NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Relationships: Is a Willingness to Have Sex Enough to Get Started? Part 2

In Part 1 of this topic, I provided an overview of the subject, including two clinical vignettes.  In this article, I'll be focusing on Vignette 2 from Part 1 where one of the spouses has an insecure attachment style which creates problems in the relationship. 

Relationships: Is a Willingness to Have Sex Enough to Get Started

Secure Attachment vs Insecure Attachment Styles
Two people in a relationship won't always feel sexually aroused at the same time.  In most cases, this isn't a problem.  

This is usually the case when the partner who wants sex feels secure and confident in him or herself (secure attachment).  However, when the other partner struggles with insecure attachment, s/he gets emotionally triggered in these situations and feels rejected due to unresolved childhood trauma.  

For an explanation of secure vs. insecure attachment styles, see my article: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship.

When a Willingness to Have Sex Isn't Enough: A Recap of Sara and Bob's Relationship:
Sara and Bob were married for five years, and they had no children.  Sara stayed home, and Bob worked in a very stressful job where he was often worried about his job security.  

During the week when Sara wanted to make love, Bob often fell asleep because he was exhausted from work.  When this happened, Sara felt resentful and sad.  She interpreted his tiredness to mean she wasn't attractive or sexy enough for Bob to want her sexually.  She berated him the next day for not paying enough attention to her.  Even though Bob really felt Sara was attractive and desirable, he couldn't convince Sara that this was how he felt.

By the weekend, when Bob was more relaxed and rested and he wanted to have sex with Sara, she was still resentful from earlier in the week and she refused to have sex with him.  This became their pattern and, over time, it was eroding their relationship.

As a child, Sara grew up in a home where her parents were often fighting.  There were times when her father would disappear for months at a time and no one knew where he was or if he was coming back.  Even when both parents were at home, they were so engrossed in their arguments that they barely paid attention to Sara.  They often blamed her for their problems, even though she was a young child.  As a result, she developed an anxious/insecure attachment style.  

As a married woman, Sara needed constant reassurance from Bob that she was attractive and desirable.  But no matter how many times he told her she was attractive and desirable, she never felt reassured.  What neither of them understood was that Sara was emotionally vulnerable to feeling this way because of her anxious/insecure attachment style.

Since they realized their problems were getting worse over time, they began Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples (also known as EFT).  Their couples therapist helped them to hear each other with empathy and compassion.  In addition, she helped them to see their negative dynamic and identify where they were emotionally blocked as a couple.

Furthermore, she helped Sara to see that she was reacting to her present situation with her husband based on her traumatic history with her family of origin (see my article: Reacting to the Present Based on Past Unresolved Trauma).

Sara worked through her unresolved childhood trauma in individual therapy so that she was no longer emotionally triggered when Bob was too tired to have sex.  Rather than seeing it as a rejection, she was able to see it for what it was:  He loved her, but he was sometimes too tired to have sex when she wanted to have it.  This allowed them to be affectionate so that they could still be loving towards one another and plan to have sex when they were both feeling up to it.

An insecure attachment style (either anxious or avoidant) can cause someone in a relationship to get triggered due to unresolved trauma.

Reacting to the present based on problems stemming from childhood is a common problem in relationships because the person with unresolved trauma is unable to distinguish the present situation from the past when s/he is emotionally triggered.

Getting help in trauma therapy to overcome the unresolved childhood trauma frees up the person with the traumatic history to respond to current issues in a healthy way.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have unresolved problems that you have been unable to overcome on your own, you could benefit from working with an experienced trauma therapist.

Working through your unresolved trauma frees you from your traumatic history so you can live a more fulfilling life.

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

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

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.