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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Relationships: Overcoming Sexual Incompatibility

As a marriage counselor in NYC, I see many couples who are struggling with sexual incompatibility. This is one of the main reasons why couples come to marriage or couples counseling. Aside from the many factors that we already know about that affect sex in a relationship, like work and personal stressors, busy schedules, health issues, and so on, there are many couples who are unhappy in their sexual relationships because they're just not sexually compatible with each other and, in many cases, they never were. 

Relationships: Overcoming Sexual Incompatibility
Their problems are not about occasional periods when they're not having sex, as is often the case with many long-term relationships. Rather, the problem is about a fundamental sexual incompatibility between them.

Sexual incompatibility can take many forms.  It can be as basic as one person really doesn't like sex and the other person does.  Or, one person wants to have sex more often than the other person.  Or,  a couple might not be compatible with regard to what they like sexually.  Or, on person might be comfortable being on the "giving" end of sex, but not comfortable "receiving" or vice versa.  All of these problems can occur with both heterosexual couples as well as gay and lesbian couples.

Why Do Couples Often Struggle with Sexual Incompatibility?
Underestimating the Importance of Sexual Compatibility:
Very often, in cases where there is sexual incompatibility, one or both people in the relationship will underestimate the importance of being sexually compatible. During the early stages of a relationship, one or both people might be more focused on compatibility of values and minimize the importance of good sex. This is not to say that compatible values are not important because they are. But in placing all of the emphasis on values, this couple might short change themselves with regard having a satisfying sex life.

Relationships: Overcoming Sexual Incompatibility

After a while, when a couple has downplayed importance of sex in their relationship, one or both people might might begin to feel that they are more like roommates or like siblings. At that point, dissatisfaction with the relationship can set in, and if the couple is not comfortable talking about sex, one of the partners might begin casting around to find someone else who is more sexually exciting to him or her, often leading to infidelity.

Feeling Too Ashamed to Talk About Sex:
Often, couples who are dealing with issues of sexual incompatibility have a great deal of difficulty talking about their sexual relationship and what's working and what's not (assuming that they're still having sex). They might feel too ashamed to talk about sex or they worry that talking about it will only make it worse. Often, this shame might be related to childhood experiences where children are taught that sex is shameful, or there were sexual boundary violations (sexual abuse or incest), or other related childhood issues.

A Lack of Emotional Attunement in the Relationship:
This often goes hand-in-hand with poor communication. When you're not emotionally attuned to what your partner needs, it's hard to be sexually attuned to him or her. When there's emotional resonance between two people in a relationship, they are more likely to sense what they each need.

A Lack of Sexual Experience:
If one or both people enter into the relationship with little or no sexual experience, they just might not know what to do to please each other sexually or what might please themselves. Of course, this doesn't have to be a long-term problem if both people are open and willing to explore. But the sexual incompatibility comes about when one or both people are not just inexperienced but also closed off to the possibility of sexual exploration within the couple and they don't want to seek help or educate themselves.

A Rush to Get Married or Enter into a Long-term Relationship:
I've seen many couples where one or both people were anxious to get married or enter into a long-term relationship and this strong desire to be with someone often blinds them to certain basic incompatibilities, including sexual incompatibility. Some people end up "settling" for someone who is not suitable for them because they fear that they'll never find anyone and they'll be alone. Often, it's only after they're in a committed relationship that they realize that they're not compatible.

Fear of Intimacy:
There are couples where one or both people are only able to have "good sex" when there is no emotional intimacy. They might only find sex as exciting when they're with other people that they don't feel close to, but as soon there is emotional intimacy, they're unable to get excited, which is obviously a problem in a committed relationship.

Hoping that the Sexual Incompatibility will Resolve Itself Without Effort:
The hope is that, somehow, the problem will fix itself without any effort. Then, when it doesn't, usually, both people feel dissatisfied and this dissatisfaction effects the emotional intimacy in the relationship. After that, it's not unusual for the relationship to feel "flat" and boring. And, once again, if the couple is unable to communicate with each other about this, it can lead to infidelity.

Rationalizing Away the Problem of Sexual Incompatibility:
I've heard many rationalizations in couples counseling as to why there is sexual incompatibility in a relationship. For instance, some people assume that when people get to a "certain age," they no longer desire sex. However, often, when I get the sexual history of the couple in a long-term relationship, I discover that they were never sexually compatible, even when they were young and they first got together.

If you and your partner are sexually incompatible and it's causing problems in your relationship, get help from a marriage or couples counselor who has expertise in this area, especially if you're not making any progress in resolving this problem on your own. Don't wait until anger and resentment have built up to such a point that the relationship cannot be salvaged. While there's never a guarantee that a relationship can be saved in marriage or couples counseling, doing nothing is not the answer.

Many couples have overcome sexual incompatibility with help in couples counseling.

Couples Can Overcome Their Sexual Incompatibility
I am a licensed NYC licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I have helped many couples overcome problems with sexual incompatibility.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

You can also check out my article entitled 
Relationships: Have You and Your Spouse Stopped Having Sex?

Also, visit my Psychotherapy Daily News for updates on mental health issues, health education, and science news.

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