Sex therapist Celeste Hirschman knows there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to couples’ erotic problems. What she can suggest to all couples that come into her office, however, is a new, more open-minded approach to sex.
“I tell them, you will need to explore your own turn ons and find out what turns your partner on and then see where the two of you overlap and where you might be willing to learn, expand and try out different experiences,” Hirschman, the co-author of Making Love Real: The Intelligent Couple’s Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion, told HuffPost.
Below, she and other sex therapists share the most common bedroom problemscouples grapple with.
"I don't care if I ever have sex again,
I don't feel any desire."
“I commonly hear this statement from married women at their first session with me. I reframe this dilemma as a discrepancy in the couple’s definition of what ‘sex’ means. Most often the ‘high desire partner’ defines it as intercourse. The goal is orgasm and good sex is defined as a good performance. I see hope in the wife’s eyes as I begin to shift the definition into the pleasure model of sex, that is: sexuality is energy and can be expressed in so many ways not limited to genital performance. The goal is pleasure and the vehicle of pleasure is touch with no particular activity or outcome expected. It is not a matter of chemistry and plumbing working properly, but a matter of connection, relaxation and feeling safe. Hearing this is often very freeing for both partners.” — Linda E. Savage, a psychologist, sex educator and author of Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality
"Our sexless marriage drove me to cheat."
“Many couples I see think that an affair has to end the relationship, but affairs can often be a catalyst or wake-up call that can get couples talking again after years of stagnation. While it can be very painful to be cheated on, the most important thing to remember is that the person cheating is rarely doing it on purpose to hurt their partner. It is possible to recover from an affair and find a place of trust, honesty and connection again. It just takes a lot of love and empathy to get through the hurt to a deeper understanding with one another.” — Celeste Hirschman
"My husband doesn't last long enough in bed."
“The most common sexual problem that men deal with is not erectile dysfunction, but premature ejaculation. Most men who suffer from PE are doing so in silent desperation, experiencing shame and frustration when commonly touted behavioral interventions such as the ‘stop-start’ and ‘squeeze’ methods fail. As one woman complained to her partner of the stop-start method, ‘Are we having sex or parking a car?’ There’s no cure for PE, but there are ways to manage it. First off, even if a guy could last as long as he wants, it doesn’t mean that lasting longer results in a woman’s orgasm. Most women respond to clitoral stimulation more than vaginal penetration. I always advise men to focus on outercourse more than intercourse.“ — Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and New York Times-bestselling author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman
"Sex has become kind of monotonous."
“The truth is, you cannot go back to the way sex is in the honeymoon period, butyou can move forward to something equally amazing or perhaps even better.If you stop looking at sex as something that is just supposed to happen between the two of you without any communication or creativity, it is possible to find out what will make your sex life hot again.” — Celeste Hirschman
"I don't feel sexually connected to my spouse."
“When I hear couples have lost their sexual connection, the work begins: Over the course of many weeks, homework assignments are first focused on creating the safe and secure connection. The assignments focus on touch experiences that allow the couple to connect through safe touch, a kind of kinesthetic mindfulness.Once they can be completely relaxed and connected with no agenda, they gradually focus on expanding pleasure in completely new ways, including spiritual sex practices if they so desire.” — Linda E. Savage
"We're just too busy for sex."
“Most of the couples I work with actually bristle at the idea of scheduling sex; they feel like desire should emerge spontaneously, but actually desire is ‘responsive,’ meaning that it doesn’t just emerge. What does desire respond to? Arousal. I often give couples the homework of creating ‘willingess windows’ — a 20 minute period where you commit to generating arousal (physiological, psychological or both) without the expectation or demand of sex. What are some of the activities that couples choose to generate in these willingness windows? It’s a range: kissing, making out, hugging, dancing like fools, mutual massages, watching porn together, reading erotica, there’s actually very few limits on what you can consensually get going in 20 minutes. It’s better to be the couple that schedules arousal, and potentially sex, then the couple that lets sex fall to the bottom of the to-do list.” — Ian Kerner