NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Relationships: What is Good Sex? Part 4: What is Synchrony Sex?

I've been focusing lately on the topic "What is Good Sex?" based on the work of psychologist Sue Johnson, who developed Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT).  This article is the fourth in a series of articles on this topic, and the focus of this article is "Synchrony Sex" (see my prior articles: What is Good Sex? Part 1Part 2: Solace Sex and Part 3: Sealed Off Sex).

What is Synchrony Sex?

What is Synchrony Sex?
With synchrony sex, each person is open and emotionally vulnerable to their partner. They are emotionally attuned to one another.  

Whereas solace sex and sealed off sex are based on insecure attachment (e.g., an anxious or avoidant attachment style), synchrony sex is based a secure attachment style between the two people in a relationship (see my article: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).

Synchrony sex occurs between two people when the erotic and the emotional connection come together.  Generally, each person feels safe and secure so they can be open sexually and emotionally with one another.  

This openness allows the couple to bond with each other and opens up the possibility for sexual exploration and a tolerance for sexual differences that can often be negotiated (e.g., differences in terms of frequency of sex, sex acts, and so on).

Synchrony sex is associated with a healthy, committed relationship where emotional vulnerability between the two people increases the emotional intimacy in their relationship (see my article: Emotional Vulnerability as a Pathway to Emotional Intimacy and What is the Difference Between Sex and Intimacy?).

Even in a relationship with secure attachment, there can still be problems with sex. But these problems are generally more easily worked through, as compared to couples who experience an insecure attachment, because there is a healthy emotional foundation (see my article: How to Talk to Your Spouse About Sex).

Clinical Vignette: Relationships: Synchrony Sex: Working Out Differences in Sexual Arousal
One common problem in many relationships is a difference in sexual arousal, as will be illustrated in the vignette below, which is a composite of many different cases:

Jane and Mark
After 10 years of marriage, Jane and Mark, in their early 40s, sought help in EFT Couples Therapy to work out issues in their sex life.  Generally, aside from the problems in their sexual relationship, they were happily married with three children. 

Both of them described happy childhoods where they each felt loved and secure in their family of origin.  As a result, they both developed a secure attachment style, which allowed them to develop a healthy relationship with each other.

They told their couples therapist that they were devoted to each other and their children.  Jane told the story of how passionate their sex life had been in the early days of their relationship.  

She recounted how they couldn't keep their hands off each other during the first few years of their relationship, and they spent their weekends making love. But, she said, right after their first child, even though she loved Mark more than ever, she no longer felt as sexual.  She still felt sexually attracted to Mark, but she didn't feel as sexual as she did in the past.

Mark told the therapist that in the early days of their relationship Jane was always ready to have sex, but now he felt she was only having sex to please him, and this was hurtful to him.  

As Jane listened to him, she nodded her head in agreement and she admitted that she often had sex with Mark to satisfy him.  She said sometimes she got into having sex once they started, but just as often she felt too tired for sex.

Throughout the couples therapy consultation, Jane and Mark held hands and frequently looked at each other with affection.  It was apparent to the couples therapist that they loved each other and they experienced a secure attachment style, but they needed to work out the differences in sexual arousal that had developed over time between them.

Mark also talked about not wanting to always be the one who initiated sex between them.  As Jane listened carefully, Mark looked at her affectionately and said he would like her to initiate sex sometimes.  

In response, Jane said she didn't feel as sexually attracted now, at age 42, as she once did when she was younger.  She told Mark that she was very aware that she had gained some weight and her body had changed so much after the birth of their three children, "I just don't feel so attractive and sexy anymore to initiate sex now."

"I never knew you felt this way.  I think you're more beautiful now than when we first met," Mark responded by squeezing Jane's hand.

Jane also said, somewhat shyly, that she sometimes experienced vaginal dryness, which made sexual intercourse uncomfortable at times, especially if she wasn't sexually aroused.  

Hearing this, Mark seemed surprised and said Jane had never told him how she felt about her body before.  He was also surprised that, until now, she felt too embarrassed to talk about it.  

In response, the couples therapist normalized Jane's experience of vaginal dryness. She  recommended that Jane speak with her gynecologist to rule out a medical problem.  She also recommended that the couple experiment with different types of lubrication.

After Jane saw her gynecologist and learned that her vaginal dryness is normal for her age, she and Mark began to use lubrication so that sex wasn't uncomfortable for Jane.  Over time, Jane also accepted that the changes in her body were normal.  

During their couples therapy sessions, Mark and Jane learned that many factors were contributing to the change in their sex life, including stress. Their couples therapist told them that it was normal for couples to experience a change in their sex life, especially after they have children, more responsibilities to contend with and more stress.

Over time, Mark and Jane took steps to improve their sex life.  They both worked on reducing their stress by exercising and meditating.  

They also did things to increase sexual anticipation and arousal--planning a romantic evening while their children stayed with Jane's parents, reading erotic passages to each other, talking about their sexual fantasies, and so on (see my article: Sex Tips For Men: How Men Can Be Better Sex Partners in Their Relationship).

Jane developed more of a curiosity about what turned her. Specifically, she learned to be more comfortable masturbating alone as well as with Mark to find out more about what she liked sexually.  

On the advice of her couples therapist and her medical doctor, Jane began working out.  She realized, once she started exercising regularly, that she felt more sexually aroused after doing aerobic exercise.  All that heart pumping exercise translated into more sexual passionate.  She and Mark also got curious about using sex toys and used them to spice things up and add variety to their sex life.

During their couples therapy sessions, Mark and Jane opened up more to talk about what each of them found pleasurable.  This new sense of openness was exciting for them.  Jane said she felt more sexually confident about initiating sex, especially after a good workout, and this pleased both of them.

Both of them said they were happier with their sex life than they had been since the early stage of their relationship.  Since they were happy in the other areas of their marriage, they successfully terminated couples therapy.

Compared to solace sex and sealed off sex, synchrony sex involves both an emotional attachment and an erotic dynamic.  The vignette about Jane and Mark illustrate how a couple can develop a dynamic of synchrony sex.

Even when a couple experiences a secure attachment in an otherwise healthy relationship, there can still be problems that develop along the way.

Since a relationship based on a secure attachment style has a healthy foundation, these sexual differences, whether it's differences in how each person experiences sexual arousal or other differences, can be worked out in couples therapy.  

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your partner need help to improve your sexual relationship, you could benefit from working with an experienced psychotherapist.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional.  A skilled couples therapist can help you to develop a more satisfying sex life and a happier relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP and EFT couples therapist (see my article:  The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.