As a clinician who specializes in working with the LGBTQ+ community, I often have conversations around healthy sex. Growing up, many of us had the “birds and the bees” talk, but not many had “birds and birds” or “bees and bees” talks.
Like we all know, healthy sex can be an incredibly emotional event, and it can be an experience of pure physical pleasure. In my office, however, one of the most frequent conversations I have is around unhealthy sex lives. After specializing in the field for nearly 10 years, I have identified four common signs that your sex life may be unhealthy.
1. Obligation & Guilt
Many clients, who are looking for love and so hopeful they’ll find it, tell me that they are fierce in their flirtation. After creating too much emotional momentum and hinting at things they only wanted in their fantasies, my clients often feel guilty for luring someone with tempting words. They can’t shut down the sexual momentum, even when things start to feel uncomfortable, because they feel responsible for creating it in the first place. Whatever the context, whether it be a game of flirtation, a long-standing relationship, or a short-term hookup, going through with a sexual act out of obligation will lead to guilt at least and shame at most, for you and your sexual partner(s).
A major component of creating a healthy sex life is presenting the authentic self and being willing to say, “No.” Speak honestly about what you really want and don’t want right from the beginning. This will set a tone of honesty and authenticity for your relationships.
For many of us, sex and emotional intimacy are deeply tied. In fact, the same neural system that houses the sexual orgasm also hosts anxiety, anger, aggression, and trauma. In other words, relational pain and resentment towards your partner can override your neural system, making sensuality, sex, and the sexual orgasm nearly impossible.
Resentment builds when we bottle up feelings of being unsatisfied, isolated, unimportant, or when we tolerate unfairness for too long. These relational pain points will grow into full-blown resentment, and this, in my opinion, is the number one agent that will shut down anybody’s sex life. So, whatever your pain may be, your one job is to talk about it constructively with your partner(s). Then and only then will your sex life have the option of returning to hot passion. I always tell my clients, “You have to protect your relationship from your resentment,” and I mean it.