“Where Has the Spark Gone? The real reason for strained sexual relationships”
Over the last four decades, Joyce and I have counseled many couples who are suffering with their sexual relationship. Most of these couples also feel disconnected from each other. They think they can improve their overall relationship by improving their sexual relationship. This is usually a mistake. The real healing of the sexual relationship first takes place outside of the bedroom. Then, the improvements in the relationship can translate into better sex. What follows are seven of the real reasons for sexual problems:
- Lack of real appreciation. Complimenting him for cooking a great meal or her for fixing that fence gate (I’m breaking away from stereotypes) is always important. Even more important is appreciation of your partner’s deeper qualities, like the way they love your family, their courage in harder times, their beautiful sensitivity, or their sincere quest for a deeper spirituality. In every couples retreat, we begin by having each person tell their partner what they love most, the gifts they receive from this person, the unique qualities present in their loved one, even what they would most miss if they were not together. We even ask that the one who is listening pay close attention to the appreciations that feel the best, and share these afterwards. There are often tears flowing. Your deep appreciations make you more attractive to your lover.
- Lack of vulnerability. Without vulnerability, there can be no intimacy. Vulnerability is showing your partner your weakness, your fears, your insecurities, among other things. For example, I become more attractive to Joyce when I tell her how much I need her love, especially since, in our early relationship, I kept pretending my independence and lack of need for her love. Joyce becomes more attractive to me when she tells me she’s scared and needs me to hold her. Vulnerability opens the door to a deeper intimacy.
- Keeping your inner child well hidden. An extension of vulnerability involves showing your partner your inner child, rather than only your strong adult self. We all have this tender child part of ourselves that still needs love, that gets scared of the big world, that doesn’t feel good enough. When we show this precious inner child to our lover, and when we can lovingly nurture our lover’s inner child, we can more easily, at another time, then let our physical bodies open to each other.
- Not enough non-sexual holding. This naturally follows the inner child. Some couples only hold one another in anticipation of sex. But men as well as women need their inner child to be held safely, without any pressure to perform sexually. If you can hold your mate the way a parent holds a child, obviously without any desire for sex, you create safety for him or her. And safety is a powerful key to a vibrant sexual connection at a later time. Do not make the mistake of holding your mate non-sexually in order to have sex later. This does not create safety! Hold her or him just for the joy of nurturing that little child within.
- Keeping secrets. Secrets (except maybe positive secrets like birthday surprises) are a sure-fired way of undermining your love. You may think you are protecting your loved one by not telling them about having lunch with your ex. Or you may be afraid of conflict so you don’t disclose how much money you just spent. But these secrets only serve to push your loved one just a little further away. Sexuality flourishes when there is complete honesty.
- Hiding hurt feelings. This is another aspect of keeping secrets. In our early years, if Joyce said or did something that hurt me, I hid these hurt feeling even from myself, and instead closed down or walked away. Not very helpful! We teach couples the importance of catching the hurt before the anger, and saying something like, “I trust you didn’t mean to hurt me by saying or doing ______, but it did hurt.” When either Joyce or I can say these words at the hurt stage, before there is anger, the other one of us can more easily apologize, and closeness returns sometimes very quickly. Of course, when we’re past the hurt stage and are angry, which can happen in the blink of an eye, this doesn’t apply. But it’s the many little unconscious things that are said or done that need to be addressed. If not, they get stored up in our emotional “ammo” container, and our libido takes the hit.
- Lack of a spiritual connection. In some ways this is the most important ingredient for a fulfilling sexual relationship. Some couples may joke about this: “We’re both spiritual. At orgasm we both yell, ‘Oh God!’” But over the years, Joyce and I have realized that the couples who had a strong spiritual bond also had a strong sexual bond. Trusting in a higher power, asking your Divine Source for help, and doing this together as a couple, translates into a deeper closeness and safety, and sweeter intimacy.
Give your all to the above seven points and then you can focus on your sexual relationship. Here’s a link to a helpful article we wrote: https://sharedheart.org/enhancing-sexual-intimacy/
If you haven’t read our new books, To Really Love a Man and To Really Love a Woman, there is a lot more information in those books.
Most of all, don’t give up on your sexual relationship. So many couples of all ages have given up hope of ever having a loving sexual connection. Sex may not be the most important part of a relationship, but it can be a sweet, nurturing, and passionate way to celebrate your love.