Sex Therapy for Married Couples: Does it Work?

Sex Therapy for Married Couples: Does it Work?

Here’s a truth: Sexual issues are common in most marriages. It may be differences in opinion or disagreeing about physical intimacy. Many couples view sex as an indicator of health in the relationship, which is why a problematic sex life gives rise to concern.

Here’s another truth: Even happy couples can experience these complications. Sex incorporates psychology, biology, and sociology so more factors than simply “being a happy couple” determine your sex life.

Imagine marriage as a functioning human body with different facets and multiple factors that determine health. Checking your level of health can be done in different ways too. You can check heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature and more.

The same goes for a marriage. Don’t use sex as the only way to determine your long term viability; complications don’t prove you have a bad marriage. But of course, it’s frustrating and can be damaging, just like an unchecked fever can lead to more issues. It could be a sign of deeper needs such as the desire to be understood.

Firstly, you should remove the pressure regarding the sexual act. There are other ways than this to experience intimacy and enjoyment. We may think sex should simply “happen” and always be natural and magical. In truth it’s complicated because it concerns these areas of the entire person:

  • History
  • Trauma
  • Expectations
  • Culture
  • Connection with each other
  • Biology

There are many areas for problems to occur and both people bring unique aspects to the table. You may feel that these problems are unique to your relationship, but most couples (even happy ones) need to work through these, including medical challenges such as hormonal issues or erectile dysfunction.

Since biology plays a big role you must consult your doctor regarding sexual problems so you can rule out causes or treat them. The same applies to psychology. The important thing is that you don’t see sexual problems as a death warrant for your marriage, but recognize that your relationship requires attention.

When to Consider Sex Therapy

After ruling out biological causes or if you want to have counseling during medical treatment you’ll need to know what to expect from sex therapy.

This is daunting but can lead to much more fulfilment and intimacy. Results aren’t guaranteed but couples counseling is worth considering if:

  • Individual work didn’t help
  • You want to consider it with your partner alongside you
  • You realize the problems aren’t limited to the physical
  • You want some help to move forward in building intimacy

It may help to know what it won’t be:

  • Physically intrusive
  • A beauty magazine
  • A Kama Sutra class

It is facilitated by trained professionals. You’re the expert on yourself, but you may need them to provide objective insight regarding causes, foundations, and problems.

What Will Happen in Couples Counseling?

Each experience will be unique because therapists differ, training differs and there are different schools of thought. You need to find someone you’re comfortable with. Therapy doesn’t happen in a prescribed, set-in-stone manner. It will take different directions based on what you, your partner, and your therapist prioritizes.

Learn more about your love languages

An important component is how each person gives and receives love. You may be on different pages, needing to realign.

Here are examples: “I always make sure his coffee is made every morning, and he doesn’t appreciate it.” “It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but I really wish she’d cuddle with me more.” They speak different languages and during therapy, these expressions can be explored.

Discover more about your negative cycles

If you have negative patterns you need to identify them first and then break them. Think about the following:

  • “We just have the same argument over and over again”
  • “All of our fights end in the same way with no resolution.”

An objective third party will identify problems more easily and help you ve to break the cycle.

Learn mindfulness skills

Things such as deep breathing and meditation can minimize anxiety so you can engage with your own body, mind, and emotions. It’s also described as radical acceptance.

Explore what sex means to both of you 

When your ideas about the parameters of sex vary widely it can impact how you experience physical intimacy and fulfilment as a couple.

Broaden your definition of sex and physical intimacy

It could be vital to broaden both of your ideas about what sex is and how it’s experienced, especially when there’s sexual dysfunction.

Learn what holds you back from emotional intimacy

When you can’t be vulnerable or there’s no safe space for emotional vulnerability it can affect emotional intimacy. Your past traumas can also affect your ability to become emotionally aware and emotionally available regarding your spouse.

When you know which factors are at play it benefits healing. A professional can teach you to create safe spaces in your marriage where you can be emotionally vulnerable.

Learn how emotional intimacy impacts your physical intimacy

Many of these factors can impact your physical intimacy and sexual relationship such as libido changes. You’ll learn how a lack of emotional connection will influence this, so you can start fixing the problem.

Explore why your relationship has changed over time

Many people experience sex life changes over time, such as frequency and libido differences. You may think it relates to the health of your marriage but you’ll explore this to discover the true reasons.

Explore your roles in your sex life and in your marriage

If one partner initiates more often, chances are good that the other one never does. One partner may have a higher libido than the other. People step into these roles and believe they have to fulfill them. Because these roles have pros and cons you need to know if they’re adaptive or maladaptive. Also, realize why you take up these roles and see if they’re bringing fulfillment or dissatisfaction.

Explore past trauma

Your past trauma can impact your sexual experiences. If this is the case your therapist may want to explore this in individual counseling and ask a trauma counselor to help as well. If they affect your ability to enjoy physical and emotional connectedness, these experiences need to be explored.

Address differences in expectations

You may not agree about what you want from your sexual relationship such as frequency or type of sex. Acceptance, compromise, and working together to discover a mutually satisfying sex life may be one of your therapy goals.

Set boundaries

Having boundaries is a healthy aspect of any part of your life. Therapists help you to set and keep them.

Determine how sexual problems are impacting your marriage as a whole

Sexual issues can cause insecurities and resentment. It’s difficult to foresee their consequences so a therapist’s objectivity can help.

Address consent

Giving and understanding consent are important actions but you may need help from a therapist to get it right.

Learn how to talk about sexual issues

A therapist will help you feel comfortable talking about sex and physical intimacy. You need to build a language about this aspect of your marriage to help create safe space and work together better towards your goal, as you understand each other more.

Begin to create a comfortable space to talk about sex with your spouse

Topics may include:

  • Problem solving
  • When and where check-ins
  • How to discuss sex

Talk about how God created sex and His role for sex in the marriage

God created a beautiful design for sex inside of marriage but it can be difficult to understand. Your therapist can help discuss this and provide insight.

Explore topics about sexual satisfaction and what it means for your partner

It’s common not to understand what you or your partner likes or dislikes during sex. For mutual fulfillment, you need to discuss this topic together.

Explore how culture has impacted your ideas and expectations around sex

Culture affects how we think about sex and analyzing this can help you understand yourselves as well as your partner.

Alter the goals of sex

The idea of sex can be broader and more fulfilling than simply intercourse ending in orgasms for both parties. You can change your goals so they suit your current circumstances.

Possible Benefits of Sex Therapy

Important fact: No two couples are the same. Therefor your results and benefits will be unique and there are no guarantees from your therapist. But possible outcomes include the following.

Find your sex life more fulfilling

Compromising, working on frequency, and learning what you really enjoy can often lead to more fulfilment.

Understand your own and your spouse’s boundaries better

Communicating about boundaries leads to safety and vulnerability in your relationship.

Learn to problem solve together

When you can solve problems together you’ll overcome obstacles and use collective brainpower.

Learn what your partner likes

Knowing will affect your actions. Eventually, this can make both parties happier.

Understand how sex speaks to your partner

The different experiences of sex range from feeling connected to feeling loved to expressing desire. Learning to speak the language helps you understand what you’re saying and how your spouse receives the message.

Understand the impact of culture and prescribed roles

Roles may not be wrong and cultural viewpoints don’t have to change. However, when you understand these aspects you grasp your roles better.

Gain an understanding of your negative cycles and how to get out

Understand your conflict coping mechanisms and your negative patterns as a couple. Reaching your goal means you’ve problem-solved and found a solution.

Learn more about the physiology of sex

This leads to more understanding and pleasure for both parties.

Learn more about yourself, your partner, and yourselves as a couple

Understanding each other leads to more progress as a team.

Work towards learning an entirely new language

To discuss sex and intimacy you need emotional vulnerability and feeling comfortable talking about it. Learn:

  • How to talk about sex
  • What you like
  • What you want
  • What your spouse wants

Then you’ll speak the same language so you have better communication; this can lead to more fulfilment in your sex life.

Learn how sex can be a beautiful part of God’s plan for your marriage

When you know God values your marriage and intimacy within you’ll understand marriage in general. This also includes valuing sex as a vital part of our union.

Leave with a better connection

When you’ve dealt with sexual issues you’re bound to connect better overall and by working on communication, removing obstacles and being honest, you build a layer free marriage: No resentment or misunderstandings or unexpressed thoughts.

It will be complex and you’ll respond differently than others. Because there are no guarantees, nervous comments often include:

  • “We don’t need someone else involved in our business.”
  • “I know another couple who tried counseling and it just made things worse.”
  • “I can’t talk about sex with anyone. It’s so awkward.”
  • “Talking in a room doesn’t fix real life.”

Yes, this is very complicated. But as it can indicate how your marriage fares – such as checking your body’s heart rate – attending to the problem is vital. It can also help many aspects of your union.

Here’s another truth: Your marriage is worth this complexity and hard work.

Consider marriage therapy when you realize there are sexual concerns that aren’t getting any better. If you feel that it’s urgent and your doctor confirms that it’s not a biological issue, see a professional therapist for couples counseling.

Talk to your spouse to gauge whether he or she is comfortable visiting a couples therapist with you. Talk together about:

  • Preferences regarding gender
  • Preferences regarding the therapist’s background
  • Questions you want to ask about experience

When you’re ready, vet counselors to find one that matches your preferences. At San Diego Christian Counseling you’ll find many professionals who can assist with this process. Let’s start helping your marriage today.

Photos:
“Feet”, Courtesy of Rawpixel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading Material”, Courtesy of Zun Zun, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “In the Mood”, Courtesy of Sasint, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Adult Affection”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License

DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE

Articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All opinions expressed by authors and quoted sources are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, publishers or editorial boards of San Diego Christian Counseling. This website does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.