We’re created for it, we crave it and we covet other couples who have it.
What is it?
Intimacy. The key ingredient for a flourishing, secure and strong relationship. A relationship where we’re released to be ourselves fully.
An intimate relationship is a complex thing, the foundations built with many different elements: trust, safety, honesty, acceptance and understanding. Without these, a truly intimate relationship is near impossible to achieve.
But another area that can also provide a roadblock to intimacy is that of sexual dysfunction. And if this is present in your relationship, one thing is going to be needed in abundance: support.
Sexual difficulties or dysfunction can be painfully vulnerable. Men can have difficulty getting aroused, obtaining an erection, or ejaculate more quickly than they would like. Women can have trouble desiring sex, becoming aroused, or reaching orgasm. Sex can be painful for men with foreskin issues or women with vaginismus, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or vaginal infections.
We all experience sexual problems from time to time, but sexual dysfunction is classified as problems that persist, causing significant personal and relational distress.
And when sexual dysfunction crops up in a relationship, feelings of
inadequacy, shame, anxiety or ‘failure’ can threaten intimacy between a
couple. The frustration from sexual dysfunction can lead to a person isolating themselves, creating a barrier in communication, intimacy and sex. Someone with sexual dysfunction may even start rejecting their partner’s advances, or begin to shut off the option of sexual intimacy.
For the other person, they can also feel frustrated, helpless and not know how to help or support their partner.
However, as a couple, the answer isn’t to turn away from one another, but to decide to turn towards each other.
It takes courage to dig deeper, understand a little more, probe further,
especially when the conversation is uncomfortable. If you reach an area
where there’s resistance and your opinions differ, GOOD. Frame this as an opportunity to learn more about each other.
Sexual dysfunction presents its unique challenges, but it doesn’t have to be a gamechanger for your intimacy as a couple, provided you can support each other through the journey.
Outside of the bedroom, when you are fully clothed and less vulnerable, use these questions as a prompt:
“What are you anxious about?”
“What are your concerns about us?”
“What are we missing here?”
“What can we do differently?”
“How can we both be more relaxed, or have more fun, or bring more
enjoyment to our intimacy?”
“What pressures or expectations have we placed on each other or on our sex life?”
“What are our fears that we’re not talking about?”
Sex Isn’t Always Best
When things aren’t working seamlessly, it doesn’t have to jeopardise your
closeness. Sexual intimacy doesn’t always mean intercourse, and it can be
liberating to remove this expectation and instead focus on pleasure and
This is where support is crucial, and creativity and problem solving comes in. Not blaming. It’s a process of ongoing communication and dialogue. Use edifying, complimentary, and encouraging words, and identify and name the emotions you experience. Seek to understand the meaning each partner has attached to your sexual problem and couple intimacy.
Remember, you’re a team. You’re each other’s number one supporter, and
you committed to journeying through the highs and lows together.
When this happens and you turn toward each other in vulnerability and seek to understand each others’ needs better, something wonderful happens: true intimacy starts to bloom.
Note: This is general information only. For detailed personal advice, you should see a qualified medical practitioner who knows your medical history.