Our therapists log a fair number of hours talking about sex.
How much sex couples are having. How little sex couples are having. What kind of sex couples want to have. You name it.
Most people who are married understand that sex is not just about the mechanics of intercourse but rather that sex is connected to so many more aspects of who we are as sensual, expressive, sexual being.
Unfortunately, very few of us have the words or language to talk about these depths and nuances of sex.
We often hear things like:
- “I just don’t feel connected to my husband.”
- “I know this sounds stupid but if he would unload the dishwasher…that would feel like foreplay.”
- “I’m so tired of being rejected by my wife in the bedroom. I don’t even initiate anymore.”
- “Every time we try to talk about sex, we end up fighting. I’m tired of feeling so wrong and broken.”
These experiences around sex and intimacy are incredibly common for committed partners. And, the common belief is: if you have a good, emotional life with your partner, your sex life will just work itself out.
Except for when it doesn’t (which is true for many many people).
We look at sex and intimacy from an integrated model that is not so focused on how much and how often but rather getting deeply into your sexual experience as a whole experience. This integrated model was created by author, therapist, and speaker Gina Ogden, PhD, LMFT.
When Oprah interviewed Gina about her research and this model of working with sex, Oprah said,
“When your research is published, it will change the way we think about sex in this country”.
Here are the four aspects that we consider:
Yes, the physical is important!
- Do you experience pain, are you on medications, do you have a disability?
- How do you like to be stimulated genitally as well as through ‘outercourse’ (non-genital stimulation)?
- What kinds of disrupted adrenal functions and increased cortisol levels are occurring due to past trauma, PTSD, lack of sleep, depression, etc.?
- How comfortable are you with your body and sharing your body with another?
- And much more…
You might notice that this list includes a number of aspects of the physical outside of the usual (how often are you doing it? can you get it up?) conversation. That’s because of all of these nuances and particularities matter.
- What kinds of feelings come up when you think about sex? Excitement, anticipation, love, dread, fear, anger, boredom…?
- How do you communicate your feelings to your partner?
- How do you receive your partner's feelings when they share them with you?
- Does your way of communicating emotions with your partner create a secure environment for sexual play and exploration?
- Is it okay to receive pleasure? To give pleasure?
- Are there past wounds, traumas or emotional scar tissue between you and your partner that feel like they are preventing you from having physical intimacy?
- What are your thoughts and beliefs about sex?
- What do you expect out of sex and your sexual partner?
- What kinds of unspoken contracts have you (and your partner) created that dictate what you believe your sex life should be?
- How has the culture that you have grown up in given you judgments, thoughts, or beliefs about sex — that maybe you no longer want to keep?
- What are your beliefs about how your sex should look between: a man and a woman, two married people, two committed people who are not married, two women, etc.?
(not necessarily religious but rather one’s personal experience or understanding of the Divine) *this is the aspect that is most often ignored by our culture as it pertains to sex*
- What kinds of messages did you receive of pleasure, sex, your physical body from your religion, church, spiritual beliefs as a child?
- In what ways, if any, have your religious or spiritual beliefs introduced an aspect of the Divine into your sexual life?
- How do you make sense of chaos in your world or in your relationship?
- How do you ‘ground yourself’ in when chaos occurs?
- Have you ever experienced a spiritual union during sex in the past?
- What is the meaning of sex, if any, beyond the physical?
You can see that this very brief introduction encourages exploration of what you bring to your our sexuality both with and without a partner! Before we look at ‘what is broken’ it is valuable to get clear on what we are working with. And most people have spent very little time exploring what they bring to their own sex life!
I encourage you to get curious about these four aspects of yourself — and then get curious about your partner. Come in and have a conversation if you want with one of our trained therapists and let us help you uncover new experiences in your intimate life!
Give us a ring at (720) 457-3342.
We are excited to partner with our clients to help them realize the kinds of relationships that they want to be having in their lives.