your permission to go into that subject. If you are not comfortable, we will not go there until you [both] feel ready, and when you do, some of the questions I will ask may sound like this:
→ How generally satisfied are you in your sexual relationship with your partner? Is there a time when this satisfaction has changed for either of you?
→ If we talk about your sexual relationship as a dance, how would you describe it? Who initiates and who follows? How is the communication during that interaction? Is this a reflection of how the rest of your relationship looks like?
→ How often do you have sex? Is this frequency ok for both? Do you have similar sex drives? If not, how do you handle this difference?
→ What is the most important part about sex for you both? Do you know what matters most to you or your partner?
Questions that I won’t ask:
→ Basically anything that goes into full-blown details. I’m not interested in what sexual positions, and amount of thrust you both like, or what are your kinks [if that’s something you are into]. These details are personal and unless you want to share them in order to explain why it’s not working or it’s working for you and your partner, don’t worry about having to go that deep (pun intended).
But talking about sex is important in a relationship. Sex should be a connecting experience for you both. It should feel fulfilling, enticing, joyful, empowered, blissful, and electrifying. Maybe not always up to this extent, but the hope is that when you connect intimately, you really connect. No matter if it’s a two hour love-making session or a 10 minute quickie.
It’s wonderful to see couples who are able to talk openly about this part of their relationship. If you and your partner are not one of those couples, don’t worry, we’ll start by creating a safe space to open up and hold this conversation. It’s important to feel empowered, listened to, cared for, and understood when being intimate with your partner. So, if it’s ok, we’ll take a look and see that this important part is going well and if you feel comfortable communicating about it. If not, be sure we can create a safe foundation to start up that communication.
Some books that I can recommend:
“Love Worth Making” by Stephen, Snyder M.D.
“She Comes First” by Ian Kerner, Ph.D.
“Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.