Couples Sexual Desire

  Our culture is dominated by fantasy images of sex. Attraction means instant sexual compatibility and eroticism. Sex is always highly passionate orgasmic magic!  But passionate sex seldom lasts even until marriage.  The images presented through movies, porn, novels, and songs are counterproductive for couples trying to renew or maintain a vital sexual bond.

     Most couples have had both exciting and disappointing sexual experiences.  Becoming a sexual couple is a process that takes time and energy.  Sexuality cannot be taken for granted.

     The most frequent sex dysfunction involves problems of sexual desire. Rather than positively anticipating sex and feeling you deserve sexuality to nurture your relationship, you are caught in the cycle of anticipatory anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, and avoidance.  Inhibited sexual desire is the most common reason for couples who enter sex therapy(Sexual Awareness, Barry McCarthy).

      Of course, relationship problems do undermine sexual desire.  Common problems include poor communication, lack of respect, anger over past events, frustration over relationship roles, power struggles, disappointments and resentments, disagreement about finances, work fatigue, medical problems, and more. For many couples, until the relationship or medical problems are resolved, sexual intimacy is never regained.

      In traditional marital counseling, it is assumed that sexual dysfunction is always a symptom of relationship problems. If an underlying emotional problem in a relationship was successfully dealt with, it was believed the sex problem would spontaneously be cured.  Yes, that outcome is often the case but not always. Sometimes, even when an underlying emotional problem in a relationship is resolved, sexual desire remains problematic. It is also true that many couples can have a trusting, respectful committed relationship and still experience sex problems.  Why?  It is often due to lack of information, performance anxiety, poor psycho-sexual communication skills, or a history of guilt and blaming. It can also be due to low libido with both partners. 

      There are also physiological differences between men and women in experiencing sexual desire.  As a general rule, men are aroused with great ease and have little difficulty reaching orgasm.  But according to pioneering researcher Shere Hite, 70 percent of women cannot regularly achieve orgasm through intercourse.  Research on female sexual response finds that women consider sexual pleasure to be more about intimate, sensual touching than orgasm, per se.  Not all men realize this.  Surveys also find that far more women than men feel inhibited in bed if they don’t share an emotional connection with their partner.  In John Gottmans’ research (What Makes Love Lasts), it has been discovered that most women want sex when they already feel emotionally close via intimate conversations and touch.  But for men, sex itself is a way of becoming emotionally close.

       It is important to note, that all that I have written here does not apply to everyone.  Sometimes the issues are reversed. In my work with couples,  I have come to appreciate the complexity of sexual desire in both men and women.  The information I have provided may be applicable to most couples but there are also many exceptions.

       The bottom line is that developing couple sexual intimacy requires not only daily intimate connection but also open communication about sexual needs and preferences, experimentation, and a sense of playfulness.  Sex is not the most important component in your relationship, but it is integral and special. It serves as a shared pleasure and a means to build and reinforce intimacy.  If sex is allowed to stagnate, it can devitalize your relationship  Your sexual relationship needs continual nurturing.  

Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.
Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.