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Clearing the Roadblocks to Sexual Intimacy

sex and intimacy

What is the value of sex to a marriage? Although men and women may answer this question differently, most agree that sex is a critical element of a good marriage. However is it the quality of the sex rather than frequency alone that matters? And how does our early learning about sex contribute to the quality and pattern of sexual relating we develop in our marriage?

There are many obstacles that can act as potential roadblocks to rewarding sexual intimacy in a marital relationship. One primary theme is the cultural current most of us experienced from childhood which clearly makes all sex "nasty." Regardless of our participation in the "sexual revolution," early associations can haunt us, particularly when we marry. I remember the first time I found out about sex and the fact that my parents had "it" with each other. I was appalled that they would do such things to one another with such private parts of their bodies (heretofore used only in the bathroom as far as I knew). I was 10 years old and took the first opportunity to tell my younger 9 year old cousin. She immediately revoked such illicit behavior from her own parents' bedroom with the declaration "My father would never do that to my mother!" That stopped our discussions on the topic for some time.

Desensitization, then, is the first order of business for many of us before we can even begin to explore our sexuality. How we relate to our own sensuality is oftentimes through unacceptable fantasies which although conflictual to our morality, match the cultural messages we absorb growing up. During the course of marriage therapy with a couple in my practice in their sixties, the husband shared his experience of growing up male which included that when women said "no" they meant "yes." To be a successful male in his teenage years meant to "score" with a woman sexually. However this put him in great moral conflict. His wife of 41 years shared that she learned being a "good" girl meant always saying "no" to her sexual feelings. This put her in conflict with her developing sexuality.

Throughout their marriage, which included growing both of their careers and raising their three children, sex became conflicted territory between them. She felt oppressed by his sexual overtures and he felt rejected by her. By sharing their experiences of growing up male and female, they discovered they had been set up by their cultural upbringing to be at war with each other sexually. They had never worked out a way for her to say "no" to sex without his experience being one of major rejection. Nor had she taken responsibility for initiating sex in the marriage. Talking about their adolescent years helped him take her refusals less personally and helped her to begin relating to her own sexual desires, causing her to become increasingly proactive in their sexual relationship.


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They were also able to identify what contributed to her being turned on sexually and ways to accommodate one another when one was turned on and the other was not. Each sympathized with the formative conditioning their partner endured, that had been placed between them in their marital bed. They were able to find new approaches to one another in the bedroom that allowed for renewed romance, and greater freedom of expression to respond and not to respond sexually to one another. Sharing their adolescent experiences was one step towards desensitizing their early gender conditioning.

Suggestion

Schedule some private time with your partner to share your sexual experiences and feelings growing up. How did you first learn about sex? What were your initial feelings when you did? When and how did you first experience orgasm? What are your sexual fantasies? Have they changed over the years? Are you comfortable with them or not? Take turns sharing. Listen with compassion to your partner's experiences and stories. Explore stereotypes, whether each partner can say "yes" and "no" to sex without serious repercussions to the relationship, and how each takes responsibility for initiating conditions which promote and encourage sexual satisfaction in the marriage.

Shedding light on sexual thoughts, feelings and fantasies helps you take charge of defining your own sexual relationship. Sharing responsibility for clarifying and developing conditions that promote romance and sexual satisfaction can strengthen your marriage. Simply taking time together to share in this way creates a space in time that says your relationship is meaningful. Attention to your marriage in this way helps give it priority in the midst of busy lives and schedules that can otherwise obscure the nourishment that a couple needs from one another. Your relationship is the foundation of your family. It is well worth the time and energy!

next: Why Men Pay For Sex

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 24). Clearing the Roadblocks to Sexual Intimacy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/psychology-of-sex/clearing-the-roadblocks-to-sexual-intimacy

Last Updated: August 20, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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