Why People Stop Having Sex (continued)

How To Stay Sexually Faithful With Your Current Lover For The Rest Of Your Life -
And Really Enjoy It!

I haven't really touched upon sexual dysfunctions so far, but it is obvious that some sexual dysfunctions make a couple stop having sex.

(By sexual dysfunction I mean things like premature ejaculation, loss of erection, low sexual drive or inability to reach orgasm.)

Oddly enough, however, premature ejaculation does not usually stop a couple having sex! In my experience as a therapist, premature ejaculation may leave a man feeling slightly inadequate as a lover, and it may leave his partner feeling frustrated if she has not had an orgasm, but it rarely leads to sex stopping altogether.

Perhaps this is because premature ejaculation is most often seen in younger men, whose sex drive is so high that a little thing like coming quickly is unlikely to stop them having sex.

Some men are unable to ejaculate during intercourse, which can certainly lead to the death of sex in a relationship. Men who thrust for upwards of an hour without reaching orgasm and ejaculating are lovers whose partners very quickly tend to get turned off!

For one thing they are sore. For another they are irritated and rarely enjoy an orgasm themselves. One has to ask, of course, what dynamics are at work in a couple where a woman who is so dissatisfied with the level of sexual pleasure she is receiving does not assert herself so that things change.

In many cases low sexual desire is simply a sign that somebody has turned themselves off sex. Don't misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that people do this deliberately, although I guess that can happen where a man or woman is more or less consciously using sex as a power tool within the relationship.

Much more often, low sexual desire is a sign that a person has turned themselves off because their dissatisfaction with the dynamics of the relationship or the sex they are having is too great.

You may think it's surprising that we can turn ourselves off. And yet we turn ourselves on, do we not? Have you ever made a conscious decision to have sex or masturbate?

And have you then set the scene, by preparing the room, setting aside enough time, getting the oil and lotions ready, running a bath, seducing your partner with dinner or a slow, relaxed evening in by the fire? If we turn ourselves on sexually in this way, what is there to stop us turning ourselves off sexually?

Think back for a moment to the days when you were a teenager. When I was running a sexual advice service in the early days of the Internet, I received question after question from teenagers who wanted advice on reducing their sexual drive, or finding some way to stop having erections so constantly.

Although I received fewer e-mails from teenage girls on how to stop getting so turned on my suspicion is that this was only because the signs of arousal are less overt for teenage girls than they are for teenage boys; having an unwanted erection many times a day can be a major embarrassment, while a pair of damp panties is not.

And what causes those spontaneous erections, the damp panties, the ready arousal, the need to masturbate, the constant sexual tension?

In short, as you may recall, almost anything: a glimpse of a small area of flesh, the site of the girl's bra strap, or a flash of her belly; a group of boys playing sport in athletic vests and shorts; a sweaty team on the league basketball or netball pitch; a suggestion of sex in the movies; a fleeting fantasy; a pair of closed curtains in a bedroom window; all these things - and thousands more - were enough, consciously or unconsciously noted, to arouse us, to promote sexual desire.

And yet what did we do? We turned ourselves off; for even as teenagers, it is inappropriate to give expression to all the sexual stimulation we get as we go through life.

As we get older, we become even more turned off. Sexual stimuli assault us from every side: we may fantasize, for example, about our work partners and colleagues, or about our friends' partners.

Or we may have sexual fantasies provoked by films, television, and magazine articles, especially in these days where the cult of the celebrity seems to rule popular culture. But we do not act upon these fantasies.

What do you do when you feel a surge of sexual attraction to a stranger, an attractive member of the opposite sex on the subway or the bus, or in the parking lot, or the grocery queue?

What if you catch sight of somebody who really turns you on? As a responsible adult you certainly do not give way to sexual desire and start acting it out - especially if you are already in a long-term relationship. Instead, you turn yourself off.

And in turning ourselves off, we lose much of the potential excitement of our own sexuality, and that of the people around us. I'm not suggesting, of course, that it's appropriate to respond sexually to the touch of an attractive man or woman on the subway.

What I am saying is that I believe we do ourselves a grave disservice by numbing ourselves to sexual stimulation in this way, because when we go home to our long-term partner we are turned off sexually.

Yes: we are turned off sexually, and it takes much more effort to move back into a sexual place than it would if we were open to our sexuality and ready to accept that we are sexual beings, all of the time, everywhere we go - and no, of course we do not have to respond to the sexual stimuli we receive on the way.

At least, not at the time we receive them, and not with the person concerned. What we can do is to take that arousal home and bring it into our lives with our partners.

Loss of erection - erectile dysfunction - is a common enough problem. Whether it happens all the time or just occasionally, or anywhere in between, it can be a major blow to your sexual self-confidence and really put you off sex - losing one's erection is seen by most men as a loss of manhood or masculinity.

One of the more serious reasons why people become sexually inhibited within relationship is that they have experienced sexual abuse in childhood. Sometimes it is possible to overcome sexual abuse with the support and love of one's partner; at other times professional therapy may be needed.

Certainly experiencing some of the sensual exercises which we described in later chapters within a loving relationship and with the support of a trusted sexual partner can make massive steps in overcoming sexual abuse. In simplistic terms it's a matter of breaking the association between sex and traumatic experience, and replacing it with an association between sex and pleasure.

Of course in practice things are a little bit more complicated than that, because people who are sexually abused in childhood may actually find that they become sexually aroused during the abuse and therefore develop a strong sense of guilt around sexual activities.

If they also feel shame about their sexuality and sexual desires then it becomes proportionately harder to free up the psyche so that sex becomes truly pleasurable.

How do you see your body? How do you think your partner sees your body? We live in a society where there are very prominent images of the desirable male and female body peddled all around, in every media that we look at. The increasing frequency of anorexia may be related to the peddling of thin female body images in magazines read by impressionable girls.

In any event it is fair to say that many of us have issues about our bodily appearance or about the appearance of parts of our body; for women in particular the appearance of the genitals can be a source of fear and shame.

And of course, it is not just the appearance of our bodies that can bother us; if we imagine our bodies have an unpleasant smell or disgusting secretions, then we fall just as much into the trap of wanting a perfect body as do those who believe that they are too fat, or too thin, or that their breasts are uneven, or their penis is too small, or that -- well, whatever your particular hang-up happens to be!

There are rather a lot of men and women who have an aversion to parts of their own or their partner's body. Some men have a strong aversion to the vagina, so much so that they cannot look at it all, or even bear to touch it - at least not with their hands! But this problem is no joke, for acceptance of one's body is about as fundamental a sign of acceptance of oneself as it is possible to imagine.

And if one does not accept one's own body, it is impossible to imagine anyone else accepting it. From there it is but a short step to declining sex because you are frightened of your partner's response to what you look like, smell like, (or even sound like), as you make love. We shall look at ways in which people can become more comfortable with their body and their partner's body later in the website.

How is your communication? Communication is one of the most challenging things within relationship. There are so many reasons why it can be difficult to express your needs, wishes, and desires. And nowhere is this more true than when it comes to the arena of sexuality.

Whether you believe that your partner is open to experimentation, or fantasy, or sharing your innermost secret sexual thoughts and desires, it is still incredibly difficult to express your sexual needs in an assertive way while still respecting your partner's boundaries. Some of us cannot do it at all.

Some of us can do it only with aggression. Some of us avoid conflict; some actively search it out. In any event, not being able to talk about sex is certainly one of the reasons why sex diminishes within a relationship. Each partner feels that their needs are not being met, but hasn't got the capacity to express what it is that they actually desire.

Or each partner secretly resents something that is happening within the relationship or chooses to say nothing for fear of conflict or disrupting the apparently harmonious surface of the relationship. Again, we look at communication skills in a later section of the website.

High on the list of reasons why sex becomes less frequent (or faithfulness is called into question) in a long term relationship is that sex has become boring! And yet when you think of the number of ways in which human sexuality can express itself, this hardly stands up as a sound reason for lack of sexual expression between two people in relationship. The key to sexual boredom is not to find another partner!

The key to dealing with sexual boredom is to overcome the routine that you have established with your current partner; overcome in the sense of "move beyond". Getting stuck in a sexual rut is very common: it happens because we have certain beliefs, whether we are aware of them or not, about the right way to enjoy sex.

The most obvious indicator of this would be if you try another sexual activity of some kind and you come away from it with a sense of guilt or shame.

Sometimes this sense is so subtle that you have to search for it, but if it is there, this is a good sign that you might not be as sexually liberated as you like to believe. In any event, getting into rut because it is comfortable or easy is exactly how sexual boredom begins. The answer is simple! Try new sexual activities! We have a whole section on sexual techniques which will offer inspiration and new ideas to overcome sexual boredom.

And if you are doubting that this will help your sexual relationship, think back to the days when you were a teenager or in your early 20s perhaps, and you found almost any sexual activity exciting: petting, frottage (i.e. dry humping - the safest sex there is!), deep kissing, fingering genitals over clothes, under clothes, or through clothes, oral sex in the back of the car, masturbation at any time of day or night... and so on!

Why do you think those activities were so exciting then, and you're not doing them now? Surely it's not because your capacity to be excited by them has diminished? It's much more likely that you've simply got into a sexual rut and you have simply given up trying them.

This may be the time for experimentation! There's a peculiar experience that people can have within long-term permanent relationships: the experience of being lonely. Sometimes the keenest sense of loneliness within a relationship can be during sexual activity.

It's bizarre that an activity which is supposed to bring us closer than any other human activity can actually be conducted with one partner psychologically at a distance so great that the other partner feels isolated and lonely.

And yet this is very common: it probably afflicts more men than women, in that men can be more threatened by intimacy, feel more invaded, and feel their boundaries being dissolved more easily than women, who perhaps are brought up in a way that makes these experiences more familiar and so less threatening to them.

 It's also entirely possible that psychological distance can come from a desire to be a perfect lover: that the perfectionist in bed is more obsessed with technique and bringing his partner to orgasm than with intimacy.

The truth is that these men often do not know how to communicate intimacy and love, and they offer all kinds of excuses as to why it doesn't happen. It's also true that some people do need psychological space and a relationship can be very "suffocating" at times.

Nonetheless this does not really explain the psychological or emotional distance between two lovers as they enjoy the most intimate of human acts.

And yet at the same time is it possible that some of us expect our partners to be more intimate, communicative, and present during sex than at any other time in relationship? Some of us do need closeness and emotional contact for a sense of reassurance and safety. The secret, of course, is always is to find the right balance.

Some authors, particularly John Gray, have described what is almost a dance between the man and woman during relationship, where his need for distance is satisfied by emotional withdrawal followed by a return to intimacy, a cycle that can threaten women who have a fear of intimacy abandonment or loss.

They may respond to this cycle with cloying behaviour that "threatens" the man. As always, the answer to these issues is to develop communication skills, so that each partner knows what the other is experiencing; but without training in the necessary communication skills, it can be hard for us to find a way of expressing what is going on to each other.

And some of us do not even know what we need in relationship. We look at some ways in which these issues can be helped later in the website.

At this point I want to return briefly to the subject of fear. Perhaps the biggest inhibitor of our sexuality is fear.

This fear encompasses fear of pregnancy, fear of sexual inadequacy, fear of loss of erection, fear of not being aroused, fear of not being good enough, fear of a partner responding negatively to our bodies or our sexual advances, fear of intimacy, and fear of exposing ourselves to another person, as well as the fear of feeling our sexual needs and desires.

This may sound strange, but the truth is that our sexual experiences with a lover, particularly in a long term relationship, are the experiences that bring us most closely in contact with our deepest needs and desires.

Perhaps, then, it is no wonder that we find sex such a frightening and overwhelming prospect, and even more understandably, something that can disappear all too easily from even the best relationships.

Fear of rejection, fear of not meeting the partner's expectations, and fear of not being able to perform are among the most common emotional barriers to intercourse.

Some dysfunctional people harbour feelings of guilt over their sexual needs, or lack the skill or desire to stimulate their partner. Even mild anxiety can impede or disable sexual performance. Ignorance and inexperience contribute their own problems.

"Frequently, for instance" reveals Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan in Psychology Today, "neither spouse knows where the clitoris is or recognizes its potential for eliciting erotic pleasure. (Surely this must have been an old article?) They have intercourse as soon as the husband has an erection, and he ejaculates without considering whether his partner is ready.

Such couples genuinely wonder why the wife does not reach orgasm." I'd guess this probably doesn't apply to you, but if it does, there is plenty of information on this website to help you.

Finally, you may simply not know why you have stopped having sex.

Perverse though it sounds, many couples find themselves in a situation where they stop having sex just because it is more comfortable not to have sex or take the trouble to initiate sex. As we shall see, a way to deal with this is simply to program sex into your diaries.

This, bizarrely, can not only help you to enjoy sex, but it can also help you to rediscover the joys of spontaneous, uninhibited, playful sex!

Other pages

Home ] [ The Art Of Monogamy - How To Keep Sex Alive In A Committed Relationship ] Stay Faithful And Enjoy Great Sex For The Rest Of Your Life ] Have Great Sex In A Monogamous Relationship ] Keeping Sex Passionate In Your Relationship ] How To Stay Faithful In A Committed Relationship ]

Home ] How to stay faithful to your long term partner - and how to keep sex exciting ] How To Make Love To The Same Partner For The Rest Of Your Life ] The Menopause and Andropause ] Intimacy Technique 1: Sensate Focus ] Intimacy Technique 1a: Overcoming Anger and Fear ]