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Relationship Problems – Coping with Sexual Problems

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In other posts on this blog we’ve talked about the differences between sexual drive, sexual desire, sexual arousal and orgasm. To briefly remind ourselves:

Sexual drive is a biologically determined need for sexual release, which is partly based on testosterone, especially in males, and there are differences between men and women in the way that sexual drive is expressed.

Men seem to be more spontaneous and self-motivated in their sexual needs, and require a regular outlet (perhaps in self-stimulation) if they are not going to be frustrated; while women can enjoy sex just as much, and perhaps more, but can manage longer spells without it if they are not in a relationship.

Sexual desire, on the other hand, is a desire for a particular sexual experience, maybe with a particular partner or maybe a specific kind of sexual activity, and sexual desire within a relationship is often the mainspring in its development and in its continuation.

Sexual arousal is best described as biological readiness for a sexual experience. In the man this is usually shown by the presence of an erection, and in the woman by lubrication and clitoral enlargement.

Desire and arousal usually happen at the same time, but in some cases of sexual dysfunction, this doesn’t work: for example a man with erectile impotence may not have an erection even though his desire is strong, or a woman whose sexual desire is normal may be unable to be aroused because of anxiety.

Orgasm is the climax of the sexual process, and involves a feeling of pleasure accompanied by ejaculation in the man, and a similar feeling of pleasure in the woman.

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This is usually followed by relaxation and satisfaction for both, but women can often move on to a second climax, while this is much rarer in men.

Mutual orgasm, which some believe that all couples should experience, is not as common as is generally thought, and this is one area where unrealistic expectations can harm an otherwise good relationship.

Misunderstandings

Many people, both men and women, are shy about talking about their sexual feelings, and often the problems of desire and function get muddled up in discussion.

It is helpful to be as plain as possible in discussing sex, but the most important thing is to respect your partner’s sensitivities.

Within these limits, a positive approach to talking about a sexual problem, being clear about what exactly is wrong, may do a lot of good and may make the problem much easier to cope with.

This may be easy in couples who already have a sympathetic understanding of each other.

However, there are some couples whose relationship flourishes on teasing and a combative approach to each other, and for them the move to being positive and sympathetic may be a difficult one.

Even if your relationship is of that sort, you may be able to have a constructive talk about sex if you follow the suggestions below.

How To Discuss Sexual Difficulties

One of the hardest steps is to raise the subject for the first time. If a couple have a sexual problem, it may be that the one with the problem feels embarrassed to talk about it, and may need some encouragement to do so.

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It may be easier for the other partner to raise it, but-again this has to be done with care so as not to upset the partner with the problem.

An exercise may help you to get into this area of discussion.

Try This Exercise – Talking About Your Sexual Problem

  • Make sure that you are not going to be disturbed (turn off the radio, TV and music and put the telephone on to ‘answer’)
  • Sit comfortably together with the timer on (maybe for ten minutes at first)
  • Come with an agenda for what you want to talk about
  • Start with a non-threatening issue such as arrangements for the evening or the time you go to bed
  • If it feels safe, go on to raise the sexual problem
  • Try and tune in to what the other person is wanting
  • If you have complaints, put them in the form of positive requests
  • Use all the communication and negotiation skills you have learned from other posts on this site
  • Use simple language that you both understand
  • Remember that non-sexual problems may be interfering with sex, and think about what you might be resentful about in your general relationship
  • Don’t go on too long in discussion: if you have not reached a conclusion, put it ‘on ice’ until the next time.
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