Stress Caused by Sexual Differences
While some couples openly discuss their sex lives in great detail, I’ve found that many couples avoid the subject altogether, or limit their discussions to superficial topics that don't address the actual problems they're experiencing. Sex, or the lack of it, can cause significant issues in a relationship, especially when there’s not an open, productive dialogue happening between partners. Unspoken needs and frustrations create stress and distance, even when they think sex is not valued as a vital part of their connection.
So what are some common sexual differences in relationships?
1. libido discrepancies/ differences in sexual desire: one partner wants sex more frequently or in longer sessions than their partner 2. each partner likes or enjoys vastly different sexual activities, where one partner may feel intimidated or offended by their partner’s sexual interests
3. dissimilar sexual 'accelerators' and 'brakes' as Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. describes in her book Come As You Are
3. difference in the ways that each partner becomes sexually aroused; one partner is primarily interested in physical sensations and pleasure, whereas the other craves emotional connection before wanting to be sexual
4. partners have diverse sexual orientations, where one partner may be asexual and not want sex at all and the other feeling hurt and rejected
5. issues of selfishness where one partner does not give much attention to the desires or sexual fulfillment of their partner
6. different relationship orientations: identifying as monogamous vs. polyamorous in relationships
7. partners may disagree about the functions of sex; one partner may expect to have mind-blowing sex every time while the other partner may be content with ‘good enough’ sex
8. previous traumatic and/or non-consensual sexual experiences can significantly affect the quality and quantity of sexual connection in a couple
Not all couples therapists are comfortable or qualified to address the sexual discrepancies in partnerships, but I believe this topic is as important to address as communication and intimacy building, shared life goals or co-parenting approaches. Opening up the conversation about that 'private' topic can help couples alleviate the stress sexual differences cause, as well as help build a stronger connection in all aspects of their relationship.