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Relationship Problems – Sex
Relationship problems come in all shapes and sizes. John Gottman has emphasized that there are three problems that marriages even newlyweds face: money (Related Article: Relationship Problems – Money), sex and in-laws (Related Article: Relationship Problems – In-Laws). As a Utah marriage counselor for nearly two decades, I have seen these issues again and again. Many couples are plagued by these relationship problems and don’t know what to do to fix them (Related Articles: 4 Signs You Have Marriage Problems and How To Fix Your Marriage Problems).
Let me outline some of the trends that I have seen regarding one of the biggest relationship problems – sex, and what to do about them.
Expectations About Sex Don’t Match Between You And Your Spouse
One of the most common issues regarding sex in relationships is that you don’t agree with your spouse about it. How often you have it, what to do during it and what function it plays in your marriage.. Because your expectations are different, it leads to fights, resentment, or distance between the two of you.
What to do: Communicate your expectations to your spouse. Instead of assuming that you are both on the same page or that they can read your mind, talk with each other. Open up about what you hope to get out of your sexual relationship, what you are hoping to try, what your fears and insecurities might be, etc…
‘No-No-No!’ to ‘Go-Go-Go!’
The idea of sex being off limits in some Church cultures for your whole life and then moving into marriage where you are expected to just be ok with it and good at it can be difficult (borrowed from Dr. Jeremy Boden). Growing up in a culture, for example, where sex seems taboo, it can be difficult to all of the sudden be ok with it. It might be difficult for you to make such a drastic shift into a sexual relationship when this is the case.
What do do: Allow you and your spouse to have growing pains as you shift into a sexual relationship with each other. Talk about what you are experiencing both physically and emotionally as you become sexual with each other. If it’s hard to talk about this, then talk about the fact that it’s hard to talk about it, for example (Related Article: Communication In Marriage: How To Take A Half-Step).
Sex Can Be Physically Painful
For some newly marriage couples (or couples who have been married for longer), sex is physically painful. It hurts or is uncomfortable and you aren’t sure what to do about it. If this is the case, couples therapy can help with communication about this pain. Whereas an M.D. is the way to go to take care of the physical problem.
What to do: Whenever I have a couple complaining about physical pain with intercourse or sexual acts, I refer them to see a physical doctor. You can check with them to see if there is something physiologically wrong. If so, they can work to fix it with you. If not, then it might be something psychological causing the physical pain. This is something a trained couples sex therapist can help with.
Sex Can Be Emotionally Painful
Sex can also be emotionally painful. If your spouse is using pornography then being physically close and intimate with them can cause you pain (Related Article: My Spouse Is Using Pornography, What Do I Do?). Betrayal trauma, for example, because of your spouses pornography use or infidelity, can cause tremendous relationship problems. This can be damaging and may cause marriage issues as well as sexual issues.
What to do: Again, talk and communicate about your emotions and issues. Try to create emotional safety for each other as you share (Related Article: Create Emotional Safety Through Fixing Marriage Problems). Hold emotional space for each other as you explore your emotional experiences. You might need to coping with mental health issues, infidelity, or a lack of connection with your spouse. These can all make sex emotionally painful – so, talk about it and heal together.
Learn more about sex therapy in this article: Do We Need Sex Therapy?