Sex can be fulfilling, exciting and powerful

It brings with it an unrivalled intimacy and connection. But that doesn’t mean to say that it is something that always comes naturally or feels easy.

In fact, it’s incredibly common to face challenges when it comes to sex and if this is something that you are struggling with, please know that you’re not alone. If we can release the shame and embarrassment, or sense of failure, that we sometimes feel in this aspect of our relationship, that in itself can be a good step forwards.

There is a whole range of reasons why sex might be something that is challenging. For some couples there will be mismatched sex drives which can be difficult to acknowledge and, in time, resolve. Medication plays a great role in how we feel physically and a common side effect of many drugs is a loss of sexual interest and appetite. For some couples, the arrival of children can have an enormous impact on sexual desire in this new phase of life whilst for others, it may feel like there is no right time or place to fit sex into daily life. All of these challenges, plus many others, are valid and are likely be far more common that you realise. Sex doesn’t take place in a vacuum, so consider what wider issues may be impacting on what’s happening when it comes to sexual intimacy. Might it be that physical issues, or wider stresses in your lives or relationship could be part of this? The good news is that the season that you’re in probably won’t last forever and that sex can be indeed be rediscovered and enjoyed.

The media – whether that be films, TV shows, glossy magazines or social media – is guilty of selling us a whole host of lies on this topic. We are consistently fed unrealistic depictions of what sex is like, leaving many of us with expectations of ourselves and each other that are unachievable, disheartening and sometimes even damaging. For example, sex doesn’t need to be limited to the bedroom or to the evenings either. It’s important to make sex a priority at times and places that suits you as a couple. When we uncover the myths that we’ve been sold, we are free to enjoy it without the pressure of meeting expectations that aren’t even real. Consider what has formed your view of how this aspect of your life should be. Is it truly realistic, and appropriate to who you are?

Another myth we can tell ourselves is that, ‘My partner should know what I want – if they really loved me I wouldn’t have to tell them how I’m feeling’. But actually the first step is often just to have the conversation. It’s good to talk, but even the chattiest and most seemingly confident of people can find it hard to communicate with their partner when it comes to sex. It can be very difficult to hear what our partner is really feeling and it takes vulnerability, maturity and honesty to have those tough conversations, especially when we don’t feel like we can face it.

Discussions about sex don’t need to be formal occasions where we sit opposite each other and intensely share how we’re feeling. Sometimes, the easiest way to take the intensity out of a conversation is to go for a walk. A change of environment away from the distractions of daily life can help to take the pressure and stress out of a challenging conversation and may even make space for some laughter! It may be that we’d find it easier to write a letter to our partner and this is a great way to communicate how we’re feeling. It’s important that we start the letter on a positive, say what we’d like to say and to then end on another positive, so that receiving the letter is a constructive and helpful experience for our partner.

Using ‘I’ language can also be incredibly helpful. For example, choosing to say ‘I feel like this’ instead of ‘You make me feel like this’ shifts the focus away from blame and fault and instead supports us to take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings whilst communicating them to each other. When both partners choose to do this, it can be very powerful.

You may find yourself in a place where extra support would be helpful and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t be scared to ask for help. Seeking help is one of the bravest things that we can do. There is a range of relationship support available when it comes to sex and many people have found that counselling and other help has made an enormous difference to their sex lives and to their relationships.

Whilst it may feel like it at the moment, your sex life is not gone forever. Answers can be found and things can change for the better.

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