“Unsatisfying sexual relationships are the all-too-frequent causes of alienation, infidelity and divorce,” says author Michelle Weiner Davis. She contends that it isn’t a matter of how often a couple has sex, but how satisfied both partners feel: “A sex-starved marriage is more about the fallout that occurs when one spouse is deeply unhappy with his/her sexual relationship and this unhappiness is ignored, minimized, or dismissed.”
Just what are some of the barriers to satisfying sex and how can they be overcome? There are two main areas in which these barriers developed – your personal sexual history and your sexual history as a couple.
Personal Sexual History
As much as you may want to have a deeply connected and intimate love life, there are some real barriers in your personal sexual history that have to be overcome to get what you want and need. Some of these barriers were your personal choice. Others definitely were not. But either way, to have the sex life that you want, you will need to address these barriers head on and remove them.
- Distorted Views and Attitudes
It could be that you were taught, either directly or indirectly, that sex is dirty and shameful. Sex may have only been talked and joked about in degrading or secretive ways. As a result, you may have experienced conflicting, even shameful feelings about your own sexuality. Discussing sex in a healthy manner and making love in affirming and non-degrading ways can help you overcome this barrier.
Maybe you suffered from sexual abuse as a child, teenager or even as an adult. This abuse will often be a huge roadblock, but it is not insurmountable. As difficult as it may be, the first step is to forgive your abuser so that they no longer have power over you. A helping professional can help you if you get stuck. Then you will be on the road to healing and overcoming the negative effects of your abuse. With a mate who is sensitive, patient and understanding, and with continued communication, you can achieve satisfying sexual intimacy.
Pornography is powerful in that it never says, “no.” All those neurochemicals that are released in the brain during a sexual experience enjoyed with your spouse, are also released when viewing pornography. So, you are bonding with an image on a screen rather than with a real, live human being. And then the “law of diminishing return” kicks in which means it takes more of the chemical rush to produce the same effect. The obvious cure for this is to have satisfying sex with your mate, even if it takes more time and effort. It will be worth it!
Not only can pornography be addictive, but so can any form of sexual behavior that is about personal gratification. This can be anonymous sex acts, prostitution, massage parlors, etc. Bringing the addiction out in the open and “de-shameifying” it will help to break its power and begin the healing. With understanding and support the addiction can be broken.
Both men and women can be manipulative when it comes to sexual expression. Men often learn to equate sex with accomplishment and conquest. They can become very manipulative in their communication, humor, touch, etc. They can carry this behavior into a relationship and tend to manipulate their mate, sometimes without being aware of it. Women are often pressured to give their sexuality away, and often do, to gain love and acceptance. This can lead to self-loathing and the “I’m damaged goods” syndrome. They can also manipulate by using sex as a tool to get what they want and use their partner for selfish reasons. Learning to value your mate as a person and developing intimacy in your communication, emotions, and spirituality will break the manipulation habit
Comparing your mate with previous sexual partners can be very damaging to your sexual intimacy. Just as everyone has a different personality type or love language, so do we have different sexual personalities. To compare your mate to someone else is unfair and hurtful. Learn your mate’s preferences, what turns them on, how they like to be touched, etc., not as a way to manipulate them, but to truly satisfy them- and you!
Sexual History as a Couple
Not only do we have a personal sexual history that may affect our sexual and create barriers, but we also have a sexual history together as a couple that can build barriers as well. Some of the history may include things such as “mate rape”, rejection, watching porn together, including others in sex, affairs, prostitutes or homosexual encounters. Most often the negative sexual history that a couple shares is simply neglect and lack of effort or interest. Be honest with your mate and tell them what you feel has affected your relationship negatively. It may be necessary to forgive one another and have a fresh start with boundaries that protect both of you and your relationship.