Trouble in the bedroom? Turn it around

Angry Couple

Lost that loving feeling?

As a relationship therapist, I am astounded again and again to hear from clients that their woes and dissatisfaction in their marriages centre on issues that directly relate to what is happening in the bedroom. It is so surprising to realize that the common ailment in long term relationships is a loss of sexual passion and decline in sexual activity.

Dr Phil has aptly called sexless marriage a national epidemic in America.

And with this comes unhappiness in so many forms. There is despair, boredom, loss of self esteem,  infidelity,  deceit,  ill health and divorce to name but a few. But more interesting is to note that in a time of total sexual liberation more and more people are having less and less sex. Not only that but this is happening on both sides of the gender divide.

Not tonight darling

In my practice, many times it is the woman who has become sexually avoidant and as often it is the men. On investigation some of the most common responses to the question of why this is so, fall into two categories. The men feel that the woman lack real sexual passion or eroticism and desire and the women feel that all the men want is sex. That they miss intimacy, romance and the feeling of being desired and then that shuts their sexual interest down.

On both sides there is an accumulation of resentment and blame.

Most of the time this is not expressed in the couple leading to more distance and then a deep sense of alienation and separateness so that the relationship is about effective functioning as a unit and not at all about closeness or intimacy or even pleasure. Another variation of this is the scenario in which one wants and the other denies. These marriages over time become less and less happy, more and more strained and painful and usually precipitate into divorce. We have to ask why?

Variety is the spice …

Is it that the emotional breakdown in a couples relationship lead to a decrease in sexual expression or the lack of sex leads to emotional breakdown?

Once we start enquiring into this there is a multilayered complexity to deal with. Let’s start with the Coolidge effect. Scientists have observed that animals and mammals in general respond sexually very well to novelty and variety. There is a story that once President Coolidge and his wife were separately touring a farm when Mrs Coolidge came upon a rooster in the vigorous act of fornication. On seeing this she turned to her guide and said, œ how often does he do this a day  and the guide replied,  “very often madam”. Mrs Coolidge then said tell that to the President.

On hearing this President Coolidge was confused, then thought for a moment and shrewdly asked,  œis this copulation always with the same hen.

No sir was the answer œalways a different hen.

Tell that to Mrs Coolidge, he replied.

This became known as the Coolidge effect and referred to the biological fact that there is a need for variety and novelty to spur on sexual behavior and relates also to the imperative in the DNA to reproduce the species. It has been seen repeatedly in controlled scientific studies that in both males and females, that over time an animal with the same sexual partner starts off very excited and active and eventually this diminishes and activity slows and then stops altogether. But when a new mate is introduced sexual activity resumes once again at the previous frenzied levels.

It has also been shown that attempts to cover the scent and disguise the fact that this is a known sexual partner have failed. That even with costume changes the old partner was recognized as old and duly and thoroughly rejected.

Obviously as humans we too, both men and women at the purely biological level, are somewhat susceptible to this but we also need to have intimacy,  romance, trust and love as well as a plentiful supply of interesting and available sex.The idea of changing partners every so often might sound good in your twenties but would sound very stressful later on in life and we are creatures that seek bonding and attachment in a very deep way .

It has also been shown that couples who live with affectionate relationships that are secure and intimate live longer, have better health, are happier and more productive.

How to keep it hot

So how to reconcile our two needs; that of closeness and security with that of passion and lively sex.

One thing helps – it’s good to understand that the hormones and brain chemicals that promote bonding and closeness are not necessarily the same hormones that support passion and eroticism. So we have to be creative , we have to develop an intelligent approach to love and sex.

Many sex therapists say that differentiation is essential, that we need to see our partner as separate from ourselves so that we can desire them. We have to have our own rich inner life and world so that we can attract each other again and again.

If we could be present to each other, if we could share our deeper selves, if we could be new, moment to moment then the boredom that spurs deceit and indifference could recede and in its place a new journey of discovery be in its place. This is a big ask, it calls for commitment, creativity  honesty and a host of other elements that all come together to make a relationship grow and deepen. The sex may change and may appear and disappear only to reappear in newer ways but the relationship can expand its range and possibilities.

With this comes the awareness that we have to be honest and communicative, that we have to be honoring,  respectful and appreciative of each other and ourselves. That relationship may even take on spiritual qualities. Then the task becomes a challenge and a beautiful one at that, where sex and intimacy encourage each other and there can be a flowering of love.

If you have a question for Vasu about love, sex or relationship, please send it to us.

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Profile: Vasumati has been a therapist for 30 years, working in the field of relationships, sexuality, tantra and couples. She has trained extensively in the field of codependency and addictions, and has studied with John Bradshaw in the USA. Vasumati combines her approach with the meditative disciplines of the Eastern religions and the result is a unique synthesis of Eastern and Western approaches to understanding the human condition, that is both effective and holistic. In addition to facilitating seminars, workshops and training programs world wide, Vasumati works in private practice as relationship counsellor, sex therapist and life coach. Her passion is to work with relating issues because that is where there is the most heart and presence. The journey is to bring love and meditation together.


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