You are tired of initiating sex over and over again, only to be turned down by your partner. You feel confused and angry at the same time. At this point, you have tried everything and nothing has worked. You feel rejected by your partner and the wall of resentment gets wider and neither one of you has the energy to break it down. You lash out and convince yourself that your partner does not find you attractive anymore even though they have tried unsuccessfully to change your mind. You are ready to give up on the relationship and you give your partner an ultimatum that they have to fix the issue or it’s over.
Your feelings are completely valid- the sadness, rejection, anger, resentment are all very normal feelings to experience, given the situation. However, whether your partner is experiencing low sexual desire or is unable to get aroused, they need your support to figure out what is causing the issue as well as to resolve it.
As a sex therapist, when I get calls for help with sexual issues and the person calling is in a relationship- I almost always encourage them to involve their partner in the therapy process. The reason being that partner’s support greatly increases the chances of someone recovering from a sexual issue. This is not to say that people who are single or are not in a committed relationship are not able to resolve their sexual issues- they absolutely can and do but a different set of psychological factors are at play in their situation as compared to someone in a long-term committed relationship.
By providing unconditional love and support to your partner who is struggling with a sexual issue, you can help them:
Many people with sexual dysfunction experience feelings of being inadequate as lovers. They also report feelings of depression, a sense of failure and feeling like they are broken, incomplete or defective. If your partner is feeling inadequate, you can help them realize that despite the sexual issues in the relationship, they bring so much more to the table.
Your support can help your partner deal with their personal feelings of disappointment and depression. A lot of times, people experiencing a sexual issue will also pull away from their partner in other ways- not wanting to hug or kiss, withdrawing, isolating- because they don’t feel that they deserve to be loved or doubt why their partner would want to be close to them. With your support, your partner can begin to feel comfortable connecting with you in non-sexual ways.
Rewire their brain-
When it comes to low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or any other sexual issue, anxiety is almost always present. Repeated unsuccessful attempts to have sex coupled with the misguided emphasis on penetrative sex is a recipe for anxiety.
Encouraging your partner to just be in the moment with you, focusing on being close through touch, eye contact or light massage without any pressure to have sex or an orgasm can help rewire your partner’s brain to not associate closeness with anxiety.
If sex has always resulted in disappointment or feelings of failure for your partner, chances are that they have lost their sexual confidence. Performance anxiety is not limited to men, women too feel anxious when they are expected to initiate sex but they are unable to do so because of low sexual desire.
By letting your partner know that you acknowledge them taking a risk by trying to initiate sexual intimacy, you are helping them bolster their sexual confidence. If your partner tries but fails in the bedroom, the manner in which you respond to them determines if they keep or lose their confidence in trying again in the future. Be loving, supportive and understanding instead of being critical, angry or humiliating.
Feel that they are not alone-
A strong and secure relationship is a true partnership- where partners have each other’s back, no matter what. A lot of people struggling with low sexual desire, sexual pain or erectile dysfunction report feeling alone despite being in a relationship. Letting your partner know that you are in their corner and that you both will work through the issue together can really reinforce the trust, intimacy, and safety in the relationship.
Imagine if your partner broke their leg or became sick and were unable to have sex- would you tell them to deal with it on their own or would you nurse them back to health? Sexual issues are usually psychological in nature and need the same tender loving care that physical ailments do.
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Author: Dr. Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C.