Does sex always die in a long term relationship?

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There’s this commonly held myth that you will be all over each other at the beginning of a relationship but it’s normal for sexual desire to just end after a year or so.

This is codswallop! It only dries up if you haven’t worked on your own self development.

The answer to this problem about sex drying up is about becoming more emotionally mature and autonomous. Starting to work on a stronger sense of self can help bring back sex into a long term relationship. A strong sense of self means you aren’t dependent on having a positive reflected sense of self from your partner. This is an idea that sex therapist David Schnarch came up with and is an extension of Bowens Theory.

Tell me, do you want to have sex with someone who needs you to prop them up all the time and needs constant validation from you? I didn’t think so. Maybe at the beginning of the relationship that did it for you but it’s not going to last the distance.

Working on a stronger sense of self means that you will be:

-less reliant for your partners attention and not take differences in libido personally or to heart.

-less likely to force your partner to go along with your ideas or be forced to compromise on things you don’t want to just to keep the peace.

-less likely to always need validation and being ‘propped up’ constantly from your partner.

It’s usually not about sex at all. Sex is the battleground these conflicts are fought on but it’s about something much bigger.

I had someone scoff at me in my therapy room about the idea of self development. However it’s key to our sexuality and inextricably linked.

Working on issues surrounding our selfhood means we can resolve sexual problems in a relationship much better.

Art- Nathan-Dumlao

 

Do men think about sex every seven seconds?

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This urban myth has been around a long time! When I was a teenager, I remember being told that men thought about sex every seven seconds as if it was as an accepted fact like the sky is blue.

If men really do think about sex every seven seconds, then that’s seven or eight thousand thoughts about sex a day! The myth doesn’t hold up when you look into all the many research studies done on this topic.

This every seven seconds idea really supports the culturally constructed idea that all men are obsessed with sex all the time. It lumps all men into a sexually homogeneous group with this uniform sexual energy.

This myth ties into all the many stereotypes about male sexuality. Male sexuality isn’t as simple or uniform as people like to believe.

Male sexuality changes with age, relationship status and emotional and physical health.

This cultural idea that men think about sex every few seconds simply isn’t true and it’s very much over estimated. The research can’t agree on how many times a day anyone thinks about sex because there’s just such a huge variation.

One research study found that young men on average thought about sex 19 times a day. This was a fraction more than young women on average thought about sex in a day (ten times) but they also discovered men thought about sleep and food more than women too. Researchers concluded that men are more needs based than women.

Other researchers found that men and women’s sexual thoughts were of about equal amounts during the day.

Another study found that 16 year old young men thought about sex every five minutes not every seven seconds.  Men in their 40’s thought about sex every half an hour. These sexual thoughts kept decreasing as their age increased.

The Kinsey Report discovered that 4% of men under the age of 60 think about sex only once a month, 43%  of men think about sex a few times a month or a week and 54% have at least one sexual thought a day or more.

As men age they have less sex than when they were younger. Sexual thoughts and desires fluctuate depending on your overall energy and wellbeing.

How many times you think about sex a day has more to do with you as an individual than what sex you are. It also has to do more with how you feel in your body and your sexuality than your genitals.

Researchers found that some men and women thought about sex a hundred times or more a day. They also found some men and women only thought about sex a few times a day.

If someone is dealing with sexual addictive or compulsive behaviours then it’s also more down to a whole host of complex reasons that aren’t necessarily related to their genitals.  Sexual compulsive behaviours are due to an inability to cope with stress, biochemical reasons or growing up in a dysfunctional family or surviving childhood sexual assault. People with sexually addictive traits use sex in the same way a drug addict uses drugs- to avoid unpleasant feelings or stress from work etc.

So there you have it. Men do not think about sex every seven seconds! Myth busted!

Photography- Oliver Easton

How to keep your long term relationship sizzling!

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Have you ever wondered what the secrets are to long-term relationship sexual satisfaction?

I’ve saved you some time! 

I’ve spent years trawling through decades of research, analysing couples with satisfying sex lives all over the world, and found they all had certain characteristics in common! I know you’re at the edge of your seat now so I won’t keep you in suspense for too long!

Sexually happy couples consciously work together to keep the relationship emotionally intimate and connected, and the sex passionate, different and non-routine.

  

Here’s some of the things I found that they had in common.

Sexually satisfied couples:

  • Say “I love you” everyday and truly mean it.
  • Kiss each other passionately for no reason—not just to instigate sex.
  • Practice good sexual communication and implement it. They discover what turns their partner on and off erotically by discussing each others’ own unique sexual needs and wants — not just having sex the same way they have sex with every single partner because that’s just the way they like to do things.
  • Are more likely to set the atmosphere for sexual activity, such as by lighting candles and playing music.
  • Remain close friends.
  • Go on weekly dates together.
  • Make sex a top priority, not the last item of a long to-do list or something they never have time to do in their busy schedule.
  • Have showers or baths together, or massage each other.
  • Are physically affectionate in public.
  • Keep playing and having fun together — not just in the initial dating phase.
  • Cuddle each other, even during times where they’re not having sex as regularly as usual.
  • Surprise each other with  romantic gifts or titillating emails or texts.
  • Go on romantic holidays.
  • Are mindfully conscious about turning towards each other when one partner asks for any positive connection such as attention, affirmation or affection.
  • Have more sex, orgasms, oral sex and more sexual variety (such as discussing or reenacting sexual fantasies, experimenting with positions, clothes or toys) than unsatisfied couples.

 

On the other hand, sexually unsatisfied couples do the following things:

  • Spend a very small amount of time together during an average week.
  • Drift apart and lead parallel lives.
  • Talk mostly about their gigantic to-do lists.
  • Make everything else in their lives a priority above the relationship and the partner.
  • Become job-centred or child-centred over and above the relationship.
  • Only unintentionally turn towards their partner, and it’s an accident when they respond positively to a partners bid for affirmation.

 

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One couple in a sexless relationship only spent about 35 minutes together in total conversation throughout all of their interactions throughout an entire week. That’s five minutes a day on average!  Most talks were about tasks, errands, bills and dull household things — so nothing intimate or exciting, and no dates! Is it any wonder they weren’t experiencing satisfaction or connection in sex, given such routine, monotonous and sparse interactions? No intimacy was being built and worked at.

If your partner spends 95 per cent of their leisure time doing things without you, or ignoring you for their computer games or their drug of choice, then your sex life will suffer. Being ignored doesn’t build emotional connection, nor does it fire up the loins. You’re more than just an option to someone — you should be their priority!

It’s not all doom and gloom though! I see relationship struggles as wonderful opportunities!  Relationship struggles can be a crucible of self-learning and self-reflection as we grow together and discover our lovers and our own needs.

Think of sex as more of an intimate and emotional act than just rubbing skin together. It’s true intimacy and sensuality  that creates sexual fireworks in a relationship! Consistently working at building this emotional connection with your partner lays the building blocks for an incredible sex life.


Get in touch today to transform your long term relationship from dull to exciting!

How to deepen the connection in your relationship

I have so many clients that tell me about how their partner doesn’t touch them much. They speak about how they always sit far from them, on their phone or playing games and it’s like they’re a remote island.

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If you are in a relationship how much time do you spend in close physical contact?
Do you wish you had more touch or less touch?
I don’t necessarily mean just sexual contact but any touch whatsoever.
A lot of us are touch starved in our tech saturated world.
We all need touch! It’s how our brains are wired.

Studies of baby monkeys show that the desire to touch and be touched is stronger than the desire for food.

Research shows that human babies and children need touch and physical comfort and these needs don’t disappear when we grow up into adulthood.

We need touch to truly thrive; it is fundamental to our health, communication and bonding.

  In fact children and babies who don’t experience much touch growing up can be more violent, have weakened immune systems.
 and a host of other problems.

If you don’t spend much time hugging or touching there’s a chance that your hippocampus in your brain might be smaller- the smaller this organ is the harder it is for your brain to regulate your stress response.

So, hugging and touching your partner is good for you, your relationship and your brain!


 

Physical touch also helps reduce stress. 


I’m talking about everything from sex to giving a kissing, massage, holding hands, cuddling, hugging, stroking, tickling and lots more..

These examples are medicine for your body and your relationship. This kind of touch helps to preventatively maintain your health and healing ailments you may have according to the latest research.

Join my inner circle here if you’d like to learn how to deepen your connection with your lover through a daily touching ritual. You’ll notice the difference within a few days or a week.  Just fill out your name and email address in the pop up.

She struggles to orgasm. Anorgasmia in Women.

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Are you a woman struggling to orgasm with your partner?

Suzy* had never orgasmed with her husband. She came to see me after her doctor recommended she see a sex therapist. Her doctor couldn’t find any medical problems so together we worked to find the source of her “inorgasmia”. She was able to orgasm through masturbation (solo sex) but not partnered sex.

During our sessions we explored her attitudes to sex, her sexuality, her body, genitals and her relationship.

Suzy had been brought up in a strict religious family where she was taught that women should suppress their sexual appetite.

Cultural ideas that demonise and repress sex have a profound influence on women’s ability to orgasm and can block women’s sexual potential.

Suzy felt guilty for masturbating and thought her vulva was ugly and sinful because of her upbringing.

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I set Suzy various homework exercises to do at home. Suzy’s homework exercises were to look at her naked body in the mirror, regularly masturbate, sleep naked and and have a good look at her genitals under a proper light with a mirror. She had never done these before and over time with support, they increased her sexual awareness and acceptance of her body.

Art therapy and positive sex education helped view her sex organs as cherished and beautiful.

We explored Suzy’s childhood to discover unconscious blocks. Her father abandoned the family when she was four and was sporadically available for a few more years before disappearing from her life altogether. The pain from this abandonment kept her imprisoned in a knee jerk response of emotional control whenever she felt vulnerable. She was scared of letting go and surrendering to her partner. Hypnosis and meditation helped Suzy to start to ‘let go.’

We looked at how her intimate relationship functioned. Research consistently shows that a woman’s happiness in her relationship and whether she feels ‘safe’ are directly connected to her ability to orgasm. Emotions are more important when it comes to orgasm with a partner than with masturbation.

There were power and control issues in her relationship surrounding the expectation that the man in a relationship is rightfully the sexual ‘boss’. Suzy didn’t want to offend her husband by asking for what she wanted. She wanted to ask for more foreplay and clitoris stimulation but was scared he might take it personally and feel like a failure. Her husband rushed foreplay and had only received sex education through pornographic films. They didn’t use lubricant so the condoms caused Suzy pain. Lots of lubricant is essential for safe sex always.

Together we worked on healthy communication styles where Suzy could vocalise her sexual preferences and share sex education resources with her partner. I set sensual “homework” exercises for the couple that started with non-genital caresses. They had to practice touching each other in ways that focussed on pleasurable sensations instead of orgasm.

By the end of our sessions Suzy had achieved her first “coital orgasm” and had showed her husband how she liked to be touched in a non-confronting way. They’d opened up their sexual repertoire to pleasure and intimacy as the goal rather than orgasm. Together they had  improved their communication. Suzy had challenged her own internalised beliefs, accepted she was entitled to sexual pleasure and reclaimed her sexual power.

*Not her real name.

Cat O Dowd: Sex Therapist, Relationship Counsellor, Art Therapist.
www.creativesexpression.com

This first appeared in my column for Ciao magazine. You can read it in the magazine here.

Art- Light and Shadow: Keinyo White

Art- Page  from Sketchbook # 20 [man and woman sleeping in bed] Diebenkorn.

 

How is consent like a cup of tea?

 

How is consent like a cup of tea and how did the Brits managed to turn it into an eduational video?
Check out this wonderful video from the Thames Valley Police in England for their #consent is everything campaign.  It uses the metaphor of making a cup of tea to explain sexual consent.

While the law is more complex than this video it’s still a very helpful video to explain consent and it is very engaging.  There’s been some pretty nasty consent education campaigns in the past that have blamed victims so I’m so happy to see something entertaining and simple to raise awareness about this very important issue.

The narrator speaks over animated stick figures,

“If you say ‘Hey, would you like a cup of tea?’ and they’re like, ‘Uh, you know, I’m not really sure,’ then you can make them a cup of tea, or not, but be aware that that they might not drink it.  And if they don’t drink it, then—and this is the important bit—don’t make them drink it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to watch them drink it. And if they say, ‘No, thank you’, then don’t make them tea. At all.”

“If they’re unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea, and they can’t answer the question, ‘Do you want tea?’ Because they’re unconscious.”

“You should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe, and—this is the important part again—don’t make them drink the tea.”

A recent study revealed that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men had been sexually assaulted whilst at university. We desperately need good sexual education at schools that explain that you need “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” before starting any sexual activity. Consent means the people involved must be actively saying yes much more than the previous “no means no” model.

There is so much confusion out there about what consent actually means. A lot of us received no education about consent at all.  This can lead to many damaging situations where consent is ASSUMED when it was never given at all.

Survivors of sexual assault aswell as dealing with societal shame, stigma and victim blaming can be very confused about past events and struggle to understand clearly whether it was consensual or not. This can lead to years of emotional pain and anguish.

It’s important to remember that it’s never okay for someone to force or pressure you to have sex.

Survivors can end up internalising shame about experiences that happened  when they were younger that they weren’t sure whether they were consensual or not. It’s this burden that survivors can carry from their childhood or teenage years well into their adulthood. Here’s what some survivors have said.

Maybe it was my fault? I never explicitly said no as such… I didn’t run away…. I just lay there….. I thought that’s what I was meant to do….. I was too scared to say no……   I was so drunk I didn’t know what was happening…..  S/he was my boy/girlfriend so I didn’t think I could say no…..Isn’t that what you have to do at the end of dates?  They pressured me… I felt I had to give in..

 

The law says that silence doesn’t equal consent. Lack of protest or response doesn’t equal consent. You can withdraw consent at any time and consent isn’t guarranteed just because people have had sex in the past.

The new affirmative-consent movement is trying to get rid of all the layers of ambiguity and assumptions. Sometimes someone might be too scared to say no and feel pressured. They might say, “ok” or “fine.” This isn’t consent.

Detective Chief Inspector Justin Fletcher explains,

“The law is very clear. Sex without consent is rape. Awareness of what sexual consent means and how to get it is vital.

If you can understand how completely ludicrous it is to force people to have tea when they don’t want tea, and you are able to understand when people don’t want tea, then how hard is it to understand when it comes to sex? Whether it’s tea or sex, consent is everything.”

Are you dating a sexual narcissist?

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Narcissus was a young handsome man who fell in love with his reflection whilst gazing into a pool. In Greek mythology Narcissus was so dam sexy that “legions of lusty men and bevies of girls” wanted him. He was cursed to stay staring at his reflection as a punishment from the avenging goddess Nemesis for rejecting the love of the nymph Echo. Narcissus pined away over his reflection until he died.

Narcissists are  incapable of truly loving others because they only want others to reflect and prop up their own image. This isn’t love.

Freud defined narcissism as the channeling of the libido energy towards oneself.

Narcissists are very effective at short term mating but struggle in long term, committed relationships. Emotional intimacy and physical pleasure are essential human needs but narcissists avoid intimacy.

Narcissism is characterised by; superiority, entitlement and grandiosity, little empathy, interpersonally exploiting others, unrealistic positive self view, self focus and lack of care for others.

Narcissists prefer shorter affairs over long term relationships and are less faithful, emotionally intimate and committed. Narcissists are less interested in maintaining current relationships because they think options outside of their relationships are more appealing.

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So, what is a sexual narcissist?

Sexual narcissists express general narcissistic traits within the realm of sex and relationships.

Men or women can be sexual narcissists but the research shows they are overwhelmingly men.

Traits of sexual narcissism include;
-Sense of sexual entitlement
-Use words like “power” and “dominance” in the context of sex

-Need to control sexual scenarios.
-Always in control of when and how the couple has sex
-See sex as means to a physical end rather than a way of strengthening an emotional connection

-Show an inability to experience emotional closeness and intimacy in a relationship
-Places sexuality above that of partner
-May have very chauvinistic, traditional ideas about female sexuality and gender roles
-Approach new relationships with bottomless energy and then quickly get bored and sexually unsatisfied.
-Can’t integrate sex and intimacy
-Are especially sensitive to sexual comparisons with others
-Make themselves feel better about themselves by comparing their sexual life with people who might be having less sex or less sexually satisfying lives
-Blame their partners for their sexual dissatisfaction
-Male sexual narcissists are likely to be sexually aggressive, abusive and/or cheat on their partners

-Might be more focussed on their sexual “performance” than your pleasure.
-View partners as “things” that can fulfil their needs like an appliance might rather than as a fully functional human.

 

A sexual narcissist has an intimacy disorder. They can’t actually give or receive true intimacy in a relationship because of his or her dysfunctional relationship ideas, insecurity, lack of self responsibility or low self esteem.

Underneath all the narcissists bravado or contempt and sneering for others there can be a very fragile sense of self that needs constant validation. 
Narcissists can be terrified of showing their truly vulnerable selves and use all manner of things to block intimacy.

In my next blog- I’ll explore how I work with couples where one of them is a sexual narcissist.

Cat O Dowd

Sex Therapist   Couples Counsellor  Art Psychotherapist

www.creativesexpression.com