By Marianne Brandon, Ph.D
Working as a sex therapist is a fascinating career. It is intense work, talking about the intimate aspects of peoples lives every day. People ask me if I get depressed, hearing about peoples problems. I can understand why people would ask that question, but the truth is, it is much more depressing for me to be around people who need help and arent getting it, than to be with people who are reaching out and getting the assistance they need. I also find that I learn a tremendous amount about life, working so intimately with others. These are just a few things I have learned from my clients over the years:
1. Sexual problems are never only one persons issue.
So often people come to sex therapy believing that they, or their partner, have a sexual problem that needs to be fixed. Its extraordinarily easy to assume that low libido, or erectile dysfunction, or problems lubricating, are a problem specific to the person carrying the diagnosis. Sometimes people think they are faulty and need to be fixed. Other times people think their partner needs the help and they are fine. How false these assumptions are! Sexual concerns are an amalgam of two peoples sexual connection their unique struggles and challenges and concerns. For example, a womans low libido may be the result of her own disconnection with her body, coupled with her partners lack of tenderness. A mans erectile dysfunction can be the result of his overwhelming anxiety coupled with his wifes coldness and lack of empathy. A womans problems lubricating may be the combination of hormonal shifts coupled with her husbands resistance to adequate foreplay time. So the take home message is, if you or your partner have a sexual concern, its probably fueled by both of you.
2. We get more when we focus on giving rather than receiving. This isnt just talk, this is reality. Giving forces us to open our hearts and bodies. In that open place, we are able to feel and thus receive more. Plus, when we give, our partner becomes more motivated to give to us. Its a beautiful feedback loop that you can initiate at any time. Try thinking about why you love your partner before you make love to them. Then focus on offering them this love through the way you touch them, the way you look at them, and the way you speak to them. Gifting them with your love will result in your being gifted in return.3. Sexual change is a guarantee at life transitions. We like to believe that our sexual response should be consistent throughout our lifetime. I guess we think that change is negative, and maintaining the status quo is the only desirable alternative. But this is not realistic and truthfully, not even desirable. Our bodies change with life transitions for women, that could be childbirth or menopause. Men, on the other hand, dont have such clear life transitions, but their bodies certainly change with age. In addition, as we age, we mature emotionally. This maturity translates into different sexual needs. For example, at age 30 you may have enjoyed sex for the physical pleasure of it. Now, sex may be more about the emotional connection it provides. The end result is that how we like to be made love to changes over time. The more open and accepting we are to these natural changes, the more ability we have of enhancing our sex life as we age.
4. Successful intimate relationships require that everyone gives more than their share. Making intimate relationships successful is one of the major challenges of life. Long-term intimacy requires a tremendous effort, and most people who find their relationships satisfying admit that their relationship is a priority in their life. I encourage my patients to expect to give more than they receive. If both partners approach their romance from this place, they are much more apt to generate the juice required to keep their intimate relationship alive and well. In the end, this approach seems to offer everyone the highest, and sweetest, quality of loving.About the author:Marianne Brandon, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the president and director of Wellminds Wellbodies LLC, a center for integrative and holistic psychological care in Annapolis, Maryland. The co-author of Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys for Finding Your Lost Libido, Dr. Brandon is also a Diplomat in Sex Therapy through the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Her next book, Monogamy: The Untold Story, will be published in September.