Our society considers nothing to be so private as when a couple is being intimate. Often we like to shut the door, turn down the light, and seek the closeness of just the other. However, what we don’t realize is that our “private” space can actually be invaded and shared with some uninvited and sometimes very intrusive guests. Below are three common issues women face with sex and intimacy and what to do about them.
How to Get Rid of the Uninvited Guests in the Bedroom
1) Loss of Desire Desire is something that ebbs and flows over the course of a relationship and life span. For a woman, there are common life transitions that can cause a drop in libido including pregnancy, after having a baby or during menopause as well as general life stress, fatigue and relational dissatisfaction. However, a loss of desire can be present within even the healthiest and happiest of marriages. “Life” happens, disrupting sexual desire which, over time, lack of desire can become a habit, and suddenly you find yourself either having infrequent sex or simply being a willing participant but not necessarily enjoying yourself.
Loss of desire can also occur due to a medical reason, so it’s important to rule that out initially, but, just like a fire that has been reduced to burning embers with no flame, most often it takes a bit of stoking to get those flames roaring again. It starts with a desire to desire. Our brain is our biggest sex organ so when it comes to increasing desire, that is the best place to start. Desire is an attitude — not just a feeling — and takes effort and a willingness to keep it up. If you are out of the habit of cultivating your desire, it may take a bit of concerted effort to but with time, your efforts will pay off. Flirt with your husband, go get a new piece of lingerie that makes you feel pretty and sexy, get involved in a steamy romance novel and include your partner, engage in passionate kissing, reconnect with what YOU like, and/or journal about a fantasy.
2) Sexual pain This is a common obstacle for a lot of women which usually creates anxiety around sex which then creates further pain due to anxiety. It’s a difficult cycle. If anxiety is present, it can lead to a tightening of muscles including the vaginal muscles contributing to the sexual pain. Pain can also occur due to lack of lubrication in the vagina or other medical circumstances. Not addressing these can lead to an aversion toward sex and ongoing discomfort. I recommend women see a reproductive physical therapist that can address the placement of the internal organs, alignment of the hips, and ensuring that proper blood flow and nerve function are intact. If sexual pain persists, seeking out a sex counselor that can address the mental and emotional aspects would be a good second option.
3) Guilt and Shame Anyone who is having a human experience understands what it is to feel guilt. While it may not be a pleasant feeling, it is healthy and helps us ultimately be our best selves. Guilt is a natural part of the human experience. Guilt reminds us when we have gone against our morals and values. It’s what drives us to engage the world in a kind, humane and honest way. It fosters humility and provides empathy. It keeps our self-esteem intact and allows us to accept ourselves — including all our flaws.
Now on the flipside, anyone having a human experience will also understand what it’s like to feel shame, or to feel like our self-worth has been diminished due to our actions or behaviors. Shame subtly intertwines what we do with who we are. It can cause us to feel that if we are less-than-perfect we are inadequate. We divide ourselves into “good” and “bad” and don’t see ourselves as whole, imperfect beings. Women that were raised in home where sex and body functions were taboo to talk about tend to feel shame about sex. They feel bad for feeling good. I recommend women seek out Brene’ Brown’s books that take shame head-on. Helping yourself to start to repair your sense of self brings more confidence, security and peace in the bedroom.
Kristin Hodson is a Founder of and practicing psychotherapist at The Healing Group, a women’s mental health clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is co-author of a newly published book Real Intimacy, A Couple’s Guide to Genuine, Healthy Sexuality and contributes regularly to various media outlets both locally and nationally. She is a mom of two free spirited kids and a wife to a witty husband.