Relationships – Part Three!

Sex and Relationships

Sex and intimacy are very important in most relationships but all couples go through phases where they don’t have the time, energy or inclination for sex. There may also be other reasons why couples experience problems in their sex life and this can leave them feeling very alone and helpless. For the majority of couples the problems may be linked to other challenges and difficulties such as feeling stressed and having a lot on their mind. Having sex or being intimate may not be a priority at this time but if the stress is resolved then it is likely that a satisfactory sexual relationship will be resumed. However, if a sexual problem is more severe or complex, it can have a stronger and longer-term effect on your sexuality and relationship. Couples may be reluctant to seek help due to shame, fear and embarrassment and may suffer in silence for months or even years.

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What causes sex problems? 

Problems in a sexual relationship are usually the result of a combination of factors:

Physical factors:

Disabilities and illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism and drug abuse can contribute to sexual dysfunction.

Major surgery, pregnancy and the menopause are also more likely to have a negative impact on sexual relationships.

Psychological :

Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can have a negative impact on sexual responses.

Emotional:

Unresolved grief, betrayal, unhappiness in a relationship, and low self-esteem effect how a person feels and they maybe unable to fully participate during sexual intimacy.

Situational:

A change in circumstances or living in a stressful situation such as moving to a new home, having a baby, change or loss of employment or financial problems, can contribute to sexual difficulties

Common female sex problems

Pain during sex

This can be very common particularly in women who are going through or have gone through the menopause. There are also medical conditions that can contribute to pain such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, scar tissue from surgery or sexually transmitted diseases.

Another condition is known as vaginismus characterized by an involuntary spasm of the muscles surrounding the entrance of the vagina. This may stem from a long term sexual phobia or a previous trauma such as sexual abuse or childbirth. It may also be linked to relationship problems or a fear of getting pregnant.

Orgasmic Disorder

It is estimated that about one in four women will have problems reaching an orgasm at some stage in their life and some may have never experienced orgasm.   This may not be necessary for a satisfactory sexual relationship but it can be a source of unhappiness for many couples. The reasons may be related to medical problems including hormonal imbalances or medication. Some women may have a fear of sex and losing control while others may be unhappy in their relationship in general.

Loss of desire 

Women often experience of loss of desire at certain periods in their life such as pregnancy, after having given birth, times of stress, menopause and while this is quite normal and desire is likely to return, for some women this is a persistent problem.  This can be caused by a variety of different factors including: physical illness, relationship problems, hormone disorders, depression, excessive tiredness, traumatic sexual experiences and drug and alcohol abuse. Lack of sex drive is also linked to a reduction in a woman’s natural testosterone levels. 

 There is also a condition known as ‘sexual anorexia’, which is a complete lack of desire for sex. Like the eating disorder this is psychologically linked and counseling is essential to help suffers perceive sexual intimacy to be natural and healthy rather than bad and shameful.

Common Male Sex Problems

 Ejaculation problems 

Ejaculation problems are very common and men will typically experience one of three types of disorder:

Premature ejaculation:

This is when a man ejaculates too quickly during sexual intercourse. The average time of ejaculation is considered five minutes so regularly ejaculating before or within one minute of penetration is regarded as premature.

Retarded/delayed ejaculation:

This is when a man is unable to ejaculate during sex or ejaculation is significantly delayed.

Retrograde ejaculation:

This is the least common and is when the sperm travels backwards and enters the bladder instead of passing through the urethra and head of the penis. Orgasm is still experienced but there will be no, or little semen.

These may all be linked to psychological and/or physical factors including stress and previous sexual trauma or medical conditions such as diabetes.

Erectile Dysfunction:

This is also known as impotence, and refers to the inability to get and maintain an erection that is satisfactory for sexual intercourse. This is quite common and is linked to hormonal problems and the narrowing of blood vessels inside of the penis due to high blood pressure. Stress, anxiety and mental health issues are further causes of erectile dysfunction, along with sexual boredom and constant worrying about pleasing a partner. Unfortunately, for many men, even when the initial cause of an erection problem has passed, the anxiety of repeated failure may block future erections.

When is the right time to seek help for sex problems? 

Talking about sex problems can be difficult and embarrassing for many, and as a result some people may suffer in silence.

Sex and sexual intimacy is an important part of bonding between two people in a relationship and without it a couple can become disconnected.

Some of the signs that sex problems are affecting your relationship include:

  • Sex causes disappointment.
  • Sex is the cause of rows.
  • One or both partners are feeling dissatisfied or stuck in a rut.
  • Couples start drifting apart and losing touch.
  • One or both partners feels taken for granted or neglected.

 

The first step is to contact your GP to establish the cause(s) of the problem and to identify is there is a medical reason, which can be treated by medication. Sex therapy may be the next course of action.

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Sex Therapy can help you if you’re experiencing difficulties in your love life and can help you to improve physical intimacy.

Sex therapists are specially trained to help you identify any issues that are effecting your sexual relationship and can give practical advice and suggestions to help you. Although it can seem embarrassing to talk about such personal things with a stranger they are trained to put you at ease and enable you to explore your relationship together.

Whether you are single, married, in a relationship, gay, lesbian or straight, Sex Therapy can help you to improve your sex life and to overcome many specific sexual dysfunctions.
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