When you think about sexual turnoffs, you usually think about specific things: different sexual positions, what your partner is wearing, or the mood of the room. These turnoffs are obvious to you because they tend to be so black-and-white.
“We only have sex in the missionary position,” or “I don’t want to have sex because our kid’s toys are all over our room.” Both of these examples have obvious solutions – they would be easy to fix. While these are legitimate turnoffs, most couples don’t look below the surface to what is poisoning their sexual desire.
These turnoffs, aka poisons, are critical because they set the tracks in the direction of satisfaction, or frustration. When there is positive anticipation for sex in both partners, this will lead to a more exciting and satisfying time. When there is negative anticipation by even just one partner, this will set in motion an unsatisfying, frustrating, and disconnected interaction. Desire is the first item needed in a recipe for a successful sexual encounter, which is what makes it so powerful. The specific things mentioned above aren’t really what’s causing you anguish in the bedroom. You have to look deeper and you will find what’s really poisoning your sexual desire.
Sexual Desire Poisons
Having a large amount of anger towards your partner is extremely destructive to sexuality in a relationship. Feeling emotionally connected to and trusting of your partner leads to much more desire; these feelings make you want to be closer. Feeling resentful, or put down by your partner leads to a need for distance.
This is the most self-defeating emotion and is absolute poison for desire. Guilt causes a decrease in your self-esteem by ruminating on “wrong” behavior. It also creates distance from your partner and isolation for yourself. Many times the guilt makes you feel that you need to punish yourself by isolating because of your own behavior, which only creates more desire poison and sexual dissatisfaction.
There are two main forms of sexual anxiety: Anticipatory and Performance Anxiety. Anticipatory anxiety is involved when one partner fears what might happen during sex, or is put off by their own unappealing sexual thoughts. For example, Diane spends part of her drive home predicting that her husband will demand sex that night, and that he will become very irritable when she says no. This is clearly something she doesn’t want, and creates anxiety within herself.
Performance anxiety is very often seen in males, and has an effect on arousal and erection. Each sexual encounter is seen as a test, and that if he doesn’t “perform” there will be consequences. For example, John lost his erection during sex, which was met with criticism by his wife. This leads to a cycle of even more erectile difficulty, and more criticism by his wife.
How to Remedy These Poisons
Now that you’ve thought more in depth about what the poisons to your sexual desire could be, how do you fix them? The initial key is simply knowledge or awareness that one or more of these are present. The more you accept a poison, the less control it has on the relationship. With this knowledge the two of you can act in ways that are healthy, instead of distancing. For example, if John has performance anxiety he can express this to his wife. Then they can act differently; his wife can reassure him when he loses an erection, which leads to more closeness.
Sexual problems have the tendency to be very emotionally charged, however. If it’s extremely difficult to talk about these issues, it could be beneficial to reach out to a sex therapist who can facilitate more positive and effective conversations.
About the Author
Ben King is a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate at The Marriage and Family Clinic who focuses on working with couples experiencing sexual difficulties. In his spare time Ben loves to cook and is secretly aspiring to be the next Iron Chef.