NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, March 17, 2023

What is a Healthy Sexual Relationship?

In their book, Rekindling Desire, Barry and Emily McCarthy address issues related to the low-sex or no sex couple (no sex couples are defined as couples who have sex less than 10 times per year).

Sexual Boredom

Essential Components of Healthy Sexuality
I'll address the issue of low and no sex couples in future articles.  

First, let's start with the McCarthy's definition of healthy sexuality:
  • Healthy sexuality includes more than just genitals, intercourse and orgasm. It also includes positive sexual attitudes, behaviors, emotions, experiences, perceptions and values
  • Sex is a natural and healthy component in an individual person's life as well as in a relationship.  Healthy sexuality does not include shame or negative feelings.
  • Healthy sexuality also means feeling good about your body, yourself as a sexual being and sex in a relationship.
  • Giving and receiving pleasure is an integral part of healthy sexuality.
  • Expressing your sexuality as a positive aspect of your life as well as in your relationship is also an essential part of healthy sexuality.

The 4 Dimensions of Healthy Sexuality in a Relationship
The McCarthys also define four dimensions of healthy sexuality in a relationship, including:
  • Pleasure: Pleasure includes an openness and a responsivity to both sensual and sexual touch.
A Healthy Sexual Relationship
  • Eroticism: Sexual arousal and vitality are part of eroticism.
  • Satisfaction: Sexual satisfaction includes feeling good about yourself as a sexual individual and as part of a relationship if you're part of a couple.

Establishing Realistic Sexual Expectations 
Sex is complex and variable.

Even though movies, TV programs, social media and books often portray couples sexuality as including intense desire, quick arousal, great sex and simultaneous orgasms, couples  in real life experience sex with much more complexity and variability.

Few individuals are in the mood for sex every time their partner is in the mood, and sex isn't always a powerful, passionate experience--especially if the couple has been together for a few years and the strong chemistry related to new relationship energy (NRE) has dissipated.

So, if couples compare themselves to what they see in the movies or on TV, they often come away feeling like there's something wrong with them or one or both of them is deficient in some way.  

But the reality is that intense sexual passion is part of the early stage of a relationship, which is referred to the limerence stage, and then it wanes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.  If all is going well in the relationship, the limerence phase is replaced by a more mature kind of love and sexuality.

According to the McCarthys, less than half of loving couples experience frequent powerful desire, arousal and orgasm.  It's not unusual for sex to be good for one person and not for the other so that sexual satisfaction is often asynchronous.  

Relationships With Sexual Desire Discrepancy
Sexual desire discrepancy is a common problem in relationships as I discussed in my articles:

Sexual desire discrepancy is such a common problem that it's one of the most frequently discussed topics when couples seek help in sex therapy. 

See my articles: 

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy.  

There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy).

Fear and shame often keep people from getting the help they need.  However, if you're having sexual problems as an individual or a couple, the sooner you get help in sex therapy, the more likely you'll be able to resolve your problems.

A skilled sex therapist can help you by assessing your problems and providing you with sexual interventions that you can work on at home, including bibliotherapy and sexual assignments between sessions.

Instead of avoiding the problem, seek help in sex therapy so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

About Me
I am a New York City licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

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.