Barriers to Sex

Sex is far from just the physical act. There are myriad factors that can contribute to the health of your sex life, from timing, to stress, to emotional issues that play in. We’re looking at some of the issues that might affect your sex life, and offering some tips as to things you might consider or implement into your life, whether in or out of the bedroom, to create a more fulfilling sex life with your partner.

  • Learning how to communicate what you want is important to creating the type of fulfilling sex life that you desire. If sexual gratification is left to inhibition and assumptions, your partner won’t be able to satisfy you in that way that you need to be. Know or learn what you want, and speak your mind. It may not be easy, or it very well may be totally uncomfortable, but learning to communicate what you want is vital.
  • Pornography abuse is another barrier to sexual contact and fulfillment. I think that heavy porn use dulls and flattens the mind, and makes the act of sex flat, robotic, and digital. I think that overactive porn use creates a divide between getting sexually fulfilled by a computer, and having person-to-person contact with your intimate partner. Porn can certainly play into the relationship, but it takes both people being okay with it and accepting of it, in order to enhance the sexual part of your relationship in a mutual way. If it’s threatening or unacceptable to one partner (e.g. your wife or girlfriend), it’s going to create problems, lack of trust, and feelings of rejection on her part, and make things worse.
  • Anxiety about sexual performance is another barrier to sexual contact that I talk with many guys about. It’s more common than you think. This issue often manifests in things like erectile dysfunction or an inability to perform sexually, but can also appear as pushing your partner away or not initiating sex. Some guys – feeling like a failure in the marriage – manifest that experience in the bedroom. They have a hard time with performance because they are already feeling like failures, and so they carry this thinking that they will fail their partner into the physical intimacy realm.
  • Making the time is also difficult. When kids, exhaustion, grueling work schedules and poor timing collide, the time for intimacy can go by the wayside. If partners have different sexual schedules, one person may be ready for sex at night, when the other one is exhausted and just wanting to sleep. Syncing up schedules without losing the fun and spontaneity of sex then becomes a challenge. I think planning sexual intimacy is great, but again, it may lose some of the spark when it just becomes planned. Spontaneous sex is great if you can manage it, but realistically, it may also take some light planning, too.
  • Trouble initiating sex: There may be subtle power dynamics at play in your marriage, and when it comes to sex, those may play out unconsciously through sexual contact. It often goes that men who are good at initiating in other parts of their lives or marriages sometimes have a hard time initiating sexually or emotionally, so women are forced into the role, which creates resentment. Have a talk with your partner about initiating sex and making that a mutual thing. If one person is in charge of it, the effects of that will play out sexually.
  • Deal effectively with your stress: You’re not fully physically or emotionally available if stress is getting the best of you. Eat right, get the quality sleep you need, and exercise. Dealing with stress is an everyday pursuit: it’s not just a one-time deal. The better you deal with stress, the more energy and availability you’ll have with your partner when it comes to sex, and the happier and more physically available you’ll be for your partner.
  • Not being present is another barrier to sex. When you’re present, you’re not in your head thinking about other things, or thinking about the past or future – you’re right in the moment where you need to be. When you’re in the here and now, you’re actually involved in the act of lovemaking, and not somewhere else. It’s hard to be fully in the present, because that’s where all of our inhibitions and junk come up – not being good enough, not pleasing our partner, being uncomfortable, etc. Sex is a container for the rest of the unresolved issues in the relationship, so be aware of that as they come up, and get the help that you need to work through those issues so that you can be more present to the experience.
  • Emotional disconnection between you and your partner: If there is emotional disconnection in the relationship or marriage, it’s going to play out sexually as problems in the bedroom. Like marriage counselors know, understand that there is a direct correlation between the emotional and the sexual health of the relationship or marriage, and this can go either way. If there are emotional problems, they can manifest as sexual problems, and vice versa. Work on repairing any emotional problems or damage to the relationship outside of the bedroom for a better relationship inside of it. For guys, understand that issues that your wife or girlfriend may have from the past need to be worked through, and that they neither can “just get over them,” or are amenable to any “fix” or solution you may try to put on it.
  • Comparing your sex life to “others” or the media’s version of sex: Do you really and actually know what other people are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms? No, you don’t. The media surely doesn’t have it right, and people you know aren’t going to tell you if they are having sexual problems themselves. The fact is, you don’t know what other peoples’ sexual realities are. The “hot and heavy” period in the beginning of the relationship will fade some, so don’t expect a sustained libidinal consistency throughout the relationship. Address issues as they come up, and don’t compare your situation to others, especially when they might be in the same boat as you and your partner. Even if you never know.

You can spice up your sex life in a variety of ways, but to look at some of the underlying issues takes a little more introspection, courage and willingness to confront issues head on. In the long run, I think a healthy, long-term sex life is a function of working through some of those issues together. Without a sincere effort to work on those issues, you may be setting yourself up for other, bigger marital issues, like marital infidelity or divorce. So, invest the time and energy into solving those issues as they come up – together – and you’ll have not just a better sex life, but a better marriage or relationship in general.

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About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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