Let's talk about Sex.
As a relationship therapist and Sex therapist, whose work is with individuals and couples, sexual practises often come into sessions. It is evident that the use of sex is very powerful in relationships, it is usually the first intimate act to go when things are wrong between the couple, it is also usually the first thing couples focus on when in therapy as the thing that is causing the biggest issues.
It is in my view one of the most powerful tools to use to hurt and humiliate your partner, but also yourself.
To understand this dilemma, we must understand how and why we use the most intimate act to punish our partner.
I would like to introduce a fictional couple; however, their story is very typical of couples who come into my clinic.
Danny and Rosie, Danny 31 years old, Rosie, 32. Have been in a relationship for 12 years, having met just after leaving university and both gained employment in the same firm in the city.
Rosie says they just clicked, Danny agrees, they moved in together within the year and bought their first property 4 years ago.
Danny and Rosie, in their words, had a wonderful relationship, good friends, holidays, and an adventurous sex life, neither was shy and they both felt they could be open and honest about fantasies they had, this worked until 2 years ago.
Rosie got promoted at work, both agreed this promotion would be good for them as they had just bought the house and were hoping to start a family in the next couple of years, it was going to be exciting and a new adventure.
In reality, Rosie would be working late into the night, Danny would often be home alone in the evenings, or out, Rosie struggled to understand why Danny, would be withdrawn or quiet. Or worse would pick fights and not engage with her, but in general, Rosie was either too exhausted to ask, or just grateful for the small-time they did have.
During a particularly busy Friday at work Rosie was looking forward to the weekend, she texted Danny a cheeky, sexy suggestive text, something they both did often.
As Rosie was busy, she hadn’t realised she didn’t get a reply from Danny until she was on the train home, she presumed he was busy therefore couldn’t reply.
When Rosie arrived home Danny was not in, probably on his way home, she thought. So, she ran a bath, opened a bottle of wine, and ordered their favourite takeaway.
When Danny hadn’t arrived home after her bath and the takeaway had arrived, she became concerned, and called him, Danny answered, loud music in the background, Rosie asked him where he was, he said he was out with colleagues from work and would be home later.
When Danny arrived home, Rosie was visibly upset, she could smell alcohol although he wasn’t drunk, he was not fully coherent.
Danny tried to kiss Rosie, she said, “no, where have you been?”
Danny asked what about your naughty text, let's go…. trying to be amorous, Rosie was angry now and crying, Rosie asked why he had not responded to her text? And why did he go out without letting her know?
Danny simply said, “Now you know how I feel, in the house on my own” Rosie went to bed upset, Danny sat for a while and went to bed when he thought Rosie would be asleep.
Rosie thought that Danny might be cheating because she remembered how he had fantasies of sleeping with other women, what if he did this now?
Danny believed Rosie could cheat because one of her fantasies was having sex with her new boss.
What was sexy, fun, private and pure fantasy was now leaking into their lives and creating insecurities.
This became a familiar pattern for them for a while, they were arguing, they were distanced from each other, this is when they came for therapy, stating this is the last chance if this doesn't work, we need to split.
I asked how their sex life was. Danny said it is not good, he felt Rosie had stopped being interested, Rosie felt Danny would rather be out with friends.
Both had withdrawn from having sex, but more importantly, the intimacy of all aspects of their relationship had stopped, where before Danny may bring coffee in the morning while Rosie got ready for work, he no longer did this, Rosie didn’t order their favourite takeaway any more, they rarely sat and watched a movie together.
They had stopped trusting each other. Rosie believed Danny must be cheating. Danny believed Rosie was no longer interested in him now she with her new fancy job,” she will be off with a high flyer as soon as she gets the opportunity” Danny remarked.
Danny denied vehemently cheating, although he does admit to having female friends who text him, Danny felt he needed this as he didn’t feel attractive to Rosie, so what harm a little flirting.
Rosie feels she would rather be at work than home, having dinner out, changing her idea of what she looked like, feeling less sexy.
www.relate.org.uk. State in their literature There are lots of reasons why you or your partner might be feeling less interested in sex:
Feeling less connected than usual. Perhaps recently you haven’t spent as much time together. Or maybe something has happened in your relationship that’s caused a rift, such as a big argument or an affair.
Too busy to make time for sex. You may be so busy with work, looking after children or dealing with other pressures that you don’t have time to spend on your relationship.
You don’t feel connected with your sexual self. Maybe there are things about your body or how you look that you don’t like and this makes it difficult for you to see yourself in a positive, sexual way.
All these apply to my clients. It seems Rosie and Danny in building their future perhaps hadn’t communicated what this meant for them individually or as a couple.
As we progressed through therapy, it became apparent that Rosie was worried about starting a family at this time, she felt her career had more years to progress through and Danny was bored in his career and had wanted to leave and pursue something different.
Rather than communicating this, they had both gone along with the idea of starting a family as the new adventure, however, what became apparent is this was not the adventure either was ready for or indeed wanted.
So, what tool did this couple use? As do many couples, they used sex, they withdrew it from each other, they then used the intimate parts of their sexual fantasies to attack and accuse each other, in doing so making their fantasies dirty and breaking trust in each other.
A sign your relationship may be in trouble is simply a change in your sexual behaviours together, no matter how long you have been together or what age you are, if things have changed in the bedroom, they for sure have changed in other aspects of your relationship.
It takes a long time to heal these wounds, of losing trust, creating insecurities, and putting down the anger and sadness for the hurt caused.
However, if you have a good foundation and want to make changes this can be done by taking stock of your relationship, look at all aspects of your relationship, time together, finances, distribution of domestic chores, fun times spent together.
If these are being impacted this might be the time to visit a therapist.