The rest of the relationship is often viewed as separate from sex by couples.

The rest of the relationship is often viewed as separate from sex by couples. Unfortunately, this is not only untrue, but can harm relationships as well. The issues involved in a couple’s intimate life are invariably present across all other domains of their relationship, including emotional closeness, conflict resolution, coparenting, etc. Recognizing this pattern will allow couples to address the root of their issues rather than saying that their issue is “”just”” a difference in sex drives.

Here are some examples of ways that sex issues represent larger issues in the relationship, although people may come in only stating the first part and trying to ignore the second part:

“We have a real difference in sex drives and she feels like I’m all over her all the time” –> “She actually condescends to my needs and desires in all aspects”
“He only wants sex, not cuddling for its own sake”–> “I am lonely in this marriage”
“He wants more and more adventurous sex and I can’t keep up”–> “He is a sensation seeker and I feel that I bore him in all areas”
“She doesn’t like too much kissing”–> “She seems to have zero attraction to me and I fear that I always knew this but I had low self-esteem and didn’t think any woman would be attracted to me”
Even in situations where one partner has a sexual trauma history, the sexual issues that the couple has are not JUST about sex. Anyone who has experienced abuse has deep issues with trust and intimacy across all realms. While one common manifestation may be having a guard up in bed, I have never seen an abuse survivor that doesn’t have a guard up in other areas as well. Also, the self-esteem issues that accompany an abuse history likely lead this person to partners who may be difficult to connect to and trust, thus confirming the person’s subconscious assumptions that nobody can ever be trusted.

When a couple cannot talk openly about sex, they often cannot talk openly about other aspects of their relationship as well. For example, a couple who finds it hard to have an open conversation about sexual preferences and needs likely is a couple who also finds it difficult to openly ask for emotional needs to be met, or to share stories from their past about shameful or embarrassing moments. Avoidance in one domain usually extends into others.

On the other end of the spectrum, when one partner pressures the other into sexual activity, there is likely other pressure going on, whether overt bullying/shaming or covert passive aggressive guilt tripping. Usually, narcissistic partners want to get their needs met no matter what their partner is feeling, and this comes up in all areas. Partners who enable narcissists, because of their own self-esteem issues (and being familiar with this pattern from having a narcissistic parent), will likely capitulate without asserting their own desires in sex in addition to all other domains (like here).

In situations where a couple with healthier communication patterns and fewer deep seated issues have a conflict about sex, it is usually resolved more quickly and in a context of mutual respect.”

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